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  • April 06, 2017 8:43 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Advocacy is fun! What is better than having the opportunity to tell your elected officials and their staffers about what you are passionate about? And have 380 people from around the country joining you to do the same! This was my experience at the 2017 Museum Advocacy Day. The fantastic nine from Michigan met with 14 out of 16 Michigan offices (2 Senators and 12 Representatives).

    On the first day, we gathered to learn how to speak congress or as one of the presenters described, “how to hug a porcupine”! Very true! As the way to present an issue to the elected officials and their staff is considerably different than any other presentation I have ever given. Their advice was to state the issue, give facts, and have a clear ask from them. This time though, it was exceptionally difficult since the Trump Administration’s budget proposal was revealed that morning, sending all of us into a gasp and a state of nausea. We had clear issues of IMLS reauthorization, IMLS funding of Office of Museum Services, and charitable deductions to talk about, but how could we ignore funding for NEA and NEH and multiple other issues that the budget announcement brought forth? 

    Preparing for the big day! From left to right: Connie Locker, Jason Dake, Lisa Craig Brisson & Sanam Arab

    This feeling was substantiated the next morning on the Hill and with our first visit: Coffee with Constituents hosted by Senator Stabenow. She pulled us aside to clearly and bluntly shared with us that there are going to be major cuts in funding and we needed to visit offices of those who have historically been unsupportive of the of issues importance to us. We visited many offices. Some, like Congresswoman Dingell’s Chief of Staff, echoed Senator Stabenow, and were very supportive. Others ranged from not supportive- although never bluntly saying so- to never have heard about IMLS and Museum Advocacy Day. My last meeting of the day was with the staff of the Congressman at my own district, and she was totally surprised that the two of us meeting with her actually lived in the congressman’s district! 

    Michigan delegation visiting Senator Debbie Stabenow; Photo from Senator Stabenow’s website

    Overall, this was an amazing experience, one that I hope to repeat for many years to come. People who go all the way to D.C. to advocate for what they are passionate about have a great influence. The Senators and Representatives and their staff realize that passion when you have made the commitment to go to D.C. and the personal stories from their constituents go a very long way! Yes, signing letters and petitions, going to marches and town halls, and voicing opinions and frustrations on social media are all great ways of engagement. However, the 5-10 minutes you have with them, one on one, without interruption and you have a chance of telling them why this matters to you personally, as their constituent, can have amazing results. Those are the moments that will change their minds and hearts on issues! 

    Sanam Arab
    Manager of Programs and Patron Services
    LSA Instructional Support Services
    University of Michigan

  • February 25, 2017 2:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This week, a group of MMA members and I will be headed to our nation’s capitol to talk about museums with those who represent us in Congress.  The event is coordinated by the American Alliance of Museums and has been taking place for almost a decade.

    This will be my fifth time participating in Museums Advocacy Day and I look forward to it every year. I thought you might like to know a little more about what happens when we are there.

    The first step to participating in Museums Advocacy Day is getting there, and sometimes this is the hardest part of the trip.  The event is always at the end of February, which is a good time to connect with our legislators before they get too far into the year, but can be a challenge weather-wise.  I used to fly out of the Pellston airport, which is only 20 minutes from my house, but after several years of being stranded during one part of the trip or another, I now fly out of Detroit.  This can also be a challenge, but at least I have a little more control of where and how I am stranded!  

    One of the ways MMA can attend Museums Advocacy Day each year is because I stay with family, who live in Ellicot City.  Each day of the event I commute into the city on a train with hundreds of other people.  It is a bit different from my work commutes the rest of the year!

    Museums Advocacy Day 2014

    The Museums Advocacy Day event is three days long.  The first day, Sunday, has smaller group activities for some event attendees.  There is also an opening reception on Sunday evening.  I haven’t been able to attend that event before, but this year I am receiving an award so I will definitely be there. This year the reception is at the Museum of the Women in the Arts.  

    The main part of the event begins on Monday.  Hundreds of museum professionals, board members, volunteers, and others will gather in a large hotel ballroom to spend the day getting ready to hit the halls of Congress.  We will hear from representatives of the federal funding agencies that are connected to museums, like the NEA, NEH, and IMLS.  We will also hear from policy experts who will tell us about bills and actions being considered by Congress, and how that will impact museums.  Finally, we will get specific training about what to do and expect when we meet with our legislators.  AAM will provide us with specific “asks” and they will talk about how best to do that.  At the end of the day, each of the state’s delegates will gather together, compare schedules, and form a gameplan. We will all be scheduled to visit our Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, so at the meeting we decide who will talk about what.  We will break up into smaller groups to visit the Michigan’s representatives, and during this meeting we coordinate sending extra people along to meetings, especially for new people.  By the end of the day, our brains are exhausted.  

