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AAM Announces $1 Million Investment in the Museum Community

The AAM team is thrilled to launch a $1 million investment in an expanded Museum Community professional development and networking program. Beginning as early as this summer and over the next several years, this investment will deliver new AAM member benefits including expanded opportunities for the museum community to connect and learn from each other, obtain professional training, and participate in national leadership and volunteer opportunities for personal and professional growth. Learn more about this investment here, sign up for updates, and browse the FAQ below.



What is AAM investing $1 million in?

In recent years, we have received feedback from thousands of individuals in our field about how you believe AAM can best serve your needs. Three areas of focus are consistently cited as areas that museum professionals need us to advance: deepening the ability to connect with peers across the field, expanding professional development programs, and broadening volunteer opportunities through the Alliance. This $1 million investment is dedicated to these three areas and are top priorities in our 2022-2025 Strategic Framework.

How do I benefit from this news?

This is an investment in you as a member of our museum community, and your ability to grow through professional development, networking and connection, and volunteer opportunities. Over the next few months and years, you can expect massive improvements to the member experience and benefits you receive as a part of our Alliance.

Why were the three focus areas (connection, professional development, and volunteer opportunities) chosen?

In recent years, we have received feedback from thousands of individuals in our field about how you believe AAM can best serve your needs. Through surveys, workgroups, and taskforces, these three areas of focus are consistently cited as areas that museum professionals need us to advance.

Will this investment only impact members?

We believe this investment will have an impact on the entire museum field, with Alliance members experiencing the broadest range of benefits.

How can I get more involved in volunteering?

Thank you for your interest! We are currently working on creating a new, comprehensive, and more equitable volunteer program and look forward to providing the field with more updates soon. Stay tuned and sign up for future updates!

Can I share a suggestion for AAM as part of this work?

Absolutely! The decision to make this investment is based on feedback from the field and we welcome continued suggestions. You can send your suggestions our way by using this form!

What can I expect first?

We plan to expand our current platform, Museum Junction, to serve as a thriving hub for the field; providing connection 24/7, 365 days a year around job functions and topics that are critical to the future of our field. You can expect a few of these expanded virtual communities to be piloted in the coming months.

Upgrades to our member resources are also coming soon including a redesigned resource library and a few new on-demand programs. Plus, later this year, we’ll be piloting our first fall virtual event with more information to come soon.

As for volunteerism, this past year, we piloted our first open call for Content Advisory Committee members (the volunteer group that selects session proposals for the Annual Meeting). We were floored by the number of responses we received to this call, demonstrating the need to continue expanding these opportunities. Over the next few months, we’re using the lessons we learned as part of this process to build out a new volunteer program and are hiring a dedicated Volunteer and Member Engagement Manager to provide the expertise and guidance needed for a robust and sustainable program.

Sign up for future updates.

Can you give us a preview of what’s to come in future years?

We know that every connection can make a huge difference in your career. We’re exploring opportunities to expand connection and networking, including developing communities of practice and expanding formal mentorship programs. Using data and feedback from over 10,000 people across the field, we’re creating a robust year-round professional development program on a dynamic learning management system. Opportunities for volunteering and contributing to the field’s thought leadership are also being baked into the member experience. In the coming year, you’ll be able to express your interest in volunteering and areas of expertise directly into your membership profile. Plus, every volunteer deserves public recognition and we’ll be looking for ways to celebrate our volunteers more prominently.

Sign up for future updates.

Why is the current volunteer structure changing?

Over the years, AAM’s volunteers have expressed how they not only have a rewarding experience, they also develop and grow new personal connections, enhance their job prospects, and demonstrate leadership in the field through their volunteer activities. Increasingly, members have expressed a desire to become more engaged with AAM but that these opportunities feel opaque; many members don’t know how to engage or feel welcome in existing structures; and volunteers often don’t feel adequately recognized for their service.

Changing the volunteer structure is meant to remove many of the existing barriers to participation, engage many more, and more diverse, voices, and center people in AAM’s volunteer programs. This echoes the efforts to center equity and inclusion in volunteer programs we’re seeing across the museum field.

Changing the structure of volunteerism at AAM does not mean revoking the ability of individuals to contribute to the community building and thought leadership we need—it’s intended to do the opposite by providing more paths in and greater recognition for these major contributions to our field.

What are the AAM Professional Networks and how do they fit in within these updates?

AAM Professional Networks are twenty groups of peers from across the museum field organized around job functions, common areas of interest, or identity.

Since the PN structure was developed fifty years ago, the field, AAM, and the needs of AAM’s PN members have changed tremendously. Since 2018, AAM and its Professional Networks have engaged in multiple surveys, task forces, and working groups of PN leaders and AAM members, receiving significant feedback about AAM’s current models for volunteer leadership and opportunities for connection, including the structural model of professional networks themselves. This feedback highlighted that PN leaders found the current model didn’t serve their needs, and that many individual members couldn’t find their place within the current structure. Members wanted more on-demand opportunities for connection with their peers, greater transparency, and access to volunteer leadership opportunities that make the best use of their valuable time and expertise.

