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News & Press: Annual Conference

Conference Preview

Friday, May 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
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 I’m a big believer in the power of a preview; in fact, I often get as much enjoyment from the previews before as I do the feature film. So I am here to give the UMA membership a preview to the 2018 Annual Conference. This year’s conference theme is Museums: A Catalyst of Belonging. It’s a theme that the UMA Board is pleased to bring to its membership.  We are hoping that the sessions, talks, posters, and conversations at this year’s conference spur lots of introspection and action in Utah’s museums.  


So what do we mean by a catalyst for belonging? Former UMA Keynote speaker, Nina Simon gives us one definition when she said, “culture belongs to everybody, and, as stewards of cultural heritage and producers of culture, museums should involve and showcase the diversity of voices within our communities. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody’s art goes on the wall, but it means looking at every person who walks through your doors as a potential contributor to the work that is happening inside.”  Museum professionals (I include volunteer-run museums in this term) can fall victim to thinking that they know best what the public wants to see, what museums should collect, what stories  they should tell and what activities visitors will enjoy. This can be for a myriad of reasons, tradition, time crunches, budget cutbacks, board pressure, wanting to be like another museum, but they all lead to the same result, a museum that doesn’t reflect its community.


Simon goes on to say, “If we want our institutions to exist for everybody in our communities, if we believe that art, history, and science are relevant parts of everybody’s lives, then we should be doing whatever we can to involve all kinds of people in museums, not just the ones who want to consume the mostly male, mostly white products that have historically been vaunted in such venues. We have to ask how our museums can reflect, comment on, and celebrate the plurality of cultures and artistic practices in our communities.” We hope that this year’s conference will get attendees thinking about how they work and for whom they work.  Museums should be venues for conversation and understanding, creating safe spaces for dialogue through narrative, collecting, programming, and discovery.


How can we find ways to welcome and represent the marginalized groups within our communities?  How do we nurture the courage and conviction to add more voices to the choir and create something better amongst our institutions? Now I am not going to pretend, that this conference will give you all the answers you need, but it can help start the process. The offered programming hopes to help you begin to navigate the issues facing your museum, staff, and volunteers.  The UMA Board feels that learning from the experiences of colleagues both within and outside the museum field who are  committed  to creating a culture of belonging in Utah Museums is the best place to can start.   


So we ask you to please join us for this year’s conference this September. 

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