Dear Friends, Members, and Supporters,
When we read responses to annual conference surveys we find at least one lamentation about how someone could not attend one session or another because one session conflicted with another in the schedule. It is truly impossible for anyone who attends a MANY conference to attend every session. The conference is purposefully structured with concurrent sessions to appeal to a range of people at different stages of their careers who are employed by different size museums of different disciplines. We strive to create an environment in which people can talk to each other and think deeply about new ways to work together to advance the field. The conference cannot happen without people who are courageous in their choice to speak out, vulnerable in the face of challenge, and willing to share the spotlight and the microphone with others.
When I started working in museums, I was often the youngest person in a meeting, surrounded by colleagues with lifetimes of experience to whom I deferred whether or not I agreed with their statements or choices. About 25 years ago - a time when I would have described myself as a mid-career professional - I was walking to a meeting of the organization’s board of trustees with the Executive Director who took the opportunity to remind me that my role at the meeting was only to listen. On the return walk, I told the Executive Director that a factual error had been made by a trustee about the origins and value of an endowment and asked how we could amend the minutes. I was then harshly criticized for not speaking up with the correct information during the meeting. It was a confusing time for me as I learned to navigate the turbulence created when multigenerational wealth, marginalized culture, and political influence are combined with governance and authority. It took me years to stop self-censoring, regain confidence, and trust that I had a platform from which I could speak out without fear.
When we were planning the 2023 conference, we believed that participants would find the things that bring us together outweigh our differences. What I couldn’t imagine was that there were so many people willing to share how they refused to abandon the work of creating a greater good, of trying to tell a complete story without fear of retribution, and how collaborating across institutions leads to lasting connections with communities and colleagues. I am humbled by the generosity of presenters and the willingness of our participants to listen with open minds and open hearts. I remain in awe of the amalgamation of hard work, passion, talent, and experience that creates a MANY conference.
I cannot extend enough gratitude to the twenty-five people on MANY’s board of directors who lend their voices, resources, and experiences to form the foundation upon which we create our annual conference. Next week the MANY Governance/Nominating committee will open a call for museum professionals to apply for the five seats on the board of directors that will open in 2024. A new “class” of board members is an exciting opportunity for MANY to grow in new directions. I look forward to seeing how five new board members with strong, courageous, and vulnerable voices can shape MANY’s commitment to create a better future for the museum field.
With thanks for your support,