Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Very late AAM wrap up

I meant to post something after AAM in LA this May. Oops. I had some amazing experiences and met a lot of excellent people, including some people I've only known online or as a name on a listserv.

I stayed at the very cool looking Moroccan themed hotel where the rooms were not actually as impressive as one might hope for the price. But it was cool looking and an experience. I roomed with the delightful Ms. Perian Sully. We were in walking distance of the conference, which took place the same week as the American Idol finals. I saw no famous people that I knew, alas. But it was really funny to compare/contrast the AAMers and the American Idol groupies. Not that there wasn't overlap.

The conference: I attended a variety of sessions, including some in marketing and volunteer management which are so far from my homebase of collections work that I felt really out of the loop, but it was interesting to be there. Honestly, I took away less from the sessions (though there were some great ones) than from my personal experiences. The conference took place during a time of great uncertainty for me - my university was making cuts the week I was away and I knew I was being hit, but I didn't know how hard. So, unfortunately, I allowed my anxiety to taint some of my interactions. But at the same time, I learned a great deal and got really great advice from museum professionals I admire and respect.

I presented as part of a panel on Moving Collections for Small Museums. I had a great panel with two lovely and talented women from two very different institutions. The panel was well attended and went fabulously. It was kind of thrilling to be going to THE conference in the museum field and get to be a presenter.

What I am most proud of, however, is my interactions with people. I am an introvert with what may be some low grade social anxiety. I have trouble talking to people. But the conference gives you an automatic link - professionally! I found a few people I could go up to and hang out with at events, I arranged dinner dates, but I also met people randomly and had great conversations. I was meeting people I knew through other people. I was, I discovered, networking. Maybe not very well, or very efficiently, but I was making connections with people.

My favorite moments of the conference were experiences I was able to have at field trips/events. There was an evening event at the Getty. I hung out with Perian and her tech-peeps (who I view with a certain amount of awe) for a while, and then went exploring a bit. The Getty had a da Vinci show. It was... a religious experience. You walk into the first room and there's this enormous statue. By Donatello. And it's the real statue. At this point, you know they're not fooling around. The next three rooms are pages from the sketch books. PAGES. FROM. THE. SKETCH. BOOKS. The man's writing is right in front of me. The man's hand made these amazing images on this very paper. I was filled with a sort of amazement and joy. I wanted to giggle a little. I might have.

The other experience was a trip to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It was the next day, I think, after the Getty. And, wandering around the MJT, I had a very similar experience - not one of awe for da Vinci, but one of glee once I relented and let the absurdity/amazingness of the place wash over me. Just to explore and encounter the weird and wonderful was... wonderful.

The two venues are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the end result was very much the same. It was fabulous.

The best session I attended at the conference proper was "Beyond the Shiny Object: Mission Driven Museum Technology Development." It was the last session of the conference and included Nina Simon, Shelley Bernstein, Beck Tench, and Bruce Wyman, who are all fabulous and energetic and full of ideas. The room was full of ideas and totally vibrant and inspiring. It was the perfect session to end the conference with.

My biggest mistake: Not bringing enough business cards. Rookie mistake.

Overall, I had a great time at the conference. I think I'm getting the hang of these things.