Monday, January 31, 2011

Resource Hall Update

This just in from our resource hall coordinator, Andy Zellers-Frederick:

"We have hit the magic number of 20 vendors for the Resource Hall and the number is still growing.  To date we have registered:
The Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware
Storagelogic of Maryland
Design 3/Museum Rails
Hollinger Metal Edge
Jackson Pacific Inc.
Dorfman Museum Figures
Seaber Turner Associates
Americana Souvenirs & Gifts
Cinebar Productions
Heritage Preservation-Conservation Assessment Program
African Images
De Info Solutions
James Bradberry Architects
American Association of Museums
Catherine Adams Masek Historic Preservation Consultant
Severn Graphics
ResourceMate by Jaywil Software
Byers’ Choice Ltd.
O’Brien Systems
We are expecting a few more in the next few days!"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Conference Presenters: Amanda Bowman and Alexandra Gnafakis

We invite SMA conference attendees to participate in our roundtable: Floundering Historic Sites: What Can We Do To Stay Afloat? on Monday at 3:30pm. We will be discussing various sustainability issues facing historic sites and houses and the Friends groups and other volunteer organizations that administer them. Specific topics include innovative fundraising methods, diverse marketing and PR strategies, and the importance of cultivating a strong volunteer base. If you have something additional you'd like to discuss we'd be happy to incorporate it. Please let Amanda Bowman at know if you're interested in participating.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You never know what will happen at SMA!

If you’ve never attended the SMA Winter Conference, you are in for a treat, and if you have, well, you know how fun it can be. But you never know how the conference will change your life!
My first conference was back in 2002. I’d been to some of the larger conferences out there (AAM, MAAM), but I never felt that they really addressed the issues that I was facing at the various small museums I’d been working with. So when I was awarded a Scholarship to attend the SMA conference, I was thrilled.

The conference proved to be all I had hoped for and more – I attended sessions where I finally felt like the presenters really got what it meant to be a small museum. I met all kinds of great people, and learned a lot. But how, you might ask, did this change my life??

Well, one group of people that I met at that conference were staff and board members of the Greenbelt Museum. My husband and I had been looking for a place to live in the DC area, and had been going to the Greenbelt movie theater for awhile, but it was chatting with the folks from the Greenbelt Museum at the SMA conference that got me seriously thinking about Greenbelt as our future home. Soon after that conference, we moved into the community, I joined the museum board, and we’ve been there ever since! And I’ve been coming to the SMA Winter Conference ever since too, and now serve on the conference committee! 

So how with the SMA Conference change your life? Or has it already? Hope to see you there!

- Jen Ruffner, Speakers Coordinator

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SMA at Museums Count Meeting

Mike DiPaolo, SMA Board President, is attending the IMLS, AAM, and White Oak Institute meeting for the new initiative, Museums Count. We'll ask Mike to submit a follow-up on his activities there.

Here is more about the meeting:

Washington, DC—On January 25 IMLS, together with White Oak Institute and the American Association of Museums, will convene a group of museum experts to discuss data definitions for Museums Count, an IMLS initiative to build a comprehensive, real-time, web-based database of museums in the United States.
Lack of comprehensive information about the scope and size of the museum sector is a significant barrier to the development of sound museum policy in the US and also contributes to difficulty in sharing information among museums.

“To be successful, this effort must engage a broad cross section of museums and provide useful data for practioners, the public, researchers and policy makers. We are delighted that this project has generated so much enthusiasm,” said Susan Hildreth, director of IMLS. “Museums Count is an important step toward building a stronger evidence-based story about the integral role museums play in urban and rural communities across the United States.”

The purpose of the meeting is to develop a short list of high priority data elements and definitions that will be used to establish baseline information to characterize the US museum sector. The IMLS definition of museum includes aquariums, arboretums, botanical gardens, art museums, children's museums, general museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums, and zoological parks.

IMLS will provide future opportunities for all interested parties to review and comment on the data elements and definitions. 

IMLS is planning for a May 2011 launch of the Museum Count website and will encourage every museum in the US to participate.

Participants in the January 25 meeting include:
  • Christine Anagnos, Association of Art Museum Directors
  • Jessica Cahail, Cultural Data Project
  • Margo Carlock, Virginia Association of Museums
  • Randy Cohen, Americans for the Arts
  • Brian Crockett, Independent consultant
  • Terry Davis, American Association for State and Local History
  • Celeste DeWald, California Association of Museums
  • Michael DiPaolo, Small Museum Association
  • Robert Docherty,Official Museum Directory
  • Janet Rice Elman, Association of Children's Museums
  • Carolyn Fuqua, National Opinion Research Center
  • Angela Han, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
  • Kristen Laise, Heritage Preservation
  • Erik Ledbetter, Visitor Studies Association
  • Jessica Luke, Institute for Learning Innovation
  • Kit Matthew, Blackbaud, Inc.
  • Jill Norwood, National Museum of the American Indian
  • Steve Olson, Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)
  • Eric Pourchot, American Institute for Conservation
  • Terrie Rouse, National Capitol Visitors Center
  • Christine Ruffo, Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • Dan Stark, American Public Gardens Association
  • Stephen L. Whittington, Association of Academic Museums & Galleries
  • Dan Yaeger, New England Museum Association
To learn more about Museums Count, please contact Carlos Manjarrez at See also the Acting Director’s Message by Marsha Semmel from July 2010 for more information about IMLS’ museum research strategy. 

