Program Perspective: Top Ten Reasons Poster Sessions are Great

By Lorie Millward

The Western Museums Association (WMA) 2014 Annual Meeting Poster Session is the second edition of, in what we hope, will be an ongoing program opportunity for years to come. I love me some poster session, and here’s why:

10. Posters are a great way to introduce a project or case study that may not be ready for a for a full-fledged conference session.

9. If you’re looking for feedback about an aspect of your work, the mighty poster is an ideal way to kick-start that conversation.

8. Posters allow students with an eye to museum work the opportunity to share the great things they are learning and working on.

7. The session happens during a food break so there is a guarantee of snacks and a decent chance of coffee appearing.

6. Emerging museum professional that present posters have the chance to meet and talk with other museum people and make important connections.

5. Posters are full of nice pictures and graphs. Who doesn’t love a good graph?

4. It is an excellent time to meet new colleagues and practice the networking tips that Wendy Meluch gave you in her Networking 101 pre-conference session (FREE on Sunday, October 5 immediately before the FREE Opening Reception).

3. Presenting a poster is good for your CV/resume/scrapbook.

2. Having discussions with cool people about new ideas and interesting work is a pretty great way to spend some time.

 And the number one, numero uno reason I love the poster session is…

1. It’s like going to a museum! The room is literally filled with cool graphics, informative text, new or challenging ideas, and amazing people who have dedicated their time to making museums essential community places and spaces.


A lot of work goes into boiling down an important project to the most essential parts and then fitting it all onto a 3×4 piece of poster board. The Program Committee has selected a group of posters that should provide for an engaging and thought-provoking session at the Las Vegas 2014 Annual Meeting in October. We are happy to announce the 2014 Annual Meeting Poster Session presentations:

Breaking the Mold: Exploring Exhibit Genres Allison Inkley, Collections Technician, Museum of Peoples and Cultures, Brigham Young University

Collection Mapping: Organize Your Collection for a New Facility Michael Fiegenschuh, Student, University of Washington and Architect, Mithun

Common Core Standards: Many Paths to Museum Educational Competency Alexa Beaman, Museum Studies Graduate Student, University of San Francisco

Creating Successful Social, Online Communities Lauren Valone, Program Coordinator, Western Museums Association and Web Content Manager, MD Conference Express and Libby Vieira da Cunha, Online Community Consultant, Joan Mitchell Foundation

Establishing a Base: Documenting the Collections and Archives at the Neon Museum Maggie Zakri, Docent/Archivist, Neon Museum

Exploring Collections Advocacy in Natural History Museum Exhibits Katharine Baldwin-Corriveau, Student, John F. Kennedy University

Inviting the Unexpected: Making Space for Community Expression Lisa Soccio, Gallery Director, Marks Art Center at College of the Desert and Krystal Glasman, Gallery Assistant, Marks Art Center at College of the Desert

Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well: The Journey of Reuniting Objects and Stories Jessica Simpson, Student, Brigham Young University

Museums’ Training Programs for Seasonal Educators in Alberta, Canada Shannon Kraichy, Masters Candidate, University of British Columbia

The Museum Financial Donation and Its Ethical Spectrum Jessica Horowitz, Student, John F. Kennedy University

The “Watch Us Move” Exhibit: CHM’s First Foray into the Meta-Museum Movement Michelle Nash, Assistant Collections Manager, Coos Historical & Maritime Museum

The Unmanaged Collection: Solving Big Problems with Little Resources Melinda McCrary, Executive Director, Richmond Museum of History and Patricia McCloy, Student, John F. Kennedy University

Whatever you do, don’t skip the 2014 Poster Session (did I mention the coffee?) to be held the morning of Tuesday, October 7.

See you there!

Lorie Millward is the Curator of Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point Institute in Lehi, Utah. She was on the 2013 and 2014 WMA Program Committee, as well as on the 2014 WMA Poster Review Committee.

