AAM 2009: Reflections & Musings

I recently returned from the 2009 American Association of Museums Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA and I must admit that although registration was in the thousands, there was a sense of connectedness throughout my experience. This contrasts greatly to the overwhelming feeling of drowning in a sea of musessionals (museum professionals) I felt last year. With this being my second Annual Meeting experience, I liken my ability to stay afloat to a few helpful tools and resources part of this year’s conference including the program’s blog and active twitter feed. Of course push-pin boards to write personalized messages and share comments with other passerbys also filled the convention center creating an overall sense of community (a community I was more familiar with).

With a bit of time to reflect on this year’s experience and in thinking ahead, I wonder what the role of technology will be in next year’s meeting in terms of connecting participants and if/how this might also relate to the format of the sessions.

I find it interesting that while we seek opportunities and inspiration to create and contribute to unique, creative, memorable, and meaningful experiences for visitors, we approach these fascinating discussions and programs in a thoughtful although slightly traditional and formal way. I will refrain from writing in absolutes, but many of my session experiences followed a formula of: presenter 1 presents, questions and answers, presenter 2 presents, questions and answers, culminating with time for additional questions and answers (powerpoint optional). Of course, the information and experiences discussed are wonderful, innovative, and helpful and in some cases such an approach to providing this insight is expected.

I challenge us to consider the unexpected: ways that we can connect one another in a lively and memorable session that will accomplish the same goals of a “traditional session” and more. Such considerations may keep those of us likely exhausted after the multi-day conference a bit more energized and ready to return to our museums and put our inspiration into action. Whether or not this can/should be achieved with technology is one of the many considerations in taking on such a challenge.

I do not (yet) have answers, only questions and I would not be surprised if such ideas were discussed during this year’s workshops (about creating a successful presentation). Do share your experiences and ideas!

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