Cordova, Alaska, Sept 30-Oct 3, 2015
The Museums Alaska 2015 joint annual conference was held in Cordova September 30 – October 3, 2015, hosted at the new cultural center in Cordova. For articles from our conference scholarship recipients, see the 2015 Winter edition of the Network.
Joining Forces: Museums, Communities & Collaboration
In order for museums to remain at the center of community life, we must foster dynamic interactions with individuals, public groups, and partner organizations to strengthen our civic role. As the dialogue progresses beyond the ideas of consultation and inclusion, museums are using exciting new methods to engage audiences and be a source of empowerment and change. Join us at the 2015 Museums Alaska conference in Cordova as we explore how partnerships bolster advocacy efforts, inform exhibit development, and complement outreach activities.
Co-Chairs, Andrew Goldstein & Monica Shah
Lath Carlson and The Really Useful Museum
by Maïté Agopian
How are a museum, a park, and a library similar? Our keynote speaker Lath Carlson (Executive Director, Living Computer Museum, Seattle) described these three spaces as non-commercial, social, and safe. He made the case that a museum should be more than a place to visit, an enjoyable space for the community to be in and to use, much like a park or a library. While Lath Carlson’s talk was titled ”The Really Useful Museum”, I deliberately am emphasizing one of his main concepts: the museum as a safe place.
As an educator who recently joined the exhibit team at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, some ideas resonated particularly. For example, greeting our guests by saying “Welcome to your museum”; installing picnic tables for groups to enjoy and use; finding innovative ways to best utilize the museum’s empty spaces at different times of the week; inviting each staff member on the museum floor to share his or her own expertise; or trusting our public by letting them handle (or take home) museum objects. While some ideas seem to be simple, easy to implement options, others might only make sense depending on the size of our institution.
Another thought that resonated with my practice was the importance of designing safe environments in our exhibits for the public to interact with our collections. By doing so, we allow visitors of all ages to engage in deeper dialogues and enjoy a more meaningful experience. To that end, I appreciated the sentiment that it is important for us to feel safe within our own institutions first before we can provide the same for our community. Some of these include the freedom to not be afraid to try and “fail”; making sure we ask our community what their needs are; prototyping and testing our ideas before we create exhibits; having the opportunity to engage, connect, and collaborate among ourselves; and even feeling secure about our own employment status. These were all presented as ways to make our work more meaningful, dynamic, sustainable, and ultimately more useful for our community.
1. Building Partnerships to Build Museums
Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 8:30-4:30
The Foraker Group, Museums Alaska, and the Alaska Historical Society discussed how to approach a capital improvement project through the pre-development process, building partnerships, and growing community support. Museums Alaska and the Alaska Historical Society also provided an update on House Bill 52 and Senate Bill 61 and discussed 2016 legislative season strategies.
The Foraker Pre-Development Program discussed right sizing your project, cost estimating, and fund raising. There was also an opportunity to learn what worked and what didn’t from other museums who have gone through this process. Museum professionals who attended were encouraged to invite an active board member, community supporter or city official to attend this workshop with them.
2. Cataloging from the door to the shelf!
Workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 30, 2015
Angela Linn, Museum of the North, Cynthia Jones (CJ), and Helen Alten, Sheldon Museum & Cultural Center
Cataloging consists of more than digital database entry! This workshop was designed to walk you through, step by step, everything necessary to properly document each accession from the time it enters your door until every item is properly stored. We also included information on the use of collections management systems, including PastPerfect and Arctos. Attendees received takeaways including handouts and online guides to assist them incONF these critical collections activities.
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