Written by 2022 Wanda Chin Scholarship recipient Billie Jean Guerrero
I arrived in Portland to attend a conference sponsored by the Western Museums Association and the Oregon Museums Association. It was my first-time visiting Portland and the first time attending the Western Museums conference. Upon arrival and the weather being dark and overcast, I wasn’t able to venture out right away. But, once the sun came out, it was time to explore. Thankfully, there were several museums within walking distance of the host hotel. I set out and went to the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society. Both museums were excellent and I learned a lot about the Portland area and other interesting information.
Additionally, there were evening events that allowed me to see more museums, such as the Chinese Gardens, Chinese Museum, Japanese Museum and the Holocaust Museum. On the last night before departing back home, I was able to see the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry,
The conference started with the theme of “Forward.” It was a time for museum professionals from across the West to gather and connect, heal and learn. There was a selection of 36 workshops which provided information to support the theme of forward-thinking in museums, especially after the pandemic.
I was able to meet many museum professionals within the western region. Activities at the conference included the selection of workshop sessions, networking luncheons, round table discussions and informal meetings.
The selection for workshops was a tough choice, however I was able to choose the most relevant ones for our museum needs: Forward Thinking Disaster Preparation, Moving Exhibits and Programs Forward in Response to Climate Change, From Intention to Action - Decolonial Perspectives, Beyond Land Acknowledgements - Collaboration with Tribes and Museums, Politics of Land Acknowledgements, Shared Leadership - Models for Success, Mentorship - Best Practices and Indigenous Notions of Care, Decolonizing Initiative in Action at the Burke Museum and the Museum of Us, and Collaboration Tools for Exhibition Projects.
The keynote address was given by Dina Bailey – “A Journey to the Mountain Top.” Discussed were Mountain Top Visions, including movement, journey, ancestors, descendants, as well as individual and collective experiences. The Guiding principles were as follows:
- Preparation is essential.
- Define your purpose. Clarify your values.
- Understand your guiding principles.
- Embrace your mission. Find your vision.
- Know yourself, earn multiple ways to sustain morale.
- Have faith – organizational trust. Find your resilience.
- Be open and curious. Be patient.
- Commit to being in “editing phase.” Acknowledge your feelings.
- Be present, actively participate – “Thriving in the Moment.”
One of the workshops attended was on having a Disaster Plan. This workshop was very practical because we never know when an emergency will occur. The presenters talked about their storage facility that was flooded and how they recovered. It’s important to have a Supply Cache, just for emergency situations. Also, have a list of Conservators to contact for restoration, a list of Disaster Response Companies, a list of all objects in the artifact storage, HEPA vacuum, plastic sheeting, list of people to call for supplies, such as banker boxes, garment boxes. Make sure supplies are on hand, well-organized, inventoried, accessible, separate from regular supplies, out of packages, and ready to use. *Label equipment, *Print out the Disaster Plan, *Inventory Control sheets printed and ready to use, *Keep collections protected, *Box as much as possible. Needed supplies in the supply cache should include: fans, Shop Vac, plastic sheeting, rags, towels, pads, drying rack, extension cords, power strips, large garbage bags, and a HEPA-filter vacuum.
I was able to attend this Western Museums Association conference through a Wanda Chin scholarship. There were 9 other scholars from various states and we were recognized during the Opening General Session. I appreciate the support of the Western Museums Association and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. I met numerous museum staff from other tribes in the western region, as well as public museums. Attendance at the WMA conference was a valuable experience and I would highly recommend it to others. This conference was an excellent opportunity to meet with small to large museums in the region and I gained new insights, information and ideas.
Billie Jean Guerrero, Museum Director, Pyramid Lake Museum, Nixon, Nevada. The Pyramid Lake Museum is the only tribal museum in the State of Nevada.
Billie Jean Guerrero is a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, known as the Kooyooe Tukadu (Fish Eaters). Billie Jean has been employed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for over 30 years in tribal service working in Education, Housing, Human Resources and Administration. As the Museum Director for the Pyramid Lake Museum since 2016, Billie Jean enjoys the opportunity to share the culture and history of the Kooyooe Tukadu Numu, Pyramid Lake Paiutes, and Northern Paiutes. Billie Jean earned her Bachelors Degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and Teaching Degree from Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Nevada.