Earlier this month I attended the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) conference here inBaltimore. I love MAAM because it’s a small conference but there are sessions for all sized-museums. Since it’s a regional conference I am connecting to colleagues who likely know my institution, know local vendors, and who I can call on in an emergency.
Sunday evening there was an opening reception at theSportsLegendsMuseum. In addition to catching up with Lauren Silberman& 2011 summer intern Carrie Coviello, the highlight of the evening was going into the collections vault and holding (with gloves of course!) Babe Ruth’s bat from 1927.
Monday morning I was on the panel for the “Registration in the Real World” session with Heather Kajic (US Holocaust Memorial Museum), Rosie Cook (Chemical Heritage Foundation) and Elizabeth Alberding (The Kelly Collecion of American Illustration). We spoke about what it was like to be a registrar in a large, mid-sized, and small museum, or to work for a private collector. Our panel represented the diversity in the title “registrar” and also focused on the fact that rarely is collections work done in the ideal conditions.
My presentation emphasized the four large archival collections that the JMM acquired since 2009 from Baltimore Hebrew University, National Council of Jewish Women, American Jewish Congress and YeshivatRambam. Planning in advance and utilizing interns was essential for organizing BHU. With that experience as a foundation we were able to bring in YR under less than ideal time constraints. Of course I also addressed the impact on our storage space and what it means for the future of our collections.
In the afternoon I attended “Taking your Museum to the Next Level with MAP & CAP. Former JMM Education & Program Coordinator Lauren Silberman was the moderator. The Museum Assessment Program and Conservation Assessment Programs are designed to strengthen museums, to help them organize their institution and reach higher potential. Since the JMM just completed the Self-Study portion of AAM Re-accreditation, I could empathize with those who have just gone through the process: it is a lot of work to gather everything together, to review and revise policies, to lift the corner of the carpet and see exactly what we’ve been ignoring or overlooking. As a MAP assessor myself (yet to be assigned) I gained a lot from John Simmonds, who spoke about the assessing process, expectations on both sides, and the time commitment involved. The guidelines provided should help the assessor provide constructive feedback rather than be perceived as a Museum Insultant.
Later that afternoon in the expo hall I was talking to two women who were raving about the session they had attended, “Taking Tips from the MySpace Generation: Photos, Photos, Photos.” They were particularly impressed with the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s organization and use of photographs—and how easy it was for our entire staff to find them. Kudos to Rachel Kassman, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr & Jennifer Vess on their presentation.
Tuesday’s sessions were also excellent. “Strategizing Museum Internships to Meet (and Manage) Everyone’s Expectations” emphasized the need for strong organization, a work plan with some variation, and communication between interns and their supervisors (or a neutral intern supervisor). One thing that I had nearly forgotten was that students pay for their internship credits, (and credits are not cheap) so their internship should be as challenging as a 3 credit classroom class! I came away from this session with some good ideas for supervisor training, brown-bag lunches, as well as the sense that the JMM internship program is pretty well on-track.
“Collection Protection: Keeping your Collections and Facilities Safe from Kids, Caterers and Chaos” was the final session I attended. The two big lessons I learned: have policies that spell out all of the rules—and review your policies in person with each rental, caterer, florist etc., and kindly enforce the rules as you monitor your events.
Tuesday afternoon Elizabeth Alberding, Rosie Cook & I (the RC-MAAM board) came to the JMM to set up for the White Gloves Gang dinner. At 7 PM 32 people gathered in our lobby to visit Voices of Lombard Street, eat, and learn about the important service projects completed by the WGG. Avi Decter spoke about the impact that the WGG has on smaller museums and how this crew gives gangsters a good name. The WGG allows registrars and collections-y people to help smaller museums tackle projects that they couldn’t complete on their own. It also gives students chance to apply classroom knowledge to real life settings.
Thanks to Crozier, Ateleir, MAAM, and AAM Registrar’s Committee for sponsoring dinner. Thanks to Gaylord, Hollinger/Metal Edge, and University Products for donating the museum supplies, and thanks to Ed Noonan/VIP transport for bringing the supplies to us. Thank you to the Fells Point Preservation Society, Historical Society of Baltimore County, Jewish Museum of Maryland, Lovely Lane Archives and Museum,NationalElectronicsMuseum, andSportsLegendsMuseumfor hosting the White Gloves Gang. And of course, thank you to all of the White Gloves Gang volunteers.