Sunday, October 2, 2011

edward + the alberta museums association

this past weekend i attended the annual alberta museums association conference, where i had the opportunity to do the following:

1. introduce the first keynote speaker, one neil pasricha (pass-reach-ah),
2. moderate a session on 'stealing ideas', and 
3. facilitate a brainstorming session.

conferences are an interesting thing. they're intended to encourage and equip, challenge and inspire. and this conference did do that. this year's experience, however, was different for me as i was involved in different ways than previously - less of a consumer and more of a producer. which i might enjoy more, actually. 

that said, what i was able to attend was helpful and often inspirational. i quite enjoyed neil's presentation. he was honest, funny, humble, transparent. he shared about his life, and why he began his 'blog, and what that has made possible for him. it's really about enjoying the small pleasures of life. i see it as cultivating thankfulness, or a celebration of grace. or seeking out joy. 

i was able to take in 3 of the sessions offered. i chose to attend talks about branding, a presentation of student papers and engaging audiences. i took something from all of them. i really appreciated jocelyn daw's discussion of brands as more than simply a logo, or a website design. a brand is about so much more than the aesthetics of an organization - one's "brand" encompasses one's values, their promises, addresses the user's expectations. it is more about how we do 'x', rather than why. after all, people commit to vision, not plans. a good reminder. 

the student papers were interesting, but i especially enjoyed jessie beier's presentation about the idea of 'play' and its role in "meaning-making". the presentation was fluid, creative (i love prezi!) and allowed her to play. then again, anyone who quotes baudrillard in the first 2 minutes of their presentation has my attention. moderating the session on stolen ideas was a first for me. what i really enjoyed was the generosity of the participants, the realization that stealing ideas requires adjustments (thanks diane for articulating that thought!). we can 'steal' an idea, but as we all engage different content and present that content in different contexts, the end result - whether program, special event, exhibition - will be quite different. we have to trust that, and not fear the sharing of ideas, and approaches.

my own session was inspired by this year's theme of celebrating our successes as museum professionals. over the past numbers of years, i have been a consistent user of the alberta museums association's list-serve. i am more than willing to ask for assistance, suggestions, resources from others - it adds to my own knowledge and enriches me and my work. in turn, i love being a resource for others and sharing what i know and encouraging (or challenging) others. there are so many creative, knowledgeable and passionate people in the museum community, i wanted to offer a workshop where we could take advantage of that collective resource. i sorted attendees into groups and then gave each person the opportunity to get input from the others in their group for a challenge, situation or project. 

when we neared the end of the session, i asked if people had received some suggestions or learned of resources they hadn't previously considered, and approximately 80% of the attendees raised their hands. then i asked how many people had discovered some solutions for challenges, situations or projects they hadn't even mentioned, and the same percentage of people raised their hands. that makes me happy. and pleased. there were some other ideas stirred and plots hatched this weekend, but i'm going to save them. let's just say, i'm looking forward to seeing what unfolds.

once again, i realized that, after more than a decade of working within the arts & culture sector, i am no longer a novice in this field (though there are so many brilliant individuals from whom i can glean and learn), and i felt increasingly affirmed as both a leader and contributor to the larger conversation in and with the community of museum professionals in alberta and beyond. 

i have more to learn. and more to give.