Post by Julia Toro, Detroit Institute of Arts
Think back on the past few months. Have you had the chance to connect with any museum colleagues outside of your organization? If you’re reading this blog, you have probably attended the Michigan Museums Association annual conference at least once. The conference is a great way to network and engage with other MMA members, but it’s not the only opportunity to do so. MMA also organizes numerous workshops throughout the year as well as informal Meet and Eat Lunches, where attendees can network while enjoying good food. If you’re looking to meet other museum professionals or learn something new during the month of August, the following events might be just what you’re looking for:
A Meet and Eat Lunch is being held at the Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet on August 16, 2017. This event is open to museum staff, volunteers, and students and provides an opportunity for local colleagues, MMA members, and MMA board members to learn from each other in a casual setting. Lunch is free but registration is required as space is limited. As an added bonus, lunch will be followed by a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Keweenaw History Center. If you’re nearby and interested in learning more about MMA or just want to meet colleagues from the area sign up today! Learn more about the event and register to attend here. Register by August 8th.
2015 Meet and Eat in Grand Rapids
Looking to learn something new from colleagues with specialized experience? MMA is offering two awesome workshops in August:
Understanding Your Audience and Effective Survey Design will help you understand the information you currently collect about your visitors and what else you might do to truly connect with your audience. This workshop will take place on August 15th in Ishpeming at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and will be led by Sarah Cohn and Al Onkka from Aurora Consulting. The registration fee includes coffee, lunch, and materials. Learn more here. Registration closes soon (August 7th) so don’t miss the chance to participate!
Visitor Experiences is being held at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit on August 29th. Sarah Waters from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Lisa Craig Brisson from the Michigan Museums Association will run the workshop. This one is now sold out but don’t worry, if you missed out this time this popular workshop will be offered again in the future. Find the event page here.
There is so much we can learn from our colleagues and events like this give us a rare chance to learn from others outside of our own organization. If none of the August events are in your area or you are otherwise unable to participate, keep an eye on the events calendar to learn about other MMA events happening near you in the future.
MMA Communications Team
Post by Samantha Engel, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation
I entered the museum field by happenstance. Having left a PhD program in American history without a real plan of what I would do next, I applied for a lot of jobs over the course of nine months and finally received the one job offer that I never imagined I would actually receive; I became the Executive Director of the Whaley Historic House Museum. I dove into research about museum practice, public history theory, and historic house museum case studies, and I partook in a variety of workshops. I began my job in April and attended my first Michigan Museums Association conference that fall.
Last year's joint conference with AASLH offered so many learning opportunities!
I loved this experience. The opportunities it presented to learn from colleagues in sessions, during meals, and in various interactive activities were priceless. As someone who had no background in museum work, I saw all of the attendees as fountains of knowledge who brought with them their own training, background, and experiences that I could learn from. This is why, years later, I not only continue to attend the MMA annual conference but actively participate. I will be presenting for a second time this year and this is also my second year on the planning committee. That’s how important I think it is!
By attending the MMA annual conference I can count on a variety of things. Most importantly, I know that there will be incredible learning opportunities. Whether they are structured sessions or workshop presentations, or they are unscripted opportunities to connect with colleagues during coffee hour, at lunch, or at one of the conference events (tours, pub crawl, reception), these moments are what make the conference experience. It is easy to read about theory and practice, but hearing from others who have the same problems, or have already piloted a program similar to one you had been conceiving allows you to obtain an inside scoop not found in the pages of a text.
MMA conferences have been such an important part of my own professional development that I am always urging others to attend. Many of these individual are current college students or recent graduates considering work in the museum field. I think of conferences as a kind of “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience where you can craft a schedule for yourself that can focus on sessions that suit your interests, areas you want to improve upon, or sample from a wide array of topics. This is perfect for someone looking to dip their toes into the world of museum work.
MMA Conference Communications Team
Post by Lisa Craig Brisson, Michigan Museums Association
One of my favorite parts of our MMA conferences is lunch. Since so much of what we do at MMA is one on one, in smaller groups, or online, It is wonderful to have an opportunity to look out over a sea of faces who make us who we are – from members to donors, and program participants to volunteers. At lunch, we all get together!
