Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wrapping Up ASTC 2012

First, great thanks to the many and well-trained ASTC volunteers who stood at reassuring intervals in the long and winding passage between the conference hotel and the registration desk in the Columbus Convention Center. Each one greeted me as if I were an expected and valued guest and said good by on the last day.

Wrapped in Conversation
… everywhere and anywhere. Engaging in face-to-face conversations with colleagues from across the country, meeting friends of friends, and bumping into neighbors from the next city over helped shrink the grand scale of meeting rooms and exhibits hall to the friendly and familiar. Conversations popped up in summaries between sessions, project updates at the COSI Center for Research and Evaluation, tinkering in the Gadgets Cafe, and sitting between 3 conversations in the COSI atrium at the end of the day. To bring back a phrase much on my mind last year, it was a convivial gathering.

Unwrapping Colleagues’ Experience
… in sessions on topics of high interest to me these days: CEO’s and boards, connecting evaluation and practice, young learners, and interacting with materials. Those sessions and the discussions they stimulated pushed and pulled at assumptions, answered some questions, and posed others. Several sparkling and poetically compressed insights from presenters stand out.

“The future is always in motion. It is built everyday by what works.”
- Brian David Johnson, Futurist –Principal Engineer and Director, Future Casting Interactions and Experience Research, Intel Speaker and ASTC 2012 keynote speaker

 “Never stop trying to make your questions better.”
- Bette Schmit, Senior Exhibit Developer, Science Museum of Minnesota, summarizing a take away from Object Lessons: Curating Visitor Creations

 “Education happens best when it moves outside the walls of the classroom and into the surrounding community.”
- Kimberlee Kiehl, CEO, Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, in Creating Spaces for Young Visitors

 “Boards add value in the gray areas.”
- David S. Messina, CEO, Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) in Strengthening CEO/Board Relations on how boards bring fresh, varied perspectives on challenging issues

 “The meaning is in the use.”
-        Elena Baca, Educator at ¡Explora! (Albuquerque, NM) noted in describing how 4 rulers became a frame in Finding, using, and Organizing Rich Materials for Museum Programs

“Make relationships that last rather than products we sell.”
-        Paul Tatter, former Executive Director at ¡Explora¡ in Lead and Listen: Local Values in Science Engagement

Rewrapping the Possibilities
Session topics, conversations, presenter insights, and participant questions from these three-and-a-half days have the potential to be rewrapped in multiple ways to generate engaging ideas, possibilities, and new questions. For starters are four questions I am curious about and think I will be noodling on over the next months.

• How will maker spaces change the way we think about exhibits?
• To what extent are we inhabiting the museums we created during the past 20 years of the great building boom?

• What are ways a museum can listen to the outside world in order to hear what its community values?
• How does a museum polish its assets?

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