    We're Michiganders! Snow won't stop us at Museums Advocacy Day in 2014

    Tuesday is the big day! Several of us usually attend a Constituent Coffee at Senator Stabenow’s office.  This is an event she hosts most Tuesdays, and it is open to the public.  We will wait in line with other groups visiting Washington DC.  One year, we were behind a veterans group. Another year it was 911 operators.  It’s so interesting to hear the “asks” of the other people at the coffee. Eventually, we get near the coffee pot and fill our cups. A little while later, the line will bring us into Senator Stabenow’s office, where we will get to introduce ourselves and have a short conversation.  Finally, we will all line up and get a photograph, which the Senator’s staff posts on her website by the end of the day.  It feels a tiny bit like a cattle call, but is a really cool experience as well. The delegates that don’t attend the coffee can go to the kick-off breakfast hosted by AAM, where they will be fed a light meal and hear inspiring speeches.  After breakfast, our work begins!

    Our first meetings of the day are always with our Senators.  Sometimes they are combined, but most years we meet at each office separately. It is rare to meet with our actual senator or representative at any of these meetings, but one year we did get to meet with Senator Peters, which was exciting. But we don’t mind meeting with the staffers alone.  They are the ones who do all the research for their senator or representative, so the information we share with them is put to good use.  Many of the staffers are from Michigan, so I always like to remind them of the museums in their district.  I usually heard one or two school field trip stories at that point.  

    Lisa and Sanam at Museums Advocacy Day in 2015

    Once we’ve had a chance for introductions, we will settle in to the meeting. We usually talk generally about museums in Michigan (that’s my job) and what sort of value we know they add to their communities, and then we focus on the “asks”.  Most of the time we talk about the Institute for Museum and Library Services and ask for authorization and funding. I like to be able to tell a representative about MAP and CAP grants they have gotten in their districts, because they don’t usually know what they are or what they do, as well as regular IMLS grants. Another regular “ask” is about the charitable deduction.  There is usually some kind of plan being considered that would totally eliminate it, or change it in a way that would impact giving in museums.  We like to talk about how museums are funded and how we all depend on charitable contributions.  

    Once we’ve had a chance to talk for awhile, the person we are meeting with, who has been smiling and nodding as we are talking, usually says something positive that related to what we’ve said.  In some cases, the staffer will totally support everything we’ve asked for and we talk specifics.  In other cases, they staffer will acknowledge our concerns and talk about the need to trim the budget or balance other needs, and gives more of a neutral response.  Everyone is always polite and civil, and even when I know that the representative will not likely support our requests, I never feel disrespected.  

    This same meeting will take place again and again during the day. For the past couple of years, Michigan delegates have been able to visit at least half of our legislative offices. My hope is that some day, we will have meetings with them all.  

    Erin, Tobi, and Marilyn with Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2016

    Unfortunately, we can’t visit ALL of Michigan’s offices, but we make sure everyone knows we’re in town.  AAM provides a packet of materials for us to bring to our meetings, and for the past several years, MMA has added our own materials.  We collect thank you notes and letters from our members, and include them as a packet.  This year we will also include the MMA brochure and information from Creative Many about Michigan nonprofits..  

    I bring a cheat sheet along on my meetings.  The sheet includes a list of IMLS grants that have gone to the district, and the names of at least some other museums as well as some interesting programs or projects that have been done. My cheat sheet is usually scribbled on the back of the schedule but this year, thanks to a group of volunteers, we will each have a printed list of all grants that each district has received from IMLS, NEA, and NEH over the past several years. That is going to be great to have.

    Michigan Museums advocates with Senator Gary Peters in 2016

    Once we’ve spent the day scurrying from one office to another, we will gather for a reception for all of the delegates from every state, as well as any legislators or their staff who come.  They are all invited throughout the day in our meetings.  At the reception, there are speeches, but AAM also presents several awards to people who have done something amazing related to museums.  One year, we met a veteran who started a gardening program to help other veterans heal from PTSD.  Another year, we met a little boy who spoke to the state legislature in Illinois to help save the state museum there.  I’m not going to lie, I am usually exhausted by then, but I still love hearing the stories.  Once the reception is over, everyone heads back to the hotel or starts their journey home.  

    Flying back to Michigan the day after the event is always contemplative for me (of course I am also trying to figure out how I will get home because there WILL be bad weather). But I also think about the democratic process and how it all works. I am somewhat cynical about how much of a say the “little guy” really has in our government, but I never leave Museums Advocacy Day without a sense of optimism that maybe I am wrong. I never fail to learn something new, and to hear new ways of talking about the value of museums in our communities. I'm sure this year will be no different!

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director, Michigan Museums Association

  • August 16, 2016 3:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For the past twelve weeks, the MMA Communications Team has blogged about the details of this year’s conference, from sessions and workshops to scholarships and networking. We were tasked with convincing YOU, our MMA membership, that you don’t want to miss our joint conference with AASLH next month in Detroit.

    Maybe the hustle and bustle of museum life has kept you so busy that you forgot to register. If so, don’t worry—there’s still time! You have just a few days left (until August 19) to sign up on AASLH’s website. MMA members will get the AASLH member rate, and should have already received an email with a registration code. If not, contact Lisa at

    But perhaps you’re still undecided. If so, let us convince you. Here are some of the many ways attending this year’s conference will benefit YOU:

    The Sessions:
    This year’s conference offers something for everyone, with 65 fantastic sessions from which to choose. Several of these were specifically designed by-and-for MMA members to meet the needs of our varied membership base.