MOA’s Native Youth Program: Perspectives on touring Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth

By Nicole Brabant

This summer at the UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA), public tours commenced for a bold new exhibition called Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth. Curated by Pam Brown, Claiming Space features contemporary art by young Indigenous artists from around the world. It opened on June 1, 2014. This summer, museum visitors had opportunities to tour the exhibition with six urban Aboriginal youth in the Native Youth Program (NYP), a seven-week program in its 35th year at MOA.

Each year, six youth from the Greater Vancouver area are selected to participate in the NYP and learn various aspects of working within a museum environment. They give public tours, do research projects, and participate in presentations and workshops by MOA staff. Indigenous guest speakers and artists also work with the interns to help them complete arts- and media-related projects. Most importantly, the youth have an opportunity to connect with each other in a supportive environment as they develop new skills. Brown’s work as Director of NYP inspired her to develop the Claiming Space exhibition, along with artist/filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Curatorial Assistant.

Claiming Space provided a new focus for this summer’s NYP interns as they developed programming around this exhibition. Museum visitors were able to hear Aboriginal youth present and respond to artwork produced by other Aboriginal youth.

"Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth" continues at MOA until January 4, 2015

“Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth” continues at MOA until January 4, 2015

In the first two weeks of the internship, NYP program staff assisted or trained the interns to give tours by fostering engagement with contemporary art, and helping them develop an arts vocabulary along with presentation strategies. Just as the artists in Claiming Space created works in response to their lived experiences as urban Aboriginal youth, so tour preparation included learning about such issues as the missing and murdered Aboriginal women and the Idle No More movement, to ensure they would have a general understanding of the context. Another crucial aspect of their orientation was providing the youth with tools that would enable them to discuss challenging subject matter, such as racism and alcoholism, in a way that would be safe for themselves as well as museum visitors.

The youth began delivering public tours of Claiming Space in the third week of their internship. It’s been exciting to watch them develop insight into the artwork, and to witness their growth as they become more and more confident to engage with museum visitors.

NYP intern Tyler Sabbas explains Harry Brown’s “Media Machine” to museum visitors.

NYP intern Tyler Sabbas explains Harry Brown’s “Media Machine” to museum visitors.

There have also been instances where NYP interns have made personal connections with specific works in Claiming Space.

The first thematic grouping in the exhibit is “The Indigenous Sprawl.” In this section, the artists present urban spaces as sites of ongoing colonization. NYP intern Tyson Hall chose an untitled poem by Anna McKenzie that addresses the issue of alcoholism within Aboriginal communities. He believes that it is important that this issue be addressed and communicated to the general public because of the impact and legacy of Indian residential schools on Aboriginal people.


NYP intern Tyson Hall presents Taleetha Tait’s “Sun Eagles” drum.

The third thematic grouping, “Adapting Our Traditions,” examines the way that traditions are morphing and adapting today. Carmen Lockhart, a returning NYP intern, relates to the frustrations expressed by Sámi artist Marja Bål Nango in her installation, Giesan Giesan. In the video, a young Sámi woman is trying to wrap traditional Sámi ties around her boots, and as she does so, a computer-generated female voice criticizes her actions, saying that she is doing it incorrectly, as though she were a non- Sámi woman, and that she is stupid. Lockhart explains that some urban Aboriginal youth know very little about their specific cultural heritage, and it can be difficult to find sources or people to teach you.

The final section of Claiming Space, “We Are The Keepers,” illustrates the impact of modern consumer culture on traditional values, as seen through the eyes of a generation whose daily reality is informed by globalization. NYP intern Sarah Wilson chose to remix an animation by Raymond Caplin, Traditional Healing, into a photograph. In Caplin’s animation, a young woman walks into a polluted black-and-white forest. She begins to dance, and as she moves, colour begins to seep into the frame as the plants begin to heal in response to her dance. Wilson likes this depiction of how traditional dancing made the pollution recede and the land come alive again—she says Caplin’s work made her realize that the singing and dancing that took place during the Idle No More protests were an attempt to heal the environment by stopping the pipeline expansion.

Video still from Raymond Caplin’s animation Traditional Healing; Sarah Wilson.

