By Megan Eves
I am a non-traditional museum person. I didn’t get a degree in museum studies but I learned first hand. During graduate school, I started my museum career at a cemetery museum. The experience was peculiar, intriguing, and rewarding. This working cemetery museum disrupted my own fixed impression of what a museum was and introduced me to the idea that a museum is a place for ideas and discussions. I learned about museum best practices from my colleagues, engaged in Twitter discussions about trending museum topics, and I joined the local museum association to connect with museum professionals and emerging museum professionals that gave me insight into the museum field.
Participating in a digital space allowed me access to continuous discussion forums, hashtag conversations, and global museum resources. Having a traditional museum background did not matter. There was a wide support group available to me online. However, even with this vast digital world at my fingertips, it was easy to feel disconnected. I wasn’t sure how to take grand concepts and ideas from larger institutions and make them applicable to my museum or to my own professional development.
Individuals and small museums can feel disconnected from the larger museum world. Digital platforms can be a remarkable resource to crowdsource problems in search of sustainable solutions. In-person discussions, however, can lead to meaningful connections and deeper resources for an individual to grow professionally or to help museums connect with one another.
I joined the Museum Association of New York as an individual member in 2015. My first MANY meet up at the Chemung County Historical Society allowed me to meet my online museum peers and have an engaging conversation face to face. Exchanging contact information beyond a Twitter handle provided the next step for future collaborations and to discuss ideas. The first MANY annual conference I attended put the top museum professionals and my museum peers in one space sharing compelling and eye-opening topics. I could shake hands and put a face to a name.
Since joining MANY as the Marketing & Social Media Coordinator in December 2018, communicating and engaging with museums across New York State on a digital platform has been my focus. These online platforms allow for continued conversations and sharing ideas between in-person meetups, which culminates at the annual conference. The conference provides opportunities to meet with your peers in a professional and casual setting. These face to face conversations that happen at the annual conference establish invaluable connections for future partnerships.
As a non-traditional museum person, digital platforms have been a great substitute to connect with museum professionals and gain information about museum best practices. However, the opportunity to hear and connect with over one hundred presenters from over eighty institutions in one place on a variety of topics for fundraising, education, collections, and discussions on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion is something that cannot happen on a screen.
My museum career has been nontraditional, but nonetheless ardent. I learned best practices from my colleagues, first-hand experiences, and from MANY member resources. The resources that MANY provides, like the annual conference, allow museum professionals to learn from each other, share insights about projects, and discuss compelling and eye-opening topics happening in the museum world.
I look forward to attending the conference in Cooperstown this Apil and to join a broadening conversation about what access and identity mean for museums in 2019. Topics like instilling diversity, equity, and inclusion into museum administration and front of house operations like programming and exhibitions. Moreover where else can you hear from AAM President & CEO Laura Lott discussing the important call in leadership for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in museums. Or from Tenement Museum President Kevin Jennings dissect how the stories we tell reflect what lives we value. Both keynotes providing a starting point for ongoing thought to carry throughout the conference and well beyond.
The annual conference will renew and stimulate your excitement about what is happening in the museum field. Join us at the MANY annual conference and invest in your professional development. Meet with your online peers in person and connect beyond the internet.