    If you want:

    Then look for:

    • Examples of effective community engagement strategies or STEM programming
    • Connecting with Great Lakes Maritime Heritage through Participation, Partnerships, and Publicity

      Educators from Michigan's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and maritime archaeologists will share concrete examples of their team’s successes engaging audiences with interactive participation, inclusive partnerships, and innovative publicity.
    • Help with fundraising
    • Making the Most of Your Local Resources: Reimagining NEH Support for Small and Local Organizations
    • Revitalize Your Museum with IMLS Funding
    • Working with Foundations, which will give you the tools you need to build relationships with foundations in your community and state.
    • Creative ways to provide meaningful experiences for visitors
    • In Sounds from Over and Out, where you’ll learn techniques to use sound as a visitor engagement strategy.
    • The Power of Museum Theater to Engage Audiences, where participants will learn how museum theater can make the past relevant and stimulate dialogue.
    • Sessions applicable to art museums
    • Art│History: Crossing Disciplinary Borders to Make an Exhibition
    • Creating Connection through Creative Expression, which dives into an initiative led by Arts Midwest and Metropolitan Group to build public will for the arts by connecting it with people’s deeply-held values.

    These sessions are explored further in the preliminary conference program, identified by the MMA logo .

    The Hands-on Opportunities: Workshops and Labs

    Attend a conference workshop to gain hands-on experience and learn practical skills. Eight workshops are offered this year, two of which will be conducted by Michigan museums.

    Unlocking Innovation: Design Thinking in Museums, hosted by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, will explore their approach to using human-centered in a great many aspects of their work—and show you how you can, too!

    Connecting with Art: Continuing the Classroom, Evolving Teaching Practices at the DIA will share methods and strategies employed by the Detroit Institute of Arts to better attract and engage students. This workshop is actually a lab, so it has the added bonus of taking participants away from the conference center and into the galleries of the DIA!

    MMA Workshop at the Michigan Historical Center

    The Networking:

    The MMA Engagement and Events teams have put their heads together to create spaces and events where MMA members can meet and connect.

    Check out the MMA lounge, located in the atrium outside the exhibitor’s hall on Thursday and Friday. This will be the perfect place to catch up with other MMA members and chat about your conference experiences. Here, members can pick up a pin from Lisa that features the MMA logo. This visual identifier will help you find other MMA members in the crowd, and spark conversation with professionals from out-of-state about all of the exciting work done by Michigan museums. Members can also pick up pins at either of the events on Wednesday or Thursday evening.

    Keeping with tradition, we will host the annual MMA Pub Crawl on Thursday. Participants will meet in the conference hotel bar and receive a map directing them to several pubs around Downtown Detroit where MMA members will be stationed. This free, informal event is a great way to get to know other professionals!

    At the Awards Luncheon on Friday at noon, we will celebrate all of the hard work done by Michigan museums last year, and administer the President’s Award, the MMA Volunteer Award, and the Peninsula’s Prize. You can register for this paid event when you register for the conference. Immediately following the Awards Luncheon is the Annual Business Meeting, free for all MMA members.

    2014 Conference, Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

    And finally, attend for the memories
    . Conferences are time to learn, connect, and share---and it is not often that we have the chance to do that with hundreds of museum professionals from all over the country right here in our own state. I encourage you to take the opportunity while it’s here next month in the Motor City.

    See you there!

    Melanie Parker
    MMA Communications Team

  • August 08, 2016 8:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We are counting down the final weeks to the conference this fall and it’s my turn to share the reasons I’m enthusiastic about the gathering and all the ways that MMA members can find each other and be together.

    I am so excited for MMA to be part of the conference with the American Association for State and Local History!  The conference program includes topics that are relevant for all types of museums and so many of the people involved in presenting sessions are leaders in the field.  It is going to be great to have all those talented folks on our home turf!

    And speaking of having folks on our home turf, it is going to be so much fun showing off! As a non-native, I know that I didn’t really understand how many incredible museums there were in Michigan until I moved here.  It will be so cool to hear how impressed everyone is with their tours and at the events. 

    So sure, it will be neat to be part of a bigger conference, but I know we’ll have plenty of MMA time as well.  Several conference planning teams have been hard at work all year to plan events and experiences to help MMA members find and spend time together. 

    The first place to find MMA is at the cool lounge we will have in the atrium outside of the exhibitor’s hall.  The MMA lounge will have seating areas so you can catch up with old friends, as well as several different kinds of activities to connect with colleagues you might not know already.  Also part of the lounge will be some mini-Museum Café sessions.  This popular MMA conference regular feature, which allows people to “speed date” thought different topics of conversation, will take place during the 9:45 am break time on both Thursday and Friday.  I’ll be at the lounge throughout most of the conference, so I hope a lot of people stop by to say hello and see each other.

    The lounge will be great but we also wanted members to be able to find each other throughout the entire conference.  To this end, members can pick up an MMA pin from me at the lounge or at the evening events.  This pin, which is the MMA logo, will be available for all current individual and business members and those listed on institutional memberships. MMA members will always be able to find a friendly Michigan face in the crowd if they look for the colorful speech bubbles.

