AASLH/MMA Meeting Recovery and Recap

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It took me several days to recover from my conference hop in Detroit last week.  I’m not sure why I ended each day exhausted. Was a joint meeting of the Michigan Museums Association and the American Association for State and Local History too rich for my brain cells? Was it the non-stop activities from 7 am to 9 pm? Was it the Cobo Conference Center, so large that I had walk two city blocks to a session after entering the building? No matter the cause, I was a mindless zombie for a couple days afterward but I did have a great time.  I’ll definitely be at AASLH next year in Austin, Texas.

The use of Twitter grew tremendously at the conference.  I heard that more than 1,500 tweets went out from sessions, so many that AASLH created a summary via Storify (and further proof that Twitter isn’t just for the young digerati).  I experimented with Periscope, which provides a live video feed on Twitter. I’m still getting the hang of it (first rule: be sure you’re pointing the phone camera at the scene, not looking down at your feet, when you’re fussing with the phone to start recording).  I was skeptical about its ability to attract an audience but surprisingly lots of people watched it immediately (Periscope provides statistics both during and after recordings; 96 people watched my video of the exhibit hall). You definitely will want to see how you might want to use this smartphone application for promoting events, lectures, and programs at your museum or site. Everywhere on the web a Tweet can go, a Periscope can go, too.

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Tom Segrue’s plenary presentation about Detroit’s history also included observations about the impact of racial segregation, manufacturing, and economic redevelopment has had on its successes and failures, which is a cautionary example to other cities around the country.  My hometown of Rockville, Maryland is much smaller than Detroit, but I immediately saw the parallels around segregation and redevelopment for the last 50 years. His book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, has mostly attracted the attention of academic historians (and a couple prestigious awards), but preservationists and public historians should learn about him as well because of his analysis of downtown revitalization efforts and gentrification. His presentation is now available free from AASLH via SoundCloud and iTunes.  AASLH has provided another dozen audio recordings of sessions from this meeting, many that relate to house museums and historic sites, and in a month the webinars of selected sessions will be available. Thanks, AASLH!

I was involved with a couple sessions during the conference and in case you missed them, I’m sharing the handouts of resources and contact information that we distributed:

I also learned a lot, both in the sessions and in the hallways chatting with friends, so I’ll be sharing those in future posts so this annual meeting will continue to live on for a few more weeks.

One thought on “AASLH/MMA Meeting Recovery and Recap

  1. William Hosley

    This being my first time at AASLH – can’t say how it compares. A little puzzled that they couldn’t come up with 1 (of 2) keynotes on something museological. Segrue was interesting and Mary Wilson was amusing and inspiring – but don’t we have urgent museological issues to discuss? You can’t attend every session, of course. I am fascinated by the continually evolving role museums are playing in fostering racial understanding; am interested in the nexus between museums and civics and civic engagement; always interested in the concerns of small museums – which is MOST museums – and they’re not well-represented at AASLH – unless they’re located near the conference site or getting an award. Attended a session where NEH sheepishly acknowledged that there are 20 (TWENTY!!) states that they’re not much touching (does that mean at all??) with their grants. Got the impression they think its a marketing problem – when everyone knows its an issue of simplifying applications, rethinking the necessity of matching requirements for small grants; distributing more of the total pie as small (up to $10k) grants and designing grantlines with the needs of small museums in mind. And no – the state Humanities aren’t doing it better – generally. If they “can’t” then more of their total budget should be distributed for regranting by the states and if they “can’t” – then what? They acknowledged that most of their grantees are repeats. Who would be surprised if NEH & IMLS hear from some big orgs every other year or so – to the point that who would be further surprised if 85% of federal money for arts and heritage is only touching the biggest richest 5% if museums. Is everyone ok with that. Equity in access to support is a serious issue – but not one that came up formally at any sessions. If I or someone proposed a session on this another year – would it be too hot to touch? All that said – Detroit is fascinating. I snuck in a quick visit to the awesome art museum. Had many engaging conversations with other conferees, etc.

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