Chinese art among the meeting rooms at the Small Museum Association conference, 2017.
Amanda Figueroa and Ravon Ruffin giving the keynote at the Small Museum Association conference, 2017.
Robert Folorny listening to Gretchen Jennings presentation at the Small Museum Association conference, 2017.
Callie Hawkins and Andrea Jones at the Small Museum Association conference, 2017.
Liz Shatto receiving an award from the Small Museum Association conference, 2017.
Some of the people who lead the Small Museum Association conference, 2017.
For the first time, College Park, Maryland hosted the annual Small Museum Association conference, which was previously held for decades in Ocean City, Maryland (a seaside resort town where the rooms are cheap in winter). The relocation was controversial but it attracted a record attendance of 315 persons, plus the facilities at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center were much better suited for a national conference. Not only were there a nice assortment of rooms and places to meet (not just for sessions but informal chats) but it features an outstanding art collection from the University of Maryland in its hallways, not the usual hotel pablum. Paintings and sculptures mostly by Maryland artists lined the hallways and in their own galleries, curated by Jon West-Bey (formerly at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum). Were we in a hotel? a conference center? a museum?
While some people might assume that a conference for small museums means that it’s for beginners, you’ll find that like most professional conferences it has a variety of sessions for different levels of experience, except that it’s aimed at institutions that have a small staff and budget. Flexibility and speed are among the characteristic advantages of small museums, who sometimes forget they can innovate much faster than their bigger brethern. Some quick highlights from the education sessions I attended are: Continue reading →
A common and contentious management issue for museums and historic sites is the the role and responsibilities of board members and the staff. Frequent complaints I’ve heard are that board members are interfering in staff projects or lack interest in their role as leaders, or that staff is withholding crucial information from the board or is unable to make progress on major goals. Navigating these concerns requires a good hand on the tiller by both the executive director and board chair, but I’ve also found that a facilitated group discussion about roles and responsibilities is often just as effective.
In my years of service on several different boards, each was at a different place in their organizational development, which means the roles and responsibilities was different as well. An all-volunteer start-up organization operates differently from one with a large staff and a long-established set of activities. Boards are not all the same.
Board members also require orientation and training, which rarely happens. There doesn’t seem to be Continue reading →
For this workshop, they assembled an outstanding team of speakers:
Tom Mayes of the National Trust for Historic Preservation discussing a “shamelessly anecdotal and personal approach” to historic sites that prompted questions about why people visit (or avoid visiting) them