2014 Conference, Mackinac Island
Unlike many other museum conferences, meals and events are not add-ons at ours. It’s temping for us to split off lunches and receptions too. They are usually the most expensive elements of a conference and we know that other organizations use these activities as an additional source of income. But one of the major goals of the MMA conference, and everything else we do for that matter, is engagement. We work to bring the Michigan museum community together because we know that when that happens, great things result. We want as many people as possible to be able to participate in as much of the conference as possible. So tempting as it may be to do otherwise, we keep the cost of the lunch included in the regular registration so that everyone can attend.
Lunch is a different kind of experience than the rest of the conference. When you are sitting at a table with people and sharing a meal, it feels more relaxed than during the rest of the day. It is easier to connect with new people when you are sitting together for a little while. I find MMA conference lunches to be delightfully loud and there is usually a lot of laughter.
We try and make the program at the lunches meaningful as well. For the past several years, we have used the lunch on the first day of the conference to present awards. I am always so inspired by the work being done throughout the state, and it is wonderful to hear from those being recognized. In the midst of several days of focusing on what we can be doing better, it is nice to spend a few moments recognizing what has been done well.
Nancy Bryk receives a 2015 award
The second lunch is always all about MMA. We have our required business meeting, but the board infuses their own sense of humor in the whole affair so hopefully it is more fun than boring. It also helps that MMA is doing well, so we have lots of good things to report. Finally, it is always fun to announce the location and dates of the next conference. It’s never too early to begin planning for next time!
This year’s lunches promise to be as good as those in other years. On Wednesday, we are excited to present three awards for leadership and service to individuals and organizations that are well deserving. I can’t say who will be getting them, but I am very excited about it. On Thursday we will hear from the MMA Board of Directors. It’s always fun to see how Bruce Lynn, MMA Treasurer, will make us laugh – something I am not sure usually happens in most Treasurer’s Reports. Unfortunately, he and several other beloved board members will be rotating off, but several new members will be elected, so it’s not all sadness. And even though we are still just in the very early stages of planning, the 2018 conference is beginning to take shape and it will be great to be able to share the location and dates for that conference.
I am pretty sure that on the conference schedule, the lunches look like some of the most boring parts, but I know that is not true. I am looking forward to another chance to bring everyone together to share a meal and hopefully a few laughs.
Post by Julia Toro of the Detroit Institute of Arts and Samantha Engel of Dow Gardens
There are so many reasons to look forward to the 2017 MMA Conference in Lansing. From the thought provoking sessions to the keynote speakers, focusing my excitement on any one thing can be hard. Today, though, I want to talk about the conference tours. Tours give attendees the chance to explore other institutions, interact with staff, and gain behind the scenes access. These tours go beyond what you could do when visiting another institution on your own and the best part is that they are included in your conference registration! I’m especially excited for this year’s tours because of the variety. From libraries to the Michigan State Capitol, the tours have something for everyone!
Art enthusiasts will love tours of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, where they will be able to take a look at their newest exhibit, The Transported Man. The Lansing Art Gallery will also be offering a tour of their facility, along with a hands-on printmaking experience and a question and answer session with the staff. Finally, Saper Galleries will host a tour of their skylight-lit gallery space containing 1,500 works of art! Tour participants will get a look at their framing department.
Those looking for a bit more history in their tour will not be disappointed. The Capitol Area District Libraries Local History Room, Michigan’s Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and Museum, and the Michigan History Museum’s Civil War Flags Exhibit are offering tours for the historians and history buffs in the group. These options offer great glimpses into this state’s rich past, archival collections and digital preservation, and the opportunity to see how other organizations carry out their missions.
We have something for science museum folks as well! Impression 5 Science Center will be hosting a tour in which participants will get to see their new youth maker space Think Tank! and learn about engagement for youth audiences. Additionally, the Michigan State University Horticulture Demonstration Gardens will challenge visitors to think about the history and importance of living collections while touring their 14 acre facility.
Finally, no trip to Lansing would be complete without opportunities to visit various aspects of our state government. Both the Michigan Hall of Justice and the Michigan State Capitol will be offering tours. Those choosing the Hall of Justice Tour will first walk through the Capitol Complex before visiting the Michigan State Supreme Court courtroom and Learning Center. Participants who decide to tour the Michigan State Capitol will see the rotunda, governor’s office, house and senate chambers, and the historic supreme court.
