There's Something for Everyone at the 2017 Conference!

June 19, 2017 10:02 AM | Anonymous member

Post by Melanie Parker, Detroit Institute of Arts

Your First Look at the 2017 Conference Program:

It’s hard to believe that we’re just four months away from the 2017 conference! The Programs Team has worked hard to develop an engaging conference program that covers a wide range of topics and areas of work in Michigan’s museums. We hope you will be as excited as we are!

Sessions were selected to match several key focus areas: Visitor Experiences, Collections Stewardship, Leadership & Administration, and Advocacy (the conference theme). The sixteen sessions feature forty-one presenters
 who represent twenty-six museums and organizations from around the state,

Below, you’ll find a snapshot of the conference, as well as some new features for this year. You can find the full conference schedule and session descriptions here.


Increasing Audience Diversity and Inclusion in your Museum—Create an Action Plan: In this session, explore how to initiate new community relationships, provide inclusive programming, and create an action plan that you can implement regardless of institutional size or budget.

The Artistry of Brewing a Signature Festival for the Museum and Community: The panel, which includes representatives from the Ella Sharp Museum and several of their community partners, will discuss the processes that make the annual “Art, Beer and Wine Festival” a successful community event and fundraiser.

Community Classroom Collaborations: a.k.a Field Trips: This session introduces the basics of building a museum field trip program. Attendees will be led through the process of developing, marketing, scheduling, implementing, staffing and assessing strong, curriculum driven programs that become an extension of the classroom.

Sharing Our Stories: Oral Histories Beyond the Archive: Members of the Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward project team at the Detroit Historical Society will lead participants through the basics of creating multicultural, community-wide oral history projects.

Traveling Exhibition Programs that Work: During this session, representatives from three Michigan-based museums will share successes, challenges, and lessons learned from their traveling exhibit programs that attendees can apply to projects at their own museums.


Event Rentals - A Balancing Act: Preserving and Protecting Your Historic Space: Increasingly, museums are opening their facilities for private event rentals—providing revenue opportunities and expanding audience reach, but creating preservation and conservation challenges. Representatives from the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant will share their experiences, lessons, and questions, and attendees will be encouraged to share their own.

Digitizing a newspaper collection and bringing it to life: Are you wondering what it takes to digitize a newspaper collection and make it searchable on the web? These panelists are here to help. They will discuss how they found a company to handle the digitization, financed the project, and found a server to host the material online.  

Inventories: How to Handle Undocumented Objects, Deaccessioning and Direct Care: This panel, which includes presenters from museums of differing sizes and focus areas, will tackle some of the most intimidating problems when approaching a collection inventory—including how to handle undocumented objects, what to do with objects that no longer fulfill the museum’s mission, and the standards for deaccessioning and direct care.

Curating Craftivism: This panel will explore how museums can co-create and collect handmade objects that were created as sociopolitical statements. Presenters will engage museums' roles as sites of civic engagement as well as examines the everyday difficulties of organizing, documenting, curating, exhibiting, and managing collections based on craft and politics.


No Experience Necessary: How To Bring Change Through Strategy Development: With the Digital Engagement Framework as a baseline, session participants will learn how to develop an organizational strategy that ensures all voices are heard. The great thing about this session is that this framework can be applied to any kind of project—digital or otherwise!

Parenting in the Workplace: Session facilitators invite you to sit down with your colleagues for a constructive and realistic conversation about parenting while working in a museum. Discuss the positive experiences you’ve had and the challenges you’ve faced, pose questions to your colleagues, and finish the discussion with next-steps and ideas for continuing the conversation. 

Preserving History and Presenting Truths: Our Highest Calling?: Guided by a moderator, attendees will be asked to consider whether museums deserve the public’s trust. Visitors trust us to tell the truth, but is truth one-sided? What steps can we take to ensure we do not break the public trust? We anticipate this critical conversation may leave us with as many questions as answers.


Working with Elected Officials: The Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce will walk attendees through the process of learning who their elected officials are and how to approach them. Attendees will leave with tips and tricks to advocate for their institution. 

Making Our Work Visible: Outreach Related to Grant-Funded Work: It can be a challenge to communicate the importance of all aspects of museum work—including what happens “behind-the-scenes”—to visitors (and funders). These panelists, who represent three institutions of varying types and sizes, will discuss their public outreach efforts to shed light on the role of grant funding in their work. 

Museums Advocacy Day: Speaking Out for Museums: In this session, learn about the impact of AAM’s Museums Advocacy Day on Michigan’s museums from professionals who have attended the event. Perhaps the session will inspire you to join MMA in Washington D.C. in 2018!  

Additionally, the Student Paper Session will feature four presenters who are either an undergraduate student, a graduate student, or a recent grad. Topics covered will include marching band uniform collections, the history of Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood, and the work of the Flint Children’s Museum and the Battle Creek Regional History Museum.


The 2017 conference will feature several different session types. Some of the sessions mentioned above follow a traditional panel or case study format. Others, however, will be facilitated as either a campfire or a how-to.

How-to sessions are exactly how as they sound: attendees will have a guided, hands-on experience learning “how-to” do a specific activity. Attendees will walk away with a product that they have created during the session that theyand can take back to their institutions and to use toward their own work.

Campfires are group conversations that session attendees have together, guided by a facilitator. While the facilitator will have experience with the topic and will offer their insight and expertise, much of the learning will come from the dialogue between attendees.

The conference program will indicate the session type next to each description, so you’ll know what to expect ahead of time. We hope you’re as excited about these new offerings as we are!

You will also be invited to participate in conversation stations. While these aren’t quite “new,” they are greatly expanded from the 2015 conference where they were first debuted.  

The 2016 Joint Conference Poster Session

Imagine the format of a poster session or a vendor room. Attendees will be able to wander freely about the space freely, stopping at whichever station catches their attention. Each station will feature a different conversation, a station host, and a few chairs. Some of the conversations will be about specific projects, like a sensory-friendly program for children with autism. Others highlight timely topics, like labor and fair pay in the museum field. Station hosts might ask for feedback, share resources and lessons learned, seek institutional partnerships, or pick your brain.

 As (I hope) you can see, there’s a lot to look forward to! In the coming weeks, we will dive more deeply into the conference theme and reveal the two keynote speakers. In the meantime, you can register for the conference here. Early bird registration ends July 31!

See you in Lansing!

Melanie Parker

Programs Team Chair


 The Michigan Museums Association is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Michigan Museums Association       313-334-7643       PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721

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