Small Museum Association

Small Museums Working Together

2017 Conference Preliminary Schedule 

33rd Annual SMA Conference: All Hands on Deck

Sunday, February 19 - Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Workshops, 12:30 - 4:00pm

Developing the Evaluator Within: Team-Based Inquiry

Sarah Cohn, Cohn Consulting

Do you sometimes have questions about the exhibit or program experiences you are developing? Are you interested in incorporating evaluation and reflective practice into your work? If yes to either of these, this training will help you learn to use evaluation to improve your practice by introducing you to a practical approach for building evaluation into your projects without adding much time to your daily work. 

Don’t Leave Your Data Down in the Bilge: Using Spreadsheets to Make Museum Work Easier

Kristen M. Butler, Historic London Town and Gardens

Many small museums are tracking a wealth of information only in documents and on paper, which get filed away and never heard from again. Spreadsheets allow this data to live all in one place, where it can easily and efficiently be referenced back to and analyzed over time. Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops and data, as this seminar will walk attendees through building and utilizing a spreadsheet using real world examples. This workshop will be ASL interpreted. 

State Museum Association Meetings, 4:30 - 5:30pm

Meetings will be held with representatives from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York/New Jersey.

Reception in the Resource Hall, 5:45 - 6:45pm

The reception will be ASL interpreted. 

Eat & Engage Dinner (transportation & cost are attendees' responsibility), 7:00pm

Make new friends or reunite with old ones during the Eat & Engage dinner! Assemble at the registration desk. Attendees are responsible for their own dinner bill and transportation (carpooling is encouraged).

Battle Decks!, 9:00 – 10:30pm

Make new friends in this PowerPoint parody game by showcasing your small museum-honed improvisational interpretation and public speaking skills! Participants will receive a randomly selected topic 30 seconds before giving a 5-minute presentation using a never-before-seen slide deck. Hilarity ensues & the audience votes for a winner at the end. Volunteer speakers, please sign up at the registration desk.


Breakfast, 7:15 - 9:15am

Keynote Address, 8:15 - 9:15am

Ravon Ruffin, Content Curator, & Amanda Figueroa, Managing Curator, from the Brown Girls Museum Blog

"Beyond the Walls: Building the Capacity for Community"

The keynote address will be ASL interpreted. 

Sessions, 9:30 - 10:30am

60 Ideas in 60 Minutes - Collection Management Ideas for the Small Museum; Karen Whitehair, Cara Seitchek, Melissa Heaver, John Eckstine, Jane Woltereck, & Tiffany Davis

Using a fast-paced format with plenty of audience input, this session will focus on collection management tips for the small museum. Two teams of collection management experts will compete to share new ideas, best practices, and a few trade secrets. You will be invited to play an active role in determining the ultimate winner by offering your own experiences and best practices.

Finding Direction Without a Director, Laura Heemer & Julie Gannaway

When the Wharton Esherick Museum suddenly found itself without a director, the staff, board and volunteers had to come together to find direction and keep the organization moving forward. This session will explore what went right, what went wrong, and how everyone pulled together to keep the museum going when duties, decision making and direction were up for grabs.

Setting the Sails: Partnerships in Museum Education, Deanna Rishell & Katie Hall

This session explores practical strategies that foster successful collaborative initiatives between small museums and cultural institutions to reach underserved audiences in the community. Learn how the panelists developed a day-long National History Day workshop for local middle school students that develops relationships with local schools, teaches students to interact with and study primary source records, develops independent research skills, and prepares students to participate in the statewide National History Day competition.

Programming for Current Girl Scout Badges: Where to Begin; Abby Bradford, Stephanie Boyle, & Mankaa Ngwa-Suh

Panelists from the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital and Dumbarton House Museum & NSCDA Headquarters will outline best practices for collaboration between museums and Girl Scout Councils to offer specialty programs for scout groups. Topics will cover major curricula trends in Girl Scout badges, where to find Girl Scout reference materials, samples of Girl Scout badge books, and how to design related programs that also achieve the needs of host museums. Learn key terms used in the Scouting world and tips on the wants and needs of the adult volunteers who lead the Girl Scout troops.

