The American Alliance of Museums held its 2016 meeting in Washington, DC last week, which was incredibly convenient for me because I could easily take Metro from my home in Maryland and incredibly inconvenient because it was far too easy for me to stay in my office and say, “I’ll go later” and skip sessions. I managed to attend two days along with 6000 other people and came back with an assortment of observations:
- AAM allowed a track of sessions that were focused on one museum or site, which can vary from an indepth examination of a single project to a general show-and-tell of everything they do. Both have benefits and disadvantages (I tend to find the show-and-tells incredibly dull) but it also reminds me how difficult it is to learn what’s happening in the field, especially if you work at historic sites. Subscriptions, conferences, and travel to other sites have all been victims to tightening budgets, hence my ongoing commitment to a blog that shares a variety of news and information.
- The exhibit hall was packed, primarily with exhibit designers and exhibit lenders, and a couple booths introduced virtual reality. Lots to see from books to dinosaurs but most handy was the Museums Change Lives brochure from the Museums Association in Great Britain. It provides some useful language on the value of museums that can be easily adapted to public speeches, newsletters, fundraising, and membership renewal letters.
- Museums of all types are doing pretty cool programming using games or tranforming mundane topics like agriculture. And yet, very few provided any evidence that their activities were making any impact on visitors. Yes, attendance and revenue may have increased, but what did visitor learn? how did it change their attitudes? did they apply what they learned to their lives?
- Although there were sessions for historic sites and house museums, I regret to say that there aren’t enough to justify the expense. As a result, I only attend every 3-5 years to check up on things. Next year, the AAM annual meeting will be in St. Louis, Missouri.
If you attended AAM last week and found some particularly useful information or a new resource, please share them in the comments below.