Video still from Raymond Caplin’s animation Traditional Healing; Sarah Wilson.

Although the young emerging artists in Claiming Space address many difficult issues in navigating their worlds, Pam Brown and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers believe it is important to also acknowledge and celebrate their bold insights and exciting visions for the future. Just as many of these artists focus on themes of resurgence and revitalization of Indigenous culture, so too have the NYP interns during their summer at MOA.

This year’s NYP program comes to an end on August 22, 2014. However, Claiming Space continues at MOA until January 4, 2015.

Nicole Brabant is Cree Métis from Saskatchewan. Having more than a decade of experience working as a post-secondary Art, Art History, and English instructor, she is presently the NYP Program Manager at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

Eight Questions to Consider Before Launching Your Museum’s Crowdfunding Campaign

By Maren Dougherty

Earlier this year, our team at the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles launched an online crowdfunding campaign for our exhibition about Route 66. In 60 days, we raised more than $60,000 for the exhibition, including more than $40,000 through the Indiegogo platform and $20,000 in offline donations.

We were pleased with the results of the campaign, but we also learned a lot about the process and the amount of effort required. It’s similar to a Route 66 journey: there are highs and lows, landmarks and long stretches of nothing—and every trip is different. That said, we’re happy to share our experiences with the Western Museums Association community, and we’ve structured our advice in the form of questions to ask your team before embarking on a journey like ours.

Inside the finished Route 66 exhibition

Inside the finished Route 66 exhibition

Eight Questions to Ask

1. What are your goals? We launched our online crowdfunding campaign to raise additional funds for the exhibition and related programs and to generate buzz about the exhibition before the public opening. We felt the Route 66 theme was a perfect opportunity as the Mother Road has fans worldwide.

2. Are you prepared to collaborate? If you also have a two-fold goal to raise awareness and funds, your Marketing and Development departments will need to work very closely on the campaign’s messaging and execution. We divided the work fairly evenly between the departments. Marketing oversaw video production, set up the campaign, sent mass e-mails, managed press relations, and posted social media updates. Development approached individual donors, processed donor information, and fulfilled perks.

3. Are you ready to work hard? Because of the success of campaigns for projects such as the Veronica Mars movie, the Reading Rainbow app, and yes, the $50,000 potato salad, some people seem to think that you can just set up a crowdfunding campaign site, offer a few perks, and money will appear. It’s rarely that easy. According to Kickstarter, fewer than half of its projects (44%) are fully funded by their deadline. Whether you are trying to raise $10,000 or $100,000, to be successful, you have to hustle just like you would with any other fundraising effort.

Like most campaigners, we also underestimated the time it took to fulfill perks. Collecting T-shirt sizes, responding to questions from donors, compiling RSVPs for events—the time is significant, and it’s important to identify a staff member who can dedicate the hours needed to make sure the campaign is a positive experience for everyone involved.

4. How can you start this thing with a bang? As Indiegogo has noted, campaigns with momentum are far more likely to reach and exceed their goals. Prior to launching our Route 66 campaign, we discussed it with our board of trustees and presented it at an all-staff meeting. The morning of the campaign’s launch, we sent e-mails to our database (about 20,000 subscribers); sent press releases and pitches to individual reporters; posted about it to social media; and messaged various companies and associations related to Route 66. We received a lot of media attention that week. The catchy target amount of $66,000 for a Route 66 exhibition seemed to help, as did the fact that few other museums in Los Angeles have launched major crowdfunding campaigns.

Screenshot of a newspaper article about the campaign

Screenshot of a newspaper article about the campaign

5. Which platform is right for you? A lot of people ask us why we decided to use Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter or other platforms. With Kickstarter, you must raise the full goal amount in order to receive the money. We weren’t comfortable taking that risk.

6. How will you maintain the momentum? Even if you raise a quarter of the funds in your first week, you’ll still have a long way to go. What tactics will you deploy to continue to collect donations—send periodic e-mails, add new perks, add on-site signage, post funny videos? It’s also important to identify existing donors who may be able to contribute mid-campaign to give it an additional boost.