The 2017 conference has so many opportunities to experience Lansing and offers tour selections for everyone! With ten tours, it seems hard to pick just one! All tours take place on Wednesday, October 18 from 3-5. Click here to learn more. Pay attention to special instructions. For example, some will require comfortable shoes as they require more walking than others. Pick your favorite and have fun!
We look forward to seeing you in Lansing.
Julia Toro and Samantha Engel
Post by Julie Cook of the Historic Ford Estate
Each year at the MMA annual conference the Michigan museum community comes together to share ideas on how we can engage visitors, create relevant programming and exhibitions, be the best stewards of our cultural heritage, advocate for our missions, and so much more! The venues through which we transmit these ideas take many forms: sessions, speakers, tours, and…evening receptions!
Call it networking, engaging, conversing, mingling, discussing, debating, or just plain talking- when we come together to share our ideas and experiences, our community grows and we develop a better understanding of ourselves and each other. The relaxed setting of the evening events promotes free and open discussion for connecting with other conference attendees.
This year at the annual conference, MMA will partner with three local institutions to host the evening receptions. These museums have the opportunity to open their doors to our state-wide museum community and not only provide a setting for conference attendees to engage with one another, but also showcase their institutions and the local Lansing community. Following are descriptions for all three of our wonderful evening receptions and the unique experiences you will find at each event.
Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum
Tuesday, October 17
Start the conference off on a stimulating note surrounded by the dynamic art and architecture of the Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum! Situated on the edge of the Michigan State University campus in the heart of East Lansing, the museum was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid and features contemporary as well as historical art collections. Take in the unique setting and artwork while networking with fellow attendees. Guests will have a chance to hear remarks from the museum’s director, Marc-Olivier Wahler, and explore The Transported Man exhibition during its final week on view.
Michigan Historical Museum
Wednesday, October 18
This evening reception embodies our Michigan roots by providing hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and history all themed around our Great Lakes State while representing this year’s conference theme of advocacy. As you stroll through the exhibits of the Michigan Historical Museum, state legislators and representatives will also be among the guests at the reception. You can learn about our collective past while sharing your own stories with coworkers and lawmakers alike. MHM staff and volunteers will be on hand to guide you through the new long-term Anishinaabe exhibit; the special exhibit, “The River that Changed the World,” featuring the Au Sable River; behind-the-scenes with the Michigan’s Civil War flags; and the Archives of Michigan.
Michigan State University Museum
Thursday, October 19
The conference wraps up with an evening reception at one of the earliest established museums in the nation! Opening in 1857, the MSU Museum cultivates interdisciplinary linkage across campus, particularly in college-based programs in the sciences, arts and humanities, and international studies. You’ll be able to explore three floors worth of exhibits highlighting Anthropology, Natural Science, Folk Arts, and History collections from around the world. Check out the Hall of World Cultures for a view of traditional cultures from across the globe, or visit Heritage Hall which features Michigan’s local cultural heritage.
Through these venues we highlight our unique yet connected stories on local, state, and national levels. So come! Relax with colleagues, explore new institutions, and be part of our shared story as an organization and as a community.
MMA extends its sincere gratitude to our local partners that make the annual conference such a success, and to all of our event attendees that help promote this wonderful museum field of ours!
We hope to see you all in Lansing! Click here for registration information!
Engagement Team Chair
MMA is hosting a variety of workshops in the next few months. Topics range from visitor research to digital media and nonprofit basics, and will be held throughout the state from Dundee to Marquette and in between. Here is a list of our workshops with thoughts of why I think people will want to attend.
Nonprofit Building Blocks
July 25, 9-12
Old Mill Museum, Dundee
One of the things I see as a challenge for most museums – large or small, urban or rural – is understanding how a nonprofit is different from a regular business. There are so many nuances or requirements for nonprofits that can seem mysterious or intimidating. In an ongoing effort to provide insight into the basis of nonprofit management, this workshop will focus on two tricky areas – how development and accounting work together and the basics of managing boards. Erica Battle is a seasoned accountant who has worked for several museums and has many museum clients. She truly understands how museums can and should be functioning. She will be joined by staff and leadership from a variety of museums as well, including Laurel Paterson from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Are We Safe Yet? Identifying and Addressing Risk at Your Museum
August 2, 1-5
Saugatuck-Douglas History Center, Douglas
It’s easy to think that nothing bad will happen to our organizations or the people associated with them, but this isn’t realistic. Understanding what some of the challenges can be, and putting a plan in place to deal with them, can often mean the difference between total disaster and mere crisis. Mark Lambert is insurance agent who is very familiar with museums and who will help participants identify general and specific risks at their organizations.
