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News & Press: President's Message

We Are On Fire

Saturday, May 12, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ryan Paul
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I have the privilege, or some would say the punishment, of working with the Boy Scouts in my community.  Every time Troop 350 prepares to go on a campout, especially in the drought prone environment in which we live, we discuss the rules of fire safety.  Even a small rogue spark could transform the landscape into a towering inferno (note the 1970’s awesome disaster film reference).  In my recent travels I have witnessed many of these small moments, ideas that have germinated like sparks and transformed communities through education and interpretation.

I was asked by Amanda Arthur at the USU Museum of Anthropology to present at one of their “Saturdays at the Museum” events.  These programs include a speaker and family friendly activities based around a theme.  They produced a schedule of topics ranging from Pirates to Forensic Science, Jazz to Chocolate, and Disability Awareness to honoring Utah Veterans.  My assigned subject was “Exploring the World of Comic Book Heroes,” which is an academic interest and to be honest, a hobby of mine.  I can’t speak to the success of the presentation, but the activities the museum provided were on the spot.  Seeing an organization involve the community in such a way and provide a service that meets their mission is exciting.

My trip up North also gave me an opportunity to attend the Utah Heritage Foundation conference.  The pre-conference workshop with Dr. Estevan Rael Galvez, an officer with the National Trust for Historic Presentation, was inspiring.  He spoke about the power of history and the way we use it to build community, create a sense of place, and engineer the future.  The workshop encouraged us, and to a larger extent the museum community, to focus on fiscal sustainability, structural integrity, and programmatic quality.  He invited us to be innovative, imaginative, and creative in designing our stories and the way in which we tell them.

Dr. Galvez primarily spoke about historic sites, but I think his points are applicable to most museums when he said, “We should think about historic sites (or museums in general) as a living laboratory for preservation, history, design, or an incubator for whatever issue is core to the site.”  I encourage you to rediscover what your core issues are and evaluate how effectively you are communicating them to your visitors.  This workshop really got me thinking, and I would love to bounce some ideas off anyone who would care to.  You can contact me at or (435) 586-9290.

I also had a chance to attend the Salt Lake educators meeting.  This is a group of museum educators in the Salt Lake area who meet monthly to discuss relevant topics and issues they are dealing with and share ideas with one another.  It proved refreshing to sit in a room with people who are passionate about what they do and are not shy in their love of education.  Seeing committed people like that group is one of the things I love about working in museums.  I would encourage you to look around your area and see if you can create a group like this.  Also look to the UMA website to become involved with our statewide community.

Two more quick pitches:  1) If you have not been to the Springville Museum of Art in a while, repent and go.  The education team, under the leadership of Jessica Weiss, has put together a way cool family friendly exhibit about art and animals.  Plus, that is where I really learned how to love and hate a painting.  2) Stop by the ISDUP in Salt Lake.  I had not been in there since I was a boy and was blown away by the changes.  Be sure however, if you take your scouts, to have the fire lecture and secure their matches.

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