Written by Allison Lambrecht, Registrar, Washington State Historical Society, and WMA 2023 Wanda Chin Scholarship Recipient
Attending WMA’s annual conference this year was an inspiring experience. It was my first museum conference as an employee of an actual museum and my second ever museum conference (I attended AAM’s annual conference in 2022 while I was still in grad school).
Since high school, I had the goal of working in museums after taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the city museum in my hometown. After years of school, internships, and part-time jobs, I got my first full-time permanent job at a museum last March.
As I sat listening to the Keynote address by Sandra Jackson-Dumont I was reminded why I loved museums and what I hoped my career would look like when I was in my undergraduate and graduate programs. I believe museum work to be important and as I’ve been adjusting to my job, I’d been so focused on the day-to-day that I forgot about the big-picture aspects of the work I was excited about when I was in school.
In the sessions following the Keynote, I thought about how I could incorporate what the presenters were saying into my own work and how to pursue the parts of the job that aren’t required for the functioning of the museum but will help move it forward and grow.
After the session “Balancing Act: Navigating Programming and Preservation in Museum Galleries,” I felt excited about getting more connected to my coworkers in other (non-collections) departments at my museum. I work in an off-site facility where the collections are housed and the rest of the museum staff work at the museum. Because of that physical separation, I don’t really know what they do and how that intersects with my role at the museum. Since returning from the conference, I’ve been working on building those relationships and figuring out how to open a discussion about collaboration across departments.
I also felt inspired talking to other attendees working on the same problems that I was. On the last day, this was especially pertinent during the round table “Repatriation Beyond NAGPRA.” One of the projects I was hired for was re-examining the Indigenous material in our collection for cultural sensitivity, changing language in our records to reflect that, and returning materials to tribes that don’t fall under NAGPRA but that they want back. During this session, I spoke with a few people about solutions and methods to start these projects and also possible pitfalls that might occur. I came away from the roundtable feeling confident about how to move forward and work with my coworkers on the project.
WMA was an incredibly refreshing experience that would not have been possible without the Wanda Chin Scholarship assisting with the cost of attendance. The theme of the conference was “Connect” and on so many levels was accomplished. I was connected to so many people doing the same work I was and in my direct community. The conference reminded me to reach out and connect with people at my museum and think about how my work connects me to our visitors. It also reconnected me with myself, it helped remind me why I loved museums and why I wanted to work in them.
Allison Lambrecht was a recipient of the 2023 WMA’s Wanda Chin Scholarship. She graduated with an MA in Museology from the University of Washington in 2022. She is in her first full-time position in the museum field working as the Registrar for the Washington State Historical Society.