MMA Blog

  • June 26, 2017 9:39 AM | Anonymous member

    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!

    Regina Gorham
    Kalamazoo Valley Museum

    Communications Team/Programs Team

  • June 19, 2017 10:02 AM | Anonymous member

    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.


    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.


    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!

    Melanie Parker

    Programs Team Chair


  • June 12, 2017 8:45 AM | Anonymous member

    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. 

  • June 05, 2017 8:35 AM | Anonymous member

    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

    Executive Director

    Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame

    MMA Communications Team Lead


    Register Here!

  • May 30, 2017 8:10 AM | Anonymous member

    Over the last six years as an emerging museum professional, I have embraced every opportunity to volunteer, intern, or work for a variety of museums with diverse collections.  I absorbed every nugget of information taught by those who I worked with, but prior to attending the MMA “ABCs of Collections Management” workshop, the accumulation of knowledge was in pieces.  The puzzle of putting together an encompassing understanding of best practices in collections care started to come together, but more pieces than I wanted were missing or not in the correct place.

    The Monroe County Museum hosted the 2015 “ABCs of Collections Management” workshop.  Only a half of an hour away from where I lived, I could not miss the opportunity to participate.  All of my previous experiences with MMA left me with an appreciation of the organization’s commitment to Michigan’s cultural institutions, and I had high expectations for the quality of the workshop.  It did not disappoint.

    Led by Nancy Bryk, Associate Professor in Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation Program, and Angela Riedel, Collections Manager at the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, the workshop covered both the administrative organization of collections and the handling and storing of objects.  Nancy and Angela presented the information clearly and welcomed all questions.  The attendees ranged across all ages and included both paid and unpaid museum professionals.  Overall, the excitement and desire to properly care for the collections entrusted to the various organizations were apparent. 

    Labeling objects in a collection using skills learned at the workshop

    Since my participation in the MMA Collections Workshop, I have used the information presented in several institutions.  The handy binder provided during the workshop sat on my desk when I interned with the collections at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.  I still use it as a reference for my current position working with the collections at The Henry Ford.  As I continue to learn more, I use the binder to collect information for future reference.  The binder has not split yet, and I look forward to the day in my career when I need to start volume II.

    Author standing in front of the completed National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

    If you are on the fence about attending this workshop, I would highly recommend it.  Whether you have years of collections experience or are just starting out, the information shared is invaluable.  It also provides a space for like-minded individuals to share their experiences—the unique challenges of their collections, as well as their successes.  Also, museum professionals always have a good time when we get together.  Registration ends June 5th, so sign up today!  If you are not yet an MMA member, this would be a good time to join! 

    Visit the MMA website to register!

    Mallory Bower

    Conservation Specialist

    The Henry Ford 

  • May 07, 2017 1:45 PM | Anonymous member

    Maybe it’s because I work in museums, but I tend to keep everything. So last summer, when I hired several interns to staff one of our historic sites, I was thankful for my packrat tendencies when I pulled a binder labeled “ABCs of Collections Management” off my shelf at home. The binder, now somewhat worn around the edges, has been a go-to resource for me over the last several years for a variety of collections-related questions, and last year I used it to introduce our interns to collections stewardship.

    My ABCs of Collections Management binder—a lifesaver on so many occasions!

    I received that well-loved binder in April 2013, when I attended MMA’s ABCs of Collections Management workshop. Back then, I was splitting my time between several different small museums, and I was attracted to the workshop because I wanted to refresh my knowledge on collections best practices to better serve those institutions. The workshop proved to be a very rewarding, intensive experience. Led by seasoned museum professional Nancy Bryk of Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation program, the six-hour day was jam-packed with all the basics of collections care and management—from ethics and best practices, to how to document and label objects, to creating policies to care for and protect your collections.

    A view of the Holland Museum’s For the Future Peace: World War II and Holland on the Home Front exhibit, which uses objects from the museum’s collection to share the personal experiences of local residents during the war.

    I returned from the workshop feeling confident in my newfound knowledge and much better equipped to address a variety of collections-related issues. In following months, I used what I learned in ABCs of Collections Management to document donations, to help a museum create a collections policy, and to introduce collections best practices to a small museum’s board of directors.

    High school students from Ferris State University’s Promesa Summer Success program tour the Holland Museum collections storage facility and learn how the museum cares for the community’s history.

    Now fast forward four years, to my current role at the Holland Museum. We are a small but mighty staff, and our collection houses over 30,000 artifacts--many with incredible stories. My job leading the education department (which encompasses programs, school experiences, community outreach, and exhibits) often overlaps with other departments, including collections. I’ve found that I am still utilizing what I learned in ABCs of Collections Management, and I’m thankful for the experience every time I find myself processing object loans, filling out condition reports, documenting new additions to the education collection, and handling objects as we create displays and exhibits.

    I would definitely recommend ABCs of Collections Management to anyone, whether they’re a student, a volunteer at a small local history museum, or even a mid-career museum professional hoping for a worthwhile refresher. If you’re reading this and wondering if taking time out of your weekend is worth it, stop wondering! Go ahead and sign up. Four years later, I’m still glad I did.

    Connie Locker

    Education & Outreach Manager

    Holland Museum

    You can sign up for the June 11 ABCs of Collections Management Workshop right here!

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

    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

    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

    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

    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

 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.

Michigan Museums Association       313-334-7643       PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721

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