This past week the New England Museum Association (NEMA) hosted its annual conference from October 25-27 in Falmouth, MA. The theme of this conference was Truth and Trust: Museums in a Polarized World, and over the next few weeks, we will feature guest posts from Tufts grad students about their NEMA experiences and sessions.
The conference picked up right where it had left off on November 9, 2016, a day after the United States Presidential Election, where tensions seemed to run high in the art and culture sector following the results of the election. The conference organizers did effective diligence to the museum world by establishing an expert panel at the NEMA keynote ceremony moderated by Marita Rivero, the Executive Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Boston.
As a Tufts student, I felt a sense of pride in the fact that the topics covered in this panel, such as interpretive authority, repatriation, neutrality, and audience focus were all topics that we as Tufts students cover in our classes every week. I appreciated the ways in which the panel also struggled with the concept of truth, since one person or culture’s interpretive truth may not be the same as another’s. The truth is hard to portray, but we as museum professionals we need to seek as facts from as many perspectives as we can muster so that our truths are a little less subjective, and tell the stories of ALL parties involved.
There was also a sense of uncertainty among this panel when discussing neutrality. Many times we are taught that museums should be neutral, but such is not the case when social tensions and the safety of human beings are at risk. Neutrality actually takes a side of its own, because it is not taking a stance against the perpetrators of racism, sexism, or whatever it may be. Telling the truth is not always neutral………………..
With this sense of unity and comradery that conferences seem to bring about in museum professionals, it is of value to list some other upcoming museum professional conferences that may be of interest to blog followers.
The Association of Art Museum Curators – Montreal, Canada May 5-8
Museums and the Web April 18-21, 2018- British Columbia, Canada
American Alliance of Museums May 6-9- Phoenix Arizona
MCNMCN November 7-10, Pittsburgh, PA
Association of State and Local History (AASLH)- Sept 26-29 2018.
Small Museum Association- February 18-20- College Park MD
Now that I have laid some NEMA groundwork, stay tuned the next couple of weeks for in depth peeks at some of the specific NEMA conference sessions, and as the NEMA conference picked up right where it left off last year, we will pick up our posts right where we left them this week.