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GEMM @ the Association of Midwest Museums/Michigan Museums Association Annual Conference

GEMM is all over the country and even all over the world! We will be at the Association of Midwest Museums/Michigan Museums Association joint conference October 2-5, 2019. The theme for the conference is “Changing Expectations” and how timely. From the pre-conference workshops to the keynotes and everything in between, equity and social justice seem to be taking a lead at this year’s conference.

Make sure to check-out all the receptions and extra goodies and activities in the concourse and exhibitors hall. Here’s my run down of must-sees at this year’s conference:

Thursday, October 3

Opening Plenary—8:45-9:45AM

If you haven’t seen David Pilgrim speak before or visited the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, you need to attend his talk. He focuses on diversity, inclusion, and race relations. It will be a great way to start the day and frame the conference.

Breakout Sessions—10:00-11:15AM

Where I’ll be: Oh Baby! Looking at Museums as Leaders for Working Families: Creating Infant-At-Work Programs to Augment Federal Family Leave This one is more personal for me. I have a two and three year old at home and working in museums, coupled with child care have been a challenge. I co-lead a similar session a few years back at the Michigan Museums Association annual conference and am interested to see how the field is developing solutions. Other recommendations: Finding Our Voice: Exhibiting Trauma and Healing This session is all about community engagement and museums challenging the norm. The exhibit was about the survivors of the criminal sexual assaults committed by Larry Nassar against so many women in his role at Michigan State University. The Michigan State University Museum took on the topic, co-curating Finding Our Voices: Sister Survivors Speak with women who were affected by his actions.

Advocating for Social Justice Issues in Your Museum: Three Case Studies Exploring Environmental Justice, Immigration, and Workplace Culture

I’m very interested in the research around museum employee burnout and what was found especially around how it relates to women. I would love to see the research...can anyone share with me?

Concurrent Sessions—1:15-2:30PM

Where I’ll be:

Advocating for your career at every stage

Something that GEMM tries to do...empower women to be successful and equal in the museum field. Advocating for yourself is a challenge, especially for women. This is where I’ll be, and Bob Beatty always comes with a great presentation.

Other recommendations:

This is Not Your Mother’s Museum

I mean come on, this is right up our alley! I actually have not been to the Museum of Sexist Objects before so I am going to try and find some time while in the area to visit! If you’re following GEMM then you probably know about some uncomfortable truths, and this is something we recommend!

Concurrent Sessions—2:45-4:00PM

Where I’ll be:

“Backcasting” and Planning for the Future of Museums

Visioning is super important, especially in the work we are doing. If my museum doesn’t look equitable and diverse in 2040 then something is wrong. This relates to the work I do everyday so I’ll be here, but this session and the one below are both excellent choices!

Other recommendations:

Reexamining Internships: Building and Leading Effective Internship Programs

The topic of internships is really a hot button issue right now for cultural institutions. GEMM advocates for paid internships as a means to help prevent inequity. Paid internships allow all populations to work and go to school at the same time. It will help diversify the field. Also, the speakers are really great people. And, if you haven’t yet, check out Girl Museum.

Conversation Stations and Poster Sessions—4:00-6:00PM

First off, if you haven’t experienced conversation stations before, I highly recommend. It is similar to poster stations but the idea is to have conversations and share information back and forth. Shameless plug for Online Exhibits. They are my coworkers and have been working hard on this for about a year. I’ll be around here for a bit to check everything out!

Friday, October 4

Concurrent Sessions—9:00-9:45AM

Where I’ll be:

The New and Improved MAP

So this is not as clear of a fit for GEMM but I’ve been looking into MAP and want to know more.

Other recommendations:

Great Ideas for Equitable Hiring Practices and Workplace Culture in 45 Minutes

Yep! This is great. If you are responsible for hiring anyone or looking to get hired somewhere, I’m sure this will have some great tips for you.


Two words...Nina Simon. Want more words? Of, by, for all. Be there! But in all honesty, Nina Simon really has been a leader for women in museums. She has great advice for advancing your career and leading from all levels.

Concurrent Sessions—2:30-3:45PM

Where I’ll be:

Okay, so I won’t actually be attending any of these sessions. I will be on clean-up duty from the Michigan Museums Association business and awards luncheon. So during this time, enjoy some free choice learning. I will not dictate where you should be.

Concurrent Sessions—4:00-5:15PM

Where I’ll be:

Salary Equity and More: Attracting and Retaining a More Diverse Workforce

As I’m writing this post, it is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Salary equity is critical for women in the workforce and especially in museums.

Other recommendations:

Navigating Corporate Donor Relationships

This is actually critical to the work we do. Without funding, none of us get paid, equally or not. Bring your cellphone or laptop and take a dive into corporate giving.

Saturday, October 5

A morning of coffee and flash talks sounds like a great way to wrap up the conference. Not sure if I will hop on a tour or explore on my own that day, but Saturday at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park sounds like a great way to contemplate the conference and rejuvenate before going back to work on Monday.

TBH, I’ll probably head out really early to go home and see my babies. I’m a working mom, and that’s why GEMM is so important to me. I would love to meet you all at the conference.


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