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14 October 2013 @ 01:54 pm
WestMusings: Ten Minute Museum Talks  
So you're familiar with TED Talks, right? Basically, they're brief discussions/lectures - usually ten minutes or so - focused on a particular topic that is an "idea worth spreading". The WMA wanted to create their own variation on this idea, and they debuted it at the Church History Museum to close 2013's annual conference. There were four speakers, each of whom covered very different ground, although each ten-minute lecture was related to the museum field. It was a fascinating evening.

The first speaker was Colleen Dilenschneider, the Chief Market Engagement Officer at an organization called IMPACTS. Her talk likened the museum experience to dating, which seemed an odd approach that forced her discussion into a structure that didn't always work smoothly with her message. But her basic information was good - as it should be, considering information analysis is her bread and butter. She encouraged museums to focus on reaching out to HPVs (High Propensity Visitors) and shared some of the characteristics of these individuals.

Her talk was useful, but it wasn't exciting.

To some people, the next presenter - James Pepper Henry of the Heard Museum - might have fallen into a similar category. Not me - I thought his talk was one of the best. He shared techniques and best practices for museums with Native American objects, which has changed dramatically ever since NAGPRA took effect in 1990. As a member of the Kaw Nation and director at the Smithsonian, Pepper Henry is one of the most prominent Native Americans working in the museum field. He shared how storage practices at the Smithsonian had changed in order to accommodate traditional beliefs - little things like allowing spiritual leaders from various tribes to perform ceremonies in the museum's back room, or placing objects on high shelves so that the spirits could access them. Yes, a lot of artifacts and objects were repatriated, and this is a good thing, but the collaboration with Native American tribes has also kept a lot of artifacts in museums because the tribal leaders feel that the objects are in a safe, healthy environment.

For pure entertainment, I think that Scott Stullen of the Walker Art Center managed to bring out the most laughs in his pop culture-infused talk. You may recognize his name - Stullen organized the Internet Cat Video Film Festival that is currently traveling after astonishing popularity at the Walker Art Center. He talked about the festival, where the idea came from and why cat videos deserve to be associated with an art museum. He's a fantastic speaker, very funny and personable - and of course, he had to show some of those classic cat videos during his talk and the audience fell apart each time.

The last speaker literally rolled onto the stage at the last possible second, straight from the championship game for her roller derby league. Carrie Snow - or Jane Accostin', if you want to use her roller derby name - shared many problems that museums face today through the lens of roller derby. She was in full derby gear, and married the history of the sport with life lessons for museum professionals. It sounds crazy, but it really worked well. She got the entire crowd pumped up and excited.

The WMA did say that the talks would eventually be available online. I haven't managed to track them down yet, but I'm sure that a Google search for "westmusings 2013" will pull them up.