Thursday, April 26, 2012

Occupy AAM?

I must admit I've become extremely ambivalent about the annual AAM Conference.

As time has gone by and the strictures (on methods and modes for presentations) and control (especially of the former "Standing Professional Committees") from AAM have increased, I often question the value (to me, at least) of attending the AAM Conference.

For those of you in the 1% (or thereabouts) of the museum profession who will be attending the festivities in the Twin Cities, I hope you'll take some time to think carefully about, and press AAM leadership on, whether changes to the Standing Professional Committee structure and representation (for example) are truly for the benefit of the 99% of the museum profession, or merely to consolidate control for the AAM administration.


  1. can you detail your issues on the standing comm or ref some resource/doc on same?

  2. Without completely turning this into an "insider baseball" discussion ... and with the proviso that these are my own opinions:

    AAM is restructuring and renaming the "Standing Professional Committees"(SPCs.) These changes will (in my view) limit the autonomy of groups representing various disciplines within the field: Registrars, Curators, Educators, Exhibits people, etc.

    In the case of NAME (National Association for Museum Exhibition) the group I know best since I'm an exhibits person, changes will impact, if not completely jeopardize, the group's journal, Exhibitionist, as well as NAME's ability to offer previously available benefits to students and non-North American museum professionals.

    Until recently, when you joined AAM, you could, for additional membership fees, join any number of SPCs
    and those membership funds would be directed to each SPC. What has happened subsequently is that AAM raised its overall membership fees, and now "allows" you to choose "for free" to join affinity groups you are interested in.

    But where does this money go? And how are SPCs allowed (or not allowed) to use "their" funds?

    Despite AAM's "spin" these, and other, decisions have been handled in, basically, an autocratic manner, which (again, in my view) is completely antithetical to how a "member based" organization should be run.

    Ultimately, I would encourage you or anyone else to put these questions to AAM representatives directly or to access the AAM website and try to ferret out additional details regarding these matters.

    1. As the immediate past president of NAME, I actually have to say I understand the impetus for the changes AAM has undertaken. It is only autocratic insofar as the NAME Board had a committee to look at this restructuring. There was lots of commentary from SPC's during this dialog, and lots of doom and gloom. I congratulate Doug Simpson, the current NAME president for being level headed and trying to address the new structure.

      I think the fact is that NAME is different from many (all?) of the SPC's in the visibility and substance of the Exhibitionist. NAME also has a considerably larger budget than most (all?) of the SPC's. I think it would be very shortsighted for AAM to jeopardize the magazine as it is the foremost journal in the field now. I think Ford and his colleagues agree with this in principal, but how this actually happens remains to be seen.

      So, one focused bit of advocacy would be to express to Ford et al how important the Exhibitionist has become and how it is useful to you as a museum pro.

      Thanks Paul!

  3. @Eric,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I'd still characterize AAM's (not NAME's!) ultimate approach to all this as autocratic, and I do not think these changes bode well, especially for NAME.

    Leaving that all aside, I agree wholeheartedly that Exhibitionist is a valuable resource and that everyone should loudly, and proudly, make that clear to the folks at AAM.