Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Qm2 at AASLH in Rochester

Qm2 is in Rochester Sept 9 to 12 for the annual meeting of the American Association of State and Local History. This is where people who work in museums, archives, historical societies and historic properties gather to learn and share.

The theme this year is TRANSFORMATION. Our industry has been experiencing a fundamental transformation from internal to external orientation, from being collections driven to audience driven. This transformation has been playing out in every organization - some adapting more quickly than others - and with every individual - some enthusiastic, some resisting.

The historical profession today is far more open and accessible to diverse audiences than it was 20 years ago, when we first started using focus groups. Now, knowing one's audience is recognized as essential to success. Qm2 associate Dale Jones is a leading expert in gathering and using audience feedback to shape museum programs and exhibits.

Beyond asking the audience what they like or need or want, some organizations have begun to invite audiences in to partner in creating exhibits and programs. Deborah Schwartz, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Historical Society, has been a leader in this. BHS has a community gallery and the staff supports community groups who come in to create their own exhibits. The staff provides expertise, the community brings the story. Deb is in the Roundtable for museum directors that we run in Baltimore, and several other members of that roundtable have also created "community galleries."

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