Posted on June 3rd, 2011 by Rachel
The AAM 2011 Annual Meeting Final Program and my AAM Badge.
This year I had the privilege of having the Jewish Museum of Maryland send me to the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting (http:///www.aam-us.org/am11/). From May 22 to May 25 I spent time in Houston where I reunited with colleagues, networked with museum professionals throughout the country, learned about forward thinking projects and ideas in the field, and explored the city of Houston (as best as I could without a car). I consider the trip a big success. I was so impressed by each of the sessions I attended that I came back to the museum enthused and excited to make new connections, update old programs, and start new projects that address the needs of our community. So much took place that I cannot write about everything from my trip, but I will re-cap some of the highlights for you.
Obelisk outside of the Rothko Chapel
After a crazy weekend visiting with family and friends in Washington DC I took a 6:00 AM flight to Houston so that I could enjoy most of the day there. I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my closest friends who works at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (http:///www.pmcaonline.org/) in Southern California. I tagged along with several other young museum professionals based out of Southern California and visited Houston’s Museum district where we managed to cram a lot of site seeing into one day. First we stopped at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (http:///www.mfah.org/), where my favorite exhibit was by Carlos Cruz-Diez and titled “Color in Space and Time.” My academic strength lies in cultural history and I’m often intimidated by art, but I could not help being transfixed by Diez’s creative use of optics and colors. There were several immersive rooms that when you entered you were able to actually experience the art all around you.
Carlos Cruz-Diez, Color Aditivo PacÍfico A, 2010 Image Credit: www.cruz-diez.com
My other favorite activities from that day were visiting the Rothko Chapel (http:///www.rothkochapel.org/) and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel (http:///www.menil.org/visit/byzantine.php). Coincidentally I had heard about the Rothko Chapel a few months ago on NPR and was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that it was in Houston. If you want to listen to that article you can listen to it here (http:///www.npr.org/2011/03/01/134160717/meditation-and-modern-art-meet-in-rothko-chapel). The two chapels were very different from each other, but each offers people an opportunity to pause and reflect while surrounded by beautiful art.
Bright and early Monday morning I officially kicked off the conference by attending a Council of American Jewish Museums (http:///www.cajm.net/ ) breakfast at AAM. It was really great to meet with Executive Director, Joanne Kauvar, and other Jewish Museum professionals that I have heard so much about. One of the issues we talked about during breakfast was how to connect the older and younger generations of Jewish museum professionals so that they can learn from each other.
The first session I went to on Monday morning was called “Museums as Good Neighbors: Two Approaches to Participating in Placemaking” and was led by staff members from Project Row Houses in Houston and the Queens Museum of Art. I attended this session because one of the JMM’s goals is to be a good neighbor to the community directly around us. Also, recently our Education and Program Coordinator, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, and I have been working with Commodore Rodgers Middle School on a weekly basis to create an art project inspired by Loring Cornish’s work and the history of the our neighborhood. I wanted to find out other creative ways that institutions were successfully working with their community.
Project Row Houses (PRH) (http:///projectrowhouses.org/) was one of the most interesting and inspiring organizations that I learned about at AAM. It is “a neighborhood-based non-profit art and cultural organization in Houston’s Northern Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African-American Communities” (PRH Website, “About,” http:///projectrowhouses.org/about/). From what I learned at this session PRH has several focuses and initiatives, all of equal value. They include public art, arts education, and community building. One of their programs is a Young Mother’s Program where young mothers aged 18-26 live in the PRW homes for 1-2 years while learning about art and working with artists and residence. They mothers are taught to be artistic because artists are creative and innovative, skills that are important and applicable to daily life for all people.
T-Rex at the Museum Expo
Another great session I attended was called “Teach with O’Keefe: 1 Traveling Exhibit, 3 Museums, and 4 Schools; A National Collaboration to Promote Arts Integration.” The Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the Phillips Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art all collaborated with each other and local public schools to bring a traveling exhibit about Georgia O’Keefe beyond the walls of the museum. The project was a great success and it serves as a great model for collaboration between museums. This project inspired me to think about how different Jewish museums can collaborate on large-scale projects.