MAP Out the Best StEPs for Your Museum: Two Case Studies of Museum Assessment Programs, Julie Bryan & Eliza Newland

The American Alliance of Museum’s Museum Assessment Program (MAP) and the American Association of State and Local History’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs) are amazing resources that all museums and historic sites should know about and not be afraid to utilize. Each presenter will discuss what it was like for a small museum with limited staff to participate in these programs and the amount of knowledge and resources that are gained through these programs. This session will be ASL interpreted.

Coffee Break in the Resource Hall, 10:30 - 11:00am

Sessions, 11:00am - 12:30pm

Empathy in Museum Practice, Gretchen Jennings & Stacey Mann

Through round-table, facilitated discussions, participants will engage in institutional self-reflection by applying the Empathetic Museum Summary Maturity Model to their own institution. In particular, this workshop will consider issues of racial and economic justice as benchmarks for institutional self-reflection and change. Target audience is museum directors and key department heads. For more information on the concept of the Empathetic Museum and on the Maturity Model go to

25 Ideas in 2,500 Square Feet, Caitlin Swaim & Sarah Krizek 

From exhibit labels to branding, presenters will share how you can implement 25 low to no-cost ideas that made a big splash in your small museum. Putting your heads (and departments) together, you can make your small museum a more vibrant and welcoming place for visitors and the community. A keen eye for detail, a few dollars, and a small army of volunteers can take your space from dull to exciting (and bring in a few more visitors too). This session will be ASL interpreted.

DIY Databases: Digital File Management and Sharing for Small Organizations, Benjamin Israel & Meagan Baco 

Many museums and small cultural institutions have large collections of digital images, but how are you supposed to organize them? Come join us for a workshop on how to make a low-cost DIY database. Not only can you better access your files, you can also use it as an opportunity to engage with the public!

Continuing the Conversation: Gender and LGBTQ* in Small Museums, Meg Hutchins

After positive feedback at last year's conference, this roundtable session is for open dialogue between participants about the challenges behind presenting gender and LGBTQ* history in their community, area, and broadly in the nation. How do we approach and interpret LGBTQ* and gender history within our limited means as small museums? Let's have a discussion about these struggles and how we might be able to turn them into successes.

Grant Opportunities from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Mark Feitl

As the primary source of federal support for the nation’s museums, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) provides grant funds that assist museums of all types and sizes in their work to be effective and sustainable organizations. IMLS support is available for projects including, but not limited to, exhibits and programs, collections care and conservation, professional development, and research. This session offers information on grant opportunities and tips for preparing competitive applications.

Lunch, 12:30 - 1:30pm

Sessions, 1:30 - 3pm

Disrupting the Narrative: Researching the History of Slavery at your Site, Dean Krimmel

Ready to interpret slavery at your site but unsure where to begin? This is the session for you. Join us to learn how to use readily available sources to begin uncovering the lives of enslaved people and lay the groundwork for interpreting the most important topic of our time: race and the legacy of slavery.

Registration 101, Danielle Hall Bennett & John E. Simmons

Is your collection unaccessioned, uncataloged, disorganized, or is your registration system simply not functioning very well? This session will teach you how to proceed step-by-step to bring order to museum chaos, what essential literature you should have on hand and other useful resources that are available.

Financial Data Essentials for Organizational Planning, Joanna Reiner Wilkinson

Making financial decisions can be a challenge, but setting the stage with data can help a team come together around a shared vision. This workshop will explore how to use data to help manage your day-to-day operations, monitor your financial health, and make long-range strategic and financial plans. Topics include finding the best revenue mix for an organization, figuring out how much your programs really cost, and planning for capital needs.

Deaf Accessibility Tools & Creativity 101, Kathleen Brockway

The speaker will share the accessibility tools for the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing visitors that may bring them closer to art and culture. Additionally, the creativity of program ideas can be shared to boost the appreciation of diversity. Lastly, some examples will be provided to understand the importance of accessibility tools and creativity. This session will be ASL interpreted.

