Inspiration in Minnesota
The first week of May I was in Minneapolis for the American Association of Museum annual conference. The conference was invigorating and inspiring in many ways, not just in regards to my museum day job.
The sessions on various topics relating to museums are always fascinating, but something about this conference was different. Maybe I’m becoming a seasoned veteran at these things, knowing which sessions to pick better each time. Maybe I’ve just gotten a better sense of what I find interesting about my work and what I want to learn more about. Whatever it might be, I was more engaged and energized this year.
More than just learning about how to do my job better, it really gave me so many insights into my career and why I chose to the work I do. I was reminded time and time again about how important stories are in telling history, making the past come alive, and allowing community to connect with their own personal histories and share them with the world. An exhibit at the Minnesota History Center called “Open House” was absolutely engaging in telling the stories of the lives of families who lived in one house in St. Paul through the years. It was amazing to see how even the smallest things like telling a story of a birthday party in a backyard can be made engaging to a museum visitor.
My big grad school project was so similar to this- I worked with a local historical society on an exhibit that told the story of the Portuguese community in the town. It was such a wonderful project to help them bring together their stories, artifacts, and really be proud of their past. That’s the kind of work that I find compelling and amazing. It is so great as history person to help another person connect with their ancestral past or memories and have those things be put in a place of honor in a museum or book. There was nothing more fulfilling or meaningful then allowing someone the opportunity to be proud of their family, their heritage in a public setting. I talk so much of wanting to connect and engage visitors and after four years of working in my current job, I often forget about how to do that when presenting an exhibit or writing an interpretative label. The conference reminded me of why I got started in this field to begin with and has really pushed me to think about how I can be doing more of this enlightening work more in my current job and whatever comes next in my career.