I recently had the pleasure of attending the South Carolina Federation of Museums Conference in Florence, SC. Typically, when I attend these types of industry conferences I am there as an exhibitor, which means I don’t get to attend the actual sessions or hear all of the interesting in-depth stories shared at these events. This year was different; I was able to attend as a registrant! Since I am from SC, getting to partake in the full conference was even more exciting for me. I walked away so motivated and educated—and I wanted to share a little piece of that inspiration with others!
Here’s what I learned:
At the core of each museum is a personal mission.
I wasn’t familiar with many of the museums who were in attendance at SCFM, even though I’ve lived and worked here for 40 years now! Museums of all ‘shapes and sizes’ told their stories – I heard about one small museum struggling to stay open because of structural issues with an old jail that they want to put on display for their community. They are only open two days a week for a couple hours, and supported by individuals giving a significant amount of their personal, unpaid time to advocate for this organization.
Why do they do it?
Because it’s important to them. And that’s the core of a successful museum – personal mission.
Being flexible in how you achieve your mission can really pay off.
I heard another story about a new museum that was searching for a major gift, and instead got something much better. Rather than receiving dollars to display donated items in a traditional way, they were given a working farm with original equipment! This allowed them to achieve their mission of displaying how things worked in the “old days” in an even more unique way than they had originally planned. It was so enlightening to me. Thinking out of the box and creativity at its finest!
The details make the difference.
Another session I attended was around myths and how they can be used to positively present information to the public. It was amazing to me to see how much time and thought goes into details that many of us probably give little thought to. This particular organization offered tours and used what could have been unfavorable legends to make their tour that much more interesting. Again, creativity fueled by mission!
Being at the conference made me so proud to say I work in the arts and cultural industry. I am privileged that my job is to help museums continue their legacies and pass important values on to the next generation. At the end of the day, we should all strive to help ensure the livelihood of the places, stories, history, and information museums bring to our community… preserving that today, tomorrow and well into the future. I’m so proud to count myself a peer among these fine people and consider myself lucky to benefit from their missions.