    Look for your fellow MMA members wearing this pin!

    But wait! We don’t just have a space and something to identify us to each other. We also have several events where you can come together. The traditional MMA Pub Crawl will be on Thursday night and has been expanded to include AASLH members if they’d like.  We’ll all start at the bar at the hotel, but then break into smaller groups for a Choose Your Own Adventure to visit several pre-determined locations.  Each of these places will have MMA members “parked” there (with an MMA sign, of course) so as new people come into the bar, they know where to go.  It might be a bit crazy if half the conference shows up, but it will definitely be fun. 

    A conference favorite, you won't want to miss this year's pub crawl!

    Two events on Friday will give MMA members a chance to come together and feel the Michigan museum love.  At noon, the MMA Awards lunch will include the presentation of the President’s Award, the MMA Volunteer Award, and the Peninsula’s Prize.  Registration is required for this paid event.

    At 1:00, all MMA members are invited to attend the MMA Annual Meeting.  Registration is not needed for this free event.  At the meeting, MMA leadership will give reports about what we’ve been up to, as well as some new projects that will be starting this fall.  And if that alone isn’t enough to entice everyone to come, there will also be fabulous Michigan-y door prizes.  I’m bringing fudge.

    There is no word yet on whether there will be a secret MMA handshake at the conference, but we definitely won’t be hard to find.  I can’t wait to see all of you there!

    Lisa Craig Brisson
    Executive Director
    Michigan Museums Association

  • August 01, 2016 8:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In past blog posts, we’ve talked a lot about MMA’s strong presence at this year’s joint conference with AASLH.  Obviously, we’re pretty great, so it’s important to highlight where to find MMA throughout the week.  But partnering with a large, national association like AASLH means that this year’s conference is going to be BIG.  And sometimes, bigger IS better.  In our case, it means that there are more sessions, more workshops, more tours… more of everything!

    There really is something for EVERYONE at this year’s conference.  Just check out the program.  This bad boy is 44 glossy pages of great reasons to attend, so let’s take a look.

    The Cover

    Detroit!  Whether you’re a born and bred Detroiter, or a Yooper looking to experience what the city has to offer, you can’t beat the location.  There’s been a lot of growth and change in the city and its museums.  We talked about it at last year’s meeting in Ann Arbor, so this is a great opportunity to dig in and check it out first hand.

    Page 6 – Not Just For Historians

    AASLH gives a great breakdown of who attends the conference.  Yes, with the American Association for State and Local History, you’re bound to bump into a historian or two.  But you will also meet curators, educators, directors, administrators, social media managers, preservationists, and all kinds of other folks who work for and are passionate about museums.  I’m willing to bet you fall in to one or more of these categories!

    Page 7 – Hello Motown Fans!

    If you grew up singing “Stop in the Name of Love” in the bathroom mirror (No?  Just me?), then you won’t want to miss Mary Wilson’s talk on Friday.  Think it o-over.

    Page 11 –  What’s your specialty?

    The whole conference is one big networking opportunity, but for a more focused conversation, you can join up with an affinity group to discuss topics that are especially relevant to you.  And most of them include food!  Many of these meetings require advance registration, so be sure to sign up on your registration form.

    Page 13 – Hi!  It’s us!

    Put a big Post-It note on page 13!  As you can see, there will be TONS of opportunities to connect with your Michigan museums colleagues!  The MMA lounge will be our hang-out on Thursday and Friday —you’re sure to see lots of us wearing our MMA pins there!  There’s also the MMA Business Meeting and Awards luncheon on Friday (remember to register in advance for lunch), honoring several Michigan museum leaders and giving updates about our year-in-review.  Finally, you won’t want to miss our “Choose Your Own Adventure” Pub Crawl on Thursday evening! 

    We’ve even made it easy for you to find the good stuff: just check for the MMA logo!


    Pages 16-21 – Tours and Events

    In addition to the 75(!) sessions offered, you can also find 13 tours, and 4 special events that meet your interests.  You can familiarize yourself with the city of Detroit and its history, catch a *spooky* cemetery tour, or visit the many museums in the area.  There’s also a 7am 5K Fun Run (#oxymoron) if you’re in to that sort of thing. 

    Pages 22-38 – Sessions and Workshops

    That’s right.  16 pages of sessions and workshops to choose from!  As you know, MMA hand-selected 8 sessions, a workshop, and a lab, that highlight the work of our Michigan colleagues and break away from the historical themes of the larger AASLH program (Just look for that MMA logo!).  So whether your focus is science, art, history, archaeology, administration, community engagement, food history, collections management, grant funding, historic homes, LGBT issues, social justice, antiques trading, volunteers, foundations, digital collections, Latinos in museums, theatre, landscape preservation, music history, women in museums, evaluation methods, university partnerships, burlesque (yes, really), tattoos, or prison museums… we’ve got you covered.

    Page 42 – Resources

    We have worked with AASLH to make the conference easy and accessible for EVERYONE who wants to attend.  Attention Students: While the deadlines for scholarships has passed, you still have the opportunity to offset your costs by volunteering onsite.  By volunteering for 2 four-hour shifts, AASLH will cover your FULL conference registration.  (P.S. Being a conference volunteer also makes a great resume line!)