Indiegogo reports that 22% of funds are raised as a result of traffic from social media posts, that people give 20% more money when clicking through e-mails than from any other source, and that 239% more money is raised by groups who provide updates at least three times during the campaign.

Design of table tents we placed in our museum cafe

Design of table tents we placed in our museum cafe

7. Do you have a plan for accepting offline donations? Even though Indiegogo and Kickstarter make it easy for people to give online, many of our donors said they would prefer to send checks. If we had required gifts to be made online, we might have lost about $20,000. Instead, we accepted the offline donations and simply noted on our campaign page that we had received additional offline funds. It’s fun to see the online progress bar move closer to the target, but we needed to keep our primary goals in mind.

8. Is your organization ready to be bold and creative? There will only be one $50,000 potato salad, but who knows what’s next!

Some related news articles and resources are listed below. If you have any questions about our Route 66 campaign, feel free to give me a shout on Twitter @MarenReport.

News and Resources

Maren Dougherty is the Director of Communications and Marketing for the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles. Prior to joining the Autry, Maren was the Director of External Affairs for the Balboa Park Online Collaborative in San Diego.


What’s Happening California? An Ongoing Museum-University Co-Curation Project

By Suzanne Fischer

What does cosplay have to do with training the next generation of museum professionals? In the Oakland Museum of California’s (OMCA) What’s Happening California series college students become the heroes of the exhibit development process.

The What’s Happening California series is an ongoing collaboration between OMCA and California State University (CSU) campuses across the state. The project goal is to develop an on-going community co-curated presence in OMCA’s Gallery of California History, involve university students in exhibition and collections development, and increase the diversity of stories and artifacts from across the state that are represented in the museum. Over the course of two semesters, OMCA staff work with students to develop a 300 sq. ft. exhibit about contemporary issues in their community. Students choose the topic, conduct research, identify objects for the show, work on labels, develop multimedia, and help guide exhibit design. With the support of the Institute for Museum and Library services, the partnership has so far produced three exhibits in collaboration with public history students in Sacramento, Fullerton, and San Diego.

When OMCA engaged in a major reorganization and reinstallation project, we wanted to make sure that the history we told in the Gallery of California History went right up to yesterday, and we wanted to make sure that co-creation work would be ongoing and visible. The CSU system was a natural partner: with a diverse student body, 23 campuses across the state, and a variety of history and social science programs with exhibit practice components, we found great collaborators in the students and teachers who enthusiastically pitched in, despite some growing pains as the project developed.

The first show, What’s Happening Sacramento?, was co-curated by a public history class taught by Lee Simpson at Sacramento State. Told mainly through first-person labels from the perspective of students and community members, the show presented a selection of diverse stories related to Sacramento’s rivers. It was anchored by exceptional artifacts with compelling personal stories: frogging poles used to hunt frogs on the Sacramento River, bandanas created by women farmworkers who are survivors of abuse in the fields, a kayak owned by the founder of a famous Sacramento kayak triathlon. This show received a Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

The What's Happening Sacramento exhibit.

The “What’s Happening Sacramento?” exhibit.

The CSU Fullerton students in Benjamin Cawthra’s public history classes developed a timely, broadly relevant theme for their exhibit, Hard Times in the OC: the 2008 recession in Orange County. In cooperation with the Center for Oral and Public History at CSU Fullerton, they conducted oral histories with community members affected by the recession. They interviewed pink-slipped teachers, anti-austerity Occupy activists, short sale specialists, people who went into debt to keep up with the “OC image,” the director of a group that kept a state park open despite a non-existent state parks budget, people who kept their Disneyland memberships no matter what their financial situations, the director of a Latino/a theater group thriving despite the recession, people who were unemployed and looking for work: in short, a diverse cross-section of the Southland in the 21st century.

