Highlights from 2014 American Alliance of Museums Meeting

Recently the staff of the Oklahoma Museums Association attended the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting.  Here are a few highlights of current trends and/or things learned that we would like to share with our Oklahoma museums.

SJAM – Social Justice Alliance for Museums SJAM believes museums and their collections bring incalculable value to society.  Everyone is entitled to benefit from access to the resources museums contain and the ideas they provoke.  Sign up online at www.sjam.org

Institute of Museum and Library Services announces new count of 35,000 active museums in the US. During the meeting, IMLS released a new estimate of the number of active museums in the US.  The old number from the 1990’s was 17,500 and the new number is 35,144 museums.  The distribution of museums by discipline included historical societies, historic preservation, historic houses and sites leading the way with 48% of all museums being in this category.

Diversity and Inclusion Policy Diversity and Inclusion is a driver of institutional excellence. The AAM board adopted a diversity and inclusion policy in Feb 2014 as a core value and practice of AAM.  Museums across the nation should view such a policy and implementation as a best practice, and consider such an adoption.

AAM @ SAM The evening event at the Seattle Art Museum offered a variety of events including exciting tours of the collections.  Visitors could select from these tours:  Conservation Tour; My Favorite Things:  Highly Opinionated Tour with a comedy sketch duo and Curator Tours.  It was truly something for everyone!

Happiness Movement There is happiness and well-being movement afoot, and museum staff is beginning to embrace it. More info at www.happycounts.org.  This is a global movement with a local solution. Happiness factors include gratitude, giving and compassion.  Time balance is important in happiness. Studies show frequent appreciation for a job well done is a top motivator for staying happy with your job.  Leadership should make work well-being a top organizational priority. Is it possible to change the museum culture of overworking?  Some suggest this culture shift is possible, and starts with the solving museum task saturation.

Resume Writing The purpose of a resume is to get an interview.  New and mid-entry resumes should be chronological and senior level should be functional.  It is common for 100-300 people to apply for every museum job posted.  With so many applications being online, it is imperative to have keywords in your resume, which the computer sorting the applications will identify. Listing objectives on your resume is old school with summaries being more current style.

 From a session titled Fail Early, Often and Off Broadway

  • Museums should be open to taking risks, especially when it comes to reaching new audiences. The last thing you want is to have a growing portion of a dying audience. It is exposure to different kinds of thinking that makes an aha moment pop. To be innovative, create a team with mixed personality types, mixed position levels, mixed age and gender and a mix of expertise (even if this person is external). Be open to the ideas this team generates and be prepared to take the risk.
  • Understand risk is an argument between short-term and long-term goals. In the process of taking risk, a sacred cow (e.g., a long running program) may need to be sacrificed to make way for an innovative new program idea. Many staff are working at a high level due to tight budgets and adding new programming without removing an existing program is likely to be bad for morale.
  • When taking on risk and being innovative, see the positive energy generated by the change as the reward/goal instead of perfection. Things are rarely perfect the first time out.
  • To encourage an environment of innovation on employee evaluations ask: What risks did you take this year and what did you learn from it?

From a session titled Confessions of a E-Volunteer

  • An e-volunteer is anyone with a computer and internet access that performs work just as an in-person volunteer. Just like in-person volunteers, an e-volunteer expects engagement, inspiration and motivation. They still need to be made to feel part of the team. Google is a good platform for communicating with e-volunteers because of the docs, hangouts, calendar, etc. It is all-in-one and easy to access by both sides.
  • E-volunteer projects ideas are database building (e.g., turning a manual visitors log into an Excel spreadsheet), document digitization, research and writing. The biggest obstacle in e-volunteering can be letting go and allowing open access.


OMA would like to thank the Museum of the Red River, Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, Oklahoma Arts Council, Kirkpatrick Family Fund, Allied Arts, Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Oklahoma Cultural Heritage Trust for their support.