Understanding Your Audience and Effective Survey Design
August 15, 10-4
US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, Ishpeming
Museum visitors can be a mystery, but there are tools for helping better understand them. In some cases, museums already collect the data that can provide helpful clues. On the other hand, actually asking your visitors about their needs or experiences can be a direct way to find out the information you are looking for. I am so excited to have Sarah Cohn and Al Onkka share their amazing expertise in Michigan. I know both Sarah and Al from the Visitor Studies Association and have attended workshops led by both. I think MMA members will appreciate their style and their depth of experience.
Visitor Experiences August 29, 10-4
Michigan Science Center, Detroit
MMA developed the Visitor Experiences workshop almost a decade ago to help staff and volunteers at museums better understand the full breadth of how visitors participate in museums, as well as how to think about visitors in new ways. The field has come a long way since the workshop began, but there are still plenty of people and organizations who benefit from the basics of this topic. Sarah Waters and I have been leading this workshop for several years, but it is different each time. Participants bring their own understanding and experiences to the workshop, just like visitors do to our museums!
What Research Says About Visitor Behavior in Museum Exhibitions and So What?
September 14, 10-4
Michigan History Center, Lansing
Beverly Serrell came to Michigan several years ago to lead a workshop about evaluating museum exhibits. It was so popular that we’ve been trying to get her back again ever since. This time she is going to focus on what she is famous for- Tracking and Timing studies. This visitor research method is relatively easy to implement, and provides great insight into how visitors actually engage with the museum. A delight to hear on any topic, it is wonderful to have the chance to listen to Beverly talk about Tracking and Timing in particular.
Media Workflows for Museum Professionals
September 26, 9-4
Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Campus
MMA members have long been talking about digital media, and asking for more resources. This workshop is our first effort to address the topic. This is definitely not my area of expertise, but Matthew Patulski has worked with a number of museums and is excited to talk about workflows and digital assets with MMA members.
Becoming a Champion for Museums
October 17, 9-4
When we decided the theme of our Lansing conference would be advocacy, we had no idea that there would be so many opportunities for mobilization on the horizon. But we did know that there is never a bad time to help more people be able to articulate the value and needs of museums to many people in in different kind of settings. I know Bob Beatty from working with him on the conference with AASLH, and I find his enthusiasm for any topic inspiring. This workshop focusing on the ABCs of advocacy will be helpful for those who are just getting interested in the issues, and those of us who have been doing advocacy for several years. We’ll have many other chance at the conference to learn about, practice, and participate in advocacy, and this workshop will be a great way to get started!
I hope to see many MMA members at our workshops throughout the rest of the year. But if you don’t see the one you really need, please let us know. I’m already getting started on planning for next year!
Post by Regina Gorham, Kalamazoo Valley Museum
For any of you who are considering attending the MMA Conference for the first time this year, I was in your shoes not too long ago. After coming to Michigan in 2015, I was lucky enough to attend my first MMA Conference that fall. Coming from Illinois, I had been to a few other conferences, so I had an idea of what to expect - new people to meet, new sessions to attend, fun tours, and a general “idea overload.” Along with those expectations, I was pleased to find a tight knit community of museum professionals who were just as jazzed about museum work as I was – bonus! I met many people who were from places in Michigan I was only vaguely aware of. I quickly became well acquainted with the famous Michigan hand map used to show where someone was from.
University of Michigan Natural History Museum, 2015
The dominant feeling I had leaving that first conference was that the members of MMA are one big happy nerdy family. We come together, celebrate each other’s successes, learn from one another, and then go on fun tours and geek out over what we’ve seen. There’s nothing better than being in a room with so many creative minds. The act of coming together feels like a lovely ritual with wonderful results that last long beyond the conference.
