Announcing the WMA 2015 WestMusings



The Western Museums Association (WMA) proudly announces the third installment of WestMusings | 10 Minute Museum Talks featuring innovative museum topics. Modeled after TED Talks, WestMusings is an unconference program of short, engaging presentations by forward-thinking museum leaders.

WestMusings is happening at the 2015 Annual Meeting during A Night in Nerdvana Evening Event at the Computer History Museum on Tuesday, October 27.

The 2015 WestMusings continue to offer provocative and broad perspectives with a variety of topics from around the United States. James Leventhal, Director of Development, Exploratorium and a WMA Board Member who helped to launch the program notes, "It's amazing to see how WestMusings has grown into the program it was envisioned to be, with year-round engagement and outreach in the thousands. I am especially thrilled to see the continual focus on emerging leaders in the field. Moreover, Native voices have always been integral to the WMA history, and such an essential part of WestMusings every year—having Dr. Stevens from Syracuse to speak in 2015 will be incredibly important."

Lauren Valone, former WMA Program Coordinator, adds, "What's interesting when looking at these numbers is how much these videos are still being viewed, and how they are a continual resource about trending and universal topics. WestMusings is a distinguishing aspect of WMA, reinforces the organization’s reputation and brand, and is a component of our year-round presence."

Once again, the program will be will be MC’ed by James. Without further adieu, here are the 2015 presenters:


Susan Edwards

Associate Director for Digital Content, Hammer Museum

Susan is the Associate Director for Digital Content at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where she has been since March 2015. Previously, she worked at the J. Paul Getty Trust for over 13 years where she collaborated with curators, scholars, and educators to develop digital experiences for users, including games, web projects, and digital publications. What really interests Susan, though, is games in museums and how developing those relates to our professional lives. This is at the core of her WestMusings presentation. She notes, “We all play games. Not only are games fun, but they are usually social, teach us about systems, and give us safe places to explore the unknown and learn about our own abilities. What would happen if we apply methods used by game designers to our museum work? How can we use games to create safe spaces for staff to explore new ideas? Can games and play in the conference room be taken seriously?”


Laura Fry

Haub Curator of Western American Art, Tacoma Art Museum

Laura Fry joined the Tacoma Art Museum as Curator in 2013, where her first order of business was developing the inaugural exhibition and publication of the new Haub Family Collection of Western American Art, which opened to the public in a 16,000-square-foot museum expansion in November 2014. Previously, Laura worked at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY as Curatorial and Education Assistant. Beyond museums, her background also includes alpine ski instructing for over a decade. Drawing on lessons learned from the world of snow sports, Laura’s WestMusing explores the connections between outdoor recreation and visitor experiences at museums. “How can we bring a sense of adventure to the museum field? As museum professionals, how do we encourage our audiences to take risks and experience the thrill of discovery?”


Maria Mortati

Museum Exhibit Developer & Designer

An expert in interactive design and community engagement, Maria is interested in examining and amplifying the relationship between public and institution, public and private. Her projects span formal exhibitions to short-term interventions, involving collaborations with other artists, communities, and staff. Her recent area of focus has been to work with non-typical visitors to cultural institutions. In her WestMusings, she will share how one project in particular radicalized her thinking around representation and outreach, and what that means for us all. She explains, “Museums are a trusted public resource, but they are not necessarily making good on their promise to be an agent of intellectual exchange. Society has seen so many changes and turmoil recently, and museums are just barely dipping their toes into their potential to be leaders in these discussions.”


Scott Manning Stevens

Associate Professor of Native American Studies, Director, Native American Studies Program, Syracuse University

Scott Manning Stevens is a citizen of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation and Associate Professor and Director of Native American Studies at Syracuse University in the state of New York. Before coming to Syracuse, Dr. Stevens was the Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago. His recent publications include an essay on the translation of the King James Bible into Mohawk and another on Iroquois internationalism and another on the depictions of Native Americans in the art of John Mix Stanley. Scott notes that Native Americans have been somewhat resistant to and mistrusting of museums—they are rarely considered a normative viewer, and more often the object to be viewed. In his WestMusings, Scott will discuss formative experiences seeing his culture represented next to dinosaurs to current day cultural centers, and ultimately where museums can do to ensure that they are properly telling Indigenous stories going forward. 


Join your peers at the 2015 WestMusings at WMA’s Annual Meeting. Not registered? Register today and be a part of conversations that will shape the future of museums.

View instructions to add A Night in Nerdvana to your WMA 2015 itinerary

Learn more about WMA 2015 Registration

View the 2014 WestMusings