Monday, 21 December 2020

Sustainability through Communities of Practice

The Critical Contributions of Regular Peer Connection among Museum Professionals

by Tara Beck and Isabella Borrelli

The journey towards this blog entry began in February 2020 when two colleagues sat down to consider how their experience with communities of practice might contribute to the AMA Conference about museums and organizational sustainability. At the time, conversations primarily revolved around the value of communities of practice in combatting the institutional and professional silos common across Edmonton’s museum landscape (Edmonton Heritage Council’s Comprehensive Museum Strategy Report, 2012). Knowing the difficulty in a major city, one can only assume that our counterparts in rural Alberta face similar challenges.

A lot has happened since February which has encouraged us to broaden our considerations of the ways communities of practice can serve us in our work. Museums are at a pivotal point in their history. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of them to shrink dramatically, and in some cases close. The unmasking of deep rooted institutional systemic racism has called on museums to meaningfully address their histories and make changes for their futures.

Addressing Large-Scale Challenges: Part 2

Ideate: Go Big and Wide. Get Creative!

by Kristen Cousineau and Christine Moreland

Congratulations! You have a ‘How Might We’ statement (HMW) that narrows down the big, unwieldy problem, to a manageable question that includes constraints and insights. Now, let’s talk about how to start answering that question: ideation.

Just joining us? Read Part 1 to discover how to create your guiding question, a ‘How Might We’ statement.

Ideating is often used as a synonym to brainstorming. However, brainstorming is traditionally spontaneous, and with ideating, we’re talking about a concrete, planned approach to creating new ideas. (We also prefer saying ideation because it differentiates our process from the negative experiences you may have had brainstorming in the past.) Ideation takes you a big step forward in solving your problem.

Addressing Large-Scale Challenges: Part 1

Defining a Path Forward: Narrowing Down a Complex Problem

The world we live and work in is rapidly changing, and while this is nothing new, the current crisis highlights the need for cultural institutions to be flexible, resilient, and creative in our approaches to these changes. But what happens when the changes are coming at us so quickly and the scope of them seems so overwhelming that they become paralyzing? How can we take the first step towards problem solving, sustainability, and continued relevance?

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Giving Tuesday: Making It Work for You

by Corrie Fortner, Senior Consultant
Global Philanthropic

What is Giving Tuesday? It is a global movement for giving and volunteering, a day that calls for charities, individuals, and companies to rally for a cause which “unites communities by sharing our capacity to care for and empower one another.” The eighth annual Giving Tuesday is December 1, 2020.

Before you start planning activities, it makes sense to ask a key question: what outcome do you hope to achieve by participating in Giving Tuesday? This will help guide both your strategy and the resources you will invest. Take into consideration a number of factors, including: 
  • What else is happening in your organization right now? 
  • What else is happening in your community for Giving Tuesday? 
  • Do you have a presence on social media that will help drive donations to your cause? 
  • Is this part of your annual campaign? 
  • Is this a strategy you can leverage to attain your goals? 

Those are a few starting points for your reflection or discussion about whether this day warrants your focus and energy. 

Monday, 16 November 2020

Working with Fort Calgary to Mentor a Junior Employee

Mentorship in Alberta Museums: Part 2

In hiring a Collections Officer at Fort Calgary, a goal of this new position was to provide a full-time opportunity for an emerging professional in the field. Recognizing that this person may need some help navigating all parts of the job, an experienced Collections Management professional, Gail Niinimaa, was engaged as a consultant to liaise with Fort Calgary’s President & CEO, Naomi Grattan, and work directly with the Collections Officer, Adrienne Dewsberry, as a mentor. In this post, they reflect on their experience with this project. 

Miss Part 1? Click here for Reflections on the AMA Mentorship Program.


Working with Fort Calgary to Mentor a Junior Employee

Gail Niinimaa, Niinimaa Enterprises Inc.