Along with meeting a great number of new fellow museum professionals, there were great sessions that led me to not only think through strategies for current projects, but ones that gave me the courage to start tackling projects that had not even crossed my mind before. The tour at the University of Michigan’s 3D Lab was drool-worthy, reminding everyone of what technology can do to help museums educate and, in some ways, re-create the past.
Welcome Sign for AASLH/MMA 2016 in Detroit
Being lucky enough to attend last year's joint conference in Detroit, I was again reminded of what a close knit community MMA is. Everywhere I went I saw a friendly face that I remembered from the previous conference, or from some other interaction over the past year. Though last year was a larger conference, with a lot of people attending and tons of sessions, you could find familiar MMA faces working their way through the crowds. It was a helpful gesture for anyone who might have felt intimidated by attending a conference of that size.
Fun with friends at the Henry Ford
This year’s conference in Lansing is a more than fitting reminder of not only the work we do, but the work that needs to be done. As we come together this year, now more than ever, we are going to need that tight-knit MMA community to push forward with all that we’ve got to ensure that museums continue to grow and thrive. With the theme of advocacy taking center stage, this year’s conference stands to be not only a reunion of Michigan’s museum community, but a barometer to see where we all are, and a rallying point to see where we all need to go.
Registration is now open, so click here for information. Hope to see you there!
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Communications Team/Programs Team
Post by Melanie Parker, Detroit Institute of Arts
Your First Look at the 2017 Conference Program:
It’s hard to believe that we’re just four months away from the 2017 conference! The Programs Team has worked hard to develop an engaging conference program that covers a wide range of topics and areas of work in Michigan’s museums. We hope you will be as excited as we are!
Sessions were selected to match several key focus areas: Visitor Experiences, Collections Stewardship, Leadership & Administration, and Advocacy (the conference theme). The sixteen sessions feature forty-one presenters who represent twenty-six museums and organizations from around the state,
Below, you’ll find a snapshot of the conference, as well as some new features for this year. You can find the full conference schedule and session descriptions here.
Increasing Audience Diversity and Inclusion in your Museum—Create an Action Plan: In this session, explore how to initiate new community relationships, provide inclusive programming, and create an action plan that you can implement regardless of institutional size or budget.
The Artistry of Brewing a Signature Festival for the Museum and Community: The panel, which includes representatives from the Ella Sharp Museum and several of their community partners, will discuss the processes that make the annual “Art, Beer and Wine Festival” a successful community event and fundraiser.
Community Classroom Collaborations: a.k.a Field Trips: This session introduces the basics of building a museum field trip program. Attendees will be led through the process of developing, marketing, scheduling, implementing, staffing and assessing strong, curriculum driven programs that become an extension of the classroom.
Sharing Our Stories: Oral Histories Beyond the Archive: Members of the Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward project team at the Detroit Historical Society will lead participants through the basics of creating multicultural, community-wide oral history projects.
Traveling Exhibition Programs that Work: During this session, representatives from three Michigan-based museums will share successes, challenges, and lessons learned from their traveling exhibit programs that attendees can apply to projects at their own museums.
Event Rentals - A Balancing Act: Preserving and Protecting Your Historic Space: Increasingly, museums are opening their facilities for private event rentals—providing revenue opportunities and expanding audience reach, but creating preservation and conservation challenges. Representatives from the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant will share their experiences, lessons, and questions, and attendees will be encouraged to share their own.
Digitizing a newspaper collection and bringing it to life: Are you wondering what it takes to digitize a newspaper collection and make it searchable on the web? These panelists are here to help. They will discuss how they found a company to handle the digitization, financed the project, and found a server to host the material online.
Inventories: How to Handle Undocumented Objects, Deaccessioning and Direct Care: This panel, which includes presenters from museums of differing sizes and focus areas, will tackle some of the most intimidating problems when approaching a collection inventory—including how to handle undocumented objects, what to do with objects that no longer fulfill the museum’s mission, and the standards for deaccessioning and direct care.
Curating Craftivism: This panel will explore how museums can co-create and collect handmade objects that were created as sociopolitical statements. Presenters will engage museums' roles as sites of civic engagement as well as examines the everyday difficulties of organizing, documenting, curating, exhibiting, and managing collections based on craft and politics.
