Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In the Company of Our Peers

“Annual meetings remind us that we are professionals among others in a field that is often not quite understood and that is sometimes poorly defined, but one that is always interesting, and sometimes really quite thrilling. We might work alone but we have so much to discuss with each other—to learn from each other.”—Carol Kammen

Salt Lake City Skyline
The best thing I’ve discovered about the history and museum field is its openness in sharing ideas, processes, and mutual support. I have always loved the energy and enthusiasm we all share for our work. And there is no better place to get that recharge than the AASLH Annual Meeting. As Carol Kammen, one of our field’s best thinkers (and most wonderful people), reflected in this column from early in my History News editorial tenure, “I liked overhearing the chatter, listening to others discuss a small point or large one, of being among people who love doing local history. There is no substitute for being amidst one’s own people.”[1]  

This year the AASLH meeting is in Salt Lake City and our theme is Crossroads: Exploring Vibrant Connections Between People and Place. The first day of each meeting is our official Small Museums Day.

As founding chair of the AASLH Small Museums Committee, Toolkit editor Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko initially proposed this idea. Her co-editor, Stacy Klingler, has carried on the tradition. This year’s program is packed with sessions that are relevant to institutions of all sizes—and we all know how much we can all learn from small museums!

The collegial attitude of our profession is true in spades within the small museum community. Representatives bring wisdom and expertise and every small museum session, luncheon, or affinity event I’ve attended has been packed. Whether they occur during or after the formal sessions, the resulting discussions always stimulate, inspire, and often spill out into the hallways.

Attending conferences like AASLH’s and the ones in your own state and region are an essential way for you to share your own experiences as well as learn from that of others. The bottom line is that no person is an island and you should never feel that you work in isolation. There is a large community of small museum professionals (paid and unpaid) that is ready and willing to lend a hand, offer a suggestion, or just listen. And more than that, you will learn the myriad ways history professionals are accomplishing the tasks and suggestions shared in the six volumes of the Small Museum Toolkit.

BUT WAIT…there’s more. We understand that often the cost of attending a conference each year can be prohibitive. For the past four years, AASLH has been offering an online conference in conjunction with our in-person meeting. We have put this program together with the small museum community in mind. For $55 ($95 for a group), AASLH members can participate in six live, interactive conference sessions, hear our Friday plenary and Awards Banquet speakers, and download podcasts of some of the other sessions.

Professional development is extremely important to our field is it not? As Carol noted, “Participating in our professional organization helps us to know what is happening, helps keep us on our toes. It is our adult education.”

And these days, programs such as the AASLH Annual Meeting and online webinars are available at the touch of a button. I hope you will join us either in person in Salt Lake City or online from the comfort of your own desktop.

Whether or not you attend the AASLH meeting onsite or online, I hope that you know there is an army of people out there ready and willing to help you fuel your professional development fire. And I hope that you are seeking and making opportunities to connect with your fellow local history and small museum soldiers.

A “history geek” since elementary school, Bob Beatty is Vice President of Programs for the American Association for State and Local History, a national history organization based in Nashville, Tennessee. Through his work at AASLH, Bob leads a variety of national committees serving the American historical community.  From 1999-2007, Bob worked as Curator of Education at the Orange County Regional History Center a $35 million history museum in Orlando, Florida.  Bob authored the preface to the Small Museum Toolkit.

[1] I count among one of my greatest blessings getting to edit Carol’s columns each quarter!

No comments:

Post a Comment