During the Alberta Museums Association (AMA) 2019 Conference, at the reception at the Royal Alberta Museum, I ran into Naomi Grattan, the new President & CEO of Fort Calgary. We chatted about what we were up to and she mentioned that she may like to pick my brain about their collection and some of their collections management issues. I suggested that I would be happy to be a consultant to a junior staff member and to work together with them, to share my knowledge and to help them along the way. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Reflections on the AMA Mentorship Program

Mentorship in Alberta Museums: Part 1

In July 2019, the Alberta Museums Association (AMA) launched the Mentorship Program, a flexible, self-directed program for Mentors and Mentees to share experiences, develop skills, and gain insights on the challenges, opportunities, and innovative practices in the museum community. Running from October 2019 to August 2020, the inaugural year of the Program was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, participants from the first cohort reflect on their experiences adapting the Program to meet their goals.  

Being a Mentor in the Second Half of Life

Gail Niinimaa, Niinimaa Enterprises Inc.

2020 is a year for me where I have definitely moved into the second half of my life. This is a time when I can give back and decide what impact I may want to leave on this world! In 1979, when I started at Glenbow and was given my pension documents to sign, the date of April 14, 2020, seemed very far into the future. I remember remarking to my colleague who was about 20 years older than me that there was no way that I would still be at the Glenbow in 2020! My prediction was fairly accurate – I did formally leave the Glenbow in 2008 after a combination of full-time and contract work over the years – but I have continued to be an occasional consultant for them in the last 12 years, the most recently being in March 2020 right before COVID-19 shut down the world. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

AMA Celebrates Herman Yellow Old Woman, Recipient of the 2020 Lieutenant Governor's Award

Congratulations to Herman Yellow Old Woman, recipient of the 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Award! This Award recognizes Herman’s instrumental role in championing the rights of Indigenous communities to represent themselves and to have a voice in creating and shaping museum spaces. 

Herman Yellow Old Woman is presented with the 2020 Lieutenant Governor's Award. 

In selecting Herman for this Award, the AMA Board of Directors recognizes his spirit of giving and important role in establishing best practices for the Alberta museum community. Herman’s achievements at a provincial, national, and international level have made an exceptional impact and contribution to Alberta’s museum community.

Among these achievements, Herman was a key member of the committee behind Glenbow’s Nitsitapiisinni Gallery, created to reflect the Blackfoot worldview. The Gallery has been internationally recognized as one of the first exhibits told from an Indigenous perspective and is the epitome of the reconciliation and healing museums are now striving for.

One of Herman’s most impactful contributions to the museum sector has been his fight for the repatriation of Chief Crowfoot’s regalia from The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, UK, an effort that began over a decade ago. Alongside his colleagues at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, Herman worked tirelessly to educate both the public and Exeter City Council about the importance of Blackfoot Cultural Patrimony, and encouraged them to see clothing not as objects or artifacts but as living beings – ancestors who, upon their return to their people, have the ability to help heal the harms done by the colonial legacy of museums. This year, the hard work paid off when Exeter agreed that Crowfoot should be returned to the Siksika Nation. Said Mr. Yellow Old Woman: “I feel like we're bringing his spirit home.”

Herman was instrumental in the development of the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act (FNSCORA), and the repatriation of over 260 sacred and ceremonial objects from Glenbow’s collections and many more from other museum collections. He has cared for museum collections worldwide by conducting ceremony, visiting and caring for sacred bundles and the ancestors residing in museums in Canada and internationally.

Herman has left an indelible mark on Alberta’s museum sector. His contributions are a gift to future generations, not only for the Blackfoot, but for museum professionals navigating the changing role of museums in society and the necessary work of reconciliation. 

Congratulations, Herman!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

AMA Celebrates Lougheed House, Recipient of the 2020 Robert R. Janes Award


Congratulations to Lougheed House, the 2020 recipient of the Robert R. Janes Award for Social Responsibility! This Award recognizes Lougheed House’s commitment to creating exciting and unique visitor experiences that tell the lesser-known stories of Calgary and to integrating social responsibility into all aspects of its museum practice.

The team at Lougheed House has gone beyond the traditional historic house museum to embrace, challenge, and educate the communities around it and evolve alongside them. 

“At Lougheed House we believe that our story is best told together.”