SWAT Stories: Lessons from the Collections SWAT Teams and How They Can Help You With Your Collections; Katherine C. Grier, Stephanie M. Lampkin, Nicole Belolan, & Tracy Hill Jentzsch 

In 2010, the University of Delaware Museum Studies Program began its annual Collections SWAT Team service project. 75 graduate students have donated over 4,500 hours to area small historical organizations -- conducting inventories, photographing collections, cataloging, cleaning and rehousing, and writing up recommendations for future work at each site. We've also met some unusual challenges, and this session will share these and also offer some helpful advice on tackling your own collection management challenges.

Refreshment Break, 3:00 - 3:30pm

Sessions, 3:45 - 4:45pm

Know the Ropes: Current Trends and Issues in Museum Education, Beth Maloney & Claudia B. Ocello

How can you stay on track with key issues in museum education when wearing so many hats? An overview of trends in museum education will provide interdisciplinary museum teams with inspiration to try new approaches and explore relevant models, allowing all staff to work towards the common goal of how to best serve visitors. Small group discussions for peer learning and sharing, along with a bibliography of additional resources, will equip attendees with a toolbox to use after the conference concludes. This session will be ASL interpreted.

Making Use of "All Hands," Including Interns, Mary Alexander

This session will consider museum internships from two perspectives--the museum and the intern. It will address strategies that provide assistance to the museum while engaging interns in valuable "work" experiences. Current students from the Museum Scholarship and Material Culture Program at the University of Maryland will participate in the discussions.

Lessons Learned in Creating a Local Consortium of Small Museums, Vic Rezendes & Courtney McKay

The Allegany Museum is one of a dozen museums in Western Maryland—Allegany and Garrett Counties. We created the Western Maryland Heritage Association: a loose collaboration of the area's museums that jointly market our attractions and have had several important joint exhibits and collaborations. The presentation will focus on the issues involving organizing a collaboration of museums, highlight success stories, and identify important lessons learned over the past 5 years.

Staying the Course: Steering Your Small Museum Board to Success, Amanda Shores Davis

As a small museum with limited staff and resources, organizing a board can seem like a daunting and oftentimes difficult task when the livelihood of your site is dependent upon the staff and board working in tandem to set and stay the course toward success. In this 60-minute session, Flag House Executive Director Amanda Davis will share her tips and tricks for board management and establishing a working board environment. Topics covered will include: setting fiscal year goals, getting your committees to work, board surveys and feedback, tracking success metrics, implementing evergreen goals, strategic planning, and educating your board on what museum professionals do.

Exhibiting Knowledge: Making Room for Community Learning and Development, Shannon M. Smith 

This session will provide a variety of working models that incorporate students of all ages as researchers, content contributors, and trained staff while actively developing their academic and professional skill sets. Example projects include student-created community exhibits, undergraduate cultural history research, and service learning programs in underserved neighborhoods. This approach positions the small museum as a community learning and resource center from the perspective of both students and practicing professionals.

Annual Banquet: Gloved Gala 

6:30 - 10:00pm

Tip your hand to this year's Conference theme and dress for dinner by wearing gloves: white cotton, blue nitrile, lace, or chemical mitts. Formal or themed attire encouraged but not required. This year, LIVE music will be provided by Maryland rockabilly band Rockin' Bones. Additional activities include awards, raffle, and silent auction announcements. The banquet will be ASL interpreted.      


Breakfast, 7:15 - 9:15am

Plenary Address, 8:15 - 9:15am

Kim Fortney & Callie Hawkins of the

The plenary address will be ASL interpreted.

Sessions: 9:30 - 10:30am

Joining the Crew: Career Advice & Resume Review, Allison Titman & John Orr

Looking to join the crew at a museum? Or get a job better than swabbing the decks? Join two people who've done a lot of thinking about careers in the field to hear their tips and share your own experiences. Bring a copy of your resume for review by them and other experienced museum professionals.

Creating Exhibitions Through the Collective: Insight Into Community Co-Curation, Saul Sopoci Drake

Want to create an exhibit that utilizes your community? If so, this session of Creating Exhibitions through the Collective is for you. We will investigate how community involvement during all stages of the exhibit development process can lead to more credible interpretation, community empowerment and advocacy. Tips and strategies will be provided to build sustainable frameworks for this type of engagement.