    Additionally, if you have any accessibility or dietary requests, we’re here to help!  We don’t want anything to come between you and a fantastic conference experience.  On your registration form, there’s a spot to let us know how we can help you attend the conference comfortably.

    Something for EVERYONE!

    So there you have it.  Whether you are an art historian who wants to pack your schedule full of tours and events, a grad student focusing just on MMA sessions, or a museum educator inexplicably going for a 7am run, there is something available for EVERYONE at this year’s AASLH/MMA joint conference.  And because you have no reason NOT to attend, we can’t wait to see you in Detroit!

    Jessica Belcoure Marcetti
    George A. Smathers Libraries
    MMA Communications Team

  • July 22, 2016 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Are you looking to learn some practical skills from museum professionals who have already done what you’re trying to do? Does learning new ways to approach a problem sound pretty cool? Then make sure to register for the #AASLHMMA2016 conference and select a workshop along with your registration! Workshops are a great way to gain hands-on knowledge about what other museums are doing and what they’ve come up with that’s new and exciting.

    Pre-meeting workshops are an additional cost on top of the registration fee and are being held on Wednesday, September 14th.  There are many different workshops to choose from but I’d like to focus on the two that were hand-picked by the MMA Programs Team with our members in mind.

    GRAM staff and Board Members Collaborate to Create a Strategic Plan
    Photo Credit: Design Thinking for Museums article

    Unlocking Innovation: Design Thinking in Museums

    Jon Carfagno (Director of Learning and Audience Engagement at the Grand Rapids Art Museum) will lead this full-day workshop on the topic of Design Thinking. Design Thinking, also referred to as human-centered design, is essentially a process used for problem solving or generating new ideas in a human-centered, collaborative way. The Grand Rapids Art Museum has been using this approach for everything from finding small ways to improve the visitor experience to developing a new strategic plan. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to learn practical methods for applying the Design Thinking process to solving problems at their institution. Hearing more about how GRAM has taken this human-centered approach to planning is bound to be fascinating and useful for institutions of all kinds that are hoping to brainstorm creative changes at their institution.


    Gallery Teachers with Students at the Detroit Institute of Arts
    Photo Credit: Instagram @diadetroit

    Connecting with Art: Continuing the Classroom, Evolving Teaching Practices at the DIA

    Sue Troia (Manager, Gallery Teaching and Senior Trainer at the Detroit Institute of Arts) will lead this afternoon lab. A lab is similar to a workshop, except that instead of being held at the conference center it will be held on-site at the DIA. It will focus on what the DIA has been doing over the past few years in order to reach a larger number of students while simultaneously creating more engaging experiences for those students. These changes include the creation of a mobile interactive classroom called DIA Away: Think Like an Artist, building new partnerships with school districts, and expanding offerings for school groups. Participants will have the chance to spend time in the galleries and experience some of the engagement strategies Gallery Teachers use with students first-hand. There will also be opportunities to discuss with staff some of the successes they have experienced and challenges they have faced during this period of change.

    In addition to the two above, AASLH is hosting a variety of pre-meeting workshop opportunities. In the morning, you can check out, Connecting Audiences to Traditional Stories: Interpreting American Military History in the 21st Century, Housing Materials for Storage and Exhibition of Photographs, making/history, or CEO Forum: Leading the Field—Advocating for History. In the afternoon, AASLH is offering Reassessing Historic Clothing Exhibits: Innovative and Practical Solutions for Costume Mounting on a Budget or The SHA Wednesday Workshop: Meeting Your Educational Mission and Earning Revenue. And if you want a full day workshop experience, try Easy to Read: A guide to Transcribing Historical Documents.

    I don’t know about you, but I wish I could participate in all of the above! Registration is open now and there are just a few more days left to register at the Early Bird rate. So head over and register by July 29th and join us in Detroit in September!

    Julia Toro
    Detroit Institute of Arts
    MMA Communications Team

  • July 18, 2016 8:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have been trying to pinpoint when it happened, but really, I blame the Pterodactyl.

    It could have happened when I encased myself in a life-size bubble at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum as a child, or it could have been the first time (of many) that I became lost in the frescoes of Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It could have been literally any of the hundreds of moments I have been lucky enough to experience when something from inside a museum seemed to physically reach out and demand my attention, ensnare my interest, and kindle my imagination. However, when I really think back to the pivotal moment, it was the beak of the Pterodactyl literally reaching out from inside its exhibition space to poke me in the back while my terrified, seven-year-old self stood in front of it for a picture at the animatronic “Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs!” exhibit at Cranbrook in 1989 that really drove home for me what I had known since the first time I set foot in a museum: Museums are magic. They reach out and grab you.

    In the act of creating and investing in museums, we preserve that magic. We construct spaces where we can hear the stories of our collected past, witness the dreams and innovation that have shaped our world, and be inspired by the creativity and intelligence behind great works of art. We connect to both people no longer with us, and our contemporaries by bearing witness to the stories of love, loss, and heroism that are the threads with which our historic tapestry is woven.