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

About the White Oak Institute
The mission of the White Oak Institute is to further innovation in the museum field through research, analysis, and dissemination of data-based findings drawn from museum operations to inform management’s major decisions and to advance promising innovations. The White Oak Institute, working with museum leadership, aspires to lead management-level research in the business and operations of museums. The White Oak Institute is a new (2007) nonprofit formed by the principals of White Oak Associates, Inc. (museum planners and producers), and it benefits from that firm’s resources and 36 years of service to the museum field. For more information, visit

About the American Association of Museums
The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 17,000 individual, 3,000 institutional and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present, and future. For more information, visit

Just Announced: NEH Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions

Preservation Assistance Grants help small and mid-sized institutions—such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, cultural organizations, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities—improve their ability to preserve and care for their humanities collections. These may include special collections of books and journals, archives and manuscripts, prints and photographs, moving images, sound recordings, architectural and cartographic records, decorative and fine art objects, textiles, archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, furniture, historical objects, and digital materials.

See the full announcement here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Traveling Exhibit Opportunity: Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War

The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, in partnership with the National Constitution Center (NCC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), is pleased to announce a large-scale tour for the traveling exhibition “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War.” Online applications will be accepted through May 5 at Funding for the exhibition and tour is provided by a major grant from NEH.
Two hundred sites will be selected to host the 1,000 square foot exhibition for a period of six weeks each from September 2011 through May 2015. Each site will receive a $750 grant to support expenses related to exhibition programming.  Participating institutions are expected to present at least two free public programs featuring a lecture or discussion by a qualified scholar on exhibition themes.  All showings of the exhibition must be free and open to the public.  Eligible institutions include but are not limited to public, research and special libraries; historical societies; museums; civic, community and heritage organizations; and institutes of higher learning.
Using the U.S. Constitution as its cohesive thread, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” offers a fresh and innovative perspective on the Civil War that brings into focus the constitutional crises at the heart of this great conflict. The exhibition identifies these crises—the secession of the Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties—and explores how Lincoln sought to meet these political and constitutional challenges.
“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” is supported by NEH’s We the People initiative, which aims to stimulate and enhance the teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture. For more information, including project guidelines, programming resources and the online application, visit

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deadlines!! CAP and AAM Advocacy Day

From Heritage Preservation:

This is a reminder that the deadline to apply for the 2011 Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) is Friday, January 21, 2011. The application is available on Heritage Preservation's Web site at

If you have questions about the CAP program, please call the CAP staff at 202-233-0800 or email

From AAM: 

Your Participation in Museums Advocacy Day 2011 is Important!
With more than 100 new elected officials and new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is critical that members of Congress hear from their constituents back home. Only you can convey the value of museums in your community!

Registration closes TODAY for Museums Advocacy Day 2011, Feb. 28–March 1 in Washington, D.C.

Register Online NOW
Print, Complete and Return the Paper Registration Form

Museums Advocacy Day 2011
On February 28 and March 1, museum supporters – staff, trustees, students, volunteers and advocates – will gather in Washington, DC for advocacy and issue training and a day of making our case on Capitol Hill. Will you be there? There’s still time to register for this two-day event, and AAM members attend for FREE! Registration is open through TODAY January 21, 2011. (After that date, registration requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis.)

This two-day event includes a day of advocacy training in coordination with advocates from your state, a Monday evening reception at the U.S. Botanic Gardens with Members of Congress invited, and a Tuesday morning Congressional Breakfast where Members of Congress are invited to address museum advocates, followed by a day of visits to the offices of your Members of Congress (scheduled by AAM). Please visit to learn more about Museums Advocacy Day.

Special Hotel Rate Also Available Through Today!
Hotel rooms have been reserved until January 21 (TODAY) at a special AAM rate of $159 at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, where the day of advocacy training and issue briefings will be held. Please call 202-687-3200 or 888-324-2111 to make reservations at this special AAM rate and note that you are with the American Association of Museums when you call to make your reservation. Book now before the room block expires!

Any other deadlines I'm missing?? 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

MAP Your Way to Excellence

From AAM about its Museum Assessment Program:

MAP Your Way to Excellence

"Our institution participated in the MAP program in 1987 and the experience put us on the road from a small historical society to the regional history museum we are today. At that time we were an institution of 3 full time staff, and a very small budget-less than $200,000.  Today-23 years later-the institution has a staff of 35, and is a major regional museum in Florida with a budget of over $3M....MAP is the best thing AAM ever came up with." -Sara Van Arsdel, Executive Director, Orange County Regional History Center.

