In my capacity as Assistant Registrar at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, this year I attended for the first time the 80th annual meeting of the Westerns Museum Association at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California, held October 24-27, 2015.
Instead of registering as an attendee, I signed on as a volunteer. In my opinion, the event has been much more rewarding this way–I keep busy, meet almost everyone who comes through the door, go to sessions I might not otherwise attend but end up enjoying and learning from, and learn first-hand how challenging organizing and running such events can be. There has been an amazing team working for months behind the scenes putting this event together and making sure everyone’s needs are met to the extent possible. I have gained a true appreciation for what goes into making this kind of gathering happen.
My first task was the day before the conference even started–helping to assemble the registration packets for the 500+ attendees and speakers. After a stop at Philz Coffee for fuel, I made my way to the Fairmont Hotel to join the assembly team.
Assembling more than 500 packets is a serious operation!
Opening day “pre-conference” events included trips to Runnymeade Sculpture Garden, the 49ers Museum and the Splendid Heritage Collection as well as workshops such as CSI: Registrars, Using Design Thinking to Develop Visitor-Centered Experiences, and Tips and Tricks to Ramping Up Your Career at Any Level.
Sunday, we got down to serious business. The Exhibit Hall Networking Lunch got everyone together for food and networking. Concurrent sessions in the areas of community engagement, collections, leadership, visitor experience, development and technology ran through the afternoon, followed by a Culture Crawl on South First Street. The scavenger hunt style tour of the public art in San Jose has people out collecting clues, including the one where I was the volunteer helper at the mural The Heart of the Valley.
On Monday, the Poster Session provided 8 individuals the opportunity to present their research and ideas.
Another BAMPFA favorite, Program Manager Sean Carson, was on the panel for the session The Morning After: Educating and Engaging Beyond the Party.
My particular favorite session was Dust: Our Dirty Little Secret, with moderator and registrar Rebekah Monahan from the Woodbury Art Museum and panelists Melissa Hempel, Director/Curator of the Woodbury and Sheridan College Professor of Visual Arts Tawni Shuler. Dust–I’ll just say it’s very scary stuff and you are better off not knowing what’s in it. If you have an interest in freaking yourself out, I recommend The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes.
On Tuesday, I was able to snag a coveted ticket to the Registrars Luncheon, the annual business meeting of the Registrars Committee Western Region (RCWR). We are a fun crowd!
Another BAMPFA presenter was Stephanie Cannizzo on Curating and Caring for the Conceptual with co-panelists Jill Sterret from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and artist Jennifer Brandon, moderated by Beth Dungan.
The conference is winding down this afternoon, but I thought I’d end with some glimpses of the abundant museum and public art offerings in San Jose. It’s not just for techies!