LEADERSHIP AND ADMINISTRATION:
No Experience Necessary: How To Bring Change Through Strategy Development: With the Digital Engagement Framework as a baseline, session participants will learn how to develop an organizational strategy that ensures all voices are heard. The great thing about this session is that this framework can be applied to any kind of project—digital or otherwise!
Parenting in the Workplace: Session facilitators invite you to sit down with your colleagues for a constructive and realistic conversation about parenting while working in a museum. Discuss the positive experiences you’ve had and the challenges you’ve faced, pose questions to your colleagues, and finish the discussion with next-steps and ideas for continuing the conversation.
Preserving History and Presenting Truths: Our Highest Calling?: Guided by a moderator, attendees will be asked to consider whether museums deserve the public’s trust. Visitors trust us to tell the truth, but is truth one-sided? What steps can we take to ensure we do not break the public trust? We anticipate this critical conversation may leave us with as many questions as answers.
Working with Elected Officials: The Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce will walk attendees through the process of learning who their elected officials are and how to approach them. Attendees will leave with tips and tricks to advocate for their institution.
Making Our Work Visible: Outreach Related to Grant-Funded Work: It can be a challenge to communicate the importance of all aspects of museum work—including what happens “behind-the-scenes”—to visitors (and funders). These panelists, who represent three institutions of varying types and sizes, will discuss their public outreach efforts to shed light on the role of grant funding in their work.
Museums Advocacy Day: Speaking Out for Museums: In this session, learn about the impact of AAM’s Museums Advocacy Day on Michigan’s museums from professionals who have attended the event. Perhaps the session will inspire you to join MMA in Washington D.C. in 2018!
Additionally, the Student Paper Session will feature four presenters who are either an undergraduate student, a graduate student, or a recent grad. Topics covered will include marching band uniform collections, the history of Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood, and the work of the Flint Children’s Museum and the Battle Creek Regional History Museum.
WHAT’S NEW AT THE CONFERENCE THIS YEAR?
The 2017 conference will feature several different session types. Some of the sessions mentioned above follow a traditional panel or case study format. Others, however, will be facilitated as either a campfire or a how-to.
How-to sessions are exactly how as they sound: attendees will have a guided, hands-on experience learning “how-to” do a specific activity. Attendees will walk away with a product that they have created during the session that theyand can take back to their institutions and to use toward their own work.
Campfires are group conversations that session attendees have together, guided by a facilitator. While the facilitator will have experience with the topic and will offer their insight and expertise, much of the learning will come from the dialogue between attendees.
The conference program will indicate the session type next to each description, so you’ll know what to expect ahead of time. We hope you’re as excited about these new offerings as we are!
You will also be invited to participate in conversation stations. While these aren’t quite “new,” they are greatly expanded from the 2015 conference where they were first debuted.
The 2016 Joint Conference Poster Session
Imagine the format of a poster session or a vendor room. Attendees will be able to wander freely about the space freely, stopping at whichever station catches their attention. Each station will feature a different conversation, a station host, and a few chairs. Some of the conversations will be about specific projects, like a sensory-friendly program for children with autism. Others highlight timely topics, like labor and fair pay in the museum field. Station hosts might ask for feedback, share resources and lessons learned, seek institutional partnerships, or pick your brain.
As (I hope) you can see, there’s a lot to look forward to! In the coming weeks, we will dive more deeply into the conference theme and reveal the two keynote speakers. In the meantime, you can register for the conference here. Early bird registration ends July 31!
See you in Lansing!
Programs Team Chair
Post by MMA Executive Director Lisa Craig Brisson.
There were many great things that came about for MMA as a result of our joint conference with the American Association for State and Local History, but one of my favorites is our new member scholarship program! It began last year as a response to the concern that the more-expensive AASLH registration rate would make it difficult for our members from small organizations to attend.
We weren’t sure how many scholarships we would be able to provide, or even how many people would apply. We were pleased with a great response for both. The Local Host Committee from AASLH provides most of the scholarship funds with more coming from MMA members and other supporters.
Scholarship recipient Rennae Healey decked out in conference flair
Applicant response was also strong, and we were impressed and surprised by the thoughtful, articulate applicants we heard from. In the end, we were able to provide scholarships for all the applications who could attend at least one full day of the conference.