    When I think ahead to this year’s #AASLHMMA2016 Conference, I have to admit, I am in full-on nerd mode. Yes, admittedly this has a lot to do with the fact that there are going to be incredible events like, Distinctly Detroit: A Night at the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Muse Cruise: Cruisin’ the Museums in the Motor City, where I can immerse myself in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Michigan Science Center (I mean, they are hosting an event called, “The Thinking Person’s Happy Hour,” come on!), and The Detroit Institute of Arts, but it also has to do with spending several days being inspired by colleagues and peers in the museum community.

    There are going to be sessions and discussions directly involved with fundamental issues we all face in the museum realm; Funding, understanding and engaging ever-changing audiences, and the technical craftsmanship that goes in to making a memorable museum experiences. This will be a great time to talk shop with the best and to be invigorated by learning from each other.

    Staff from the Arab American National Museum will be hosting the Educators and Interpreters Annual Meeting Kick-Off, focusing on cultural competency and the importance of understanding how to work with new and changing audiences, and the team from Michigan’s Thunder Bay National Maritime Sanctuary will host a session about raising awareness and creating sustainable audience engagement entitled, Connecting with Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Through Participation, Partnerships, and Publicity. Leslie Ann Pilling, the President of the Metro Museum of Design Detroit, will chair a session that focuses specifically on the use of sound as an essential tool to use when crafting your museum experience. This year’s conference also promises to focus on keeping the interpretation of history fresh and invigorating. I’m sure that we have all run to that perennial misconception: museums are quiet and static places. I’ve personally never understood it. History, art, and culture are such vital, living things, and the interpretation and presentation that we bring as museum professionals is so dynamic that the label of stagnancy just doesn’t apply. In Art|History: Crossing Disciplinary Borders to Make an Exhibition, we see the care to always challenge ourselves to think outside the box when planning our exhibits. Additionally, we all know there are many creative ways to generate funding for museums, but if you are looking for new avenues to explore, in the Friday session, Working with Foundations, Lisa Plank, Executive Director of the Lowell Area Historical Museum will be chairing a discussion that will cover the importance of partnering with foundations as a funding source for museums.

    When I think about the tours that are organized for this year’s #AASLHMMA2016 Conference, it makes me want to click my ruby heels three times right now and transport myself two months in the future. From Vehicle City to Most Dangerous to Something New will take you to visit the Whaley House Museum, Durant-Dort Carriage Co., the Sloan Museum, and Applewood: The Charles Stewart Mott Estate in Flint. Detroit’s Island Jewel: A Tour of Belle Isle Park, will not only send you on a tour of this unique Detroit gem, but include a visit to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. History is more than just the artifacts we leave behind, and More Than Just Friends? Trailblazing Women at Rochester Hills Museum and Farm, is a companion tour to a roundtable discussion focused on how to thoughtfully include interpretation of female relationships in historic tours. Dodge vs. Ford: The Way They Lived, is your chance to visit several museums in the Metro Detroit Area, including the Dodge home, Meadow Brook Hall, and Henry Ford’s estate, Fair Lane. There will also be a Religious History Affinity Group Breakfast hosted at the Historic First Congregational Church of Detroit, where you can explore the Underground Railroad Living Museum. I don’t know many people who doubt the relevancy of museums in today’s day and age, but should you ever find yourself in a discussion defending the relevancy of museums, attending Celebrating Detroit’s Arab Heritage, and sharing your experience will help you win that argument. Staff from the Arab American National Museum will talk about the current issues the Arab-American community faces, and how they are working to overcome stereotypes and discrimination through education and sharing the rich and vibrant culture of Arab Americans with everyone who visits the museum.

    As the home of the Motor City and the birthplace of Henry Ford, Michigan is often primarily associated with the automotive industry, innovation, and labor history. Not only does The Henry Ford have an incredible collection of historic artifacts, (Thomas Edison’s last breath anyone?), but it also has Greenfield Village, which is really the only place of its kind. An actual outdoor village where Model-T’s are still driven, a carousel from 1913 still runs daily, and you can have an authentic culinary experience from 1850 are not something you find everywhere. Attending The Henry Ford Un-Conference, where you will get you experience all of this and more, promises to be the experience of a lifetime.

    In Michigan, we are uncommonly fortunate in the breadth and quality of our museums and historical institutions. From the American Museum of Magic in Marshall to the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing, from the National Arab American Museum in Dearborn to the Iron Industry Museum in the U.P., from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids to the birthplace of Motown at the Hitsville, U.S.A. Museum in Detroit, Michigan museums have collected stories and artifacts from all points of our shared experience, and the range of subject matter catalogued within these institutions is as rich and diverse as the state itself. I hope you are as excited as I am to celebrate Michigan's magical museums at this year’s #AASLHMMA2016 Conference!

    Elizabeth Palmer Jarvis
    Selinsky-Green Farmhouse Museum
    MMA Conference Communications Team

  • July 11, 2016 10:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I am here to tell you that it is never too early to attend a conference. Whether you are still a student or currently on the job market, MMA’s joint conference with AASLH is a great place to start if you have even the slightest interest in working in the history or museum fields. So here is my very own top 10 list for students and job seekers.

