Thinking About Museums: BCMA Conference 2016

Regardless of your profession, networking with peers, sharing tools of the trade, and meeting industry leaders is always a rewarding and reinvigorating experience. Museums are no different. Last week, staff from the Whistler Museum were fortunate enough to attend the annual conference of the BC Museums Association. The fact that it was held right here in Whistler this year, was an added bonus.

Over three eventful days, roughly 150 museum, gallery, and heritage professionals from across the province and beyond converged on our little mountain town to talk shop. Dozens of workshops, panels and plenaries were held on wide-ranging topics from digital history and new media, to indigenous science, best practices for serving children and seniors, and far, far more. A gala dinner recognized top achievements in our field and provided a welcome social outlet after our long and eventful days.

Jackie Chambers, Education & Outreach Manager at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum demonstrates her innovative "Beaty Box" program of environmental education outreach boxes.

Jackie Chambers, Education & Outreach Manager at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum demonstrates her innovative “Beaty Box” program of environmental education outreach boxes.

Keynote presentations from world-leading museum professionals reminded us to not become lost in our daily tasks and lose sight of larger moral and philosophical questions like our role and responsibilities in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, our potential as centres of civility in an increasingly uncivil world, and an exploration of the concept of family as a useful metaphor for museums, our communities, and our nation as a whole.

 

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An employee from the Sikh Heritage Museum in Abbotsford accepting one of 3 awards of merit that were awarded at the “Peaks of Success” awards banquet. Congratulations to all the winners!

What’s more, it was a great opportunity for us hosts to showcase our work to our peers. In that respect the Whistler Museum, the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre, and the Audain Art Museum were honoured to open our doors to conference attendees and invite their impressions and feedback.

Three of us at the Whistler Museum also presented a well-attended panel. We focused on sharing advice and success stories to help other small museums “punch above their weight class,” increase their presence, and better serve their communities. Brad Nichols, our executive director, gave a history and overview of our operations while highlighting easily replicable strategies related to branding, partnerships, admissions, and more. Alyssa Bruijns, our Collections Manager, shared tips and tools to better manage a large, constantly growing, and at times overwhelming archive with limited resources. Jeff Slack, Programs Manager, focused on a topic near and dear to his heart, blogging, and why every museum can and should do it. We learned a lot from the panels that we attended, and we hope we were able to make a similar contribution.

Part of a panel presentation on Museums and Digital Media had us dreamboarding about digital projects we'd like to pursue.

Part of a panel presentation on Museums and Digital Media had us dream-boarding about digital projects we’d like to pursue. Was it all just a ploy to recruit potential students for the new Digital Museum Studies program at the Centre for Digital Media?

We’ve come out of the conference with a host of new ideas, reenergized to pursued them and with a strengthened sense of community among our fellow colleagues whose expertise and support is a mere email or phone call away. And as fun as it was to play host and showcase our home town (cold October rain and all), we are excited to do it all over again next year in beautiful Victoria.

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