Conference Program

Oklahoma Museum Virtual Conference ProgramSchedule at a Glance

Wednesday, September 16
1:30pm - 3:00pm
Bonus Session

Thursday, September 17
8:30am - 8:45am
Coffee Talk

9:00am - 10:30am

1:30pm - 2:30pm
Breakout Sessions

Friday, September 18
8:30am - 8:45am
Coffee Talk

9:00am - 10:30am

Immediately following Keynote
OMA Annual Meeting

1:30pm - 2:30pm
Breakout Sessions


Annual Meeting

Immediately following the Keynote on Friday, September 18 the Oklahoma Museums Association will hold the Annual Meeting.


Keynotes will be presented live with 60 minutes of content followed by 30 minutes of questions from the audience and discussion. Keynotes will be available for two-weeks after event to registered participants.

Thursday, September 17 9:00am – 10:30am

Self-Care in the Workplace
Speaker: Seema Rao, Deputy Director and Chief Experience Officer at the Akron Museum of Art.

Museum work can be exhausting--especially in these challenging times, post COVID-19. Are we doing enough to care for ourselves? What can we do to exercise self-care and support others in their restorative practices? The speaker will discuss how museum workers can practice self-care as well as foster a healthier, more productive, and more creative work environment in our new normal.

Seema has spent the last two years helping museums, non-profits, and libraries bring their best ideas to light. She is currently the Deputy Director and Chief Experience Officer at the Akron Museum of Art where she has been focused on transformative change in organizations and helping the museum survive the COVID crisis. She was previously the Principal and CEO of Brilliant Idea Studio (BIS) BIS specializes in content development and strategy; change facilitation; and inclusive community work. She has worked with a broad range of institutions including Rowan University, the Science Museum in Bihar, the Massillon Museum of Art, the Asia Society Texas Center, and the American Alliance of Museums. 

With nearly 20 years of museum experience, Ms. Rao has extensive experience in interpretation and programming from leading content development for all audiences. In her seventeen years at the Cleveland Museum of Art, she worked on numerous projects including leading the content development for many digital projects including the innovative Gallery One and Studio Play. She has worked assiduously to include new audiences from serving as the museum’s access specialist, developing community engagement programming, and creating teen programming. Her work has directly impacted millions of museum visitors. 

She is active in the intellectual life of the museum field. She has served as the keynote speaker for conferences like the Pennsylvania Museums Association and MuseumNext. She has published extensively including two books: Objective Lessons: Self-Care for Museum Professionals and Change at Work: Not Just Surviving but Thriving. Ms. Rao holds a Master’s degree in Art History from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a Master’s degree in Information Science and User Experience Design.


Friday, September 18 9:00am – 10:30am

Inside the Director’s Studio
Speakers: Ken Busby, Executive Director & CEO, Route 66 Alliance and Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director, Oklahoma History Center

If you have ever watched Inside the Actor’s Studio, then you know what to expect with this friendly interview style format. Oklahoma's Cultural Czar, Ken Busby, will ask thought provoking and probing questions of Dr. Bob Blackburn that will allow the audience to feel a personal connection to him and his legacy. After 41 years serving our great state at the Oklahoma Historical Society, and serving as Executive Director since 1999, Dr. Blackburn is a marvel in the Oklahoma museum community and beyond. We salute him as he retires in January 2021, and we look forward to hearing how his journey brought him to head our state’s historical society and what he envisions for the future of Oklahoma museums. We are sure this keynote will inspire your current good works while creating your own legacy.

Blackburn, a native Oklahoman, has served as executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society since 1999. He joined the OHS in 1980 as editor of "The Chronicles of Oklahoma" and became deputy director for agency operations in 1990.

He is a 1973 graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He earned his M.A. & Ph.D. in history from OSU. Blackburn grew up in Edmond & graduated from Putnam City High School in 1969.

Blackburn published several articles & his first book while still in graduate school & has since written or co-authored 18 books and numerous articles, journal entries, and screen plays. He is a steady source of historical information to the media & has appeared numerous times on the History Channel.

He was instrumental in planning and building the Oklahoma History Center, a 215,000 square foot museum & research center. Blackburn has served on numerous national & regional boards and committees, including the Western History Association, the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians, the American Institute of Architects, and Leadership Oklahoma City.

His hobbies include reading, running, carpentry, landscaping, and golf. He is married to former State Representative Debbie Blackburn, and they have one son, Beau.

Breakout Sessions

Breakout sessions will be pre-recorded, and presenters will be live to answer your questions in the chat box in real time during the presentation. Breakout session will be available for two-weeks after event to registered participants

Thursday, September 17 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Marketing: The Basics and Beyond
There is no way around it, no matter if you are a small or large institution, in the end one must market, especially after reopening post COVID-19. There are basics everyone must have to entice visitors and communicate with their audiences, and then there are those more sophisticated tools to attract savvy travelers. Whether frugal or deep pocket describes your marketing budget, you won’t want to miss this checklist of the must-haves and the trends playing out in 2020 and speculation for 2021. Outcomes: 1) Gain an understanding of 3-5 marketing trends that we have seen in 2020 and what will be on the forefront in 2021. 2) Receive tools and tips in how to execute these ideas, keeping budget and sizes ranges in mind. 3) Learn about costs associated with the trending tactics as well as potential outcomes and ROI.

Speakers: Tony Vann, President, The Guild; Lauren Daughety, Executive Vice President, The Guild

911: Disaster Response
Now more than ever, it is important to plan for disasters. Join them for a conversation discussing emergency response to natural and people-based disasters, including pandemics and riots. This session will explore how emergency services respond to disasters, how organizations have responded to emergencies such as fire and flooding, and what you can do to prepare for both natural and people-based emergencies in the future by planning in advance. Outcomes: 1) How emergency services respond and why? 2) Challenges faced by institutions in responding to disasters including fire, flooding, and more. 3) Responding to people-based disasters. 4) Next steps in preparing your institution for possible emergencies.

