Thursday, June 17, 2010

museum people

This year's AAM Conference (American Association of Museums) was held in Los Angeles in May. Being the nerd I am, I decided to volunteer for a series of different shifts because a) each shift you worked got you a free day's pass to the conference, and b) I'm a nerd. It was actually a really cool experience. The volunteer orientation alone was totally uplifting, with several hundred people from every museum in town all coming together because they love their museums and want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

My first shift involved stuffing all the blue conference bags with schedules, maps, juice boxes, and some tourist mumbo jumbo about Turkey. My next shift was helping coordinate bus loads of people attending evening receptions at MOCA, Hollyhock House, and other hip locations around town. My final shift was the longest and most grueling, and involved standing in the main entry hall answering millions of random questions. By the end of my shift, I was a total expert on the conference and the layout of the convention center, but alas, this information will probably never be useful to me again! Still, it was fun, we got cool t-shirts, and I was then able to attend any and all sessions at my leisure.

As always, some of the sessions are so deadly dull that it's all you can do to keep from slipping off your chair onto the floor in an apathetic stupor. But there were also some really excellent sessions, including one with Michael Brand and Claire Lyons on the complex relationships between museums and archaeologists; a fantastically entertaining and informative session on the renovation of the Ashmolean's galleries; and an inspiring talk by the infamous Peter Sellars about why museums matter, especially in this day and age when there are fewer and fewer opportunities for true reflection and connection with history and our own humanity (there was a little bird flitting about the room during his talk, which was very apt).

In theory, it's also a good place to network, but that's not really my thing, although I did have a little meeting with a freaky guy from the Field Museum who wanted to learn about our exhibition process, and I also had a chance to meet a few colleagues from the east coast who we'll be collaborating with in the future. All in all, a good experience. Would I do it again? No, but probably, yes.

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