It is that time of year again, every spring there are conferences for national, regional and state museums to gather and learn from noted experts in different relevant subject matter and see the latest from the trade companies that cater to the museum world.
Such an event I just attended in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) held its conference from March 14th-16th and I was privileged to attend and sit in on some of the events. On the drive home I was again struck by the amazing dedication to this profession that these true public servants displayed. Amid announcements of lost funding, cutbacks in budgets and lay-offs, I heard imaginative ideas to deal with the current events that are impacting them so powerfully.
I thought that I would reprise my blog from last year’s conference experience. I again urge you all to support your local museum with your donations or please find a way to donate your time to help replace in part the lost workforce.
When I was a little girl, my mother took me to our local small museum which was in the basement of the local library. We walked down the aisles filled with the odd assortment of objects and memorabilia that are often displayed in such museums. We stopped in front of a large case that had a woven coverlet draped in such a way, so the viewer would have the best look at it they could in the small space it was consigned to. I remember my mom saying something like” President Van Buren gave your Great, great, great grandfather this as a present, they were very good friends”. Now, this sparked two reactions in my young mind. That’s a lot of GREATS, and he must not have liked him that much cause that is one UGLY spread. The point of this little story is that had it not been for that small museum in that little town in West Virginia, I would have never gotten to see something that was a real link to the past, to MY past. I have, as do all of us, a small museum to thank for that.
There are people all over this country that have visited like museums and seen the proof of their ancestry on display conserved at various levels of expertise I’ll give you, but saved nonetheless. They walk through the doors and there is Uncle Joe’s WWI helmet and the letters filled with longing he sent home to his wife or the glove and parasol of someone you vaguely knew you are related to and as soon as you see it you are again determined to call your Great Aunt and not only ask those questions about the family you always wanted to but you are also going to WRITE IT down. Thus a family’s written history is born.
We have the small museum director and its board or if really lucky a curator to thank for this…They are dedicated professionals who work with little or no budgets and constantly fight to preserve the tangible bits of our history that otherwise would just slip away. I recently attended the annual Small Museum Conference and observed some of the most talented and educated people in this profession grapple with the new challenges this economy has given them. Luckily for all of us, I heard enthusiasm and excitement from most, if not all of them that I spoke to. They remain focused, dedicated and determined to recommit, rethink and even redesign the small museums that we as the public entrust to their care. Please support your local small museum or local historical society, they are supporting you every day in preserving our shared history.
Visit the Culpeper Museum of History. www.Culpepermuseum.com