BY: WILLIAM HOLLINGSHEAD, DIANE PELLICONE, MADELINE SMOLARZ, LISA TERECH, AND ALISON WARD
Kingston City Hall. Image Credit: Madeline Smolarz
The 2017 Ontario Museum Association (OMA) Conference took place in Kingston, Ontario from October 11 – October 13. Five out of the ten members of the GOEMP Committee were able to attend the 2017 OMA Conference, and because we know that these events are not always accessible to emerging museum professionals in our province, we wanted to provice a recap of what happened in Kingston last week in our own words. Read on to find out each member’s thoughts on the following points:
1) Their favourite session
2) Their favourite non-session moment
3) Their best networking tip that they put into action
4) Their thoughts on the 2017 OMA Conference theme – “Renewal”
5) Their hopes for the 2018 OMA Conference in Toronto
William Hollingshead, Vice Chair
1) For me the best session was “A Fresh Approach To Meeting Conservation Standards” by Fiona Graham. This session was a great breather from the collections conservation stress we all face in smaller community museums.
2) Trivia Night! It was a blast connecting with all our fellow EMP’s from across the large province and finally getting to spend some time in person with our committee.
3) Don’t be afraid to step up. Ontario EMPs and professionals are all a welcoming and inviting community. Step up, shake someone’s hand, and make the conversation you want to happen or the difference you want to see.
4) Renewal is such a strong topic that we are all currently facing in various ways within the sector. As EMPs I believe that it is our time to shine and take on the challenge of helping encourage and drive our museums and the sector down this road to renewal.
5) For the 2018 Conference I hope to connect again with the great EMPs from across the province as Toronto is a little bit more accessible for more to attend. I also hope to work together with the OMA and our GOEMP Committee to really make our presence as EMPs stronger and more diverse at this coming conference.
Diane Pellicone, Conference and Programs Co-Chair
1) My favourite keynote speaker was Elizabeth Merritt, Vice President of Strategic Foresight and Founding Director of Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums. Her presentation about trends forecasting in the museum industry was not only fascinating, but fun! She was very natural on stage and was inspiring to watch. My favourite sessions were “Case Studies in Working Through Non-Traditional Exhibits” and “Re-Think! A Workshop Exploring New Ways of Looking at Your Collections and Turning Them Into Exhibits.” Incidentally, both sessions were led by staff members from Heritage Services, Regional Municipality of Halton (I think that team is onto something!). They each introduced unique points of interest that I believe museums at every level could appreciate and adopt when creating an exhibition experience.
2) I enjoyed meeting new people! I connected with GOEMP committee members I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person (hi Alison, Will, and Madeline!), watched Lisa win a well-deserved award for Emerging Museum Professionals, and met a ton of EMPs through my colleague and friend at the Royal Ontario Museum. It was great to just listen to everyone’s “origin story” and share our common struggles and successes with each other.
3) Don’t be afraid to approach strangers at conferences. I was very impressed with how students from University of Toronto, Fleming College, and elsewhere presented themselves. Armed with business cards and questions, they sought out EMPs and established professionals, and weren’t afraid to ask them what they could do to improve their career prospects. They were prepared and ready to engage!
4) Being Canada 150, it is important to recognize that our road to renewal remains a long, difficult journey that won’t be resolved at just one conference. We can all do better. And as long as we continue to fight for change and commit to reconciling with our past, museums in Ontario and across Canada, have a future.
5) While Toronto is still much too far for many northern museums to visit, I hope that its centrality within the museum community helps encourage more institutions to send their employees to the conference and take advantage of these professional development opportunities.
Madeline Smolarz, Communications Chair
1) My favourite session was “Not-for-Profit Martyrs: Avoiding the Workaholic Trap” presented by Jenny Mitchell (CVO of Chavender) as a “lunch & learn” session on Thursday, October 12. Workaholic attitudes in the non-profit workplace are rather prevalent and can unfortunately be rather damaging to professionals at all stages in their careers. The environment in this session was so supportive, from Jenny’s attitude to the audience’s feedback. I felt well-armed with advice and more than ready to advocate for myself and others after this session.
2) How am I supposed to pick 1 moment?! Trivia Night was a blast, of course, especially as I was able to play Trivia Master for a round, and seeing the GOEMP Committee’s Chair Lisa win the OMA’s Promising Leadership Award of Excellence was a huge (and wonderful) surprise at the Awards of Excellence Reception. However, meeting my Conference Connections Mentor Cheryl Blackman from the Royal Ontario Museum was possibly my biggest highlight. I’ve looked up to her and admired her work on diversity and inclusion for years, so to meet and talk museum careers in person was astounding.
