Last week I was very lucky to attend the conference in Association of Museums Johnson City, thanks to (the other) Ms. Katie letting me stay on the couch in her swank hotel room! The trip was a welcome break from school and work pressures, and I still managed to learn a lot and meet some fabulous people in the process! The drive into East Tennessee and the scenery alone were enough to give me a relaxing state of mind in the midst of the whirlwind that is mid-semester graduate school.
Katie and I managed to get there just in time for the luncheon and registration, even though we had to get up at 5AM to make it! The first session I attended was about exhibits and personal histories at the Tennessee State Museum. The main point was that visitors love to learn about people from the past, and what better way to connect to the past than through their stories? One single person can bring in so many different historical events while still engaging the visitor and making their visit interesting and educational.
The first excursion of the conference was to Rocky Mount, and unfortunately it was raining, so I did not get to visit the outbuildings before we headed on to the next site. I did get to enjoy the ETSU Bluegrass Band and the wonderful hospitality of the staff at Rocky Mount! From there we headed to the Hands On! Regional Museum. This was a wonderful place for kids to learn and experience history, culture, science, and more. Again, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to explore, and I hope to make it back up to North East Tennessee in the future to see everything they have going on there. Dinner was a great experience with even better people!! We couldn’t really see the awards program due to a giant pillar, but we made the most of it with great conversation and plenty of HUZZAHs!
At Thursday’s luncheon we were treated to a presentation by Fred Sauceman that was all about food and its relation to Appalachia. We were served BBQ for lunch, but obviously, being closer to Canada than to Memphis, it was of the East Tennessee variety (which is clearly inferior to Memphis-Style). It was still pretty good though, I guess 😉
After lunch I went to a session that related back to my Museum Studies at the University of Memphis! Back in 2008, Dr. Connolly’s Museum Practices class presented our evaluation of the exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to a representative in preparation for their complete overhaul of core exhibits. The staff at the NCRM presented the process and results of their search for new exhibit design and content, and it was great to see the progress that has been made since those first evaluations in 2008. Some of the considerations my class brought up were even included!
As we boarded buses for another evening of visits and events, of course it began to rain again. We arrived at the Tipton-Haynes site, and braved the cold to visit several of the out-buildings and the grounds. Thankfully the cabin we spent most of our time in had a fire built up in it so it was a nice place to chat and keep warm. The staff at Tipton-Haynes was also nice enough to give note cards to the conference-goers, so if you are one of my Pen-Pals be on the lookout for those!
For dinner we went to the Gray Fossil Site which was incredible! They have a beautiful new facility with hands on labs and windows for observation into the areas where “real” paleontology work is being done. Dinner was again great for conversation and meeting new friends. Then we were exiled to the steps for Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s motivational speech on how much the state is behind museums and then the longest auction ever.
Friday morning it was hard to get up and get things together to head back to Murfreesboro where research papers, studying, and planning for a huge work event were waiting for me. Ken from AMSE led a GREAT session about social media and technology that included things that even I hadn’t heard about! I’m most interested to look into smartphone technology and scvngr.com or gowalla.com for large events, and hopefully some time in the future I will be able to post more about my experiences with these technologies. If you hadn’t noticed, I have already become more active with my tweets (on the side bar – follow me!), especially since I found out I have unlimited picture messaging.
Katie and I couldn’t quite get museums out of our system as we headed home, so we stopped at McClung Museum (a staple of mine and the OTHER Katie – eesh!) for a quick visit. Turns out there is a whole basement that Katie W. and I had never explored, so Katie R. and I did some exploring… I took a picture of this Pearl Button display for Dr. Connolly who loves to talk about the Pearl Button Museum – there is room in the comments section for this, RC, so feel free to talk about it!
Overall – I would absolutely recommend TAM’s Annual Meeting to anyone interested in learning more about the field and new practices and ideas, people who wish to make some great contacts with other TN museum professionals, and those who would enjoy receiving white gloves as a door prize (we museum people are a special breed..)
Next year’s meeting will be in MEMPHIS, so I can’t wait to see where we will be visiting and who will attend that couldn’t make it this year to the far north eastern reaches of the state. Thank you to TAM and all those who made last week such a memorable and important weekend in the start of my career!
** This post has been edited to exclude any information about break-dancing, stolen umbrellas, hospitality suite hi-jinks, and any mention of crazy museum people on hotel roofs to protect the innocent and anyone involved in events such as these that may or may not have occurred. **