Fullerton student Carolina Zataray visiting "Hard Times in the OC"

Fullerton student Carolina Zataray visiting “Hard Times in the OC”

This year, graduate and undergraduate students in Sarah Elkind’s public history classes at San Diego State University developed Sunshine and Superheroes: San Diego Comic-Con, an exhibit on an important contemporary issue in their community: the enormous annual comics convention in their town. The show is about fantasies: personal and cultural fantasies of being a superhero, as well as civic fantasies of the power of a tourist economy. It explores the role of Comic-Con in the way San Diego sees itself; during the con, the city replaces trolley signs with signs in Klingon and other invented languages. We have a Klingon trolley sign in the show. Two costumes help us think about the way Comic-Con and comics represent gender: a fierce Batwoman costume and a more sexualized Harley Quinn costume. The show also explores how comics culture has become mainstream popular culture. The students also developed an interactive experience where visitors can try on costumes and take photos against different backgrounds.

SDSU students and OMCA staff pose in the "Sunshine and Superheroes" exhibit.

SDSU students and OMCA staff pose in the “Sunshine and Superheroes” exhibit.

With each collaborative project with CSU students and their local communities, OMCA learns more. We look forward to learning even more while working with our new partners, an anthropology class at San Jose State University, on a new exhibit this fall. Each project has introduced students to museum work and to the practice of contemporary history. Each project has helped the museum become the “museum of California,” a place where diverse visitors from across the state can see themselves represented in exhibits and programs. Each project is a laboratory for deepening our practice of collaborative work. In this year’s show, it was a laboratory with capes and masks.

Suzanne Fischer is Associate Curator of Contemporary History and Trends at the Oakland Museum of California.

Program Perspective: Diversifying Your Donor Base—Beyond Trustees and Members!

By: Suzanne Hilser-Wiles

So many museums suffer what some might consider a “happy problem”—generous support from board members and a robust membership program, but very little philanthropic activity between the two. While board support and a broad-based membership effort are important for the current financial stability of your organization, success in these areas might, in fact, be masking a serious future problem: lack of a true pipeline.

It isn’t difficult to see how this situation arises. Most museums have very small fundraising staffs, so focusing on your most generous donors, very often your trustees, makes perfect sense. At the same time, visible and generous support from a handful of prominent local philanthropists can make some donors feel like their smaller gifts are not as necessary or not as valued by the institution. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the size of a museum’s membership base is often an institutional focus because it tends to drive visitorship and is, itself, an important marker of an institution’s health—the all important “are we growing?” question!

By figuring out ways to grow the pool of donors between membership and board leadership, we are creating not only a pipeline of future prospects for our largest gifts, but also increasing operational support today. So what do we mean when we talk about those donors “in the middle”?

  • For some museums, it means Leadership Annual Giving—donors whose annual gift moves beyond the transactional relationship associated with general membership to an investment in the museum and its programs.
  • For some museums, it means a major gifts program that allows donors to help off-set the costs of exhibitions and programs with targeted gifts that are smaller than those from lead sponsors.
  • For some museums, it means both!

Developing a program for these donors that is manageable for your institution requires thoughtful planning and disciplined execution. Before you get started, here are some things to consider:

  • Do we have annual giving levels that inspire people to “move up” from membership?
  • Are we using messages about philanthropy, not just about benefits, as we talk to these prospects?
  • Have we made these programs simple enough for our staff to manage effectively, but diverse enough to engage a broad spectrum of people?
  • Have we designed donor programs that will attract prospects who are likely to stick with us?
  • Do we have opportunities for program support that are attractive to prospects?
  • Do we have a clearly defined program for recognizing and stewarding these donors?
  • Do we have the support of our institutional partners (in the curatorial departments, finance, and marketing and communications) in these efforts?
  • Have we developed fundraising opportunities that are budget-relieving?
  • Once we identify and engage some of these donors “in the middle,” how will we manage them?

WMA2014_GeneralBannerFor a museum fundraising staff that is small, moving beyond managing the board and membership, not to mention an often heavy events schedule (events—that is a topic for another blog post!), can be daunting. Most importantly, I would suggest the need for a thoughtful plan that begins with the goal—what are we trying to accomplish by focusing on these donors—and reflects institutional resources, focus and financial goals. Many museums have done this well (some of which we will hear from at the Western Museums Association 2014 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas), but most would tell you they still see untapped potential in this prospect pool. However, with a careful plan in place, even the smallest staff can grow and diversify its donor base, moving beyond the board and membership to engage donors at all levels.

