I recently graduated from a Masters of Museum Studies program. One of the best things about being in school is the people you meet and share ideas with. It’s something I missed when I graduated but I’ve discovered the working professional’s version – communities of practice.
The first community of practice I discovered was conferences. I would say they are like a boot-camp version of Grad school. It’s an intensive one to four days where you learn, meet people, and socialize. My very first was the Museums and the Web Conference in April last year, and what a conference it was to start with! I went expecting to be inspired by the interesting sessions and left being blown away by the amazing people I met and the discussions we had. The conference brought together people from all over the world with the same interests each with different perspectives on how to move the field forward. There are so many conferences out there (we have a list of a few of them that relate to Museum Education and Technology under the Connect tab) and I can’t wait to experience more.
LinkedIn – Online Community
LinkedIn is useful for more than just posting your resume. The most useful thing I’ve found are the groups on LinkedIn. They are like the study groups you join in school. I joined the Museums and the Web group after attending the conference. I also belong to AAM Education Professional Network, American Alliance of Museums, Canadian Art Gallery Educators, Emerging Museum Professionals, International Society for Technology in Education, Museum-Ed, Museum Education Roundtable, MuseumNext, Museums Association, Museums in the Digital Age, Pinterest Networking Group, and Visitor Studies Group Network. I belong to some alumni groups from the schools I’ve attended as well. It’s a lot of groups and there are even more out there for every facet of museum work. Many of the groups send out regular emails showing the most popular topics for readers to scan and click through to read further if they are of interest. I’ve posed a few questions in various groups and received wonderful responses from museum professionals based in all sorts of institutions around the world. If you have any kind of question from the very academic to the immensely practical you can find a group that will have members to answer it. The discussions that result from the questions are just what I missed from school seminars. It’s an excellent way to continue learning and moving forward with your museum practice.I should mention list-servs – email lists that can be subscribed to. This is the predecessor to social media versions like LinkedIn groups or twitter conversations using hashtags (we also have a list of list-servs and twitter hashtags under our edgital Connect tab). There are still active list-servs but I would argue that they will be fully replaced by the social media versions in the near future.
Remember the social nights organized casually among groups of friends or officially by the student government? In my program we had a local pub with a Karaoke night. Not sure if you’ve noticed this but from my experience it seems museums attract a lot of singers (or at least enthusiastic performers!). Well we ended up at this pub on karaoke night quite regularly. We would drink, and sing, and discuss what we were living, eating and breathing – museums. I was very pleased to find out that there are post-school versions of this – Drinking about Museums and Museum Showoff.
Museum Showoff is an open mic night for museum workers. It happens twice a month at the Wilmington Arms in London and the next one is this coming Thursday (January 17th). It is spreading to Canada with a Toronto version happening on Saturday February 23rd at the Museum of Inuit Art. Performers sign up online before the event and are given 9 minutes to do a show-and-tell, pitch, or generally show-off. To give you some idea of the types of performances at the next London Museum Showoff there will be a description of a research project done entirely in verse and a discussion of which museum would be most helpful in surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Drinking about Museums is another social museum event. It was started by Kathleen Tinworth (@exposedmuseum) and Koven Smith (@5easypieces). Some well known bloggers have organized their own drinking about museums in Boston (Ed Rodley of Thinking About Museums) and Sydney/DC (Suse Cairs of Museum Geek). You can follow the hashtag #drinkingaboutmuseums on twitter to find out about upcoming ones.
Speaking of, I am organizing a drinking about museums here in London. It will be two parts – a quick and fun digital activity in the galleries of the Victoria and Albert Museum and then drinks at The Hour Glass pub in South Kensington (279-283 Brompton Road, London SW3 2DY). There are a few possible dates. If you are interested in coming please select a date you would be able to attend.