Friday, February 25, 2011

A Thank You from Conference Presenter Ann Barton Brown

I was so impressed with the SMA annual meeting and all the wonderful dedicated folks I met there that I wanted to give back by sharing a checklist of information that every director, administrator or Board President should have at their finger tips. I started this about ten years ago as a first time professional executive director and entered into a museum in chaos. I have been adding to it over the years. We use it when presenting Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations Museums 101 workshops. If you have anything to add to the list, shoot me an email. Many thanks and looking forward to seeing you all again next year. Ann

Thank you from SMA Conference Chair!

It was great seeing familiar faces and meeting new friends at this year's annual meeting in Ocean City, Maryland. In about a month, the SMA conference planning team will meet to recap the highlights of our time spent in Ocean City and will brainstorm on how to improve all aspects of the conference for 2012. We hope you take the opportunity to review selected sessions online on our blog, which you may have missed during the conference. Please feel free to email us if you have any suggestions for speakers, roundtables, sessions or even ideas for
a future conference theme.
Thank you again and see you next year!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sample Press Release from SMA Conference

Did you attend this past week's conference? SMA has a sample press that you can customize to meet your museum's needs. You can either edit a copy here (Google Docs) or copy and paste the version below. If you use the Google Docs version, please download it to your computer versus saving the version on Google. Thank you. If you have questions about using it, please email for more information or for an attachment version.

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Media Contact:
Lauren Silberman
Publications Chair

The Small Museum Association Hosted 27th Annual Conference

Ocean City, Maryland – [INSERT YOUR MUSEUM NAME HERE] attended the 27th annual Small Museum Association Conference (SMA) in Ocean City, Maryland from Sunday, February 20 – Tuesday, February 22, 2010. Over 260 people from small museums across the country attended the three-day event. The [INSERT YOUR MUSEUM NAME HERE] believes strongly in engaging with other museum professionals and keeping up with best practices and cutting-edge ideas in the museum field.

“In today’s challenging environment, it’s increasingly important for museums – large and small – to come together and work in a collaborative fashion to help preserve our nation’s history and treasures. Many people are not aware that small museums comprise the overwhelming majority of this country’s cultural sites, and as such, it is critical that we find ways for these institutions to endure,” says Ken Hickman, immediate past president of the Small Museum Association and director of Penn State All-Sports Museum in University Park, Pennsylvania.

This year’s conference featured speakers who engaged attendees with a variety of topics, ranging from strategic planning to educating homeschoolers to managing traveling exhibitions. Comprised of seasoned and emerging museum professionals, the speakers helped members solve everything from basic problems like managing volunteers to monumental issues such as dealing with a fundraising crisis. Additionally, they discussed innovative ways small museums can reach their audiences using the latest technologies. The diverse topics were beneficial to every level of museum professional.

In the Museum Resource Hall, attendees visited with 30 exhibitors in a variety of museum-related professions, including exhibition design, software development, and publishing.

Each year, the conference selects a different theme. This year, SMA incorporated a “Night at the Small Museum: Bringing Museums to Life” theme. Attendees dressed as living black and white photographs, artifacts come to life, and more clever concepts. They participated in a “tableau vivant” or living pictures, in which different groups staged famous paintings for the rest of the conference to guess.

The conference featured a silent auction with items from a number of museums, including a plane ride in a historic 1940s vintage aircraft courtesy of the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Delaware. Proceeds from the silent auction go to support the scholarship fund for future conferences.

The Small Museum Association is an all volunteer organization serving small museums in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond. SMA's mission is to develop and maintain a peer network among people who work for small museums, giving them opportunities to learn, share knowledge and support one another, so that they, in turn, can better serve their institutions, communities and profession. Additional information can be found at our website at, its Facebook page at, its blog at, or its Twitter feed at


Thank you from SMA!

