Over the past month or so, I've had several different conversations, online and in person, with colleagues talking about what we want from our professional organizations. These discussions ranged from encouraging AAM, AASLH and other organizations to take stronger stands on issues such as diversity and inclusion, unpaid internships, or whether our own professional organizations could embrace the role of museums as the Canadian Museum Association did in their statement (below) welcoming refugees.
I think one of the most critical things that AAM needs to address, although maybe not resolve, is the question of what the role of the 21st century museum is? We've discussed this at various points in this course, and I envision the AAM as serving in the role of facilitator of this larger discussion to make sure that it continues to happen. While AAM may not be able to define the answer and impose it on museums, I think that sponsoring a campaign like "Museums Change Lives" could be very effective. Beyond this critical question, I think that the AAM needs to look at where it and museums in general are at in the context of larger social issues as they apply to the work of museums.
I think that museum related professional organizations must be more proactive in pushing for museum staff to be more diverse, phase out unpaid interns, and close the paygap. (Unlikely that this can be accomplished, but I can dream). This can be done through mentorships, funding paid fellowships, and allowing for more opportunities for professional development for young professionals and students from diverse backgrounds. ...For people of color, the statistics of employment for curatorial, and management jobs are appalling and highlight the fact that as a POC the opportunities for actually entering the profession are daunting and nearly impossible. I also think that more needs to be done about changing the practice of using unpaid interns. And professional organizations should take a stand against this practice.
Many of these organizations, especially AAM are expensive, and if you sign up at a lesser rate, you do not get the benefits of the higher rate such as access to sample documents. For someone like me, that works in a very small underfunded organization, having access to this information is beneificial across the board...Having "tiers" is exactly what we don't want in the museum community- a higher echelon that dictates as opposed to working with -aka in the trenches- for the community it supports.
I would like an organization that provides standards for ethics and advocates for museum and museum workers. It should provide a platform for discussion amongst peers whether it is job search, references, or furthering education. It would also be nice to have some sort of job search help with resume and CV writing.
I think a key part of the AAM's new strategic plan should revolve around community museum relationships...The AAM can play an important role in making these kinds of case studies widely available and encouraging dialogue. Just like AAM has spurred on discussions about evaluation and technology, the AAM can take on the same role when it comes to encouraging museums to pursue community partnerships. The AAM can create the safe space for museum professionals to discuss, brainstorm, and work through how to best going about engaging the community and finding relevancy through relationships.
I think a vital aspect of a professional organization is to provide a robust community of continued learning.
The second thing I’d like from a professional organization is a more personal need, which is guidance and mentoring. I’m new to the field, as are many of us, and ongoing help, guidance, and coaching would probably reduce my anxiety as I launch myself into whatever awaits. AAM has a good career center, but I didn’t get the impression they were as strong in career guidance as in providing job resources.
Working smarter, not harder could save organizations money, time, and energy. In listing strategies to accomplish sustainability, AAM lists four that include memberships, business opportunities, becoming goal-oriented, and strengthening its brand. However, I think this could be expanded to include other aspects such as ethics or something we’ve been working hard towards in this course: community engagement.
I agree that the those real world case studies is one of my favorite things about AAM. Their conferences especially do an excellent job bringing professionals together to share their stories and experiences.
After the events on Friday and our discussions this semester, maybe they should also address crisis management issues in museums from a collection, a community and global support perspective.
One of the first things that I think (and am hoping) the AAM gets on board with is addressing diversity both internally and externally.
I’d also like to see programs to support employment at small rural museums or institutions that are generally off the radar. It seems like there is a lot of turnover and competitiveness in the field, but most of what is advertised are positions at large reputable museums. It would be nice to see equal enthusiasm as well as grant-supported positions and advocacy for a diverse body of institutions. Maybe something like the Teach America program, in a museum setting.
I also like the idea of a huge, shared database of national museum collections so museums can share resources and collaborate with their peers in a more streamline manner.
I think it is essential that the role of the curator be opened up to include the intellectual and social engagement of the museum’s entire community, but I’d like to see the AAM and other professional organizations work toward redefining this role so that specialized or advanced knowledge is still a celebrated aspect of curatorship.What are my take-aways from this? The needs and desires are many, and there's no way any single organization can address all of them. But that said, there appears to be, from my students and others in the field, the sense that museums need to look internally at our practices; and to be better community partners--and that our professional organizations can take the lead in supporting both of those ideas. In addition, the affordability of resources including professional development, is a key question for both small organizations and emerging professionals. Perceived value for money will determine participation. As one of my students said above, "having "tiers" is exactly what we don't want in the museum community."
I would personally like to see two things prioritized for AAM members: a regularly updated, well-publicized job board where museums can post open positions and individuals can search for them, and continuing education opportunities.
Professional Development opportunities are sometimes few and far between for smaller museums, and is often the first thing to get cut. AAM has the unique opportunity to help fill that void. However it needs to be accessible and affordable. Online is definitely a viable way to create more affordable programming that doesn't require travel!
I would love to see more museum advocacy aimed at increased awareness in communities of what local and state museums have to offer. I know there is a "National Museum Day" and other days like that, but I would like to see something more tangible. Does AAM have a goal of increasing museum visitor numbers overall?
And finally, there's a need for coaching and mentoring. Don't forget to apply for my own mentorship program, with applications due December 18.
What do you want from your professional organizations?