Guest post by Zerah Jakub, Visitor Services and Program Assistant at Old South Meeting House
AAM’s Annual Meeting is akin to an initiation ceremony for museum professionals. Navigating the hundreds of sessions, numerous networking events, and ﬁnding time to visit the cultural institutions of the host city requires shameful amounts of caffeine and true dedication to all things museums.
I arrived for AAM’s Annual Meeting with an impressive 18 point check-in on foursquare and my last paper of graduate school to write; luckily, I also arrived two days early and had plenty of time to finish that paper. Over the next five days I attended 7 sessions, focused mostly on mobile interpretation; visited 6 museums; rode the roller coasters at the Mall of America; attended networking events all over Minneapolis; and even made it an old fashioned kegger and silent auction fundraiser hosted by the team at Museum-Ed. It was a busy week and it took a few days to mentally get over the information overload upon my return to Boston. When I finally sorted out the benefits of attending the conference a few key take-aways emerged:
“You Look Digitally Familiar” – Networking does not have to begin with a face to face interaction. I started networking before I even showed up in Minneapolis using Facebook and Twitter. This provided me with ample opportunities to have much more meaningful conversations with people I was meeting for the first time in person, but had interacted with digitally, and garner introductions to others which expanded my network tremendously.
Gustav, Paul, and Babe the Blue Ox – Every city has its must see museums and Minneapolis is no exception. Along with finding my way to the Walker Art Center, Mill City Museum, Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, and the Minnesota History Center I also found time to go to a few out of the way places and it really paid off. Both the American Swedish Institute and the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum (which required a road trip to Wisconsin) had amazing interactive exhibits ranging from a Dala Horse you could ride for a quarter to Paul Bunyan’s snack skillet you could grease with bacon “skates”. The time spent away from the conference was just as effective as the time I spent sitting in sessions, and in some cases more so.
Platforms of Exchange – The conference as a whole was an experience in effectively exchanging ideas. Whether this was done in a session, with a Tweet, in a museum, or over a pint at the local watering hole, the opportunity to speak to a wide array of museum professionals was an extraordinary way to find new approaches to what we do in the museum field. I attended sessions armed with my iPhone, iPad, and an extra battery – no pen and paper for me. My mode of communication was Twitter and I found the experience to be more immersive than passively taking notes. Friends unable to attend sessions were able to participate in the conference in real time, and those in other sessions were able to connect themes they were hearing about to ones I was.
AAM’s Annual Meeting allowed me to expand my business card collection, gain 30 more followers on Twitter, and add 6 museums to my lifer list, so now what? Maybe it’s time I write a proposal for next year’s AAM in Baltimore…..