Next up was "'Speed Collabor-dating': Expanding Community Engagement" which explored new ways for museums to reach out to their communities and make them excited about the museum. To be honest, I chose this one less for the topic (although it is certainly a good and useful one) than because all of the panel participants were from Bay Area museums and I thought it would help me understand the character of each institution. It seemed like the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History had the strongest strategy for utilizing social media to keep their audience engaged, but I was also impressed by how successful the Oakland Museum has been. Oakland! Who knew?
After lunch, I went back to the maker stations and made a little journal out of recycled paper. All the little art projects will make great souvenirs for this conference - which is nice, because I'm walking away with virtually no swag, unlike my WMA conference. (An odd thing to get hung up on, I'm sure, but there it is.) My catapult from yesterday has already broken, though - the pieces are rattling around on the back seat of my car.
While on break, I had a great conversation with the registrar from the Academy of Sciences. She'd seen me in the parking lot and complimented my bag, which led to a great talk as she led me through her academic career and how she decided to focus on museum studies instead of conservation. It was probably the most helpful discussion I'd had with anyone on a one-on-one basis - much better than my attempt earlier in the day to talk to one of the higher-ups from the SFMOMA, who looked at me curiously when I mentioned I had worked at the same institution but quickly brushed me off once she realized I was part of Project Los Altos and therefore no longer of interest because the exhibition had closed. I mean, she was probably genuinely busy (and wanted to talk to people closer to her level, career-wise) but it was still a bit disappointing because she was, until very recently, my boss. Oh well. The registrar from the Academy of Science really made my day.
My last session was a bit discouraging, too. It was "Museum Possible: Managing Your Museum Career" and it initially started out well. A woman who had previously worked for both the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Asian Art Museum talked about her long career in exhibit design and how she'd succeed despite her lack of a masters degree - but she readily admitted that she wished she had one because it would have made her career a lot easier. Her suggestions for ways to improve your resume and make yourself more marketable were very helpful. Less helpful was the advice of one of the men on the panel who told a story about an unpaid intern he'd had who applied for a position three times and failed to be chosen each time. The day after she was told that she was not chosen, she was always back at her desk, continuing to do her work without complaint. Finally, on the fourth attempt he hired her because she's shown persistence. Yes, persistence is great, but I'm also hearing the story of a woman who volunteered at an institution for over two years before she finally got a job. I wish that I could do that, I truly do, but I have to pay bills and rent and eat something once in a while. It's unrealistic to expect someone to give up years on the off-chance that you'll finally hire them, but this gentleman implied that this was exactly what EMPs should do. It was frustrating, to say the least.
There was still a closing town hall and a happy hour event, but I talked to my roommate and we agreed that we both just wanted to go home. So I dropped her off at a train station in San Francisco and drove home.
Networking-wise, this was a much more productive conference than the one in Salt Lake City. I forced myself to talk to a lot more people, and I remembered to hand out more business cards. There's also a local EMP group that I will hopefully be able to start meeting with to maintain those contacts. Hopefully this conference will be a step in the right direction toward locating my next position at a museum.