Watch Lougheed House's acceptance video below: 

Through its many ongoing partnerships with Indigenous, racialized, queer, and feminist groups, Lougheed House is telling the lesser-known histories of the many and varied communities it serves. Its responsiveness to the feedback gathered from these diverse communities firmly positions it as a leader in the museum field. 

 Métis veteran Sergeant Major George Pambrun, Retired, at the raising of the Métis flag at the Lougheed House Garden Festival in July 2019.

Lougheed House created a Community Engagement Framework and a Re-Imagined Exhibition Development Plan that is embedded with community feedback. Standing out as a model for other institutions, this framework guides Lougheed House’s work with the community and enables it to transform its exhibit spaces to reflect the more diverse history of Calgary. 

Exhibits and events, such as Exploring Métis Identity: Past and Present and Roar: Exploring Queer History and Gender Identity, are shining examples of Lougheed House’s re-imagining and historic illumination.

Costumed attendees pose for the photo booth during Outliers: Queer History in Calgary in May 2019.

In focussing on the evolution of the House and telling these stories together, Lougheed House is building a thriving and sustainable organization that exemplifies the active role museums can take alongside their partners in shaping the narrative of a dynamic Alberta. 

Congratulations, Lougheed House!

Thursday, 15 October 2020

AMA Celebrates Recipients of the 2020 Leadership Awards

Leadership Award for Engagement

Harpreet Dhanjal

Congratulations to Harpreet Dhanjal, the recipient of the AMA’s 2020 Leadership Award for Engagement! This Award recognizes Harpreet's commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion in her role as Public Programmer at Calgary’s TELUS Spark. 

Harpreet is passionate about making the cultural sector more welcoming and inclusive. “It’s because I never saw myself here,” she says, “that community engagement and equity work is such an important part of my practice.” 

Watch Harpreet's acceptance video below: 

Never one to ignore or let slip an opportunity to advocate for those who are underrepresented, Harpreet is exceptional in her ability to engage diverse community members with culture. She carefully designs visitor experiences that are relevant, narrative driven, modern, and occasionally provocative, such as the Adults Only Night program titled He, Her, They, Everyone, and You (A.K.A. Beyond the Binary), a program that celebrated gender diversity while educating visitors on the intersection of sexuality, gender, identity, science, history, and art.

When developing programming, Harpreet involves experts who represent a range of identities and perspectives. Fearless in engaging new community partners, Harpreet has created programs that bring together research academics, drag performers, and rocket scientists. She has positioned TELUS Spark as a trusted ally and sought the expertise and collaboration of LGBTQ2S+ community partners. 

Passionate about making the cultural sector more welcoming and inclusive, Harpreet always prioritizes equity, diversity, and community engagement in her work. Harpreet crafts meaningful visitor experiences that provoke curiosity, reflection, discussion, and interaction, creating brave spaces for anyone and everyone to learn, play, and engage.  

A dedicated advocate and ally for underrepresented communities, and a champion for diversity and inclusion across the museum sector, Harpreet exemplifies the leading role museums have as agents of social responsibility. 

Congratulations, Harpreet!

Leadership Award for Education

TELUS World of Science - Edmonton

Congratulations to TELUS World of Science – Edmonton (TWOSE), the recipient of the AMA’s 2020 Leadership Award for Education! This Award recognizes TWOSE’s work in creating safe and supportive spaces for science learning for girls and women.

An all-female team worked across departments to tailor programming at TWOSE to individuals that identify as women in order to address gender gaps and improve accessibility in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning. The team set out to create a climate of support and change for women at all stages of their science careers.

Watch TELUS World of Science's acceptance video below:

The five distinct programs making up Women and Girls in STEM focus on addressing the issues that prevent women and girls from pursuing careers in science. Presenting material in an environment that is supportive of girls and women, the programs aim to increase confidence to pursue STEM careers, decrease gender stereotyping by providing a positive space for girls to interact with professional female role models in STEM fields, and improve positive peer influence by creating safe spaces to explore STEM topics and to learn new skills in the TELUS World of Science – Edmonton makerspace.

Designed to support girls aged ten to adults, the Women and Girls in STEM programs promote ongoing learning at critical ages where women and girls tend to lose interest in STEM. Not only do the programs provide an opportunity for girls to interact with like-minded peers, they also foster a support network of confident female STEM researchers.

