By Nancy Cutler
Mutual Engagement: Museums and Communities was the theme for the 32nd Annual Conference of the Museum Association of Arizona (MAA), held May 1st and 2nd, 2014 in the fun mountain town of Flagstaff, AZ, “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” Centered at the Northern Arizona University’s duBois Conference Center and hosted by Museum of Northern Arizona and the Arizona Historical Society, Northern Division, the Conference was attended by more than 100 delegates, speakers, and guests.
The Wednesday evening President’s Reception, hosted by Riordan Mansion State Historic Park provided an informal atmosphere for Arizona museum professions to begin networking with comrades, familiar and new.
Three Arizona EMPs at the President’s Reception
Keynote Speaker, Candace Matelic, PhD, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, gave an inspiring address on the “Transformative Power of Community Engagement.” This was followed up with a well-attended workshop, “Tools for Engaging Communities” giving guidelines on the process of how to begin involving sectors of the community with the museum as the focal point.
Candace Matelic delivers the Keynote Address
Keynote speaker Candace Matelic’s follow-up workshop
Sessions featured several roundtable discussions, as well as a Collections Track, including a hands-on discussion of basketry care and curation by the staff of the Arizona State Museum Conservation Department. Four off-site afternoon tours allowed participants to visit significant sites in Flagstaff, including the Lowell Observatory, a Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Flagstaff, further tours of the Riordan Mansion SHP, and the Museum of Northern Arizona’s new Easton Collection Center, which has achieved a Platinum LEED designation and has received the "Best of the Best" Award from McGraw-Hill.
Other events included a silent auction, which raised over $1500; dinner and live auction, at the Museum of Northern Arizona; and the Annual Business Meeting and Awards Luncheon celebrating significant achievements of individuals and cultural institutions in Arizona’s museum community. Awardee Navajo Nation Museum fascinated the Luncheon attendees with clips from the film “Navajo Star Wars”. The Conference was capped off by the Flagstaff First Friday ArtWalk of downtown art galleries, which began with a wonderful reception hosted by Hidden Light Framing and Photo Gallery featuring a bountiful selection of delicious appetizers provided by Simply Delicious Catering.
Navajo Nation staff receives the 2014 MAA Award of Institutional Excellence
Post-Conference saw some delegates attending a joint workshop with MAA and the Registrars Committee-Western Region on Photographic and A-V Materials Preservation Issues at the Museum of Northern Arizona, and others taking a post-Conference tour of the historic La Posada Hotel and Old Trails Museum in Winslow, AZ on Old Route 66.
Overall there were many opportunities for collegial networking, an important element of our Annual Conference, and we achieved our goal of involving and introducing the Flagstaff community to the Museum Association of Arizona while engaging with the local community.
Nancy Cutler has served as Chair of the Museum Association of Arizona’s Annual Conference Committee for the past three years. She is also a member of the Board of the Central Arizona Museum Association and was a founder of the Museum Educator’s Council of Arizona. Following 12 years in the Education Department of the Desert Botanical Garden, she now works as a consultant, leading workshops at the state, local and national level, including the American Association for State and Local History. She is the co-author of A Museum Educator’s Manual: Educators Share Successful Techniques (2008, AltaMira Press).