Fellow SMAers –
Thanks for a great conference in Ocean City this past week!  What an inspiring, fun and professional group of people to be associated with!  As we make our ways back to our home museums full of ideas to bring our small museums to life, please remember to keep up to date with what we’re doing at SMA. 
Be on the lookout for more information about SMA’s advocacy program and the first case studies that have grown out of our Listening Lunches held during the conference.  Check out our website, not just for a refreshed look, but also for podcasts from select sessions at the conference [coming soon].  Our Board has authorized the transfer of a modest amount of funds from our general account to an Endowment holding account; we’ll be inviting community foundations and brokers to our next Board meeting brief of us on how we can best utilize this small but important fund in conservative investments.  Look out for a potential “So You Want to Start an Endowment Fund” entry on our website or as a case study.  Finally, keep your eyes open for SMA, we’re figuring out ways to expand our audience and let people know about what we have to offer -  first and foremost our conference, the best deal in the country.  And who wouldn’t want to attend knowing they’d be missing out on all the fun at our famous Monday Night Banquet?
As always, feel free to be in touch at any time - mike [at] historiclewes [dot] org
Mike DiPaolo
Small Museum Associaton

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SMA Mad Libs: On Site vs. Facebook

We did SMA inspired mad libs here at the conference and also online on Facebook! Both are entitled "Night at the Small Museum." Words supplied are in UPPERCASE. Which story is best?

At the BANANA museum one night, BUBBLES, the curator, was locking up when she encountered a DOG. FANCY, she jumped back and cried, "WOWZER!" Upon which, the DOG DEFENESTRATED. So the curator TRIMMED. Then, she heard THUNDER, and in rushed a FOX STOLE, shouting "ABSOLUTELY!" To which the curator thought, "Just another night at the small museum!"

At the STAPLER museum one night, MARTHA, the curator, was locking up when she encountered a BANNER. GALLUMPING, she jumped back and cried, "CRUD!" Upon which, the BANNER ELECTRIFIED. So the curator POKED. Then, she heard BZZZZZZZZZZZT..., and in rushed an OINK, shouting "FUDGE!" To which the curator thought, "Just another night at the small museum!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 1 Highlights!

Before the attendees arrived, some former board members and conference committee members grabbed breakfast at nearby Dumser's.

The pre-conference grant workshop was well attended - three breakout sessions were offered to cater to attendees' needs, such as first time grant proposal writers, collections care grant needs, and writing grant proposals for reaching audiences.

Wow! What a crowded resource hall for the wine and cheese opening evening event.

New this year: Eat and Engage opportunities. I joined the emerging museum professionals (even if I'm not sure that I qualify as one anymore) at Galaxy 66.

And so it begins...

We're only minutes away from opening registration at SMA this year. You can follow all of the activity at our facebook page, which includes links to this blog, our Twitter feed (join the conversation with hashtag #sma11), photos and more. To kick things off, here's a flip-through version of the final program to enjoy. Hope you'll be joining us - live or virtually. After the conference, we'll have information from presenters, podcasts, advocacy information, and much, much more.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Call to Advocacy from AASLH - History Funding in Jeopardy!

Dear Friends of History:

As I’m sure you know, President Obama released his FY 2012 budget on Monday, calling for significant cuts to history. At the same time, Congress is gearing up for funding cuts within the FY 2011 budget which is operating under a Continuing Resolution.

HISTORY NEEDS YOUR HELP! There are several agencies and programs at risk. AASLH has made it as easy for you as possible, but we need you to follow the steps below and let your Members of Congress know that you think history is essential to an educated and democratic society.

When you contact your Members, please be sure to let me know ( so I can get a feel for how the field is responding to our request for assistance. And thank you so much for being actively involved in the fight for the future of public funding for history!

