It was great to be back and attending another AMA conference. The conference is always fantastic, and I know I always go away having reconnected with friends and colleagues, met new people, and learned tons. There are always so many great sessions, and its impossible to go away without new ideas or ways of thinking.
This year’s conference was also perhaps particularly sobering, as there was a focus on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, and how museums can participate in reconciliation, as well as involving new immigrants in our sites and activities. It was hugely important stuff, and I’m glad we could all come together to start discussing these issues and adjustments that need to be made- even if they are not easy discussions to have. This has to start, of course, with facing the truth, and realizing that Canada is not perhaps the country we think it is. With everything that is great about Canada, we also need to face the truth about the terrible things that have happened. We need to realize that actions have consequences- and that these actions are not in the far distant past like we might think. The last residential school only closed in late 1996. The consequences are, of course, going to be ongoing. We also need to realize that there has been misinformation and silence, and we are all affected. We need to be willing to acknowledge what happened, and go forward in reconciliation, to figure out how to address the wrongdoings, let people tell their stories, and to make real change. It is our responsibility as individuals, and in our institutions, to facilitate discussions, placemaking, healing, cultural revitalization… This may be a long, and hard process, but it needs to happen. We started on this in a follow up to the keynote discussion session, where we were asked to respond to 4 questions:
1. What does reconciliation mean to you?
2. What does reconciliation mean for your work in museums?
3. What is the biggest challenge with reconciliation?
4. Going forward, and starting right now, what is one concrete action you can commit to right now?
A good place to start for everyone.
There were, of course, lots of other sessions on a range of topics.
Also timely was one on increasing accessibility for new Canadians, and the challenges and benefits of doing so. Museums need to be welcoming and safe spaces for everyone in our communities, and that includes immigrants and refugees. Do we see our community reflected in our attendance? Is our community represented in our museum? Some takeaways: be inclusive, build on existing programs, partner with other organizations, give space, be patient and understanding, give intercultural awareness training to staff. Try new things, make intentional friendships, let it go , get rid of barriers, be open, form relationships, and celebrate cultures. Being flexible and open will allow us to be welcoming, vibrant spaces, where all community members feel welcome.
There were also sessions on collections, social media, collaboration, and research, which all had great takeaways on strategies and goals.
I also loved the session on CSI: Curatorial Research- the RAM worked with forensic investigators from the police and fire department to apply new research techniques to artifacts. Really interesting, and another great example of collaborating with community partners, and thinking outside the box.
Of course, there was tons of great food throughout the conference, which is always a nice bonus! (although it did make me wonder about sustainability, and where all those leftovers were going….)