By Sarah Adams, Edwards Place Historic House, Springfield, IL
I was fortunate to attend the 2022 AASLH Annual Conference in Buffalo, New York, as a Small Museums Scholarship recipient in September. I have been to other national organizations’ conferences and annual meetings before, so I expected this to be similar—overwhelming and somewhat leaving out the “little guy.” I can’t stress enough how this was NOT the case at AASLH.
Even stepping into the first activity of the day, I felt that this experience would be different. I went to the new member reception and met many people just like me who had never been to this conference before. We were kindly greeted and welcomed by organizers and were able to make connections from the start. Going into the sessions, I continued to feel a sense of community, with practical help for a range of sites. The sessions not only helped in our current work, but they sparked ideas with me that I was able to talk about with others at the conference—there were so many others that also work at historic house museums like I do!
One of my favorite things about the experience was the effort by AASLH and the history professionals attending to do the work to find ways to make our work more accessible to all audiences. In our day-to-day work, we can get bogged down by our many “other duties as assigned,” so something like this renews our belief in what we’re doing for the public.
Another thing that interested me during the conference was the availability of various types of sessions. I was able to attend traditional sessions, but also those that involved audience participation. I felt that the individualization helped me to hone in on issues that specifically affect my organization and other small museums like my own. The Town Hall format was also fantastic. Being able to talk about serious issues in the field while gaining tools to work through them was invaluable.
I came back with pages of notes, business cards, and a renewed energy to continue making my museum, Edwards Place Historic House, one that can model best practices for our community. I am so thankful that I was able to attend the 2022 AASLH conference in Buffalo, and hope that I will be able to make many more in the future!