Here’s a summary of the battle. As you can see, it’s complicated and a huge hit for history. Below the summary are action steps AASLH is requesting from you!
  • Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) – The President has requested $242,605,000 for FY 2012, of which $32,318,000 is for the museum side of the agency, or an 8% cut. In addition, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) has filed an amendment to strip all funding for IMLS (both libraries and museums) for the balance of the FY 2011 funding year. His proposal may come to the House floor this week. 
  • Teaching American History Grants – The President has requested the elimination of TAH grants for FY 2012, just as he did for FY 2011—a $119 million loss.
  • Save America’s Treasures – The President has proposed the elimination of the SAT program.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) – The President has proposed a $22 million cut.  In addition, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) has filed an amendment to strip all funding for NEH for the balance of the FY 2011 funding year.  His proposal may come to the House floor this week. Also, Rep. Francisco Canseco (R-TX) has introduced an amendment to reduce NEH funding by $12.51 million for FY 2011.
  • National Publications and Records Commission – The President has proposed a 50% cut, from $10 million to $5 million in funds to grant for FY 2012.
  • National Archives and Records Administration – The President has proposed funding at $422,501,000, or an 8.2% decrease from his FY 2011 proposed budget.
Action Steps Requested. These steps are focused on FY 2011. Funding requests regarding FY 2012 will be the focus of future requests, but it’s imperative that funding for history in FY 2011 remain stable.
  • Please call or write your Representative now and urge them to oppose the Garrett and Canseco amendments to cut NEH and IMLS funding for FY 2011. AASLH is a proud member of the National Humanities Alliance that has provided you with the links below that make it simple for you to take immediate action against amendments that may be on the House floor this week. Act Now!

    Call your Representative – Click here
    Enter your contact information and follow prompts to call your Representative’s office. Talking points are provided regarding NEH, but please be sure to include IMLS in your conversation.

    Email your Representative – Click here
    Enter your contact information and follow prompts to send an email message to your Representative. Talking points are provided regarding NEH, but please be sure to include IMLS in your text, and you are encouraged to customize your message.
  • Contact your Representative and Senators and let them know that history is important. Ask them to support current funding levels for FY 2011 for IMLS, the National Archives, NHPRC, and Save America’s Treasures. Tell them there is abundant evidence on the economic benefits of supporting the cultural sector. Make your own case for these programs. Let them know that history is important for an informed democratic society. AAM has provided an easy way to find your members of Congress at Just type in your zip code, press go, and contact your Members of Congress.
  • Teaching American History Grants – Contact your Senators now and ask them to save Teaching American History grants.  AASLH is a proud member of the National Coalition for History and they have provided this easy link for you to use: Save Teaching American History Grants
Thank your help with the urgent matter,

Terry Davis
AASLH President & CEO

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Survey Request

Dear Members of the Small Museum Association,

I am a graduate student in the Museum Exhibition Planning and Design Program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. My thesis is exploring the impact of traveling exhibitions on small communities, which I have defined as 50,000 people or less. While not all small museums are in smaller communities, there are certainly strong correlations between the two. To that end, I have created a front-end survey. If your museum has received a traveling exhibition in the last ten years and the community it is situated in is under 50,000 people, I would appreciate your feedback.

The link to the survey is:

Thank you, in advance, for your participation!

Rebecca Fell

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Employment Opportunity with Dumbarton House

Position Announcement:  Facilities Manager                                                        
Dumbarton House, 200-year old historic site in Georgetown and headquarters for The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, seeks a full-time Facilities Manager to serve as the primary maintenance staff person, and manage the security and maintenance systems of the historic house museum, offices, and 1.2 acre landscaped grounds.
Primary Duties & Responsibilities:
·        Coordinate site security
·        Manage site maintenance
·        Manage grounds care
·        Program/meeting setup
Full-time, non-exempt, position. 35 hours a week, typically 7:30am-3:30pm, Monday-Friday.  Periodic evening & weekend hours required.
Salary: Commensurate with experience. Benefits package includes 100% employer-paid individual health insurance; life insurance; paid holidays, vacation, sick, and personal leave; and access to retirement accounts, professional development opportunities, and tuition reimbursement.
Minimum Qualifications:
  • 3 years of experience in a similar position
  • Knowledge of HVAC, electrical, & plumbing systems, and fire, security, ADA requirements
  • Excellent communication and customer service skills
  • Ability to respond to alarms and emergency security & maintenance needs outside of regularly scheduled shifts, arriving to site within 10-15 minutes if required
  • Proficient in Microsoft Outlook and Word
  • Ability to lift and transfer a minimum of 50 pounds, climb ladders, and maneuver through a 200 year-old building via 4 flights of stairs
  • Ability to use private vehicle to transport supplies periodically
  • Ability to organize & prioritize work, maintain orderly assigned individual workspace, and meet deadlines
  • Experience with/enthusiasm for working at a historic site and maintaining preservation standards
  • Ability to effectively communicate in English
  • Ability to pass complete background check
To Apply:
Please send cover letter & resume to or fax to 202-337-0348.  No phone calls please.