View the full session description for Building out Your Mid-Level Donor Base

Registration is open for the WMA 2014 Annual Meeting. Register today and join your Western museum colleagues in Las Vegas!

Suzanne Hilser-Wiles is a Vice President at GG+A, where she oversees the firm’s practice area for Arts & Cultural clients and serves on its senior leadership committee. Before joining GG+A, Suzanne served as the Vice Chancellor for Advancement at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, a free standing, public conservatory. She has held senior fundraising positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and CancerCare, a national organization serving people with cancer and their loved ones.

Program Perspectives: Playing the Numbers—Learning the New Tools of Museum Finance

By Marjorie Schwarzer

A first glance at the Western Museums Association 2014 Annual Meeting Program

Marjorie Schwarzer

Marjorie Schwarzer

My husband and I put it off as long as we could. But after our beloved house’s gutters leaked a greenish slime that was seeping into the wooden supporting beams, we bit the bullet, canceled plans, tightened our belts and ponied up for a new roof. Although the sudden financial bite was large; the cost of not re-roofing would’ve been far greater. And it could have all been avoided if we had just paid a bit more attention over the years to the roof over our heads, strategically replacing it at the rate of a few shingles per season instead of enduring the mightily expensive one-time punch of a sudden major construction job. The silver lining is that we saw a warning sign before our entire home was in danger of succumbing to dry rot. And luckily, we had set aside a rainy day fund that could cover the cost of re-covering our nest. We have resurfaced, safe and sound.

Unfortunately, arts and cultural organizations have not been so lucky. Many do not know how to recognize the warning signs of potential financial danger. Even more do not have a sufficient rainy day fund to cover unforeseen messes. This was true even before the Great Recession. A report titled Getting Beyond Breakeven, commissioned by the Pew Trust in 2007, found almost 40% of nonprofit cultural organizations were slowly oozing resources. Their operating expenses over the years were flat, but income was falling, meaning that “green stuff” was slowing leaking away. If this trend continued, they risked collapse. Working with outmoded tools for measuring and assessing warning signs, they were continuing to patch up crumbling budgets with layoffs and shortsighted cost-cutting rather than making over-arching changes to their operations. Obviously an already shaky situation took a turn for the worse during the Great Recession. Many arts organizations emerged with less working capital and resources than ever to cover basic infrastructural needs.

The consequences of not recognizing and responding to financial and other kinds of organizational warning signs are dire. They go beyond the short-term pain of layoffs, and canceled programs. By not continually assessing where they stand and making adjustments as well as bold moves when necessary, non-profits risk for-profit corporate takeover, compromised missions and the loss of a precious community resource.

A desire to help empower everyone who works in museums to get in front of financial and structural challenges was the motivation behind Playing the Numbers: Learning the New Rules of Museum Finance, a session I will be co-presenting with Dr. Robyn Raschke and Deborah Frieden at the WMA 2014 Annual Meeting this October 5-8, 2014. The purpose of the session is to review and explain simple techniques of financial analysis that you can use to gain a coherent and clear picture of your museum’s financial and administrative underpinnings.

Robyn Raschke, an innovative accounting professor at the Lee Business School at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is a passionate museum visitor who is excited to meet those of us who work behind-the-scenes in institutions that she loves to spend time in. An inspiring teacher (yes, financial accounting can be inspiring!), she will focus on how museums might adapt the Balanced Scorecard approach to financial planning. More comprehensive than the familiar SWOT method of diagnosing an organization, Balanced Scorecard was developed in 1992 at the Harvard Business School for identifying, measuring and, most important, integrating your organization’s key attributes and goals. The technique has since evolved from an attractive but passive document into the “daily marching orders” for an organization’s staff and board. Its framework not only provides performance measurements, but also helps organizations identify what should be done and measured.

