A Look Back at WMA 2017

By Lauren Nichols

THANK YOU to all attendees, sponsors, volunteers, Program & Host Committee members, the WMA board of directors, and finally our partners: the Alberta Museums Association for making WMA 2017 a success! This year’s Annual Meeting, UNITE, focused on the ways museums can unite across sectors, across communities, and across borders to work towards innovative and inclusive solutions to shared concerns. Here's a look back at some of the goings-on at the 2017 Annual Meeting.


Our Annual Meeting had a variety of professional development and networking opportunities for the 450 museums professionals that joined us in Edmonton, Alberta. The progressive sessions, lively discussions, and pioneering insights that took place at this year’s Annual Meeting embodied the collaborative nature of this joint international museum conference. WMA’s tradition of provocative and engaging programming continued in 2017 with over 40 Sessions, 5 Pre-Conference Workshops and Tours, 2 Evening Events, 4 Affinity Gatherings, a Poster Session, and the first Game Show Showdown!


In addition to our interactive sessions and hands-on workshops, we were pleased to present Tony Butler as our keynote speaker. Tony is the Executive Director of Derby Museums Trust and the Chair and Founder of the Happy Museum Project. His keynote address, If Not Here, Where? The Museum as Bridge in Polarized Times explored how museums play a role in addressing long term challenges like climate change and abrupt disruptions like Brexit, and set us up for more challenging museum thinking to come throughout the Annual Meeting.


Each year WMA presents two awards: the Charles Redd Award and the Director’s Chair Award. The Charles Redd Center Western Studies Award for Exhibition Excellence honors excellence for an exhibition that furthers the study and understanding of the American West. The 2017 Charles Redd Award was presented to the Boise Art Museum, for the exhibition Minidoka: Artist as Witness. Melanie Fales, Executive Director, accepted the award on behalf of the museum. The Director's Chair Award is presented to an individual who has had a significant and lasting impact on museum practices and the museum profession in the Western Region – and beyond! The 2017 Director’s Chair Award was presented to Dr. Robert R. Janes. He has worked in and around museums for 40 years as an executive, consultant, editor, author, board member, archaeologist, instructor, volunteer, and philanthropist - devoting his career to championing museums as important social institutions that are capable of making a difference in the lives of individuals and their communities.


The final day included a powerful Closing General Session and panel, Museums UNITE to Improve Communities, which gave examples of museum and community collaborations. The panel featured: Lisa Sasaki, WMA President and Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; Robert R. Janes, Museum Scholar-Practitioner; Carol Mayer, Curator of Oceania and World Ceramics, Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia; and Laura Huerta Migus, Executive Director, Association of Children’s Museums. The panelists discussed how museums and communities can work together to address social problems and charged museums with making change in the world.

Another wonderful highlight from the final day was the Game Show Showdown: Canada vs. USA – hosted by Seth Margolis. Representatives from both sides of the border participated in a lively showdown featuring museum-centric trivia and games! In the end, with much laughter and tough museum questions, our host country’s team was victorious and perhaps a new WMA tradition was started…


Here are a few final comments from attendees:

I really enjoyed the merging of both American and Canadian organizations. It was very interesting to learn how institutions tackle similar situations and how different American and Canadian museums can be.

WMA is definitely leading the pack in terms of cutting-edge sessions.

The game show on the last day was great fun! Seth Margolis and the team members were all great, and it was nice to share some humor all together.

Check out some of the more memorable moments that our attendees shared on social media here. For more information on specific sessions view our 2017 Annual Meeting Final Program.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in Edmonton! We look forward to seeing you at WMA 2018 in Tacoma, Washington. We are currently accepting session and workshop proposals WMA 2018 – INSPIRE – until Friday, November 17th, 2017. Visit our Request for Proposals for more information. 



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