I attended the American Association for State and Local History conference this month. In addition to making and renewing lots of connections and getting a good sense of what is happening in the history museum world, it gave me a chance to reflect upon the parts of a conference that are most meaningful to me.
I appreciated the “content” of the conference and all of the concrete information that I learned. It gave me things I can apply to my work to be more impactful (I hope). But, as I think back to all the moments of the conference, it is the conversations and discussions I had outside of the formal sessions that had the most impact. These ranged from talks with different people and groups about the status of museum “work”—including pay equity, training, mentoring, and leadership—to chuckles in the corridors or hallways as someone made a museum or history crack about what we were experiencing.
As I think back on all of those moments, I can see a common thread. I felt a sense of connection, belonging, and understanding with other people. It was a space where I could get into the weeds about something few people in my “real” life could relate to or share a laugh about something that again, is only funny to a small niche of people. We shared a point of reference, either in museums or history, and that jump started or renewed our relationship. I don’t mean that I felt completely at ease and never had a moment of loneliness or insecurity. There were plenty of those. But there were far more interactions that affirmed my passion and interest in the work of museums and in history. I felt validated about what I care about in a way that hardly ever happens in real life. I was with my people.
I hope that MMA is a place where the Michigan museum community can “find their people.” Yes, we want to help everyone find resources and learn skills to help you in your work, but just as important is that we help you find the others in Michigan who get your museum jokes. We want you to find your people too!
Lisa Craig Brisson