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Finding Direction at the UMA 2014 Annual Conference

Wednesday, October 22, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Amanda Felix Woolley
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Although working in a Utah museum for two years, I had yet to participate in a Utah Museums Association (UMA) conference. So I was very excited to get the chance to attend this year’s conference, thanks to a generous scholarship from the UMA.

I elected to head down to Cedar City early to participate in the pre-conference workshop on Monday at the Silver Reef Museum (sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council’s Museum Initiative). I loved it! The pre-workshop was definitely worth the time and money. We were given an opportunity to have some hands on training in a museum setting. Coming from a small museum, I related with the Silver Reef Museum and recognized many of the problems that they were faced with as problems that my own museum has. What I loved most about this workshop was the opportunity to discover the issues in the museum as a team without an “expert” and create ways to improve and correct on our own and then report back to the workshop leaders and get their input. Monday was a perfect beginning to what would turn out to be an outstanding conference!

The rest of the week we spent in classroom lectures with special keynote and plenary speakers. The keynote speaker, Elizabeth Merritt, was especially applicable to my (well really all) museums. She made us think about the futures of all museums and, most importantly, where we want to see our own museums go. Do we go completely high tech and start investing in every new technology? Or do we go old school and have technology free havens? Or do we scrap the physical museum all together and go completely virtual? These were the questions and scenarios posed to our museums in looking towards the future.

I can’t even begin to describe how useful and inspiring the classroom sessions were! It was a week of wanting to be in three places at once! There were classes for grant writing, volunteers, dealing with boards, using social media, building education programs, best practices for collections, and dealing with small museum concerns. One of my personal favorites was a class on staying inspired. Working as a nonprofit in a small museum, I find that it can be easy to lose motivation and forget my original inspiration. This class stressed the importance of finding inspiration not only at work, but also in your life away from the museum. Finding passion in life carries over to finding passion at work. One of the best things you can do for your work is to leave work! At first this concept seemed backwards to me, but Carrie Snow explained that being married to your work and always staying late can have a greater negative impact than positive on how you work. Constantly dealing with the stresses without a break can burn a person out. But if you can find happiness inside and outside of work, then you are more likely to succeed.

Another inspiring class that I attended is the Community Partnerships class by Todd Prince. The class showed that funding a small museum is not impossible! So often I will have ideas on an exhibit or a change that I would like to see happen but then I give up because I feel like finding the funding will be nearly impossible. But the Community Partnerships class illustrated how easy and abundant grants can be. There are so many untapped resources that I didn’t even know about.

Another great facet of the conference was the networking. We were given plenty of opportunities to meet with other museum administrators or volunteers from museums all over the state. This gave us a chance to see what other museums are doing and also see how they were tackling similar museum related problems.

I guess the most important thing that I took away from this conference is hope. I know what my museum lacks and now I feel like I have the knowledge to fix it or at least begin to fix it! I still don’t have all the funding that I need or want but I have the resources that can allow me to begin to make small changes and implement new policies and procedures so that when I do find the funding, my museum will be ready to make the changes and have a support system in place that will insure their success. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference and someone from my museum will definitely be in attendance. 


Amanda Felix Woolley is the Museum Manager at Ogden’s Union Station, where she manages all four museums at the Ogden Union Station: The Utah State Railroad Museum, The John M. Browning Firearms Museums, The Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum, and the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. 

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