3) At one point, the Conference hashtag #OMAConf2017 was trending as many museum professionals shared great snippets of their experiences. I used my Twitter account and this hashtag as a way to reach out not only to people and organizations in attendance, but also those who were not present. At one point, I met up with someone who I’d been trading tweet likes with for ages, and we both had a laugh over how wonderful it was to make an in-person connection, as awesome as Twitter is.
4) To me, renewal is a never-ending process in response to a world that never stops changing, so my first impression was that the OMA had chosen a daunting Conference topic. However, the ways renewal can be achieved were presented through such a wide array of sessions and activities that I think any museum professional in attendance was able to take away valuable tools, case studies, tips, and advice that they could apply to their own practice and workplace. Well done to the Conference Programs Committee who shaped the selection of sessions!
5) I hope EMPs achieve an even greater representation at the 2018 OMA Conference in Toronto through attendance, session topics, session presenters, the Conference Connections program, and GOEMP Committee activities. I know the Committee is going to work hard to do our best to make these things happen, but we’d love to hear comments and suggestions from the community too as the next Conference approaches. Everyone is welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Lisa Terech, Chair
1) I only have the perspectives of Thursday’s line up to offer, but I thoroughly enjoyed what they day brought. The morning’s keynote by Library & Archives Canada‘s Guy Berthiaume touched on different ways to engage with audiences through new methods. His overall theme to the importance of GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) in today’s time of ‘Fake News’ was particularly important.
2) I have two moments. The first would be seeing GOEMP’s Trivia Night successfully delivered! The committee worked together to create the questions and donate the prize to the winning team. Now in its third year, Trivia Night has quickly become a conference favourite. My other favourite moment was the honour of receiving the Ontario Museum Association’s Promising Leadership Award of Excellence. I’m so fortunate to have teams standing with me, advocating and supporting EMPs in Ontario, and promoting heritage and culture in my hometown of Oshawa.
3) I didn’t put this tip into action for OMA 2017, and as silly as this tip may seem, I often recommend wearing something that will make you stand out (while still being professional, of course). I once wore black and white checked shoes to a conference, and people came up to me and said ‘I remembered you from those shoes!’ Conversation was made and business cards were exchanged. Wearing something that makes you stand out is always something that I’ll recommend.
4) I believe the OMA chose a rather timely topic for this year’s conference. Museums are constantly seeking new ways to demonstrate their relevance, importance, and vitality, and the term renewal nicely captures this. It is always inspiring to learn from our colleagues from all over the province.
5) I’m looking forward to the conference in 2018 and hope the GOEMP Committee can continue its relationship with the OMA, making their annual conference a welcoming, engaging, and inspiring experience for EMPs. I hope we can continue with programs like Conference Connections and Trivia Night, and perhaps work the the OMA to create even more opportunities for EMPs.
Alison Ward, Member At Large
1) I won’t be unique in saying that Elizabeth Merritt’s keynote presentation was both delightfully engaging and incredibly perceptive. The future of museums is currently a common topic, but she brought new and important ideas to the discussion. The runner up goes to the session “Case Studies in Working Through Non-Traditional Exhibits” by the team at Heritage Services, Regional Municipality of Halton. The presentation was well-structured, informative, honest, and interesting.
2) It was fantastic to see the GOEMP’s Committee leader, Lisa, being recognized for all her hard work. Lisa deservedly accepted the OMA Award for Promising Leadership. Additionally, when accepting her “moose trophy’, she shone a little of her light on the committee and it was a great moment of exposure for the group’s efforts. Congratulations, Lisa!
3) Definitely talk to people in the food lines. Delegates were hungry and the lines were long, and it was a great occasion to break the ice.
4) The tone of the conference was optimistic, which was refreshing and inspiring! It is sometimes easy to focus on the challenges and struggles of our field, but sessions were uplifting and ambitious.
5) I think Toronto will be a great host for 2018’s conference. The GOEMP Committee has plans to increase its level of participation in the conference and is excited with the possibilities. I also hope there will be more cake.
We hope you enjoyed everyone’s perspective on the Conference. This was the blog’s longest post yet, so we appreciate you sticking it out to the end! See you in Toronto in 2018!
The beautiful Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons