Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Good Day (or week) in Sunny, CA

So tomorrow AM, I leave for sunny southern California.

Why, you might ask?

For the American Association of Museums Annual Conference.

The Annual AAM meeting is a place where thousands (I've heard somewhere between 6-8,000) come together to discuss "museum stuff".

What sort of stuff?

Well, here's a sample of some sessions I'd like to attend:
Museums: Catalysts for Civic Renewal
How to Demonstrate the Public Value of Museums
Engaging Audiences and Community: Lessons from Libraries, Performing Arts, Parks and Communities of Faith
Passing it Forward: Using History to Inspire Civic Engagement
Remembering the Recnet Past
Engaging Diverse Donors
Successful Strategies for Sustainability in Uncertain Times
Creating a High Impact Volunteer and/or Docent Program
...and more...

For me, it's sort of like a kid in a candy store. It's a time when I get to sit with Museum people and talk totally museum stuff for 4-5 days. It's GREAT!

Although some of the sessions (most actually) are usually run by large museums with tons of $ to build huge, wonderful, life changing exhibits, or spectacular kid's programs, I've found that with a little bit of creativity, those programs/exhibits can be scaled down and used for our wonderful little community museum.

Plus, for the second year in a row, I will be chairing a session. This year is on Strategic Planning, but from a Small Museums perspective. We were actually also asked to present online--in a webinar format. (Which is ironic, since I've yet to be able to sit through a webinar without actually checking my email, answering the phone, or just getting up and leaving on accident---oops). But since we're presenting twice hopefully we'll be polished by the time the online session takes place.

And last, but not least, I'm going to be visiting some museums!!! Big surprise, huh?

Here are some of the museums on my list to visit:
Aquarium of the Pacific, Museum of Tolerance, Japanese American Museum, Museum of Jurassic Technology, The Getty Center, La Brea Tar Pits, Sand Diego Zoo, The Autry National Center, Homestead Museum, The Huntington, Rancho Los Alamitos, San Luis Rey, and more...

So, I'm quite excited. I will try to keep the blog up while I'm away, but if you don't hear from me, look forward to some great AAM/Sunny CA pictures!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking At What Isn't There

In honor of last night's lecture, I am going to post a few pictures and ask you all to think about what"isn't in them."

Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Can you predict the future?

Can you predict the future?

Here at the Laurel Historical Society, we can't. But sometimes we have to try to.

Like all museums, we have a permanent collection. It's a bunch of "stuff" otherwise known as historic items that we take care of and use to present and interpret Laurel's history.

But like all good museums, we can't collect EVERYTHING that people try to give us. A lot of times people clean out their attics, or their closets and want to give us everything they find. But we have to find a place to save it and a place to keep it safe and a way to organize it.

So, like most good museums, we have a collections policy. Our collections policy is a document that says what we hope to collect, what we never will collect, and what we will consider collecting.

It's a pretty long document (more than I'm willing to copy and paste here), but the main point is this: If an item helps us tell the story of Laurel, we will consider it for our collection.

Pretty broad, huh?

So how do we narrow that down?

Well, that's a little more complicated. We have a Collections Committee made up of volunteers and myself who decide the significance of objects. Like most museums post-late 80s, early 90s, we aren't just interested in collecting the "famous" people's stuff. We're interested in the mundane, the objects that tell the true story of Laurel, no matter whose story it is.

And the story of Laurel can stretch from pre-European influence to today. Yep, that's right--until today. Because as we all know, it's important to collect today's story for tomorrow.

So the question of what to collect becomes a little more complicated when you consider contemporary history.

Think about it this way. I could, in theory, donate my water bottle to the Laurel Museum. It's a blue nalgene that I carry everywhere. Literally, everywhere.

My water bottle, if interpreted properly, says a lot about me and my place in history. It tells the story of the "green movement." It has the ability to tell the story of our dependence on oil-based products and our complicated attempts to escape that relationship. It can tell the story of an athlete. The story of an active dog owner and a culture which values time spent actively with pets outdoors. The story of a thrifty person trying to save money. The story of suburbia and how so many people shop at the same stores throughout the country. I could go on and on.

So in 100 years, that story could be interesting to someone who didn't know about any of those stories.

And if you think about how much we would appreciate an equivalent object with all of it's stories from 1910, it's easy to see why we need to collect our present for the future.

But how do we determine what has the potential to be interesting? In theory, everything could be interesting, right? Who knows what the future will be like or how much they will know about our time back in 2010.

It's a tough question. And it's not as easily dismissed as you would think.

So what do you think? How do you predict the future?