These educational programs are engaging future and current female researchers’ hearts and minds in science. In empowering women and girls, TWOSE is a role model to their peers and colleagues of the importance of museums as agents of social change.

Congratulations, TELUS World of Science Edmonton!

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Chartering New Territory Using the Theory of Flight

For over two decades, the Alberta Aviation Museum (AAM)’s most popular program has been Theory of Flight (TOF). It’s the museum’s longest running and only formal education program based on the Alberta Grade 6 curriculum. It was originally developed and continues to be largely facilitated by volunteers. The program has grown so much in popularity that most years it has been booked solid. Its success is evident by the number of visiting youth and young adults who remember and mention their TOF field trip. 

Despite the program’s continuing success, a major update was long overdue. While there were attempts to update TOF, including the addition of flight simulators two years ago, mixed reviews for the simulators made it clear that we couldn’t continue to make only minor updates to TOF. We needed to completely rethink our education program.

There were several factors that made the existing TOF program unsustainable, as it did not meet all teachers’ needs and was difficult to facilitate. The existing program was too densely packed with content that was specific to only a few units of one grade level. It was also too long, and lecture-based.

Our goals for the redevelopment were to make the program:
  • Interactive;
  • Flexible to better meet the needs of individual classes;
  • More diverse in curriculum content; and 
  • Structured to expand for more grades.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Opening the Petals of the Museum without Boundaries

Ahead of Conference 2020, Keynote Speaker Andy Lowe sat down virtually with Meaghan Patterson, Executive Director / CEO of the AMA, for a conversation about ‘Museums without Boundaries’ and the big ideas transforming and guiding the work around cultural sustainability at Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage in Aotearoa (New Zealand).
The interview below has been adapted from their conversation. You can watch the video interview here. Read more about Andy’s Keynote Presentation here.

Kia ora, Andy, and thank you so much for joining us here today. I know that the pandemic situation has been evolving lately in New Zealand, and we appreciate that you’ve taken the time out of your day to have this conversation with us.

What I’d really like to talk about first is your work and your leadership at Te Manawa, and how you have truly embraced transformation at the museum, which I think has strengthened both your institution as well as the community in which you reside. Are you able to give us a bit of an overview of your concept of museum without boundaries, or beyond boundaries, and how that drives the work of your team?

Kia ora. Well, it’s about inviting the community in and breaking down the museum wall, and really thinking about who feels comfortable here and asking if people want to be part of things. Museum without boundaries is about partnering with communities, thought leaders, change makers, and supporters to inspire and broker deeper connections between them and our world’s tangible and intangible treasures so that they, and we, can deliver and create relevant, engaging programs and experiences with, by, and for our communities.

It’s a long way of saying that it’s about opening up space for people to represent themselves the way they want to be represented and to be useful.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Coming Together to Share #MyCanadianMoment

by Vanessa Puczko 
Social Media Community Manager, Summer Intern
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

If there was ever a need for the country to come together, the time is now.  

A time for inspiration. 

A time for hope.

During this unprecedented time, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is aiming, as always, to unite Canada through sport. We know that sport has the power to bring people together, and Canada has no shortage of incredible sporting moments! But as we faced cancellations, we needed a different way to connect with Canadians.


Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Flood and Fire: A Story of Resilience at Heritage Village and Heritage Shipyard

by Roseann Davidson

Executive Director, Heritage Village and Heritage Shipyard

Natural disasters hit our city and our museums not once, but twice. This is our story.

The Hangingstone River Flood of June 2013 devastated Heritage Village (formerly Heritage Park) and we wondered how we would ever function as a museum again. The damage to our buildings, infrastructure, collections, and archives was beyond our comprehension. 

Yet four years later, through the tireless work of our staff, Board of Directors, volunteers, and external partners, we began a new chapter. Our new beginning placed us in a position to become bigger and better than we could ever have imagined. We affectionately grew to call this time as our “flood of opportunity.”

The Hangingstone River Flood leaves Heritage Village (then Heritage Park) under water.
All images courtesy of Roseann Davidson