Thursday, October 4, 2018

Walking the Walk: Impressions of the #ASTC2018 Conference

The 2018 Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Conference in Hartford, Connecticut felt like an opportunity for the International Science Center Community to really "walk the walk" on a variety of topics and concerns facing museums and their communities.

Issues of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity were front and center during the conference, starting with the excellent opening keynote by noted science journalist Ed Yong.  (Check the talk out embedded below or via YouTube.) Yong shared his own struggles with equal representation of male and female scientists in his articles and books and then moved to broader intersectional topics of interest to museum workers and cultural institutions.  I urge you to take the time to watch Ed Yong's presentation.

Similar diversity/equity/inclusion topics were presented during a number of sessions during the conference as well.  I attended an excellent session entitled "Creating a Culture of Gender Equity" that included five female practitioners sharing their own experiences and then offering suggestions for ways to create a safer and more inclusive environment in cultural institutions.

Another welcome addition to this year's conference was a stronger presence by the ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows and Alumni, both in numerous sessions and in public roles as the emcees of plenary sessions, for example. In October 2001, ASTC’s Board launched a field-wide Equity and Diversity Initiative to attempt to bring balance in the disparity between the diversity of our society and the diversity of professional staff, audience, and board members of the science center field. The primary activity for addressing this disparity is the ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program, originally designed to support the professional growth and retention of professionals of color currently working in the field. 

2018 ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows

Of course, it wouldn't be an ASTC Conference if there weren't some opportunities for hands-on science activities! This year's conference featured an excellent Pop-Up Maker's Space (#MakerSpaceASTC) that was assembled on-site in the Exhibit Hall by members of the ASTC Making and Tinkering CoP (Community of Practice). #MakerSpaceASTC was filled with free-form activities, comfortable seating areas and stations to solder, laser cut, and 3D Print! Kudos to all involved in what I hope becomes an annual feature at the ASTC Conference!

Per usual during an ASTC Conference, there were also lots of fun opportunities for socializing and networking.  Andy Lloyd from the Centre for Life in the UK hosted an all-star roster of Science Center performers for a rollicking (one could say almost "hypnotic") evening of "Stand-Up Science"

One of my other favorite ASTC Conference moments (based on my #ASTC2018 Twitter feed at least) was a very quotable (and actionable) session entitled Identifying the Creativity Involved in Managing a Creative Team.” In addition to the quotes I live-tweeted from the session (shown below) the panelists called out two books for creatives and managers -- "The Checklist Manifesto" and "Creativity, Inc."

This ExhibiTricks blog post only scratches the surface of #ASTC2018 so I would suggest clicking over to ASTC's Blog Page, Main Conference Page, or YouTube site for even more glimpses of what went on in Hartford. Our hosts at The Connecticut Science Center as well as the entire ASTC leadership team and staff should be extremely proud of putting together such a well-executed conference and one that truly "walked the walk" not just "talked the talk"!

I'm a little wistful that I will be leaving the ASTC Conference Program Planning Committee after a six-year term, but I know my colleagues who are continuing on with the CPPC are already planning #ASTC2019 in Toronto!

The 2019 Conference promises to be spectacular since 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of two influential science centers, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, and The Ontario Science Centre, which will serve as our host in Toronto. Appropriately, considering the first Moon landing also happened in 1969, the theme of #ASTC2019 will orbit around the notion of moonshots -- ambitious, yet achievable, goals that leverage science and technology to solve difficult problems.  You can get a sneak peak of the call for proposals by clicking here.

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