Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The NEMA Conference: “Following our Path: Regis College through its Art Collection”

by: ​Karen Dropps and Audrey McCullough, Graduate Students

This past Wednesday, three graduate students and Dr. Kathryn Edney went to the New England Museum Association’s (NEMA) 95th annual conference in Newport, Rhode Island. The conference was attended by museum professionals, students, and those with a general interest in museums. NEMA describes the conference as follows on its website:

“NEMA's 55+ conference sessions this year are the best of the best – loaded with strategies, tips, and techniques for every type of museum and museum professional: directors/trustees, collections, administration/management, exhibitions, marketing/development, facilities, academic, and more. Plus, this year we offer a special focus on museum education with an intensive track of more than 16 sessions covering a wide variety of trends and issues.” (http://www.nemanet.org/conf13/index.htm

​The theme of the conference was “Who Cares? Why Museums Are Needed Now More Than Ever.” That question is a valid one: why should we continue to care about museums when the internet can provide a similar learning experience? The reason is because the internet cannot provide the same experience. There is nothing like walking through the building of the museum, taking in the exhibits and experiencing the art and artifacts. Museums offer a different learning space for people outside of the classroom, which some people need to learn about certain subjects. For example, science becomes more interesting when going to the Museum of Science in Boston and exploring their interactive exhibits! Some people cannot learn in the classroom as effectively as they would in a different environment, which is what museums can offer.  In addition, museums are places where communities can be formed.

One session in particular stuck out: the keynote. This year it was given by Dr. Roger Mandle—an internationally known museum professional—who talked to us about his new definition of museums, and thinking of museums as idea instead of objects.  His presentation on knowing your audience, and understanding your community is something we hope to do with our exhibit. (http://www.nemanet.org/conf13/keynote.htm

In his presentation he gave his definition of a museum:  "museums are receptors and communicators of tangible experiences of cultural and scientific ideas based on their intention to serve diverse audiences with specific interests and requirements without respect to location."

This new definition opens up many paths for museums and exhibits to follow.  Our exhibit here is communicating a shared history of Regis College.  As we work further on this exhibit we look at what history we want to tell, and who our audience is.  The main audience we hope to draw to this exhibit is already a part of the larger Regis community, but we also hope to reveal a history that anyone who attends the exhibit can feel a part of its collective whole.  We want all those who attend to become part of the Regis family by learning more about its past.

As we are in the final stages of our exhibit, we have been working on our brochure.  In that brochure we are outlining what we hope they learn.  As we as a class work together to write the labels, the brochure, and other material with an eye on a common idea, an idea that we hope will speak throughout the exhibit: the shared history and mission of Regis College and the Sisters of St. Joseph.

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