Sustain, Sustaining, Sustainable, Sustainability...Sustenance

by Rosalind Bedell, Program Co-Chair
Rosalind Bedell, Program Co-ChairJudging from recent comments it seems that while many of you may love social networking and find it useful (and who am I to disagree – I’m already excited about the eateries in San Diego), that nothing quite replaces the face to face experience of a conference. I’m sure you have taken a glimpse at the preliminary program for the WMA conference in October – see diego preliminary program.pdf - but I wanted to draw your attention to some aspects of the conference that the program committee hoped would make it a must-attend event.
This year the theme is sustainability, a word that appeared as a noun or adjective no fewer than 34 times in the session proposals the committee reviewed. But this is not just sustainable in terms of being green (although this is covered too) but in all other ways affecting museums in this difficult economic climate: sustaining exhibitions, sustaining programs, sustaining audiences, membership and staff. Benefits from the recession are hard to find but slim pickings and skinny budgets can stretch minds and produce creative ideas that do not surface in more abundant times. Exciting and innovative ideas can be found in sessions, such as the New and Notable session, in the sessions relating to collaboration between museums crossing the boundaries between their specialties or from the grantees of the Innovation Fund. Hear about the opportunities that a major capital campaign may bring or about a regional cooperative response to disasters, or the race in the Gulf to build the biggest and best museum in the world.
The conference planners hope, more than ever, to send you home with practical help and advice so that with reduced staff or hours you can still put solutions into effect: help with foundation funding, with negotiating small grants, with IMLS, with understanding your board, with the basics of evaluation or insurance claims, with your staff’s texting habit, with website creation and online tools, and some tried and true education programs and projects so that you are not reinventing the wheel.
New this year is the TechLab where you can find out how to blog better or FaceBook faster as well the answers to a host of other computer-related questions afflicting those of us who are less tech-savvy. Another new feature is the Resource Clinics, where experts will provide answers to questions on your resume, the challenge of being a new director, evaluation, creative education or grant writing.
Finally of course - where this article began - there is the face to face contact, the networking. Enjoy an affinity lunch with a fellow curator, educator, registrar or director, the free lunch in the exhibit hall on day one or the afternoon in Balboa Park seeing how the museums in this museum-rich city are coping with present stresses and strains.
The Program Committee spent many hours reading the proposals submitted for the conference, and met together for 3 ½ days over two meetings. Proposals were examined, sometimes tweaked and mostly approved for the conference. Ideas flew around the table as this dedicated and enthusiastic group worked to make the conference as accessible and relevant as possible, well aware that it would be difficult for many to attend this year. We hope we can entice you to come and to persuade your director or department head of the value of attending. WMA has always had a reputation for being a good conference. We hope by giving you tools to take back with you to use in lean times and some new ideas based on sustaining our museums and our profession that we can induce you to come. Think of all the hours you spend on the web or on a social network site, take a few of those hours, put them in a block to attend the conference, and meet some of the professionals you most admire for what they are doing and the faces behind the blogs. And come up with as many alternatives as you can for the word sustainable and let us know - on the blog or, better still, at the conference!



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Just want to see if you are a robot.