Written by Justine Rothbart
With our lattes and umbrellas in hand, museum professionals arrived last week in the city of Seattle. We came prepared to the 2014 American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo. This year’s AAM Annual Meeting took place on May 18 – 21 and covered the theme “The Innovation Edge.” The sessions spanned a wide range of subjects, from “Preserving Collections in a Digital World” to “S#!t I Wish They Taught in Grad School.” Attending this conference with a fellow CHIM Cohort member, Kelsey Conway, made us both reflect on the relationship between our current studies and the museum world. As we navigated this conference, we became profoundly aware how important the role of library and information professionals are to museums.
At this conference, there were curators, education specialists, graduate students, collection managers, exhibit design specialists, historians, and archivists. Some had multiple titles and wore many different hats, while others just had one. With our varying titles, we had one thing in common: museums. Our connection to museums may be different, but we all understand the importance and significance of these cultural institutions. Author of The Devil in the White City and Keynote Speaker Erik Larson said, “I’m not a historian. I’m an animator of history.” Whatever the title is, each of our roles play a significant part in shaping the future of museums.
In the session “Innovations in Using Museum Collections for Learning,” Amy Bolton, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, discussed their new interactive exhibit “Q?rius.” She discussed not only the aspects of creating a hands-on exhibit, but she also discussed the creation of their digital library. In the “Topics Library” users can click on a subject and find the relationship with the related objects, media, and resources all in one location. In the session “Preserving Collections in a Digital World,” Leah Niederstadt from the Beard and Weil Art Galleries at Wheaton College discussed a future project where Google Earth will be used to visually track the provenance of the objects in the collection. These are just a few examples from the conference that tie into our current Library and Information Science studies.
The convergence of libraries, archives, and museums (LAM) was prominent throughout this conference. During our first semester in the Spring of 2013 at Catholic University we discussed LAM convergence in our class History and Theory of Cultural Heritage Institutions with Prof. Stokes. In our class we were lucky enough to have Ford Bell, the President of the American Alliance of Museums, as a guest speaker. Seeing Ford Bell address the hundreds of conference attendees last week was very different to when he spoke to our CHIM cohort in our small classroom. But it just reemphasized the important connection with library and information science and museums.
As a graduate student, attending a conference, like this one, is a great way to see how our studies are implemented through real-life examples. It’s also a great way to meet new people and meet up with old friends. Whether it’s in a session or at the top of the Space Needle, this conference was all about the making new connections with people who share the same passion (and having fun at the same time!).
Click here for more information about the American Alliance of Museums.