SMA Book Club - Mary Alexander

I’m intrigued by the idea of getting kids to “use their senses” when visiting a museum (Chapter 7 of Connecting Kids to History with Museum Exhibitions). But, I’m not at all clear how to do that in a traditional historic house museum where visitors usually are guided by a docent. Somehow the authors suggest that this “sensing” should be more than simply having a basket of touchables that can be handed around to kids.

On a more general level, I don’t get the value of kids lying down in a giant hotdog bun pretending to the hotdog? What am I missing? How do we take that idea and apply it to a more traditional history museum experience? And, should we?

See you at the beach very soon; keep reading!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Employment Opportunity with Rosson House-Heritage Square Foundation and Guild

Rosson House-Heritage Square Foundation and Guild
113 N. 6th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Job Title:                       Executive Director

Education:                     Bachelor’s degree (minimum) and advanced degree preferred in museum studies or a discipline related to the Rosson House-Heritage Square Foundation & Guild’s mission and collection.

Experience, skills,
And Knowledge:                 
·  Managerial, organizational and administrative ability
·  Ability to initiate programs, train and motivate people, coordinate activities, speak publicly, and deal effectively with the public, private groups, and community organizations.
·  Should understand museum development and be able to communicate that understanding to the Board and others outside the museum field.
·  Familiarity with preservation laws and procedures, including Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation.
·  Experience with exhibit development from concept to presentation.
·  Minimum of five years of experience in museum work.  Previous managerial or supervisory experience required
·  Property management experience preferred

Job Description:
1.       Responsible for orientation, training, work assignments, motivation, and evaluation of other staff and volunteers.
2.       Responsible for development of program plans and budgets for consideration by the Board and for implementation of approved program plans and budgets.
3.       Responsible for establishing and maintaining appropriate records, forms, procedures, and practices related to collections, personnel, purchasing, property rentals, and general administration.
4.       Responsible for building security, visitor safety, disaster plan, and maintenance of facilities and equipment.
5.       Responsible for developing and carrying out all ongoing activities and special programs of the museum with budgets and policies authorized by the Board.
6.       Responsible for fundraising for the museum and providing input to members of fundraising committee.
7.       Responsible for development and installation of changing exhibits.
8.       Oversees content of museum website and social media.
9        Oversees creation & dissemination of all marketing/PR materials.
10.     Attends meetings of the Board and its committees, maintains liaison with them and the city of Phoenix, provides financial and other report as requested by the Board, and maintains public relations broadly in the community.
11.     Works with the City of Phoenix and Historic Preservation Officer regarding the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of the historic buildings in Heritage Square.

                                        This exempt position includes salary of $32,000 per year, sick leave, vacation time, and paid opportunities for professional development such as attendance of annual meetings of relevant professional associations (conference fees only).

