Yesterday I attended the Alabama Museums Association Annual Meeting, my first industry conference! (I only went for the sessions during the day Monday, but the festivities extended before and after that).
It wasn’t a large group in the first place, but I was one of only a few students, and I think the only one not actively in a program. The conference was totally the opposite of stodgy, though — lots of people wearing tweed, yes, but all supremely friendly and enthusiastic!
My goal for the event was just to chat with people, not even for serious “networking” purposes, but just to observe and get a feel for things. Listen to what people said about how their museums function and what their different jobs entail. It’s really helpful for me to start early with that kind of thing, and I focused on the “best practices” breakout sessions for the same reason. I’m entirely pleased with my success at achieving that goal!
I have no illusions about everyone in ANY field being delightful, but these folks were super cool, each with a variety of experiences and interests coming together under the term “museum.” They were curious, smart, and enthusiastic. They like accomplishing specific goals and programs, but they’re also passionate about the driving mission of each organization.
I won’t bore you with specifics from the sessions, since I’m totally new and this was an exploratory venture in the first place — but this post is a firm recommendation that conferences can be useful for students, even if you’ve barely started!