EdCom, the Education Professional Network of the American Alliance of Museums, recently revived its web page after a few months on hiatus. You’ll not only find basic information about EdCom, the group that’s focused on education and interpretation in all types of museums (including historic sites), but resources, such as “Excellence in Practice: Museum Education Principles and Standards,” and a suggested bibliography. If you want to keep on news, you’ll want to join them on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
A couple years ago, the American Alliance of Museums introduced the Continuum of Excellence, a “multi-program structure [that] offers opportunities for various levels of assessment, feedback, and recognition that build on one another.” It’s a significant expansion of the Museum Assessment Program and Accreditation process because it now includes additional intermediate steps, including verification of five core documents, including a strategic plan.
Last year I worked with the Historical and Cultural Affairs Division of the State of Delaware to prepare a strategic plan that would meet or exceed AAM’s standards for professional museums. The planning process was more complex than usual because it involved a state government agency that is responsible for over forty historic properties, five museums, a conference center, welcome center, historic preservation, and archaeology and has numerous local partners and affiliates. They also wanted a strong emphasis on team work and a heavy reliance on staff expertise, so the process included large and small group meetings, staff surveys, and community research to create a vision, core values, major audiences, goals, implementation, evaluation, and a budget within eight months. Whew!
I facilitated the meetings and provided general direction, but the staff wrote, revised, and developed the strategic plan from beginning to end while still working their regular jobs. I’m incredibly proud Continue reading →
The opportunities for sharpening your skills as an historic site interpreter continue to grow online, sometimes even for free. Here are a sampling of a few non-degree granting organizations where you’ll find workshops and classes on the Internet to keep your thinking fresh and improve your technique. All times are Eastern unless noted.
The American Alliance of Museums finished up their annual meeting in Seattle this week with about 5,000 people in attendance, including many from China, England, and Canada. The weather was jaw-dropping beautiful so trading it for the sessions indoors was a dilemma at times, but nothing would have pulled me away from the opening plenary which featured Erik Larson, author of Isaac’s Storm and Devil in the White City, who discussed his process for writing these histories. He doesn’t think of himself as an historian, however, but as an “animator of history” who seeks to “create a rich historical experience.” Hmm. Sounds like what historic sites do. I was also provoked by several very intriguing sessions related to history museums and I’ll be sharing highlights soon. In the meantime, enjoy these snapshots from the annual meeting.
This afternoon at the annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums in Seattle, Washington, I’ll be part of “Strategic Planning Made Simple,” a panel session discussing approaches to designing and implementing strategic plans with Liz Maurer (National Women’s Museum), Laurie Baty (National Capital Radio and Television Museum), and Steve Shwarzman (Institute of Library and Museum Services). I’ll be highlighting four ways to overcome “planning creep,” the seemingly inevitable and invisible force that pulls you away from your goals:
1. Adopting a Meaningful Purpose and Vision. Strategic plans have been with us for nearly a century, first for military purposes and then adopted by businesses in the 1970s. It’s now pretty clear that planning without a purpose is a wasted effort and now you’ll find both businesses and non-profit organizations adopting “mission statements.” While mission statements are needed, not all mission statements are helpful. I’ll be outlining the six elements of a Continue reading →
Last week was Museums Advocacy Day and this week is Historic Preservation Advocacy Day, so Congress is getting lots of visits from people who care about our nation’s history and culture.
Museums Advocacy Day has improved each year. The schedule is well organized and the training and materials are thoughtfully assembled to give everyone a clear idea of what might happen during a congressional visit and the priorities for requests (with lots of good background information so you can speak about issues confidently). At the top of the list was a request for “robust funding” for the Office of Museum Services at IMLS, protection of the charitable deduction, and permission for museums to be eligible with schools for federal teacher training funds. Even if you weren’t able to join us, the American Alliance of Museums provides lots of information and ideas for advocacy at home (although the handy “Issues at a Glance” from the Advocate Handbook doesn’t seem to be available online).
IMLS, NEH, NPS, NFS, and NEA talked about their needs but they didn’t seem to be aware Continue reading →
The American Alliance of Museums announced the winners of its 2013 Museum Publications Design Competition, which identifies the best in graphic design in fifteen different categories. This is a juried competition and we send our congratulations to all, but especially to (given the bias of this blog):
Drake Well Museum for their journal, Oilfield
Kentucky Historical Society for educational resources.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum for their 2011-12 annual report
Museum of Flight (Seattle) for their 2011 annual report
Museum of the City of New York for the journal, City Courant
National Archives for their Girl Scout Welcome Activity Badge Cards
Peabody Essex Museum for their members magazine, Connections
Peabody Essex Museum for invitations to the Cultural Conversation and Ansel Adams events
Peabody Essex Museum for educational resources
Shaker Museum (Mount Lebanon) for the 2012/13 annual journal
I love good design and I applaud all the winners. One thing about design contests, however, is that they’re only about design Continue reading →
Last week’s annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums was held just 30 miles from my house but I wasn’t able to attend due to other commitments. I missed seeing so many of my friends! Fortunately, Terri Anderson, a colleague working at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, shared her experiences:
I had a great time attending the American Alliance of Museums annual conference this week, held in Baltimore, Maryland. AAM put on an excellent conference, full of interesting sessions. To be completely honest, I haven’t said that about an AAM conference in a while. I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and informative each session was. Also a first for me was being completely blocked from a session. “How We Did It: The Move of the Barnes Collection” was so full, the AAM volunteer had to close the doors and wouldn’t let in any more people even to stand in the back. All the sessions I attended (in the collections management track) were full or over-full—I hope AAM can get arrange for bigger rooms for its collections sessions next time.
The American Alliance of Museums (formerly known as the American Association of Museums) is offering several resources and workshops that may be interest to historic sites, including:
TrendsWatch 2013: Upcoming Town Hall
This year’s edition of TrendsWatch, the annual report on key social, economic, technological and other trends that are shaping the future of museums, will be released next month. You can also learn about it at the Alliance’s Web-based Town Hall on March 27 at 2 pm ET, which will be hosted by their Center for the Future of Museums. Registration is free for Alliance members, and will open soon. Meanwhile, read (or re-read) TrendsWatch 2012 for a taste of the future.
2012 National Comparative Museum Salary Study Available
A national salary study has long been a top request from Alliance members. Demonstrating that we’re stronger together, the 2012 study was prepared in collaboration with the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM), the Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA), the New England Museum Association (NEMA) and the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) and based on surveys conducted in their regions. Together, these associations represent 36 states, 64 percent of the American population and approximately two-thirds of all museums in the United States. Available free to Continue reading →
The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) recently announced they will work together to raise awareness of national museum standards and align their assessment programs in order to streamline application and self-study processes. The agreement outlines ways in which applicants of AAM’s Museum Assessment Program (MAP) will benefit after completing AASLH’s StEPs program, in other words, AASLH and AAM have linked StEPs with MAP. If you understand that sentence, you’ve been working in this field a long time.
What’s this mean for historic sites? Both StEPs and MAP are great programs for improving your organization’s work, but they’re very different from each other. StEPs allows you to Continue reading →