Recently I have been away to conferences, attending both the American Alliance for Museums (AAM) conference in Seattle as well as the Northwest Archivists conference in Spokane. I would like to take a few moments of your time to share what I learned at these conferences and how I believe we can incorporate that knowledge into the Latah County Historical Society.
At AAM 2014 I learned about the latest trends in the museums. One of the more interesting sessions discussed the re-imagining visitor encounters with objects. This session highlighted on catering interpretation to the families in creating exhibits and displays in order to drive engagement. Another session that was particularly interesting was the idea of banishing the guided tour in historic houses. According to their research only 38% of core museum attendees enjoy guided tours; therefore 62% of core attendees (people who self-identify as enjoying museums and visiting them frequently) do not enjoy guided tours. This statistic has got me thinking about ways to interpret the McConnell Mansion without reciting a guided tour. These ideas have gotten me thinking about changing the interpretation of the McConnell Mansion. I do want to caution the readers that this change is not something that might happen overnight, rather with careful long-term planning.
As part of the AAM conference I went to a working lunch for the Historic House Network (HHN), a small facet of the AAM group. This lunch session was a great way for me to meet other professionals working in historic houses. It was interesting to meet other historic house professionals and talk about the common challenges in the field. The most exciting part of this lunch was that the HHN is looking for leaders. I applied for a leadership position with the HHN to provide more opportunities for historic houses to share their experiences and how they are thriving.
One of the more fun parts of AAM 2014 was the Emerging Innovators Forum. I was fortunate enough to present at the Emerging Innovators Forum this year, presenting Mobile Interpretation on a Shoestring Budget. For this presentation I brought many QR Codes that I have been working on creating with the Latah County Historic Preservation Commission. These QR Codes told the history of Latah County buildings and showed LCHS archival images. To augment the presentation of the project I prepared an outline for attendees to take home that explained the process of creating QR Codes for use in their own institutions. At this forum I received great feedback from attendees regarding this project. The Emerging Innovators Forum was only open to attendees for a few short hours, however the insight I gained and people I met were invaluable.
The other conference that I attended was the Northwest Archivists conference in Spokane. The focus of this conference was a bit different than the AAM conference since its only focus was archives. This gave me an opportunity to meet with archivists in the area to discuss best practices in archives. At this conference I was able to create a plan for re-organizing the rolling shelving here at LCHS. I was also involved in some sessions that discussed some newer archival techniques. One of the more interesting presentations discussed collecting active materials. In order to do this the owner of the materials still needed to use the records. Therefore the archive scanned the originals and handed them back to the owner. These scans were then placed into a digital repository for use by researchers. While this is not possible at LCHS at the moment I am watching this project closely as our stacks fill up at LCHS this may be a potential option down the road.
These two conferences have given me plenty to consider as I look for more challenges moving forward here at LCHS. I would like to thank the Latah County Historical Society for supporting me in these two conferences and I am excited to bring these new ideas into our historical society.
– Zachary Wnek Museum Curator Latah County Historical Society