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AAMC 2013

Posted By Sarah M. Wolfe | Curatorial Assistant, Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Monday, July 22, 2013
The 2013 AAMC Annual Conference in New York was my first experience with the organization—and in fact, my first professional conference overall. I am very grateful to the Luce and Kress Foundations for providing a travel grant to enable me to participate! One of the themes that ran throughout the conference—and really stuck with me—is the idea that we curators, and museums in general, need to step outside of our research projects and consider new ways to engage diverse communities that don’t necessarily think of an art museum as a destination. As a curator at the beginning of my career, I’m not particularly wedded to only one method of displaying information, increasing foot traffic, or generating exhibition ideas. As Holland Cotter put it in his keynote address on Monday morning, to influence art history, we need to present original concepts in fresh ways. We work in historically classist institutions and so there is a constant need to bring our collections and scholarship out to where the non-museum-goers are. I found the Dallas Museum of Art’s new program of membership-by-affiliation to be an intriguing way of bringing new people into the fold—visitors are rewarded for participation and also receive a much more personalized experience. And although there were definite rumblings among the curatorial masses, the DIA’s concept of developing exhibitions in close concert with education teams likely reflects many mission statements—the Mint Museum’s commits us to engaging and inspiring all members of this global community.

In addition to the food for thought provided by the panel discussions, the mentor/mentee program has been very helpful. I spent a wonderful hour with a veteran in the field, asking many questions about my areas of interest (contemporary craft) specifically and how to grow as a curator. I’m encouraged to seek out more opportunities to develop my knowledge and credibility (i.e. getting papers published and delivering public lectures). While I have already had excellent mentoring experiences with my own supervisor, it was valuable to discuss the curatorial experience from another institution’s perspective. My mentor and I have continued to communicate and collaborate on ideas after the conference; this connection is enlightening and I’m looking forward to continuing as my career develops.

I also attended the Public Speaking workshop presented by Barbara Tannenbaum. Much of the information presented was not new, but I appreciated the fact that the program was tailored to curators. The idea that "all speaking is public speaking” is empowering and has made me consider my words and behavior very carefully. As I develop my career and build credibility, I now have more information to make a bigger impact on my audiences (whether at a public lecture, a board meeting, or a conference with colleagues), and feel confident that I will make an intelligent, professional first impression.

My first AAMC experience has been a wonderful one. I wasn’t sure what to expect—I had just been advised to learn a lot and meet as many colleagues from across the field as I could. I was fortunate to have lunch with several peers who are also fairly fresh to the field, and came away with a great deal of information that I hope I can use to make myself a better curator and my institution a better art museum. Based on my experiences in New York in 2013, I am very much looking forward to Houston in 2014.

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