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.
I could not be happier with my decision to enter into the world of public history and museums. It was definitely scary at first, but once I found the wonderful support network of MMA I knew I could count on my colleagues for words of wisdom and plenty of emotional support. You can still register here!
MMA Conference Communications Team