President’s Message: San Diego Sun, Sustainability and Seriousness

By Aldona Jonaitis


Aldona Jonaitis, President

First, I want to thank everyone involved for making the annual WMA Conference in San Diego such a successful event.  Special thanks go to Elida Zelaya and Valerie Huaco who worked tirelessly to welcome our arrival in San Diego.  I also want to thank the Program Committee and the Host Committee, both of whom corralled the collective wit and experience of colleagues and volunteers to present an excellent series of sessions, workshops and social events – many of which concentrated on issues of sustainability – a topic that is on everyone’s mind.   Finally, I would like to thank the vendors and sponsors who supported the Conference, including our lead sponsor, the Barona Cultural Center and Museum.


WMA San Diego 2009

As you may have heard at the Conference, the Western Museum Association is undergoing a restructuring process to ensure that our 74 year old organization continues to thrive.  Despite careful monitoring of the budget by the Board of Directors, WMA revenue is far below target, an unfortunate result of the strain felt by all not-for-profits during the current recession.

The goals of the restructure are to create a business model that cuts overhead costs and thus streamlines administrative activities.  The new model includes eliminating  the positions of Executive Director and Publications and Media Manager, closing the physical office located in Berkeley, CA, and investing in digital communications vs. printed materials, among other administrative cost reductions.

In the next few weeks, the Executive Committee and Task Force will create various business models that will consider 1.) maintaining the organization at a base level 2.) estimating costs and overhead associated with the 2010 Annual Meeting in Portland and 3.)possibly suspending the 2010 Annual Conference in Portland to invest resources in the 2011 Annual Meeting in Hawaii.  Each of these business models will take the best interests of the membership as our first priority.

We will also investigate  innovative ways to keep the membership involved and networking throughout the next three years.  We have discussed developing a series of regional events, sessions, webinars and partnerships with like professional organizations in an effort to serve you better. We welcome your ideas as we explore more ways to network throughout the region.

Each of our institutions have been faced with making difficult decisions in the last year and no decision is harder than that which involves talented  and devoted employees.  Please join me in thanking Elida Zelaya and Valerie Huaco for their hard work and dedication in serving the WMA.  On behalf of the Board and membership, I would like to thank each of them for their valued professional service and their heartfelt commitment to the organization.

We will continue to keep our members up to date on the progress of the objectives mentioned here.  Together with the Board, I am committed to the health and well being of this spectacular organization.  I am gratified that so many members and friends have already stepped forward to volunteer their help and I look forward to many more doing so.  Together we will thrive and celebrate happily the 75th anniversary of WMA in 2010!

I welcome your comments and invite you to contact me with any questions, concerns or ideas you would like to share.  My direct e-mail address and phone number are and (907) 978-1903.




I applaud the clear assessment of WMA's circumstances as well as the clear statement of actions the board will take. Elida and Valerie have been committed to the goals of WMA for years, and I am very grateful personally for their assistance and support. I look forward to working with them in some new capacity in our industry.

Thank you Elida and Valerie for your gracious and elegant professionalism. I'll miss you guys being just two doors down the hall -- all the laughs and dog treats. WMA has been an important part of my professional community and development. Long may it thrive!

I have never been more impressed with two people than I was with Elida and Valerie during the conference, who managed everything with flair, professionalism, and humor, even as they knew it was their last weeks employed by WMA. A class act! And I pledge my support to help WMA move forward.

Elida and Valerie have been wonderful friends, colleagues and WMA members. We thank both of you for your professionalism and kindness during this complex time and encourage our Museum Community to send leads for job offers to these two dedicated professionals.

It's terrific to see the WMA board sharing openly with the membership as new plans are laid. This kind of transparency will allow our devoted members to stay connected and support the process. Onward!

Thank you Aldona for expressing the current work of the WMA Board so succinctly and thoughtfully. We look forward to meeting the challenges and rewards in this first decade of 21st Century WMA . The San Diego sessions provided many examples of the innovative and timely ideas flowing from our diverse, talented membership.

I would like to take this opportunity to follow in Aldona's lead and publicly thank Elida and Valerie for their years of devoted service both to WMA in particular and more generally to the entire museum field. Our industry is the richer for your contributions.

With great appreciation and fondness,

Allyson (WMA Board Member)

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