Friday, March 30, 2007

Add YMP to Your RSS Feeds

Okay, you asked for it, so here it is (I hope). Follow this link and add Young Museum Professionals to your RSS feed.

Benefitting from Professional Organizations

Upon beginning graduate school, I received a list of books that I needed to purchase for my classes. Among the litany of expenditures was a membership to the American Association of Museums. Frankly, I was annoyed that I had to shell out $50 from my student loans for an organization that had little to do with my life. Looking back, getting involved with a professional organization from the outset was a good idea and a savvy way to stay involved with my new career. But before you go overboard joining different groups, I have just a few thoughts.

1. Scope out all of the organizations that you might be interested in joining. Since joining can be a costly endeavor, it pays to understand what you are getting into. There are dozens of professional organizations that might appeal to you and your chosen field, but only a fraction of them will really be of help. While I think that AAM is a great organization and highly recommend joining, it really doesn’t help on a local level. Investigate museum associations in your area. Each region of the country, most states, and many large cities have some kind of association that helps you network with colleagues and offers professional development. Also, be sure to check out organizations that appeal to specialty areas like history, education, visitor studies, exhibitry, etc. They are generally less expensive than larger associations.

2. Budget for membership fees. I have heard that it is smart to budget 5-10% of your salary for professional development which includes memberships, classes and conferences. If your museum pays for professional development, you should count your blessings. Most institutions pay only partially for such affiliations and frequently only to top level staff. Think of it as an investment in yourself and your career.

3. Get involved. You don’t pay the admission fee at Disneyland and then hang out on the bench in front of the Matterhorn all day. You have to get involved to see any benefit. Attend meetings or conferences, volunteer for committees, and introduce yourself to your colleagues. While the main reason most people join professional organizations is to have access to job listings, only those who get involved will learn about the opportunities that go unannounced.

4. Don’t over commit. For most young professionals, being over committed is more of a problem than not being involved at all. Be judicious with how you spend your time. Don’t volunteer to sit on several committees. You will do yourself and the organization a greater service by doing a great job at one or two things than doing a half-ass job on three or four (or more) things. Understand the scope of your commitment and, if necessary, get permission from your supervisor at work. Every museum benefits from heightened prominence when its staff is serving on professional organizations. Often your museum will allow you to do your service during office time.

5. Rotate. It is easy to get entrenched with one organization because you like the people and have made good contacts. But, it is important to find new challenges and to get a different perspective. After being involved with an organization for 3-5 years, look around for a new place to get involved. Ask your colleagues to recommend an organization for you to try out. By all means, stay in touch and remain a member with your old organizations, but focus your energy on a new enterprise to diversify your skills.

Working in a museum is a fun and rewarding career, but all too often we get discouraged or exhausted by distractions and obstacles inherent with each individual institution. Professional organizations provide crucial opportunities for professionals of every age to connect with peers, seek advice and advancement, and reinvigorate their minds. Now, if I could only listen to my own advice.

AAM's Emerging Professional Initiative

Find out about the latest AAM tools to help develop your career. See what else is out there including events, blogs, and more that have all been designed with you in mind. Learn how you can receive $1,000 towards professional development as the winner of the Nancy Hanks Award. Check out AAM’s Emerging Museum Professionals (EMP) site at

Are you coming to AAM’s Chicago meeting? EMPs are everywhere in the Windy City! Be sure to catch these two events:

(E)merging Professionals Reception Monday, May 14, 5 pm - 6:30 pm, Cash Bar Meet your peers for drinks, nosh, and lively conversation.

Emerging Museum Professionals Listening Session Tuesday, May 15, 12:30-1:30 pm We want to hear from you! Talk to us about the skills and resources that young professionals need to succeed in the museum field. Suggests ways in which museums can nurture leadership at every level. Tell us how AAM can support emerging museum professionals. Bring your insights, suggestions and comments to this listening session.

For more opportunities to learn and network while you’re in Chicago, visit

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Are Museum Educators Necessary?

I got this email a few days ago, and it seems like an interesting (if depressing, for us educators) topic for discussion, and a worthwhile survey in which to participate.

Some museums are organizing their staffs in new ways, distributing responsibility for what has traditionally been the work of museum educators among other staff, with other titles, in other departments.

We want to find out more about this trend and invite you to fill out a short survey. Please go to:

We will share the results at the session, "Are Museum Educators Necessary?" at the American Association of Museums Annual Conference in Chicago. The session is Wednesday, May 16th at 2:00 pm.

Thank you!
Gretchen Adams and Jill Sanderson
Museum Education Roundtable Board Members

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Finding a balance

Hi, my name is Jason…and I’m a workaholic. Please excuse my taking some liberties here, but for my installment I would like to take a slight departure from the “professional” aspects of our jobs and focus more on the “personal”…or at the very least, how to balance the two.

As some of you may know, my wife and I both work in the same museum—I in Education and she in Development. Four months ago we had our first child. It has been a most joyous time, but we have begun to recognize the strain that being so dedicated to our jobs can take on our “home time”.

This past week has been a prime example. We’re both in the midst of finalizing budgets, preparing for the end of the fiscal/school year, and keeping everything around us moving forward. I had two 10+ hour days in the office, and she had 3. Emails were pouring in all weekend. We found ourselves stretched to the limit to try and fulfill the time-sensitive needs of work and to spend the quality time with our son. Now, to clarify, our son comes first…but we still wonder about how to balance the two.

While my wife and I are still trying to find the answer, how have you managed to balance the professional with the personal? Are there model programs in place at your museums that help you find this balance…or at least support you to find one?