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Crushing on Our Summit Speakers

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

[This post previews the Keynote and Big Idea speakers for AAM’s virtual Future of Museums Summit, November 1-2. Read the full program online and register to attend today.]

If I were a different age, I might be saying “OMG OMG!” (or possibly “squee!!!”) but being who I am I’ll just say that our speaker lineup for the virtual Future of Museums Summit is massively cool.

Dr. Jane McGonigak. Photo credit: Christopher Michel
Dr. Jane McGonigal. Photo credit: Christopher Michel

Our keynote on November 1 will be delivered by Dr. Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future. In a nice bit of chronologic symmetry, Dr. McGonigal delivered the inaugural lecture for the Center for the Future of Museums back in 2008, telling a full house at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, that museums are leading candidate to be pioneers in the sustainable happiness movement. (You can revisit that talk in this article from Museum magazine.)

This time around, Dr. McGonigal will argue that we all need to build “urgent optimism” for the future, preparing for the unthinkable to be ready for unimaginable events. She is an amazing speaker—get ready for an exciting and interactive presentation.

Joseph McGill, Jr.

I’m thrilled that Joseph McGill, Jr., will be giving a Big Idea talk for the track on voluntary repatriation, restitution, and reparations. I’ve been fangirling over his work since 2010, when he embarked on a quest to sleep in slave cabins throughout South Carolina. Mr. McGill went on to found and direct the Slave Dwelling Project, which “envisions a future in which the hearts and minds of Americans acknowledge a more truthful and inclusive narrative of the history of the nation that honors the contributions of all our people, is embedded and preserved in the buildings and artifacts of people of African heritage, and inspires all Americans to acknowledge their Ancestors.” In his talk on November 2, he will “explore the evolving challenges in the weaponization of Black history and discover strategies to ensure its proper acknowledgment and contribution to the nation’s narrative.”

Dr. William-Hart Davidson
Dr. William-Hart Davidson

If you follow my work, you know that two of my many obsessions are artificial intelligence and the future of education. That being so, you can imagine how chuffed I am that Dr. William Hart-Davidson, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education at Michigan State University, will offer some Big Ideas on the intersection of AI and learning for the Digital (R)evolution track. In his talk, “When Robots Learn to be Creative, What Happens to Informal Learning?,” Dr. Hart-Davidson will offer some suggestions for how museum workers might adapt to a future in which “human creativity collaborates with non-human agents.”

Rachel Peric
Rachel Peric

At the moment, a lot of my mental and emotional energy is wrapped up in the train wreck that is American politics. Between the looming threat of yet another government shutdown, the growing tally of legislation targeting (fill in the blank: “the LGBTQ community,” “librarians,” “teaching history”), and the stats about young people’s thoughts on the future of democracy in America (64 percent have grave doubts), I’m more than ready for a ray of hope. For the Summit track on the Partisan Divide, Rachel Peric, Executive Director of Welcoming America, is going to offer that bright spot, sharing her belief that museums can help shrink that divide by “fostering a sense of belonging and strengthen community cohesion, ultimately mitigating tensions and creating more welcoming environments.”

Middle-aged white male with dark hair, close-cropped mustache and beard, wearing a white shirt and dark blazer.
Dr. Jim Harter

You may also have noticed that I am a total data geek, and our fourth Big Idea speaker represents one of my favorite sources of public opinion data. Dr. Jim Harter is Chief Scientist, Workplace Management and Well-being at Gallup, and for our track exploring the Future Workplace, he’s going to share the latest data on well-being in the workplace, with recommendations on improving workplace culture.

If you want to become familiar with the work of these superstars before the Summit, here are some books and reports that provide a deep dive into their work:

That’s all for now—I hope to see your name in the chat windows at the Summit in November.

Warmest regards from the future,

Elizabeth Merritt

Vice President, Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums

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