Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The phrase “I am” carries strong connotations. It declares identity. It marks territory. It testifies to belief.

I think, therefore I am.

I am Ironman.

Sam I am.

That’s why I am so pumped to announce NEMA’s newest membership category: Institutional Affiliate Member or, you guessed it, “IAM.”

IAMs are a unique subculture within the museum community: employees and trustees of NEMA institutional members. Thanks to their museum’s commitment to NEMA, their IAM membership is completely free, as long as they remain affiliated with their museum and their museum remains a member of NEMA.

IAMs enjoy full benefits of membership – all the professional development, publications, advocacy, and networking NEMA offers. The only cost, as it were, is a minute of their time to activate their membership online using a special code provided by their museum.

The response has been very positive so far. Since we launched the initiative last week, we’ve signed up more than 175 IAMs, and I’m guessing that a few hundred more will be following in their shoes. Plus, I’ve gotten some pretty nice email messages thanking us for our generosity.

But I have to be honest. This is not about NEMA’s generosity. It’s about building community. The museum community.

For the past year, the NEMA staff and board have been in the huddle mapping out a strategic planning effort that focuses on our value to members. We asked ourselves plenty of questions. Why does anyone join NEMA? What makes them loyal, renewing members? How can we do better for ALL types of museums?

One of the things we found was that, while NEMA has more than 450 institutional members, only a small fraction of the employees and trustees of those institutions actually know anything about NEMA. We realized that we could create a win/win scenario if we could figure out a way to engage those folks. Their museum would benefit because, with access to NEMA, their teams would be exposed to best practices that would help them do their jobs better. And the NEMA community would benefit because it would have a more robust, dynamic, and energetic constituency.

A few people have asked me, “What’s the catch?” And I’ve answered that the catch is simply you have to participate. To make it worth NEMA’s while to offer the IAM membership, the new IAMs have to add their voices, talents, perspectives, and passions to the museum community. That way, we all benefit.

So if you happen to work for a NEMA museum, think about signing up. Not sure if your museum is a member? Give us a call or email (781-641-0013 or

And then, the next time a stranger asks you, “Are you a NEMA member?” you’ll be able to answer, with a straight face, “IAM.”