Museum directors, curators, registrars, and others immersed in the fields of heritage, history, art, and historic preservation headed to the middle of the state (Ellensburg) in the middle of June (12-14) to participate in the Washington Museum Association’s 2013 conference, appropriately titled “Museums at the Center of Community.”
Spokane author Jack Nisbet gave the keynote address, and WMA president Eric Taylor, known better in King County as 4Culture’s heritage lead, presided over the three-day conference which offered breakout sessions on exhibit “layering,” educational programming, and the implications and opportunities of digitized collections.
Among the attendees from King County, Betsy Davis, executive director of The Center for Wooden Boats, and Lissa Kramer, a graduate student in the University of Washington’s Museology program, gave a lunchtime presentation on the collaborative advocacy effort for Heritage Capital Projects funding in the state legislature.
The Neely Mansion Association’s site-specific video project, “If These Walls Could Talk,” was presented by Neely Mansion representative Karen Bouton, filmmakers Staci Bernstein and Jane Kaplan, and 4Culture staff members Flo Lentz, Charlie Rathbun, and Eric Taylor.
From the Burke Museum, Diane Quinn, Briana Nino, and Dr. Ruth Martin shared how they partnered with business leaders to get their paleontology kits into the hands of local students.
And as part of a panel on creating community historians, Museum of History & Industry public historian Lorraine McConaghy spoke about the Washington Territorial Civil War Read-In that she has developed in conjunction with the Washington State Historical Society.
Themes that predominated included out-of-the-box initiatives sparked by unconventional collaborations, how to maximize the irole museums play in offering informal and life-long learning, and the importance of continuing professional development throughout the field, including the role that the American Association of State and Local History’s StEPS program (a voluntary assessment exercise) can play for small and mid-sized history organizations.
Professional networking was in play both day and night, and a conga line that threaded through the Thursday evening banquet on the grounds of the Ellensburg Rodeo helped to stitch together new friendships.