Museum Conference

Mountain Plains Museum Association – Association of Midwest Museums Conference

Kansas City, October 22-24

This was a joint conference between MPMA and AMM, so the collective audience came from between the Sierra Nevada and Appalachian Mountains.

I work in the marketing field, but I am a historian. The main connection between the two is the amount of marketing museums need to stay relevant in their programming and community relationships. Most museums cannot just open their doors, have stuff on the walls and expect crowds to appear. There is a lot of hard work behind any successful museum.

As with any conference it was refreshing and stimulating. Below are the sessions I attended at the conference and some general thoughts.

Opening Reception at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art & the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Nelson is an amazing treasure for art in Kansas and the Kemper does a good job at what they do, which is modern art. It was nice to have a behind the scenes look at both places. Besides how often do you get to eat ribs in an art museum?

Working Together: The Power of Collaboration

Apparently in the museum world it is hard to work with your neighbor because they are the competition. The point of this discussion is that when museums do work together it benefits both large and small. This is something that I learned working on Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day.

Museum Programs 2.0: The Next Generation of Museum Education

The next generation of museum education should be the current. Establish programs that incorporate curriculum into field trips and exhibits. In the current climate of no child left behind, teachers have to validate their field trips. Museums can establish curriculum-based experiences for kids specific to their age level and annual evaluations. It does require some work, but it would be opportune for museums that want to maintain previously established connections to schools. The Smithsonian Institute has created a database that provides curriculum information by state, grade, and subject.

Museums and Web 2.0: Slaying Dragons or Tilting at Windmills?

I was supposed to be a presenter during this session but some things just don’t work out the way they are supposed to. The first three presenters took their time so after the session time was actually over, I offered some brief advise on using free, guerrilla marketing internet services. Nobody ran for the exits.

Things that Go BOOM! in the Night: Explosive Collections

I went to this one just because I like guns, explosions and weird stories. It never got weird enough for me.

Public Relations and Marketing Luncheon

Finally I was not made to feel like an outsider. Marketing and promotions is not the title you want on your badge at a museum conference. Everyone was really nice from the largest museums to the smallest. It’s funny how everyone seems to have the same problems.

Responding to Community Needs: Two Approaches to Museum Youth Programs

There are two approaches. The first one was great. Let kids take ownership at your museum. The second one needed to be polished. You should not start out your presentation about how kids are gold; as in you grab their parent’s money through them. Museums should work to establish a symbiotic relationship with children. If created in the correct format, programs involving kids will help establish lasting relationships from a young age through adult hood. Kids like the opportunity to show independence and ownership over their activities. Of course, with kids come parents and the opportunity to sell memberships and programs, but there should be a certain amount of careful handling done so that parents don’t feel like they are being drained.

Using Technology to Promote Collaboration

This presentation was the most thought provoking of the whole conference. The presenters all discussed audio tours they created. Afterwards, I asked several exhibitors that created traveling exhibits as to why they don’t use this technology to create their own audio portions to their exhibits. I got several answers, but they all came down to the common denominator, cost.

Night on the Vine: A taste of Great Jazz, Baseball & Delicious Delights

This is where the whole conference came together for me. I had been trying to put my finger on it the whole time and then it hit me. Know what you do. Be proud of it and tell everyone. Live jazz, good barbeque, and pride. The doorman greeted everyone with a handshake and said, “Welcome to the Vine, come see how we do!” An 87-year-old woman invited everyone to the jazz house on Saturday night, which stays open until 6:00 a.m., and the booze never stops flowing.

The Negro League Baseball Museum wants to raise $14 million to move into a new building. They have currently stalled at $6 million. I was encouraged to put some money in the donation box, because “every dollar helps.” I was asked if I wanted to round up my purchase at the gift store to the next dollar amount and donate my $0.56 towards the new building as well. Of course I did.

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