The Museum Assessment Program (MAP) is an affordable way to strengthen your museum and achieve excellence. Within a year your museum can conduct a self-study, consult with a museum professional and gain the tools to become a stronger institution.

MAP is open to small and mid-sized museums of all types, including zoos, aquariums, public gardens, history museums, art museums and children’s museums.  Apply for one of three MAP assessments:
Collections Stewardship
Community Engagement

Apply now at The postmark deadline is Feb. 18th.

MAP staff are available to answer any questions at or 202-289-9118.

The annual application is supported through a cooperative agreement between AAM and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).   

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conference Presenter: Rebecca Lawrence

As we get closer to the big conference next month (have you applied yet?), we will be hosting some blog posts from various presenters, committee members, and others involved with the conference. This post is from Rebecca Lawrence, who is leading a session on Monday, February 21, 2011 entitled, ROUNDTABLE - SMA Book Club: Audience Participation and Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum.

I'm excited to be part of the first SMA book club about Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum. Her text raises key questions about how a museum defines its relationships with various audiences, addresses key trends in technology, how creating participatory programs cross traditional department lines, and ultimately how one participates in a museum! Information about her book can be found online at

It is a text that's inspired me to change the way I think about education programs at the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, our institution's presence on social media networks, and how our exhibit themes and objects relate to our visitors. Her real world examples and applications to the museum context even serve as great creativity exercises (for example, consider how the personalized voice we see in most major marketing campaigns can impact your institution in a positive way). Simon also provides a participation model you can modify for your own institution, that you can consider as you evaluate your projects.

  • How has reading her book left an impact on your practice? 
  • What questions has it raised for you? 
We hope to engage in a book discussion on one of the most popular books in our field.  If you've just started reading, what phrases, thoughts, examples resonate with you? Join me, Rebecca Lawrence, and engage in a discussion about the many ideas in Nina Simon's The Participatory Museum. Bring some of your own examples with you to our session and share with us on the SMA blog before and after the conference!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flip Through the PreConference Program!

Thanks to, you can now easily flip through the pre-conference program without having to download or click on any additional links. It's also available as a Google Doc for easily reading and printing (just use the file and print in the document viewer itself!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Conference Presenter: Miriam Musco

As we get closer to the big conference next month (have you applied yet?), we will be hosting some blog posts from various presenters, committee members, and others involved with the conference. This post is from Miriam Musco, who is leading a session on Monday, February 21, 2011 entitled, What Do They Want From Us? Understanding the Needs of Homeschoolers in Museums.

Here's a short quiz for everyone:  
When you see a homeschool group walk through your front doors, do you:
A) Scratch your head in confusion?
B) Cringe?
C) Jump for Joy?
If you answered A or B, I would suggest attending my presentation, "What Do They Want From Us?  Understanding the Needs of Homeschoolers in Museums".  You'll learn about the different types and philosophies of homeschooling and what each of them wants from a museum visit.  I hope that by the end of end of my session, you'll be able to answer C to this quiz.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Small Museum of the Month: Surprise!

It's a new year, and we hope that people everywhere will resolve to celebrate small museums everywhere in 2011! We are - and so, we're taking a month to celebrate all small museums! We hope that you will email us with a photo for a small museum montage that we'll show here (and if you'd like your museum to be a future small museum of the month, email us that too!).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Conference Presenter: Dean Krimmel

As we get closer to the big conference next month (have you applied yet?), we will be hosting some blog posts from various presenters, committee members, and others involved with the conference. This post is from Dean Krimmel, who is leading a double session on Monday, February 21, 2011 entitled, So What? How to find BIG compelling IDEAS that make your historic site worth visiting.

Ever been challenged by the dreaded “so what?” question? I can hear my professor’s voice now—more than 30 years later. Tell me why you want to research this topic. What can we learn? Why does it matter?

I’m hearing it more and more these days in my work with historic sites and history museums. Except this time it’s coming from the public—usually the local community. Well, the truth is, I’m sensing it rather than hearing the words. People aren’t asking us directly; they’re simply voicing their skepticism by staying away. In growing numbers.

So, what do we do?

First, let’s agree that it’s our responsibility to change people’s perception. Denial and anger only makes it worse. Second, let’s stop relying on mission statements, however well crafted, to communicate our interpretive messages and bring people through the doors. 

What we need are some BIG compelling IDEAS that have the power to stop a distracted public in its tracks, make our sites livelier, and energize our staff, volunteers and board. We need to begin asking ourselves the “so what?” question. We need to dig a little deeper into our mission and the history we interpret.

Are you up for it? Join me and your colleagues at “So What? How to find BIG compelling IDEAS that make your historic site worth visiting.” Together, we’ll get reenergized about the sites and stories we’ve come to love—and discover new ways to convince the public that we matter.