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Reimagining the Museum:
Insights

Reimagining the Museum: Conference of the Americas

What does it mean to reimagine museums? That was the question on the top of the mind of Madeline Vadkerty, senior manager of international programs for the American Alliance of Museums, as she travelled to Buenos Aires to join more than 450 participants from 19 countries for Reimagining the Museum: Conference Of The Americas, which launches tomorrow

Reimagining the Museum: Conference of the Americas is a first-of-its-kind conference to convene museum professionals from across the Americas. It is a three-day showcase of innovation and cross-cultural collaboration through panel discussions, seminars and hands-on workshops and museum visits. We also will learn how museums are navigating the challenges posed by technological, social, political, environmental and economic change. I am excited about what we will learn and discover together. What we do during the conference will be exciting, but why we are hosting the conference is even more thrilling and profound. Whether our communities primarily speak English, Spanish or Portuguese, we as museum professionals share the same goals: We want to curate properly, develop professionally and welcome new audiences inside our institutions, and do so in vibrant and effective ways. To that end, we convened “Reimagining the Museum” to nurture dialogue, encourage networking and promote idea sharing. But we want to accomplish so much more. During the conference, we will define what it is to reimagine museums. We will discover new ways of promoting positive transformation in the museum field. And we will discuss themes of access, inclusion and representation in a global context—themes that we also will explore during the AAM 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo. If you asked me to define what it is to reimagine museums, I would say that museums must be as dynamic as the communities they serve. Our institutions cannot be seen as gleaming storehouses of collections, perched upon a hill. We must find meaningful ways to engage and sustain public engagement. The future of the field depends on it. But the definition of reimagining museums is not up to me alone. That is the beauty of this conference. Creativity cannot be contained within borders. The United States does not hold a monopoly on what it means to reimagine the museum; we can and must learn from each other. To dialogue is to give and take, and we want to create the space for sustained hemispheric dialogue.

The venue: La Usina del Arte, Buenos Aires. Photograph by Laura Valerga. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Creating such a space is a long-held goal. Our revamped global strategy—seeking to engage with museums worldwide on issues such as access to resources and global collaboration—starts with a focus on Latin America, a region AAM has wanted to engage with since its founding. In fact, we first published a directory of Latin American museums in the early 1920s. We believe in the values of fostering global dialogue, embracing cultural differences and welcoming diverse perspectives. So we continually seek ways to engage diverse communities within the United States—in the Latino community, for example—and with stakeholders abroad. This conference is a crucial first step in that regard. I hope to leave Reimagining the Museum: Conference of the Americas  knowing more effective ways of promoting successful museum transformations and conceiving bold ideas to initiate change. But I am sure that I will leave Buenos Aires having learned so much more. I invite you to follow us and join the conversation on social media so you can share our sense of discovery during the conference. Follow our live tweets on @AAMers and @fundacionTyPA on Twitter, and use the hashtags #AAMGlobal and #CulturalHeritage. And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook. Take the journey with us as we learn, discover—and reimagine.