Meet the Staff

Lisa Craig Brisson
Executive Director

Personal Motto

Gentle Pressure, Relentlessly Applied

What is your museum background?  

Every Saturday when I was growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, my Dad would take my three siblings and I on an outing in the Twin Cities. More often than not, it was to a museum and I have many happy childhood and family memories of those visits. One year I was a volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnesota Holiday Toy Fair (or something like that). I count that as my first, though unpaid, museum job.

I was a social studies education major in college and took a US survey course from an instructor who served on the board of our local history museum. He recruited me for a course he was going to offer in Public History and I was hooked. That experience led me to an internship at the Ramsey County Historical Society, and then eventually to several seasonal jobs at historic sites with the Minnesota Historical Society.  

I decided to pursue a career in historic sites/museums and attended the Cooperstown Graduation Program in History Museum Studies to get my master’s degree. My studies there focused on historic sites, visitor experiences, and accessibility. My internship was at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and my thesis was on accessibility for visitors with disabilities at historic sites.

After graduating, I did some education and visitor research projects back with the Minnesota Historical Society until I came to Michigan to be the Educator for Mackinac State Historic Parks. I was hired for a grant-funded position that was only supposed to last a year and half so I didn’t expect to be in Michigan long, but here I still am!

I left Mackinac State Historic Parks when my daughter was born and worked “freelance” for about a decade. That brought me to many different types of experiences including teaching history and museum studies, working with the Visitor Studies Association and the Center for Informal Science Education, and doing projects with the Cheboygan Area Public Library, Mackinac State Historic Parks, Harbor Springs Historical Society, and other Northern Michigan history organizations.

I was hired as Executive Director for MMA in July of 2012, which had always been my dream job. It did not disappoint.

How did you get involved with MMA?

I attended the 1994 conference on Mackinac Island during my first year with Mackinac State Historic Parks. I remember a strong sense of camaraderie and I was so happy to learn about the museums in the state. I attended several other conferences over the years after that and have attended every conference since 2007. I also served on the Visitor Experiences Academy/Workshop planning committee. I was invited to be part of the MMA Board of Directors in 2010. In that role, I served on and then led the programs committee and helped plan the Kalamazoo (2010) and Harbor Springs (2011) conferences. I left the board in 2011 and was hired as MMA Executive Director the next year.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?

It’s hard to choose one favorite thing, but I think I can narrow it down to two. The first is the museums. I love museums and Michigan has so many of them! It is just so wonderful to get to know them and visit them and hear about all of the different ways that museums are serving their communities.

The second, and really the best, is the people. Museum people are so smart and creative and interesting. I love to meet them and get to know their work. Even better is when I get to know them beyond just their work. Museum people are the best people I know. 

Claire Johnston
Membership & Communications Coordinator

Personal Motto

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

What is your museum background?  

I started my museum career at Michigan State University while completing my BA in Ancient Studies. I volunteered at the MSU Museum in cultural collections (when it was still in the stadium) and the exhibits department. Mackinac State Historic Park’s collection was stored in Lansing originally and I volunteered and helped pack some of the collection to move north.

After undergrad, I went to Florida State University and focused on getting my MA in Classical Archaeology, excavating in Italy and Ukraine, as well as teaching before moving back to Michigan. I had a variety of jobs before landing my first museum job – changing prices at Target, coaching tennis, assisting a realtor, library circulation assistant. I also worked at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in the gift shop and visitor services while interning at Historic Charlton Park in Hastings, which would become my home away from home for 11 years starting in late 2006. With a historic village, recreation area and large collection, I was able to spread my museum wings in a variety of areas. I was hired to run the education and volunteer programs, but quickly took over collection duties. As more staff were hired, I was able to transition fully into collection and exhibition development. 

How did you get involved with MMA?

I joined the MMA Board of Directors in 2010 and quickly became the VP of Programs. I had oversight for our professional development programming among general board responsibilities.

I made personal changes for my family in 2016 and resigned from the MMA Board of Directors. I applied for the newly created quarter-time Membership Assistant position in 2017 and shifted to part-time in 2018 as Membership & Communications Coordinator, and here I am today.

What is your favorite thing about MMA?

MMA members are really wonderful. I communicate with members randomly on a weekly basis about staff, jobs, and renewals, which gives me a great overview of what is happening around the state. I get to converse with people on a regular basis that are passionate about what they do and that is inspiring. 

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. 

Thank you to our Partners!

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

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