Good Company Texas Bar-B-Q
Finally my blog post cannot be complete without talking about all of the amazing food I ate while there. I’m pretty sure I rolled home about 10 pounds heavier. My first meal was Tex-Mex and I felt like I was right back at home in California while eating an enormous burrito. However, for the rest of the trip I focused on Texas BBQ. One of my most memorable meals was at a BBQ place called “Good Company Texas Bar-B-Q.” We had to take a taxi to get there, but it was worth it for the delicious brisket, coleslaw, and pecan pie. Apparently several other people from the AAM meeting agreed because we ran into a lot of AAMers there.
It feels good to be back in Baltimore, but I could not be happier about my experience at AAM this year in Houston. In addition to networking with other museum professionals, I learned about amazing projects taking place throughout the country, and came back inspired to apply some of these ideas and models at the JMM.
A giant armadillo in Texas!
A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.
Posted on March 30th, 2011 by Rachel
Professional development is a valued activity at the JMM. Staff members are encouraged to attend lectures, workshops, and conferences. The benefits of learning new skills from experts in the field help us grow in our jobs as we gather information and resources that we bring back with us. Furthermore, these programs often provide opportunities to network with colleagues from institutions – large and small – from across the country and to learn about interesting and innovative programs taking place at other museums. While the benefits of these kinds of programs are obviously, it can sometimes be challenging figuring out a strategy for implementing what you have learned as it is so easy for the materials you gathered and notes you’ve taken to get buried as you return to the piles of work, phone messages, and emails that accumulate while you are away from your desk. Recently, I had the chance to attend Our Stories, Our Museums: New Chapters For Jewish Culture, the annual conference of the Council of American Jewish Museums along with several of my colleagues.
The conference took place at the recently opened National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia where nearly 200 professionals from Jewish museums from across the country (as well as from Europe) gathered for three intensive days of lectures, panel discussions, visits to museums, and networking. I left the conference feeling inspired by the amazing work going on at Jewish museums across the country and excited by the many model programs that I learned about.
NMAJH Core Exhibition
The tote bag that I received from the conference was filled with legal pads with notes scribbled furiously upon them from the sessions that I attended as well as resource materials distributed by session speakers, not to mention program brochures picked up from other museums. The bag sat untouched under my desk for a couple of weeks. Finally, I started going through materials and sat down to review my notes.
The bag in question, chock full of informational goodies!
One of the difficult decisions you often have to make at conferences is deciding which program to attend as multiple sessions are scheduled simultaneously. Do you attend the session with a panel comprised of several renowned museum professional sharing their collective wisdom from many years in the field or the session devoted to fundraising 101 complete with practical hands-on ideas? Go to workshop geared to my specific responsibilities at the JMM or a panel discussion on interesting topics about the museum field in general. Fortunately, as I went through my notes, I realized that because several other JMM staff members attend the conference and had the foresight to “divide and conquer” each of us had attended different sessions so we could share what we had learned with the larger group. We all decided to meet one day over lunch to compare notes and resources from the sessions that we had attended. This proved to be a wonderful strategy for reviewing session content and to continue brainstorming how we might collectively implement some of the ideas gathered at the conference.
Just a few of the many materials and notepads from the conference.
Of particular interest to our group was a session that I attended devoted to the topic, Turning Stories Into History: Transforming the Narrative Through Oral History and Digital Storytelling. Three speakers – representing three different Jewish museums (from New York, Connecticut, and Denver) discussed three very different techniques for incorporating oral history interviews and personal stories into exhibitions, films, and other programs. One of the speakers, Deanne Kapnik from the Mizel Museum in Denver, spoke about a new museum initiative, the Community Narratives Project, a collection of digital stories gathered from a broad cross section of Denver’s Jewish community that have become a key feature of a new permanent exhibit, 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks. (To learn more about this program, visit the Museum’s website.) This initiative resonated with our staff, as we have been working to develop creative ideas for how to develop new programs that integrate storytelling and oral history interviews for audiences of all backgrounds. This is definitely a program that we intend to learn more about as we move forward with our plans.
While many museums have been forced to cut back on professional development activities out of economic necessity, I am proud to work for an institution where professional development is still considered a priority. The benefits for both the staff attending as well as the institution are many – learning best practices from other professionals, gathering resources for programming and exhibit development, and meeting and networking with colleagues from other institutions.