Three days in Auckland, currently on the post-conference comedown. A far superior conference to last year – the best of Museums Aoteroa and Museums Australia. Others are dedicated note-takers, and so can name and cite, highlight trends and draw conclusions. I, from preference and the extraordinary nature of this conference, cannot – I merely offer sincere humility, one observation and some suggestions.
I feel drenched with emotion, awash with the after effects. Many aspects were confronting, many beautiful. My awareness of my privilege has risen enormously. I have little language with which to express that, so I need to double down on my listening and then understand how to act. This is going to take a while.
The observation. Outside the keynotes, there seemed two conferences in parallel. One was a bit business as usual; case studies of great projects, all interesting and credit to all presenters, were still stuff I could’ve read about back at base. The other conference was witty, subversive and heartfelt – interaction and passion. The EMP group were a double espresso, Jim and Tilly’s Musevom session was a salty tequila, and pointy questions were a dash of chilli. What have they all got in common? Theyre not usual business; we came alive with sessions of interaction and humour. We speak of engaging our communities, of hearing voices outside traditional power – but how often did sessions genuinely engage that way, dialling up the audience voice? Laura Miles’ facilitation of my panel session was great – that challenging inclusivity is hard but we should all be better at it. After watching Tusk, I had three different people suggest to me “Perhaps we have enough funding, for what people want our sector to do?” (I paraphrase). There’s a world of argument in there, but also it made me think how few commercial or policy voices were heard. And how genuine provocation was rare.
What do I think we could actually do back at base? Me, I want to speak less and hear more – and to my team, you can quote me on that and hold me to it. I have a big idea I’ll post separately too.
For future conferences? I’d like the conference committee to consciously commission innovative session – for example, whichever sessions or speakers got highest ratings in the evaluation, give them a slot to do whatever they like next time. Risky? Yes. But the potential reward outweighs.
Structurally, more time for tea this time was good. The conversations are productive. Janet Carding told me that a Canadian museum association put its EMP day in the middle of the conference. Love to try that. Twitter handles on conference name tags, please. And I’d like one voice to close the conference – a plenary of all the keynote speakers doesn’t work well. I’d like someone from an adjacent sector to tell us ‘what have I heard, what have I seen’?
Finally – our purpose is still not clearly expressed enough. It was ironic that there were so many musevoms whenever we express ourselves. How would the world suck more if we just stopped. How precisely? But me stopping here won’t make the world any worse. So.