I first heard about the Michigan Museums Association annual conference in 2010. At the time I was a doctoral student at Western Michigan University and the Frederick S. Upton Fellow at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph and I learned from a professor that the conference was to take place in Kalamazoo. I wanted to become more involved in Michigan’s museum community, so I decided to attend and I found my people at this conference. Although that was incredibly important in itself, there are many reasons why I continue to attend the MMA conference. To make it a little easier, here are my Top 5 Reasons I Attend the MMA Conference:
You really can’t beat this view from the GVSU research boat in 2012.
1. Field trips!
I have made it a point to attend a special tour at every conference, because there’s nothing like getting a front row seat to another museum’s program or special activity. I’ll never forget the Muskegon conference’s beautiful tour offered aboard the GVSU research vessel on Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. On the boat, we learned how GVSU is working with local schools to teach kids about the environment and how it impacts wildlife in the Great Lakes.
2. New skills and new ideas are everywhere.
When I started attending, I was a novice in museum marketing and communications. I started attending sessions in this area because I had an interest in it, and knew it was a skill I needed for my resume. This interest grew into my first conference presentation, about how I used social media to help curate my first exhibit, and another the following year about using traditional marketing strategies for small museums. Now, I lead MMA’s Communications Team.
Last year’s Joint MMA-AASLH Conference was the best yet. I can’t wait for this year!
3. Growing as a leader
Speaking of leading, I have found the conference to be a great way to grow as a leader. I started out presenting as a student and sought out opportunities to expand my network and lead. Every year I actively recruit students and emerging museum professionals to attend the conference, because I want them to find the same support network that I found.
In 2012, the Muskegon conference reception included selfie opportunities with a T-Rex.
4. Evening receptions
Museum conferences have awesome museum parties! Part of the reason why I love that this conference moves around the state is I get to see museums that I wouldn’t otherwise visit. Add in great food, drinks, and museum nerds, and you have one of the best parties you’ve ever attended!
The closing reception at the 2015 Ann Arbor conference included delicious local food and incredible exhibits at the Museum of Natural History.
5. Making new connections a.k.a. The Pub Crawl
Over the two to three days of the conference, you spend a lot of time in sessions, workshops, and breaks. Some of this time is spent networking and sharing ideas, but the real get-to-know-you session comes during the Pub Crawl. It’s taken a few different shapes over the years, but the results are still the same: new friends and maybe some embarrassing photos.
I could keep going, but these are my favorite reasons to attend the MMA Conference. What are yours? What would you tell others to convince them to go? Tell us! Comment on Facebook or Instagram. Or, send us a tweet!
See you in October!
Caitlyn Perry Dial
Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame
MMA Communications Team Lead