Monday, May 9, 2011

ANSM Conference 2011 - Part 2

Having to work at the conference meant that I didn't get to hear each presenter, but from talking with the attendees, I think it's safe to say this conference was a success.

Our keynote speaker was Scott Mair from the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.  He sang songs, he dressed up as a dragonfly, and he gave some really great advice on how to develop interactive and engaging programming.  He shared some solid stats that prove your visitation, revenue, and community buy-in will drastically increase if you take yourself a little less seriously and have a bit of fun.  He also provided a host of inexpensive ideas that any museum can incorporate into their work.
For the past couple of years we've had best practices panels - show and tell 2.0.  These sessions are always very popular since the presenters are all ANSM members and are very open about successes and challenges of their projects.  This year we had two panels - Out and About, and Close to Home.  In Out and About, we heard about Ross Farm's re-enactment of the New Ross Freighters, ox teams that carried goods from New Ross to Chester.  We also heard about Digby's annual fundraiser SAILabration, and about a group of museums along the Yarmouth-Acadian shore that joined forces to update interpretation and create a more cohesive network.

Josh and I presented on our qr code project while the second best practices panel was taking place, but I've heard that people learned a lot from the Glooscap Heritage Centre, Highland Village Museum, and Memory Lane Heritage Village speakers who addressed the issue of creating culturally relevant and engaging programming.  The other session that I missed was David Carter's - looking at what constitutes a good interpretive idea, and why some things that sound good may never work.

Dr. Dean Oliver (Canadian War Museum) delivered a general address on how to tell difficult stories.  Dr. Oliver reminded us that a difficult story can be anything that is "an important, visible, contested subject, challenging, yet within one's realm of professional competence, having high audience or public interest, and the possibility of substantial institutional impact".  This is what museum visitors are looking for, and is reflective of the shift from "tell and know" institutions to "help and understand" institutions.  As the Canadian War Museum continues to make this transition, it is finding that its audience-base is expanding.

Sally Warren ended the day with a talk about designing accessible programming for schools.  She gave us some very good points to ponder:
1. Schools want kids to learn how to think and to learn by  doing.  Museums have the primary resources to enable this.
2. Teachers want to clearly see how museum activities link to curriculum so they can evaluate their students' participation in the program.
3. Start small - develop one program and do it well.
4. School programs need to include on-site and off-site work, pre- and post-visit activities for the teacher to facilitate, and on-site activities led by museum staff and volunteers.

The AGM was attended by a dedicated and engaged crowd on Saturday morning.  It was a pretty standard meeting with one exception.  It was voted to move our annual conference to the fall.  Anita has been talking to our members about this for some time now, and what we've heard is that this will work better for everyone.

See you next year in the Southwest!

1 comment:

J Goreham-Penney said...

Sounds like the conference was really successful. Doesn't surprise me at all to hear that the presentations were all of such a high caliber, the presenters are all smart, inspiring heritage professionals.

Going down to southwest Nova for next year's conference, you say? Great region, beautiful terrain and fantastic heritage sites. Can't wait! I hope I'm able to attend.