Suzi (k00kaburra) wrote,

CAM Conference: Day One & Two

I'm in Napa Valley, attending the California Association of Museums conference.  Since this isn't my first conference (I attended the WMA/UMA conference in Salt Lake City last year) the experience isn't nearly as intimidating as last year, but in a way it is scarier because the people I'm networking with in Napa are potential coworkers, whereas in Utah that was a more abstract concept because the odds of actually working at a Utah museum after my internship ended was pretty low.

Last night I attended an EMP (Emerging Museum Professionals) workshop.  The session was pretty identical to the one I attended in Utah, which was no surprise because it was run by the same woman.  It's great to meet people my own age, and I had a lot of fun chatting with them, but I always wonder if I ought to be elsewhere because the vast majority of the EMPs are either
  A/ Looking for a job, like me
  B/ Still students
so while it's fun to get to know them on a personal level, they usually can't do much to assist me on the job search.  But especially since Napa is so close to home, it's important to get to know my cohort in the area, since these are theoretically the people I'll be working with for the next thirty-forty years.

After the workshop, I had nothing else scheduled so I went back to the cheapo hotel room that I was staying at and spent the evening getting to know my roommate, a woman from Los Angeles that I'd found on one of the CAM message boards.  We tried to find something exciting to do, even walking around downtown Napa, but everything apparently closes super-early so we just let the TV run in specials on the National Geographic channel.

This morning we were a little late to the keynote speakers, but it wasn't too bad.  Leaders from a variety of museums talked about "The Essence of Museums" and the contributions institutions make to their communities and to individuals.   I had skipped coffee, and I neglected to take useful notes, so I don't remember specific comments very well, but the overall topic was partly a rebuttal to the idea that museums are boring and no longer necessary to a 21st century audience as voiced in an essay that was floating around the Internet late last year.

My first session of the day was "Using Traditional Care in Meeting Contemporary Standards", which is always a fascinating topic.  Representatives from the State Indian Museum, the Phoebe A. HEarst Museum of Anthropology and the American Indian Studies department at SFSU chatted about the difficulties faced by collections managers who want to protect artifacts while still being sensitive to the desires of tribal representatives.

A lunch break followed, so I headed to the Maker Stations that were set up in one of the conference rooms.  Several museums sponsored different projects for attendees to exercise their creativity.  I first went to a table hosted by The Randall Museum in San Francisco and built a catapult, which had a tendency to shoot toward the right, and then colored pieces of transparent plastic at the Mingei International Museum's station for creating a communal work of art inspired by the chandeliers of Dale Chihuly.  While I was coloring, I started chatting with a woman who is the curator at a car museum in Sacramento, and we ended up going to lunch together.  It was a really engaging conversation; like me, she only has a bachelor's degree in a field dominated by masters and doctorates,  and it gave me hope that it was still possible to become a curator at a museum without further education.  (Although I will go on and get a masters someday.  Promise.)

After lunch I went to a fascinating panel called "Print on Demand: Cast Studies in Sales and Profits".  It's pretty straightforward; different institutions talked about their experiences with different image reproduction companies and how it impacted them.  For some museums, it was great - the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have kiosks in their gift shops that allow patrons to choose from a much larger variety of images than they could hope to stock on their shelves, and it has proven very successful.  Other museums, like History San Jose, have found that while selling prints of archival materials don't add much to the bottom line, it does at least draw attention to their collection.  The speaker from History San Jose mentioned that they had a fairly limited number of images available to print because they couldn't really afford to hire someone to work on it full-time; I wonder if I could somehow work out an internship there?  I don't like working for free, but I would definitely do it if it helped me gain experience handling collections and learning more about digital image editing and management.  I wrote down the speaker's name and will e-mail him after the conference if I don't run into him again.

The last talk that I went to was "Let there be (the right) Light", which was informative if not exactly thrilling.  It was a discussion of the impact of electrical lights on collections and changes to museum display that are being brought about by the introduction of LED and adaptive lighting.

Before the conference shut down for the day, there was a series of roundtable discussions.  I wandered over to "ROI is king!  How do we measure the success of traveling exhibits?"  Mostly, I just wanted to learn more about traveling exhibits and the companies that make them, and find out if this was a field I could get into since it's so hard to get a job as museum staff.  Most of the other people attending the roundtable were also students, which made it difficult to learn more, but the moderator from the San Diego Natural History Museum talked us through the process his institution uses when deciding what traveling exhibits to bring to their museum, and the metrics used to calculate the ROI.  Very interesting, if more mathematical than my usual areas of interest - I did take multiple accounting and economic classes so at least I could follow along!

It was a pretty long day, so after a sushi dinner I just came back to the hotel room to relax.  Tomorrow there will be a few more workshops before I drive back to San Jose.
Tags: conference, museum, networking

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