                                        Send applications to Monica Heizenrader at; must be received by March 31, 2011.  Please include 3 letters of reference.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Conference Presenter: Lindsey Baker

In the spring of 2010, Mary Alexander and I, along with Amanda Wessleman, had the opportunity to present at the American Association of Museums. The three of us put together a session on strategic planning for small museums. We brought the spirit of small museums to the big stage in a big way. Not only did we present to a room full of eager faces, we also took the session virtual and did one of the 10 web sessions as well. We had a blast talking about the ins and outs of strategic planning for small museums. Surrounded by professionals from museums of all sizes, we had fun discussing what special situations arise in small museums--like what to do when your favorite board member who also happens to be your best volunteer and your biggest donor hates strategic planning and thinks it is a waste of time. The special situations that always arise in small museums can be even more interesting when you attempt to get a group of people to plan. Many of the SMA attendees have already been through this process or are dreading the thought of it. We are looking forward to an interesting conversation at SMA with our session's attendees on how to overcome the obstacles to strategic planning in small museums.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo Montage Contest: Option 2

A few weeks ago, we asked people to submit photos of their museums for a montage. We received some great photos and have made two different montages using them. Which one do you like better?

Option 2: Blue SMA

Photo Montage Contest: Option 1

A few weeks ago, we asked people to submit photos of their museums for a montage. We received some great photos and have made two different montages using them. Which one do you like better?

Option 1: We Are Small Museums

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SMA Book Club - Mary Alexander

I’m looking forward to talking about Connecting Kids to History with Museum Exhibitions in a couple of weeks at the SMA conference. I’ve been in several book clubs, but never one with a “professional” focus. This is a first for me and for SMA, too. Hope you are reading along and will join Lindsey Baker and me for our conversation. Here are some thoughts to mull over. If you want to start the discussion now, let us hear from you.

There’s lots to like about this book, and therefore, I hope lots to discuss. One element that has resonated with me is that several of the authors talk about kids and their imaginations suggesting that the very process of creating history is like that of kids imagining things —- dinosaurs and princesses are mentioned. I’d not thought about young kids having great imaginations that perhaps in our museum settings we should seek to channel rather than stifle. Do we spend too much time trying to give out “accurate” information rather than allowing for the messy process of history that would actually engage younger visitors? There’s a mention at the volume’s start of “inviting children in” and I wonder if we think that way enough or even at all. How would you describe how you “welcome” children in to your exhibits?

Monday, February 7, 2011

SMA Memories from Hotel Coordinator

I attended my first SMA conference back when I was either a sophomore or a junior in undergrad at Goucher College. I remember having no idea what to expect, but really enjoying my time in Ocean City. I had the opportunity to see small museum people let their hair loose on the Monday night banquet and I've been hooked ever since on small museum work. Since that fateful first time, I've attended many SMA conferences but always been an outside observer spending my time mingling with the small museum community I've grown to know and love. This year will be very different. I am the "hotel" person on the SMA Conference Committee--very big shoes to fill because of the excellent job Mike Leister has done in the past. And I will be presenting on several different items--Strategic Planning with Mary Alexander, StEPs with Rod Cofield, and even a book group discussion with Mary Alexander. So I don't think I'll have the same free time I once had to leisurely float from one little group to the other. But I'm hoping that I'll get the chance to chat with old friends and hopefully meet other first-timers--people who are just being inducted into the wonderful small museum world!

-- Lindsey Baker, Hotel Coordinator

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Conference Presenter - Mike Connolly

I hope you’ll join Colleen Callahan and me for our Monday morning presentation: We Didn't Know What We Didn't Know - A Costume Exhibit Experience at a Small Museum. We’re looking forward to sharing our experience in producing one of the most ambitious, and successful, costume exhibitions ever undertaken by the New Castle Historical Society. I’m the Society’s executive director and Colleen, from The Costume and Textile Specialists, consulted with us on the exhibition.

We’ll cover a variety of topics including exhibit planning, design, costume display techniques, graphics, companion publications, and working with volunteers. We’ll share what worked, what didn’t, what we should have done, and what we didn’t know we needed to do. We’ll provide tips for saving money on costume mounts, professional-looking text panels and signs. Colleen will demonstrate how to dress a form with a Civil War military uniform and woman’s dress. As a workshop participant, you’ll receive a CD with useful information and templates that will help you plan your own successful exhibit.

If you are planning your own exhibition of historic clothing, be sure to bring your questions to the workshop, or email them in advance to Mike at We’ll try to make sure we cover them during the workshop.

See you in Ocean City!