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News & Press: Annual Conference

Explore the Conference Theme: Ride the Relevant Rails

Wednesday, December 12, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jami Van Huss
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A few months ago, a lovely woman visited the Hyrum Museum and during the course of our visit she asked me, “So, do you just dust all this stuff when people aren’t here?” Twenty emotions hit me at once---anger, disbelief, confusion, shame... Luckily, I composed myself and simply replied, “Yes, and a few other things too.”


After she left I thought about all the things I could have said---what I should have done to “educate” her about the museum, about my role and responsibilities, and about why it’s all relevant. After all, it’s not the first time I’ve realized that there are those who just see museums as places to collect a bunch of old junk. I’ve been to more than one meeting where I’ve explained that museums are tools for education---they’re places to tell stories, to learn about heritage, to have conversations, and to create a sense of belonging so community members can make personal connections and safely engage with one another.


So how do we ensure that we are relevant? How do we demonstrate to our funding sources and audiences that we are cultural community resources that matter? Whether your museum is tied to art, history, science, or any other topic, your museum can absolutely be relevant to the community. If you are actively trying to reflect your community by creating interpretive exhibits, developing programs, and establishing a sustainable museum, then you are demonstrating relevance to the community. Don’t be afraid to assess traditions and missions to ensure that they reflect the community as it changes. Embrace where the community is headed and what it needs and don’t be afraid to move boldly forward., where should you start?


The majority of Utah museums are like mine---small, underfunded and understaffed. We don’t have a large staff to bounce ideas off or can pull from collective experience. Sometimes, just keeping up with the visitors coming in, caring for the collection, and---yes---dusting and completing other maintenance issues, takes all of our time. That is why I look forward to the UMA conference every year. Participating in the conference---both learning and teaching---have absolutely helped me to demonstrate to my community and funders why the Hyrum Museum is relevant to the community. Plus, developing a network of fellow professionals and volunteers that I can contact throughout the year has also been a remarkable resource for me.

So, if you are wondering about ways you can enhance the RELEVANCE of YOUR museum---then come and Ride the Relevant Rails with me! Plan on attending the conference AND consider submitting a proposal, you absolutely have something to offer!

Jami Van Huss is the Director of the Hyrum City Museum and serves on the UMA Conference Program Committee as Co-chair.

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