Conference Reflections: Brooke Johnson

We’re just a few months away from the 2018 conference! Take a moment to reflect on last year’s conference with this article by 2017 Donna Matthews Professional Development Fund conference scholarship recipient Brooke Johnson.

I made it to the Cordova Mud Hole Smith airport the afternoon of Wednesday, September 27th. I knew that I was unable to attend any of the Museums Alaska Pre-Conference Workshops due to work restraints of being the Cultural Director with a museum staff of one, but I was excited about the ability to attend the rest of the conference. September marked the second anniversary of being in my position, a place that I am still unsure of in the museum world. With no formal museum training, I look to conferences such as this one, and workshops to help fill out my on the job training.

Thursday morning, I made my way to conference, after a bit of a drive from my family’s home, with whom I was staying. Still feeling new to the museum world, and very shy with new people, I sat at a table and watched as people filed in to start the day. I was thankful for those whom I met previously, and still in a bit of shock with all of those who were new faces to me.

The first conference session I made it to was Museum Cleaning Basics, which took me a few minutes to find the well-hidden room. The session covered a lot of museum cleaning information, regarding a lot of different materials we find in our museums. In my cultural center, we house everything from photographs to awls to totems to bones, and many times how things are put together can cause care issues to objects we are trying to keep safe for years. This conference session covered many of the topics in overview that the Collection Care Workshop that Seward put on last winter did, and it was helpful for me to have a refresher as I move into my first cleaning season. I was not aware previously of how to properly clean our objects, and without that knowledge, I didn’t want to use materials that would hurt our collection.

With the information that Museums Alaska helps put forth through the conference, I have been able to create a plan of how to create a cleaning plan for our space, and safely create storage containers to house our objects in storage. Conservation being upmost on my mind, I was able to attend the Conservation on the Move conference session on Friday, and I was really interested on some of the gut parka work that the Anchorage Museum did on the pieces that recently went on display. This summer our museum was long term loaned a gut parka from our regional corporation that was recently repatriated. This parka is damaged by age and storage, but we are looking how we can possibly restore and properly showcase an item that was so important to our people. I was fascinated to see how other museum deal with similar objects, and to connect with people who may be able to help us solve some of our museum’s issues. It was wonderful to see and hear that I am not the only museum with one full time staff, or the only one that needs help with cleaning and storage knowledge. I am thankful for the support that we have available. Quwanacuk.