By Marye Newman, Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum, City of Gladstone, MO
This year, I was one of the eight people fortunate enough to be selected for the AASLH Small Museum Scholarship, and I was able to attend the conference in Buffalo in September. This year’s theme, Right Here, Right Now: The Power of Place, spoke to me, as I am a recent transplant to the Midwest as a lifelong Southerner. I have spent the last year immersing myself in the culture, community, and history of my new community, and as I reached the end of my first year in Gladstone I now have a plethora of new tools and contacts available to me thanks to my experience at the 2022 AASLH Conference.
Starting from my first workshop, “Effective History Communication,” I was surrounded by a group of people focused on the common goal of preserving and sharing their inspiring local histories. These people were passionate about what they did, and how they accomplished their goals. There was an incredible focus on inclusivity, both in the stories we share and the people who we work with to share them, that worked as a unifying force throughout the conference.
As a small museum professional, one of the things I found myself most pleasantly surprised by was just how many conference offerings were either directly geared toward or applicable to the work of smaller sites. What I found myself most engaged with in this (while taking notes, photographs, cards, and even downloading a massive amounts of apps onto my phone) was the sheer number of ways both facilitators and other attendees at the conferences had found to reach audiences at their sites. Because of this wide range of outreach methodologies, so much of what was discussed was directly applicable or easily transferable to a small museum like the one I manage. We discussed different ways to write and speak, different tools for direct outreach, and different ways to build programming that will be giving me inspiration and helping me build community offerings at the Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum and in the Gladstone community for years to come.
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have gone to Buffalo and been a part of this year’ conference. As the only museum or history professional where I work, I found it invigorating to be with so many wonderfully passionate and diverse people with this shared common goal. While I love and am deeply passionate about the work I do on a daily basis, being at the conference was such a tangible reminder of why what we do matters. Seeing what work sites in Buffalo and around the country are accomplishing was a great learning, networking, and educational tool that I will take with me into my career for years to come.