One of the best parts of being a museum professional is the chance to travel. In June, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2014 Smithsonian Affiliates Conference in Washington DC.
What are the Smithsonian Affiliates? The mission of Smithsonian Affiliations is to share these resources with Americans in their own communities by developing collaborative partnerships with museums, cultural and educational organizations. With over 200 Affiliates, it is
one of the largest cultural organizations in the country. The annual meeting brings together dozens of these organizations for a three day conference. The Ohio History Connection became a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2012.
As part of the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting with several curators at the National Museum of American History to discuss their experiences and work on potential collaborations in the future. The conference hosted several sessions including one about social media and museums. As part of this session, we were asked to live tweet our exploration through the National Museum of Natural History; to check out photos, search the hashtag #SAConf14
Why is professional development essential to museums? It gives us a chance to make connections and to come up with creative solutions to issues many museums are facing. In one session, attendees collaborated to create a list of why museums matter both financially and culturally. The organizers plan on using this list to advocate for museums to members of Congress.
In addition, conferences give museum professionals a chance to learn from each other. I got to explore new exhibits including Beyond Bollywood at the National Museum of Natural History and Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 at the National Museum of American History, learning how curators are making these topics accessible to the public. The highlight of my trip was a behind the scenes tour of the National Museum of American History’s pop culture collection. I learned how curators and collection staff are
working to preserve some of the nation’s most iconic pieces using new techniques and methods. I even got to see the original Kermit the frog puppet created by Jim Henson!
As we face challenges with collections, I will use the invaluable information I learned from this conference to help us preserve Ohio history.
Have you been to any of the Smithsonian museums recently?
Emily Lang, History Curator