Chicago 2007 2014-10-22T16:12:22+00:00

At the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums, TMG hosts small-group sessions called Conversations for invited participants. Conversations promote focused dialogue in an informal and confidential setting about contemporary and sometimes controversial issues.

11th Annual Conversation took place in Chicago in 2007

May 14 Monday
Conversation Topics and Hosts

8:45 – 10:00 a.m.
Customer-Driven Environment and Museum Attendance
Hosts: Mary Kay Ingenthron and Beverly Sheppard, Executive Director, Institute for Learning Innovation
According to a well-known, contemporary historian, “There’s no excuse for a dull book, a dull speech, or a dull museum. Especially when dealing with history – the most fascinating subject I know.” Then why are so many history museums considered dull and do not capture the imagination of much of today’s public? Does the lack of imagination translate to lack of attendance, financial support, and advocacy? On the other hand, does a customer-driven environment that permeates the institution lead to attendance, financial support and advocacy? If so, what are the ramifications of rethinking ways to present history in our communities? Join the conversation as Mary Kay Ingenthron and Beverly Sheppard explore ideas from different communities of visitors.

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.
The Impact of Visitor Studies Pioneer, Dr. Chandler Screven
Hosts: Daryl Fischer and David Anderson, PhD, Museum Learning Specialist, University of British Columbia
This Conversation will focus on the career-long contributions of Dr. Chandler Screven to the field of visitor studies and the museum profession at large. As an early pioneer, Dr. Screven viewed visitor learning from a behaviorist perspective, using cognitively based, quantitative research to understand the experiences of museum visitors. As the field has evolved, new theoretical frames such as constructivism and socio-cultural theory have lead to new kinds of research questions, such as longitudinal impact and aesthetic learning, adding to our understanding of visitor experiences. Audience researchers and museum practitioners are invited to celebrate the Visitor Studies Association’s launch of an on-line database of Dr. Screven’s 4th Edition of Visitor Studies Abstracts and explore the impact of his research on today’s visitor studies field.

3:45 – 5:00 p.m.
Web 2: A Philosophical Look at New Technology
Hosts: Elaine Heumann Gurian and Jim Volkert
“Web 2.0 refers to a perceived or proposed second generation of Internet-based services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.” Web activity, taken as a whole, is causing profound changes in the way we learn, relate, and acquire information. Providing access to shared content on the exhibit floor and encouraging open source content can cause fundamental changes in museums. Museums have always controlled their content with the same fervor they protected their collections. What will it mean to museums if they begin to democratize the content? Jim Volkert and Elaine Heumann Gurian invite you to join a conversation about the consequences of integrating new technology into the museum site.

May 15 Tuesday
Conversation Topics and Hosts

8:45 – 10:00 a.m.
Rediscovering the Cabinet
Hosts: Carol Bossert and Janet Kamien
Drawings of the early curiosity cabinets reveal stuffed alligators mounted next to suits of armor and oil paintings hung adjacent to pressed flowers. The creators of these erstwhile museums sought to understand the world around them without regard to strict academic definitions. Today’s museums reflect the cabinet’s antithesis, striving to define themselves in precise and often narrow terms. Yet many of the issues and interesting questions of our day defy these narrow definitions. Could a history museum develop an exhibit on global warming and if so, could it bring fresh perspective to a dialogue that has become increasingly polarized? Where do topics involving ethics, morality, and faith fit within our museum taxonomy? Join the discussion as to whether such issues are the property of museums that explicitly include these topics in their mission?

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.
When Strategic Focus Suggests Deaccessioning
Hosts: Laura Roberts and Rosemary Krill, Director, Visitor Service Department, Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
The widely publicized decision by Colonial Williamsburg to sell Carter’s Grove to focus on its core operations is part of a growing trend by museums to identify a strategic direction and implement it, even if that means revisiting the collections acquisitions or real estate decisions of prior generations of managers and stewards. Professional standards tell us how to prune our out-of-scope collections responsibly. Preservation and conservation easements can protect historic or natural resources; but procedures and legal strictures can’t completely resolve the complicated community, political and donor relation issues. Board and staff who think they are being responsible stewards and savvy managers can find themselves accused of being heartless and irresponsible. Come talk about how you’ve thought through these decisions and implemented them.

2:00 – 3:15 p.m.
Green Light: Environmental Stories in Urban Spaces
Hosts: Jane Clark Chermayeff and Antanas Mockus, former Mayor, Bogota, Colombia This conversation explores how city museums can use non-didactic methods to present stewardship messages and get urban audiences to pay attention in new ways to the natural world. Antanas Mockus is an innovator in public education and behavior reform. The Harvard Gazette described him as the man “focused on changing hearts and minds, not through preaching but through artistically creative strategies.” His approaches to invigorating change are unconventional, yet have proven effective. For example, to reduce traffic crimes in Bogotá’s chaotic streets, Mockus hired mimes to patrol the city and parody lawbreakers. As a result, under his leadership, traffic fatalities dropped by over 50%. His visionary perspective combined with the expertise and experience of Conversations attendees will generate a rich dialogue.

May 15 Tuesday
Conversation Topics and Hosts

3:45 – 5:00 p.m.
Presenting Controversial Science
Host: Robert “Mac” West
Numerous topics in contemporary science, regardless of the views and practices of scientists, are socially and/or religiously contentious. What is the proper role of science museums and how do/should museums address such topics in ways that are scientifically accurate while maintaining their position as community assets accessible and welcoming to all? Among the broad topics that are currently being discussed are evolution, various biomedical matters (e.g., cloning, stem cell research, AIDS, human anatomy and reproduction), genetic engineering, global warming, genetics and race, and nuclear power. Representatives of several museums currently engaged in presenting sensitive science topics will be part of this invigorating and challenging conversation.

May 16 Wednesday
Conversation Topics and Hosts

8:45 – 10:00 a.m.
If Money and Attendance Are Not The Bottom Line, What Is?
Hosts: Mary Ellen Munley, Randy Roberts, Associate of MEM and Associates, and Mark Weinberg, Ph.D., Director, Ohio University’s Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs The provocative subtitle of Jim Collins’ monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sector, is – Why Business Thinking Is Not The Answer. This conversation starts from the premise that museums are part of the social sector and thus, their primary aim is to create public value rather than financial value. Participants will consider the question: How can we articulate, calibrate and measure success at creating public value without reverting to business metrics?