By Christopher Reich
Senior Museum Advisor, IMLS
The last weekend in March brought over 100 museum professionals to the middle of Arkansas to explore the “state of state museum associations” during a two-and-a-half-day retreat at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art.
Sponsored through a cooperative agreement between IMLS and the American Alliance of Museums, this special initiative’s purpose of is to share, explore, and identify the characteristics of a successful, sustainable state museum association and the barriers to success and sustainability. Over 80 representatives from 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands joined a small group of IMLS and AAM staff members to share ideas about the purpose, characteristics, and services of state museum associations. With facilitation by Randel Consulting Associates, the participants worked in small groups to identify stakeholders and partnership opportunities, while sharing their successes and challenges in meeting the needs of a myriad of diverse museums in their individual states. On the last afternoon, the participants recorded the key commitments they’ve made to help their individual state museum associations be more successful and sustainable. Many of them found a “buddy” to help them follow through on the task in the months to come!
We owe our deep appreciation to the staff of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for providing a beautiful and peaceful setting for our convening. The amazing galleries, meeting rooms, and surrounding grounds provided a perfect setting for our group, along with that “southern hospitality” that we all know and love.
The convening was a great learning experience and lots of fun, and it was incredibly inspiring to be reminded once again of the amazing dedication that fuels our field, the remarkable spirit that accomplishes great things with limited resources, and the power of networking to build communities and strengthen practice for people from diverse regions and backgrounds. We applaud the leadership of such talented and enterprising professionals who are supporting museums that are making a difference in the lives of people in communities across the nation!