It was very clear from the process, though, that there are a lot of people in the field that could use financial support to attend conferences. Some of the applications were from emerging professionals who were working multiple jobs and serving as museum volunteers as they tried to break into the field. Some applications came from staff and volunteers at small organizations who had limited funds to attend conferences. Other applications came from members who had full-time jobs in museums, but who needed to pay their own way to the conference. It was both inspiring and depressing at the same time. Before we were even done selecting the 2016 recipients, the conversation had began about trying to offer scholarships this year.
Recipient Mason Christensen enjoying the vendor booths during a break at the 2016 conference
Once approached with the idea, the MMA Board of Directors was fully behind it. They pledged the proceeds from the Spring Appeal to fund the program, and set a goal of raising enough to cover 10 scholarships. We are still in the midst of the appeal, but they are committed to making the scholarships happen. If we fall short after the appeal, I think there will be some phone calls made . . .
Member Scholarship applications are now available. You can find information about the program on the MMA website and apply via email, online or through the mail. Applications are due on July 6.
I can’t wait to see the scholarship applications come in. I know I will learn more about our members, and be inspired by the hard work and dedication of those who apply. I am also excited to see what level of support we end up getting from our members for the scholarship program. One of the best parts of my job is getting to witness, first hand, the generosity of the Michigan museum community!
(Wondering about scholarships for students? Michigan State University is generously sponsoring that program this year. Applications will be available in mid-August, and the deadline for that will be September 15)
You can find the scholarship information and application here.
You can donate to the scholarship fund here.
I first heard about the Michigan Museums Association annual conference in 2010. At the time I was a doctoral student at Western Michigan University and the Frederick S. Upton Fellow at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph and I learned from a professor that the conference was to take place in Kalamazoo. I wanted to become more involved in Michigan’s museum community, so I decided to attend and I found my people at this conference. Although that was incredibly important in itself, there are many reasons why I continue to attend the MMA conference. To make it a little easier, here are my Top 5 Reasons I Attend the MMA Conference:
You really can’t beat this view from the GVSU research boat in 2012.
1. Field trips!
I have made it a point to attend a special tour at every conference, because there’s nothing like getting a front row seat to another museum’s program or special activity. I’ll never forget the Muskegon conference’s beautiful tour offered aboard the GVSU research vessel on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. On the boat, we learned how GVSU is working with local schools to teach kids about the environment and how it impacts wildlife in the Great Lakes.
2. New skills and new ideas are everywhere.
When I started attending, I was a novice in museum marketing and communications. I started attending sessions in this area because I had an interest in it, and knew it was a skill I needed for my resume. This interest grew into my first conference presentation, about how I used social media to help curate my first exhibit, and another the following year about using traditional marketing strategies for small museums. Now, I lead MMA’s Communications Team.
Last year’s Joint MMA-AASLH Conference was the best yet. I can’t wait for this year!
3. Growing as a leader
Speaking of leading, I have found the conference to be a great way to grow as a leader. I started out presenting as a student and sought out opportunities to expand my network and lead. Every year I actively recruit students and emerging museum professionals to attend the conference, because I want them to find the same support network that I found.
In 2012, the Muskegon conference reception included selfie opportunities with a T-Rex.
4. Evening receptions
Museum conferences have awesome museum parties! Part of the reason why I love that this conference moves around the state is I get to see museums that I wouldn’t otherwise visit. Add in great food, drinks, and museum nerds, and you have one of the best parties you’ve ever attended!
The closing reception at the 2015 Ann Arbor conference included delicious local food and incredible exhibits at the Museum of Natural History.
5. Making new connections a.k.a. The Pub Crawl
Over the two to three days of the conference, you spend a lot of time in sessions, workshops, and breaks. Some of this time is spent networking and sharing ideas, but the real get-to-know-you session comes during the Pub Crawl. It’s taken a few different shapes over the years, but the results are still the same: new friends and maybe some embarrassing photos.
I could keep going, but these are my favorite reasons to attend the MMA Conference. What are yours? What would you tell others to convince them to go? Tell us! Comment on Facebook or Instagram. Or, send us a tweet!
See you in October!
Caitlyn Perry Dial
Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame
MMA Communications Team Lead
Michigan Museums Association 313-334-7643 PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721 email@example.com