In addition, the pandemic and other crises of the past few years have taught us all a lot about connecting and learning in new ways and challenged us to prioritize more equitable, inclusive, human-centered programs and policies.

As part of our 2022-2025 Strategic Framework, this feedback and lessons learned are being assessed and programs improved to meet our field’s needs. In 2022, a working group (comprised of current and previous PN chairs and facilitated by Mariner Management, an association consultancy with deep experience in creating successful member communities) assessed the current Professional Network structure and recommended opportunities for changes.

The recommendations of the working group have created the next steps that will live up to our charge to better support the needs of our field, center equity in everything that we do, and prioritize people over processes and systems. We are excited that our $1 million investment into the museum community will support the opportunities for volunteering, connecting, and professional development that members have been asking for.

Were PNs unsuccessful?

No! Quite the opposite. Over the past 50 years, each of the twenty PNs has offered something unique and important to the field. Dedicated volunteer PN leaders have organized connection opportunities at the AAM Annual Meeting and, more recently, through virtual convenings. Volunteers have produced resources to support museum professionals, served as experts on various issues, and helped many people find community within AAM based on their job function, identity, and/or interest areas. These various roles, including serving as community convenors, thought leaders, resource creators, and more will all have a place in the new structures and opportunities that we’re investing in and working to build out. Successful PN programs will inform these new models – and allow more people access to volunteer leadership and connection opportunities.

How will AAM support the volunteers that led the PNs?

We are deeply grateful to the volunteer leadership of so many individuals that have provided community and educational offerings to our members. We’re working with a number of these leaders interested in continuing to share their expertise with the field within our new structure and are actively looking for meaningful opportunities in support of that goal.

Are the PNs just moving to the virtual communities on Museum Junction?

Not quite. We are asking the leaders of each Professional Network to determine whether a virtual community is an opportunity they can currently support through their volunteer capacity. If so, we will work with the PN to create a virtual community that supports our members with that job function or common area of interest. If not, we will be assessing whether creating a virtual community for that topic is of need to our membership based on survey data. These virtual communities will provide greater opportunities for peer connection compared to one-way communication, such as newsletters.

What is AAM doing to foster community among museum professionals in lieu of having the PNs?

Building connections and fostering community among museum professionals across the field is a priority for us. We are investing $1 million over the next several years in opportunities that will foster community and connection, and enhance professional development and volunteer opportunities for the entire museum field. We look forward to sharing more with the field on these exciting opportunities as we build them.

I’m interested in AAM’s new volunteer program. Where can I learn more?

Thank you for your interest! We are currently working on creating a new, comprehensive, and more equitable volunteer program and look forward to providing the field with more updates soon. Stay tuned and sign up for updates!

What’s happening to long-standing PN programs like awards, Exhibition Journal, and mentorship opportunities?

The Annual Meeting awards program has been on pause for the past year as we have been working to redesign the awards program to center equity and inclusion. In 2023, we are piloting changes to three of the awards programs, the Nancy Hanks Memorial Awards for Rising Stars, the Award for Distinguished Service to Museums, and Recognition for the Advancement of Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion in Museums. This pilot will be evaluated before considering broader implementation with other AAM awards and recognition programs in the future. Exhibition Journal will continue to be published by AAM through at least the end of 2024 in partnership with the current design and editorial team. There are a number of other long-standing PN programs that we’re currently assessing with AAM staff to determine what the future of these programs looks like.

What will happen to the resources PNs have created over the years?

Professional Networks have made huge contributions to AAM member resources, including guidelines, codes of ethics, the General Facility Report, and numerous articles and other resources. These resources will continue to be available to the field, and we look forward to making them easier to access through updates to our resource library coming later this year. Updates to these resources and opportunities to create new resources will be open to all volunteers to suggest. We are currently piloting a new process for resource creation and look forward to sharing more information soon.

Will there be year-round webinars and virtual meetups for specific interest areas?

As part of our $1 million investment in the museum community, we are working to establish a year-round robust professional development program and opportunities for fostering more connection and networking opportunties. The specifics of these programs will be based on the needs of the field, and year-round webinars and meetups may be a component. We look forward to updating you with details in the near future!

What traditional PN activities can I expect in Denver?

For the 2023 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, current Professional Networks will still be able to host the programming they were anticipating, including options for hosting breakfasts and lunches, and participating in the Saturday evening networking event and/or Neighborhub meetups. We look forward to updating the field about opportunities for meaningful connection and networking at the 2024 Annual Meeting and beyond.

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