In Part I, you learned about the eight sessions that MMA hand-picked for the AASLH/MMA joint conference program. In Part II, we wanted our members to know why these eight sessions were picked.
MMA sessions came from several different places and were chosen to meet specific needs. In particular, we wanted to make sure to include sessions that would be relevant for our members that did not work at history-based museums. We also wanted to take advantage of opportunities offered as part of a larger conference. MMA sessions were selected by the MMA Conference Programs team, which had a good representation of different types of museums, with some input from myself. Several members of the MMA Programs Team were also part of the AASLH Programs Committee.
The selection process started with Michigan-based sessions that were submitted through the AASLH program committee process but not selected by that group. We had encouraged MMA members to submit through the AASLH process, partly so we could compare apples to apples when we were making our own selections. Because of this, there were several sessions that did not necessarily fit the AASLH model for history related sessions and were not selected, but that were excellent sessions and exactly met our desire to focus on sessions that were not history-related. Those sessions included In Sounds from Over and Out, which focuses on sound design and Connecting with Great Lakes Maritime Heritage through Participation, Partnerships, and Publicity, which is an example of STEM-based programming and community engagement. The team also selected the session The Power of Museum Theater to Engage Audiences because it involved The Henry Ford museum and was a focus that could be applied to all types of museums. Also selected by the team was Art│History: Crossing Disciplinary Borders to Make an Exhibition. These sessions were submitted directly to the MMA Programs Team and filled our desire to have strong art-museum related content.
Three of MMA’s sessions were related to conversations during the AASLH selection process. MMA had a sizable number of representatives as part of that process, and were distributed throughout the selection discussions. For the final discussion for the group, there were several sessions that were of significance interest to the MMA contingent, but had been amply covered by AASLH at recent conferences. MMA articulated the desire and willingness to use our session spaces for ones related to national granting organizations because it would bring national resources to our members in a way that would not be possible for our smaller, state conferences. This resulted in the MMA sessions Making the Most of Your Local Resources: Reimagining NEH Support for Small and Local Organizations and Revitalize Your Museum with IMLS Funding. In both cases, the sessions will include information on how Michigan museums have been involved with these granting programs, though the focus on the sessions will be national. The session Working with Foundations also came from conversations between MMA representatives and the AASLH programs committee during the selection process. There was a lengthy discussion about the lack of session proposals dealing with fundraising, and in particular working with foundations. Because Michigan is home to so many major foundations, we felt that a session on that topic would be relevant for our members, but also be a way to add value to the overall conference program for all attendees.
The final MMA session was also selected for its relevance for MMA members but also the opportunity to contribute to conversation by members of AASLH. The Creating Connection through Creative Expression session focuses on a major arts advocacy project led by Arts Midwest with support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and involvement by a variety of Michigan arts organizations. This movement to better understand how the arts, or creative expression, is relevant and valued by all members of society in everyday life closely mirrors the efforts the History Relevance campaign, a national history advocacy project led by AASLH. The focus of the session will be of strong interest for all of the art-related MMA members, but will hopefully also be useful to those involved with the history relevancy campaign.
As stand-alone sessions, the eight spots filled by MMA are not necessarily focused on Michigan museums or representative of what is happening at museums in Michigan, or even reflective of typical sessions at MMA conferences, but the MMA sessions are intended to serve a balance to the history-based programming provided by AASLH programs, as well as take advantage of opportunities for our members that are available because of the increased size of the conference.
Lisa Craig Brisson
Michigan Museums Association