By Faith Walker, Museum Director, The Great Bend Museum, Ravenswood, WV

I was very excited and honored to receive the Small Museums Scholarship to attend the 2023 AASLH Conference in Boise, and my experience at the conference was a rewarding blend of learning, networking, and personal growth. Here are some of the activities I participated in over the course of the week.

The first day I attended the workshop “Building Walking Tours, Heritage Trails, and Virtual Museum Tours,” which was one of my favorite sessions of the whole conference! I learned a lot about equipment and programs to use and how best to create a digital walking trail at home. Then I went to the Old Idaho Penitentiary, where I watched a heartbreaking presentation on life in the Idaho prison system. The day ended visiting the Penitentiary’s cemetery and learning about the graves there. I was really interested in that part because I’m trying to preserve and interpret my county’s Poor Farm cemetery whose graves are all unmarked. It was good to see everything that the OISP staff and volunteers have done there.

I started my second day learning about affordable collections care. This is one of my main concerns at my museum, so this presentation was helpful. Then at the Small Museums Luncheon, there was a spectacular presentation on recovering after a disaster. I live and work in a disaster-prone area and I was very inspired by the work that the presenter’s museum did to support their community while continuing to collect and preserve history after losing so much. While I hope such a thing never happens in my community and to my museum, it was encouraging to see how much good could come of such a tragedy.

After lunch, I attended “30 Ideas for Your People and Places,” followed by “Conquering Your Fear of Finance.” I was really impressed by how Dr. Beaulieu made such a daunting project seem very straightforward and much easier than expected. The day ended at the Idaho State Museum, where I learned about Nez Perce culture, history, and representation.

Exhibit at the state museum on the Oregon Trail.

I started day three with the “Fundraising at Small Museums” session, which was another favorite session. It was really inspiring seeing what peers at fellow micro-museums had done. Then I went to “Museum Makeover,” which was favorite session #3. I really liked how this session encouraged genuine creative participation and had us brainstorming in groups. Later I made some friends at the Historic House happy hour before continuing on to the Basque event. Before then, I didn’t know too much about the Basque people, let alone that Boise had such a rich Basque community, and so I really enjoyed learning more about this culture.

Attending the 2023 AASLH Conference as a scholarship recipient was a valuable experience. It reinforced the significance of continuous learning and the potential for meaningful connections in our professional and academic lives.

The conference offered knowledge, relationships, and inspiration that will undoubtedly influence my future endeavors. I’m incredibly grateful to the organizers who made it possible and the AASLH Small Museum Committee who sponsored this scholarship.