Since one common strategy for improving and upgrading an organization’s infrastructure is a capital campaign, it seemed wise to invite an expert who has seen it all! Deborah Frieden is well known in our field for her rigorous work leading complex capital improvement projects for museums and other community resources. She will review techniques for determining whether and how to take on a responsible capital improvement plan for your museum.

I’ll add to the Monday morning session by leading you through some ways to measure your organization’s fiscal strength with a few deceptively simple calculations that are part of the re-tooled graduate financial and cultural management course I teach at University of San Francisco.

So: load up on coffee, charge up your calculator and get ready to count some beans with us in Las Vegas at the Playing the Numbers session. We hope you’ll leave with some useful tools for staying on top of your museum’s finances and planning for a safe and sound future.


To register for the 2014 Annual Meeting attend this session, please click here. ‪

Marjorie Schwarzer is Administrative Director at the Graduate Museum Studies program at University of San Francisco and a former WMA board member and program committee co-chair. She holds an MBA in non-profit finance from the University of California, Berkeley, has a roof over her head, enjoys crunching numbers (sometimes).

Program Perspectives: A Changing Las Vegas

Jerry Schefcik

Jerry Schefcik

Dear Colleagues,

I am excited to welcome you to my home city of Las Vegas for the Western Museums Association (WMA) 2014 Annual Meeting. Nevada is celebrating its Sesquicentennial anniversary this year, and as I reflect upon where we’ve been, it brings to mind all that is new here in Las Vegas. This year’s theme, “Expect the Unexpected,” is certainly apropos!

We all know Las Vegas as an entertainment and tourist capital, but more recently it has been going through a cultural renaissance. Many new museums have opened with more in store for the coming years. Downtown Las Vegas is undergoing a transformation with many new small businesses, a designated Arts District, a monthly First Friday, the Container Park, the Smith Center, and a renewed sense of community. The emergence of new museums that are uniquely Las Vegan is helping to define who we are. Of particular interest this year are specific conference sessions that focus on Las Vegas’ unexpected art venues and our uniquely Vegas collections.

We Las Vegas museum professionals certainly look forward to illuminating our cultural institutions for you, our peers. The Evening Events—Vintage Vegas: The Mob Museum & the Neon Museum, and Atomic City: The National Atomic Testing Museum—promise to give attendees a special insight into my city’s museums. Pre-Conference Tours can also show you the richness of southern Nevada, from the Hoover Dam and Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, to the Clark County Museum, Lost City Museum, Wetlands Park, Valley of Fire State Park, and two amazing studios that are becoming house museums. I particularly look forward to the final afternoon of the 2014 Annual Meeting as the entire conference moves to the Springs Preserve. This is truly a free-choice programming aspect, as attendees will have the opportunity to learn and connect with one another during regular sessions, in the galleries, on special tours, and at WestMusings | Ten Minute Museum Talks.

A view of the Las Vegas skyline from the Springs Preserve

A view of the Las Vegas skyline from the Springs Preserve

I was honored to serve on the 2014 Program Committee, and while it was an intense experience, it was also very rewarding. This year, our focus is on training, networking, and specific professional tracks that include Business, Leadership/ Careerpath, Collections, Technology, Visitor Experience, and Community Engagement. I can speak on behalf of the Program Committee by saying we gave careful consideration to each session proposal and the programmatic flow. I am pleased with the over 50 sessions and workshops that we selected. These sessions and their panelists represent the most thought-provoking topics facing museum professionals today.

The keynote speaker this year, Mark Hall-Patton, will be a highlight of the conference. Don’t miss it! He brings years of museum experience, astute observations, a disarming sense of humor, and a spot-on evaluation of the relevance of museums.

I am looking forward to the 2014 Annual Meeting in October as my colleagues and I welcome you to Las Vegas. There is 1 week left for the Member Early Bird Registration rates! Non-members can still save if they become members and register!

Register today and save!

Jerry Schefcik
Director of Galleries
University of Nevada Las Vegas