    10. The Travel! Detroit is a beautiful city and attending a museum conference is a great way to experience its culture.

    Campus Martius is an awesome place to meet up and hang out!

    9. Find Your Museum Peeps! You can find other people who know every word to the opening song from “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Or…maybe that’s just me. The point is, you will be surrounded by other people interested in the same kinds of ideas and questions as you. This year AASLH is even starting an Emerging History Professionals affinity group that you’ll be able to join.

    8. Visit Potential Employers! Since we are teaming up with AASLH for this year’s conference, there are loads of extra trips, tours, and site visits to take part. You can see small historic house museums and large institutions, like The Henry Ford while learning about all of the ways YOU could actually work at one of these magical places. Seriously, museums are magical.

    7.  Show Your Face! One of the best ways to break into any field is to participate. The more people see you around, shake your hand, or hear a question from you after a session, the more they will remember you. And just maybe that person will be sitting down to interview you one day. After hours events are the perfect time to meet and get to know other museum pros. Limit your drinks, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and have fun.

    CMU students really got into the fun at the Muskegon conference!

    6. Free Swag! You always leave a conference with new buttons, badges, stickers, etc. to perfectly represent your museum/history nerd personality. Seriously, the button swag is strong at this conference.

    5. Stay Current! Learn about current trends in the field. Attending sessions and workshops will allow you to learn where the field is headed and pick up on buzzwords that will allow you to impress colleagues, potential employers, and more!

    4. Network! There are great networking opportunities. I think we all fear that word and the thought of making small talk sends shivers down our spines, but networking is crazy important. You’ll be able to learn from people working at museums across the country and you never know when the name on one of those business cards will come in handy. At the MMA Lounge, we’ll have a cool place to hang your business card so don’t forget to stock up!

    3. Test the Waters! You’ll be able to get a feel for the museum field in general. What kinds of people are working in museums and what are they working on? Does the museum field sound like an exciting, dynamic, and meaningful place for you to make your mark on the world? This is the perfect place to find out.

    2. Find a Museum Mentor! Museum people are friendly and helpful. If you have questions about course of study, how to find internships, where to look for job postings or anything else, ask someone. The MMA members will all be sporting a pin with the MMA logo and we’ll be hanging around the MMA Lounge in Cobo. Feel free to find one of us and I’m sure you’ll find someone more than happy to help.  

    All MMA Members will be wearing a pin with the MMA logo. Find us!

    1. Gain Experience! Conferencing is a part of museum life. If you plan on making a career out of this, there will be more of these in your future, so by attending one early, you can be a professional conference-goer when some people may be attending their first one. Additionally, if you are a student, you can register for free if you sign up to volunteer, and working as part of a conference team is a worthwhile experience on its own!

    Hopefully this list of reasons to attend has been helpful! Throughout the week our social media posts will be geared toward answering questions that a first time conference attendee may have. If you have any specific questions, leave them on our Facebook page and our team will try to answer them!

    Samantha Engel
    Whaley Historic House Museum
    MMA Conference Communications Team

  • July 04, 2016 5:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last month, a colleague from the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center and I were talking to a recent grad about the upcoming AASLH/MMA conference. The grad asked us why she should attend the conference, and what to expect.  Of course, we gushed about the MMA conference experience – the great sessions and discussions, the wonderful sites that host the conferences, and the truly amazing networking opportunities. As I reflected later on this conversation, it got me thinking about just how much fun the conferences truly are, and not just because of the fantastic content in the sessions and tours. It’s the fellow “museum nerds” we meet, and the memories we make – it’s easy to come back year after year.

    Remembering the Good Times

    I remember when the Museum Café session first started (it’s my favorite!). No one knew for sure how it would turn out – who would stay during a break to try out a “speed-dating” type roundtable of museum topics? I don’t think anyone anticipated the success, and I remember that after the first round was up, it was hard to pull people away from their conversations to switch to another topic (specifically the “horror stories” table…). Now it is a staple of the MMA conference, with topics submitted by conference-goers prior to the Café and more participants in general. This year, the MMA Lounge will host two Museum Café sessions on Thursday and Friday at 9:45 a.m.

    Even students get in on the fun!

    How many people do you know that can say they enjoyed Fort Mackinac without a mass of tourists? In 2014, early-arriving conference-goers attended an evening reception at the Fort, complete with weapon demonstrations and a cannon firing. Everything was open for perusal, there was an amazing spread of food and drink, and it was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone before the conference got into full swing. When asked, many MMA’ers said that their favorite part of the evening was the chance to watch the sunset from the Fort.  Watching as the light faded over the island landscape with our fellow nerds was one of those moments that are a reminder that living in Michigan and being a part of Michigan museums is AWESOME. Looking over the schedule for the conference this year, the special events each day look like a blast. Which one will you choose – Distinctly Detroit, the Muse Cruise, the Leadership in History Awards Banquet, or The Henry Ford Un-Conference? I’m so torn about which one(s) to attend, they all look amazing. Find out more in the conference program.