Speakers: Jason Harris, Director, Chisholm Trail Museum; Kathy Dickson, Director of Museums and Historic Sites, Oklahoma Historical Society; Donna Merkt, Director of Museum Experience, Oklahoma Hall of Fame | Gaylord-Pickens Museum

Engaging Artists, Transforming Museums
Collaborations between museums and artists on exhibitions and programs can yield innovative opportunities to engage new audiences and achieve institutional goals. Yet even among the most nimble of organizations, external partnerships can become encumbered by bureaucracy and institutional culture—conditions generally not ideal for creative endeavors. This session will discuss effective strategies for artist/museum partnerships and provide key insights from both perspectives. Outcomes: 1) Discover successful models for artist-museum collaborations from a variety of different institutions and program types. 2) Consider the unique perspectives, concerns, and challenges of that independent artists bring to collaborative projects. 3) Recognize key ways in which to approach successful collaborations with artists for museum exhibitions or programs.


Friday, September 18 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Community Engagement and Impact
How is your museum a platform for community engagement now more than ever? Who has your museum impacted? What changes could your museum make to benefit your community? Community Engagement is the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those people. It is a powerful vehicle for bringing about environmental and behavioral changes that will improve the health of the community and its members. It often involves partnerships and coalitions that help mobilize resources and influence systems, change relationships among partners, and serve as catalysts for changing policies, programs, and practices. Outcomes: 1) Learn to transform a museum into a community platform. 2) Understand community needs and a museum’s assets in order to make an impact. 3) Determine what changes a museum can make that will benefit a community.

Speakers: Jacob Krumwiede, Executive Director, Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center; Andy Couch, Executive Director, Claremore Museum of History

Sharing Our Stories: Bringing History to Light Through Oral Histories
Managing oral histories and making them accessible to the community can be a challenge. In 2018, the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program (OOHRP) at the Oklahoma State University Library surveyed cultural heritage institutions and libraries to understand ways the OOHRP might build or expand community partnerships in Oklahoma. Survey questions explored everything from existing oral histories to levels of interest in oral history activities for communities. The Bristow Historical Society and Museum completed the survey and contacted the OOHRP for guidance on preserving, protecting, and making accessible dozens of audio cassettes of area citizens sharing their life stories. After developing a plan and obtaining local funding, museum volunteers are making progress with their existing oral history collection. This presentation will describe survey results, Bristow’s project, ListenOK, a new statewide guide to oral histories in Oklahoma, and changes to collecting oral histories in a time of pandemic and riots. Outcomes: 1) Describe oral history activities of interest to Oklahoma museums. 2) List considerations for managing existing oral histories. 3) Identify steps for including local oral history collections in ListenOK. 4) Describe considerations for collecting oral histories in a time of pandemic and riots.

Speakers: Dr. Karen Neurohr, Professor/Research and Outreach, and Sarah Milligan, Professor/Department Head, Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University Library; LJ (Joe) Trigalet, Program Manager and Melissa Holderby, Oral History Project Manager, Bristow Historical Society Museum

The Life of an Object: Objects as Living, Cultural Beings
Each object has a story. Our tribal people created them for both beauty and function. They are imbued with a living spirit that continues to exist. Memories and energy are contained in these objects. We are the descendants of the people who formerly owned and used these objects. In consultation with our 39 Tribal Nations in Oklahoma, the First Americans Museum (FAM) share their experience in the development of an exhibition that shares the reasons why cultural objects were created, why they were collected, and how we continue to use similar objects today. Just as our ancestors intended, our tribal identities flourish and persevere through these objects. Our cultural survival is the answer to our ancestors’ prayers. We welcome these objects home. Outcomes: 1) Attendees will gain understanding of the importance of tribal consultation in the development of exhibitions. 2) Awareness of how community relationships enrich the exhibit experience. 3) Recognizing object's provenance in exhibitions to understand their importance in current cultural identity and traditional knowledge. 

Speakers: Gena Timberman, Founder, Luksi Group; James Pepper Henry, Director/CEO First Americans Museum and Welana Queton, Curatorial Specialist, First Americans Museum

Bonus Session

The bonus session will be presented live with 60 minutes of content followed by 30 minutes of questions from the audience and discussion. The bonus session will be available for two-weeks after event to registered participants.

Wednesday, September 16 1:30pm – 3:00pm

It’s Now or Never! Changing Your Perspective on Fundraising in a Challenging Environment
Speaker: Ken Busby, Executive Director & CEO, Route 66 Alliance

Your response to fundraising for your institution amidst a crisis largely outside of your control will set the stage for your future success. You control your message. In this session we will discuss strategies for competitive grant writing, donor communication, board leadership, planned giving, and special events.

Coffee Talk

Coffee talk will be a time when you can talk shop with the hosts and each other.

Thursday, September 17 8:30am – 8:45am

Wellbeing and Self-Care Resources on the OMA Website
Host: Valorie Walters

Friday, September 18 8:30am – 8:45am

How to Get the Most from Your Convention and Visitors Bureau/Destination Marketing Organization
Hosts: Marcy Jarrett, Director, Visit Enid and Stacy Moore, Director, Visit Shawnee

Virtual Happy Hour

Thursday, September 17 4:00pm / Friday, September 18 4:00pm

Grab your favorite beverage of choice and join OMA staff, board members, colleagues and friends as we wrap up a successful day. Tips, tricks and lessons learned will be part of the conversation along with who knows what else. Join in the fun at the Oklahoma Museum Conference Virtual Happy Hour.