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2015 AAM Museum Expo and Conference

This week several Gibbes staff members traveled to Atlanta to attend the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting and Expo. The theme for this year’s event was “The Social Value of Museums; Inspiring Change.” There were over 180 program sessions over four days and each one of came away filled with new ideas and inspiration!

Rebecca Sailor, curator of education, says highlights from the conference include networking with other museum educators and learning how others continue to combine history and art to encourage school group visitation and programming. Before leaving town she was able to meet with some of the education staff at the High Museum of Art to learn more about their programming. 

Sara Arnold says that from a curatorial standpoint, it was inspiring learn-in this increasingly digital world-that original objects, artworks, and  the human stories they tell, remain an important and valued resource in our communities. However, museums today must strive to relate to their audiences by communicating these stories in compelling ways and in a variety of formats. Doug Hegley, director of media technology, Minniapolis Museum of Art, commented that “To remain viable, museums must rethink not only what types of knowledge they create, but how/with whom they create it, and finally how they communicate it.”* While digital devices will become more and more a part of our museum experience, when done properly, it will be the scholarly content and the original work of art, rather than the technology,  that is the star. Our goal with the reinstallation of the Gibbes permanent collection has been to communicate compelling and relatable stories for our visitors. We hope that our exhibitions, museum publications, labels and text panels, and any digital content we design will capture these captivating stories and inspire our visitors to engage with the museum on a regular basis. Sara says that the conference offered a refreshing opportunity to see the variety of ways in which museums are rediscovering their roles and their relevancy in the twenty first century.

Zinnia Willits at the AAM

Zinnia Willits at the AAM learning about 3D printing for the visually impaired

For the past several years Zinnia has served as the Fellowship Chair for the Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums and holds a seat on the larger AAM Fellowship Task Force. As such, she is directly responsible for reviewing fellowship applications and offering travel stipends to collections care professionals to attend the Annual Meeting. Each year at AAM, she has the satisfaction of presenting the fellowship awards and meeting the recipients, many of whom would not be able to attend the Annual Meeting without a travel stipend. This year she presented nine travel fellowships to RC members and matched each recipient with a conference mentor from the RC Executive Board. While Zinnia took full advantage of all of AAM’s sessions and networking opportunities, meeting the fellowship recipients and seeing the direct value of her professional development endeavors to the larger museum community was one of the most gratifying aspects of attending AAM.

I was grateful to be awarded a marketing fellowship to attend the conference, and learned a great deal about building and engaging museum audiences. I attended a particularly informative session with the authors of “Magnetic: the Art and Science of Engagement,” and the Director of Communications from the Wallace Foundation who spoke about best practices for building arts audiences. 
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Published May 1, 2015

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