    Sunset over Mackinac Island and the bridge

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “after hours” fun too – when I polled my contacts, almost every person who responded included a memory from one of the very popular MMA Pub Crawls. Many pointed out their favorite location, beverage choice, or shared a story about the shenanigans that were had, but to protect the innocent I won’t share them here (thanks for the stories everyone, I enjoyed hearing [or being a part of] them).  My first experience with the pub-crawl included a “round 2” group, led by a seasoned museum professional who said to the group, “You’re only young once. I’m a lot older than all of you and I’m headed back out – you have no excuse!”  This year, getting the opportunity to experience the night-life of Detroit will be amazing. Plus, anything with “Choose Your Own Adventure” in the title is bound to be a good time! Michigan museum people sure know how to have fun!

    MMA brings together all of the museum nerds!

    Making New Memories

    This year at #AASLHMMA2016 we’re hosting the MMA Lounge - a swanky, fun area in Cobo for you to meet up and network with your Michigan museum besties. There, you can mark where you’re from on the big map of Michigan, leave your business card on the Michigan museums garland, and even leave analog status updates on table tops with the hashtag #oldschool. We know how special those memories from previous conferences are, and we want to make sure that you feel engaged with the Michigan museum community within the larger conference.

    As we get closer to the MMA/AASLH Conference (only 73 days away!), I bet I’m not the only one who gets excited just thinking about it. So many great memories have been made at previous conferences, and joining with AASLH for this one, I can only imagine the number of amazing people we will meet, and the wonderful experiences we will have. I cannot wait to see you there!

    Shannon Pinkster
    Historic Charlton Park
    MMA Communications Team

  • June 27, 2016 2:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you have been following this blog since the beginning, you might catch on that the MMA Conference Team is really excited for the chance to spotlight Michigan and its many wonderful and diverse museums. The American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) is a huge organization and draws a very big crowd for its Annual Meeting. That’s why this week I’m delighted to share with you the ways this conference will feature our beautiful state and its museums with the rest of the nation’s museum professionals.

    This is our opportunity to shine, and the AASLH Local Committee has organized several tours and events that will not only interest out of state professionals, but in-state ones too. The tours and events offered within the program are a highlight for this conference and feature a wide array of Michigan’s museums and cultural sites. You can read more about these tours and events in the Preliminary Program.


    See the Whaley House Museum and others on the Flint, MI tour

    Possibly one of the best parts of the AASLH Annual Meeting are the tours that are organized by the local committee. Even if you’re local, this is your chance to get to know area museums and historic sites in greater depth. So numerous to describe them all, check out this list of museums and areas that are featured on the various tours offered:

    •          Whaley House Museum
    •          Durant-Dort Carriage Co. (Birthplace of GM)
    •          Sloan Museum
    •          Applewood: The Charles Stewart Mott Estate
    •          Eastern Market
    •          Mexicantown
    •          Greektown
    •          Chinatown
    •          Hamtramck
    •          Corktown
    •          Black Bottom
    •          Wyandot historic sites
    •          Birmingham Historical Museum
    •          Pine Grove (former home of Michigan Governor Moses Wisner)
    •          Ford Motor Company Archives
    •          Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford
    •          Various downtown Detroit sites and monuments
    •          Woodlawn Cemetery
    •          Belle Isle Park
    •          Dossin Great Lakes Museum
    •          Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
    •          Rochester Hills Museum and Farm
    •          Arab American National Museum
    •          Dodge home - Meadow Brook Hall
    •          Henry Ford Estate – Fair Lane


    Don't miss Distinctly Detroit: A Night at the Detroit Historical Museum on September 14th

    Let’s not forget the evening events. The AASLH Local Committee organized evening events that feature some of Detroit’s biggest, coolest museums:

    •          Detroit Historical Museum
    •          Charles H. Wright Museum
    •          Michigan Science Center
    •          Detroit Institute of Arts
    •          The Henry Ford

    First stop on Wednesday, September 14 is Distinctly Detroit: A Night at the Detroit Historical Museum. You won’t want to miss this fun event where you will get to take photos in a Model T, sing like a Motown legend, and walk the streets of old Detroit.

    On September 15, Muse Cruise: Cruising the Museums in the Motor City promises to be a fun event that directly links to Detroit’s past as a “cruising” city. What better way to see Detroit’s coolest museums? Beginning at Charles H. Wright Museum, moving on to Michigan Science Center, and ending at Detroit Institute of Arts, this evening’s “cruise” is sure to give you a taste of what Detroit has to offer.

    The Henry Ford Un-Conference on Saturday, September 17 promises a peek “behind the curtain” at one of Michigan’s biggest museums. This special event bookends the conference with individual experiences for each type of museum professional.

    Remember, all of these tours and events are a la carte and are additional fees to your conference registration. You can add them when you register online.

    Michigan’s museums and cultural sites are set to be the star of this conference. Even if you’re from the Detroit region, there is so much to explore right in our own backyard. I know I plan on it! I hope you will join me and others in Detroit in September.

    Caitlyn Perry Dial
    Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame
    MMA Communications Team Lead

    Still wondering about how to offset the costs of going to the conference? Check out last week’s blog and submit your MMA Scholarship today. Applications are due July 8.

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 The Michigan Museums Association is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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