Conference and Meeting Fever

I realize it has been a little while since I posted.  With the holidays and beginning of a new semester, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and put all my thoughts into words.  Part of my hectic schedule has been planning for travel and conferences this spring and summer!  Below is a list of the conferences I plan to attend, as well as some information about those meetings. 

Tennessee Association of Museums – The TAM Annual Conference is in Johnson City this year, near ETSU.  Registration for this conference is a bit pricey for a graduate student ($175 for the three days of meetings), but the price includes meals, so I can’t complain too much about the cost!   The conference also includes visits to sites in the area, such as

  • Rocky Mount, a Living History Museum that invites visitors to “become part of the happenings of the year 1791”.
  • Hands-On! Regional Museum offers over 20 permanent, interactive exhibits for all ages.
  • Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site is a Living History Museum.  The collection of buildings show the history of an early Tennessee settlement through the Civil War.
  • Gray Fossil Site is a sinkhole formed from a collapsed cave.  This is the largest and best preserved terrestrial Late Miocene to Early Pliocene site east of the Mississippi River.  Many species of animals have been discovered at the site including a saber-toothed cat, short-faced bear, ground sloth, rhino, alligator, camel, shovel-tusked elephant, Eurasian badger, red panda and the world’s largest cache of tapir fossils.

National Council on Public History – The NCPH Annual Meeting is in Pensacola, Florida this year.  The Council offers complimentary registration for student volunteers, so I have applied for that opportunity (fingers crossed!), and the Public History Department at MTSU is providing transportation for students.  The theme of the meeting is “Crossing Borders/Building Communities – Real and Imagined,” and the program offers many interesting sessions that I’m interested in attending.

American Association of MuseumsAAM Annual Meeting is in Houston, Texas in May.  I have applied for both the AAM Emerging Professional Fellowship and the NAME Student Fellowship. (fingers crossed for one of those, too!!) Cost for this one is definitely prohibitive without one of the fellowships, since registration is set at $375 for the discount, early bird rate.   However, this is THE conference for people in the museum world.  “Museum of Tomorrow” is the theme this year, which is relevant to the question I am often asked: “Are museums going to be around forever, or will they go digital?”  This may be an almost overwhelming experience, from what I have heard from others who have attended AAM, but I’m sure there is a lot of networking and learning to do while there!

So these are some of the conferences I’m hoping to attend.  I have not yet experienced a Public History or Museums conference, so here are some questions for YOU:

What are some meetings you have attended? What are some suggestions you have for a meaningful conference experience?  If you are going to any of these meetings or know of a particularly interesting session at one of these, please let me know!

Business Class and Museum Studies

As you may or may not know if you keep up with this blog, I am currently enrolled in a Business Management course this fall as part of a fulfillment of my interdisciplinary courses for the degree.  The class, MGMT 6000 – Operations Management and Foundations of Management, has been interesting for me, as someone who has never taken a course in the college of business.

Luckily, my professor tries to relate all class discussion and lecture to the arts/museum/historical world to every extent that he can.  Unfortunately, there is math involved.

I just want to share a few things I have learned over the past couple weeks (yeah, sorry there haven’t been as many posts… school and whatnot).

* As a manager (or director or supervisor), one is responsible for managing ALL resources.  An important thing to remember is that you must always maintain both effectiveness and efficiency. This is important, really, in all aspects of life, but it should be remembered in museums as well.  For example, when designing an exhibit, you want to be efficient and contain all pertinent information, but you also must be effective by presenting the material in an interesting and engaging way.  There must be a balance between the two and neither can be neglected.  This may seem like common sense, but a little reminder is never a bad thing.

* Another point made in the course is that as a business (or historical organization or museum) a core competency must be established.  This can relate to your mission, collections, and other various aspects of the organization.  You have to figure out what it is you are best at or known for, and eliminate things that aren’t working to maintain efficiency.  In the business world this can mean that you should focus on innovation, quality, or customer service.    Museums can focus on science, art, natural history, history, etc. and chose their core competency within those fields.  Obviously, larger museums and more comprehensive museums can do more, but some smaller museums may do well to focus on one thing and build up around that.

* For me so far, the worst part of class has been the math.  However, I can see how the formulas could be helpful in museums.  For example, I have learned several ways to determine forecasting. By looking at past records of visitor attendance one can use weighted moving averages, mean square averages, or exponential smoothing to determine error factor in forecasting and determine (sometimes) the number of visitors to expect in the future.  Of course there are always variables, but it could come in handy.  Additionally, the Pareto Phenomenon, which states “80% of problems are caused by 20& of activities” is helpful in deciding budget and time management.  When extra time and money are not available (which in non-profits is often) you can use the percentages to figure out where you can make the most improvements with your money and where to focus your precious time and money.

Hopefully I will continue to gain lessons from the course which will be helpful in my future career.  Currently we are discussing supply chain management and logistics, which are helpful, but not perhaps directly.
Other courses are going well, and I can’t wait to give more updates and information!