Museum Professionals, Member’ing Up

I was recently contacted by a member of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and asked to join their Gen X and Gen Y Advisory Committee. Although I probably just dated myself a bit, how neat is that!? With so many groups, associations, and organizations that are local, national, even virtual, sometimes such great opportunities and connections like this may go unnoticed.

It is definitely easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by the number and types of organizations. While the benefits and professional development opportunities are great, financially (especially if you are not joining as part of an institution) it can be a great undertaking.

I currently have individual memberships to a few organizations¬† to stay in some kind of loop with the conversations, trends, and hot topics in the field. My life-shifts are not unique; I’ve moved to different cities and worked in different types of museums. With this, my affiliations have reflected these changes and new beginnings.

In an effort to share (and perhaps find out about gem organizations I may not –yet– be aware of) I’m going to start a (brief) list of some organizations (all Val-centric) worth noting:

AAM: (Obvious…yes) Around since 1906, the American Association of Museum’s mission is “to enhance the value of museums to their communities through leadership, advocacy, and service.” Not a small undertaking. What I like about AAM is that as a member, you are part of a nationally recognized organization that offers opportunities to bring together museums and inspire institutions to strive to a level of standards and best practices. AAM bookstore is chock-full of great resources for anyone in the field and their annual meeting (albeit HUGE and seemingly overwhelming at times) is a great way to network and step out of your own turf to gain insight and new ideas. Individual membership isn’t cheap (and is currently calculated based on annual income), but among other benefits, it affords you free/reduced entry to MANY museums across the U.S. and I’ve definitely benefited from joining a few subcommittees based on my own interests in the field, including EdCom, NAME, and CARE (all of which are an additional cost).

MAAM: Established in 1945, the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums “educate individuals on an array of field specific study and programs…representing those museum interests in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.” It’s one of a number of organizations (such as NEMA, AMM, and WMA) that connect professionals based on geographic location. Along with their Annual Conference, MAAM also hosts, Creating Exhibitions which is an Annual Conference focusing on exhibit design and development related topics.

AASLH: I am a new American Association for State and Local History member and excited to be part of this “family.” This organization, nearly 100 years old, aims to serve and support the many history organizations in the U.S. described as “small, volunteer led and, often, volunteer staffed. [with] small budgets and limited resources.” Perhaps that’s why their website is chock-full of great resources (some for free) and offer an array of services from technical resources and books to professional development, specialized programs and initiatives. My membership folder just arrived in the mail so I will definitely share any “goodies” that cross my path.

UHA: There are a lot of cool things Upstate History Alliance offers its members. I received my first grant from their GO! grant program to attend their Annual Conference. They also have a great email list serv sharing questions, news, and discussion on various topics and really neat workshops. Founded in 1971, the organization aims to provides “support, advice, and training to historical societies, museums historians, archivists, and other heritage organizations in New York State.” Also worth noting, their Museum Institute at Sagamore program (by application), an intensive, multi-day retreat in the Adirondacks that brings together museum professionals around New York State.

NYCMER: New York City Museum Educators Roundtable is a great organization for local educators to¬† “address issues of museum and educational interest, exchange and disseminate relevant information, and to explore and implement cooperative programming opportunities.” With a membership base of about 300 individuals and great monthly programs at museums around the city, the annual membership fee of $30 seems like a bargain! It’s also great to hear that they are starting up their “peer-groups” again.

Beyond these organizations, there are MANY alternatives (some free) worth exploring part of list-servs, meet up, facebook, and alumni associations. All are great ways to stay connected and in the know.

Keep me in the know and share your thoughts!