Setting Yourself Up for Successful Partnerships; Stephanie Boyle, Laura Brandt, & Hillary Rothberg

Museums are in a unique position to co-create programmatic partnerships. Fostering community relationships with schools, restaurants, businesses, and even media groups diversifies your audiences and positions museums as pillars of the neighborhood. But how can you ensure their success?

Keeping All Your Passengers Afloat in One Ship: CRM Options for Small Museums, Lauren Silberman 

Learn what Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs are and how they can benefit your museum in developing deeper relationships with your supporters, whether they are members, donors, volunteers or others you'd like to get to know better. Explore some of the options available with a range of benefits and price points. Includes a case study of one museum that spent several months researching different options, made a choice, and began implementing the new program with strong results.

When Walls Cry: Lessons Learned When a Natural Disaster Strikes Your Small Museum, Amy Leiser & Brianne Shamburger

Ensuring an institution is prepared for an emergency is one of the most important steps that an organization can take to safeguard collections, and it is often one of the most over-looked. In this session, information will be provided to help others establish a disaster plan, including the equipment museums and libraries should have on-hand, when disaster strikes. Attendees will learn that it is important to maintain an open dialogue with the public and to not keep these types of emergencies confined within their walls. This session will be ASL interpreted.

Partnerships Are Everywhere: Doing More Together, Michael Verville

As small institutions, creative approaches and pooling of resources are often the only options for finishing projects or introducing new programs. Partnerships can bring people together and strengthen networks, but can also create new challenges. Learn about how the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough has partnered with friends and neighbors to do more together, and share your own experiences with partnership programs.

Sessions, 10:45 - 11:45am

Aligning Community Partners for Resources and Goals, Amanda Harvey 

“All hands on deck” is a concept that can go beyond the hands available within an institution. Small museums, though sometimes limited in resources, are not necessarily limited in the connections and collaborations that can be made in their communities. By reaching out to local, state, and federal agencies and groups, institutions can create collaborations that can help provide the content and resources that are vital to helping their missions and strategic plans succeed in serving the institution and their community. NASA is one of many federal agencies that has these types of relationships within their communities. This session will provide an opportunity to discuss aligning community partners, working with NASA in particular, and feedback and insight from institutions that have and are collaborating with NASA Goddard.

Small Museums and Geocaching, Mark Neuberger

This session will give an overview of what geocaching is, how small museums can use geocaching to bring individuals to their locations, the different types of geocaches that would be useful to small museums, and give examples of geocaches currently at small museums.

Works for Hire: Protecting Your Institution’s Intellectual Property, Andrew I. Bart, Esq.

An institution hiring a creative independent contractor wants to ensure that it retains the copyright to the end result of a project. It is a fine balancing act between retaining artistic workers who will lend creative energy to a project while guaranteeing that the institution alone will be able to reproduce or profit from any created work. This session will guide participants through the basics of the “work for hire” doctrine, and address potential pitfalls that may arise such as who is an independent contractor, what defines a “work for hire,” and what makes a work for hire agreement valid.

United We Stand: The Possibilities for Museums, Schools, and Stronger Partnerships, Ashley Scotto 

Museums and schools have parallel goals in working with their communities, but often they exist as separate entities. This session will demonstrate an alternative way that museums can add another level to their educational programming while actively addressing a need of the school/student audience. Within this session, attendees will learn step-by-step best practices to unite and build stronger partnerships with schools and advocacy for small museums, strengthen a museum’s community ties in the present day, and overall prove a museum’s essential role as a powerful agent for children’s education and social change. This session will be ASL interpreted.

Adulting: Museum Style; Lindsey Baker, Allison Schell, & Jovan Rogers

Learn about different adult programs (and ways you can take those ideas to your own sites) through the eyes of Alli Schell (Chadds Ford Historical Society) Lindsey Baker (Laurel Historical Society), and Jovan Rogers (Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission). Each presenter brings a unique perspective, as well as lots of fun success (and sometimes failure) stories to learn from.

Putting the “Social” in Social Media: Online Interactions between Small Museums & Visitors, Auni Gelles 

How can small museums leverage social media to grow an online audience, share content with the wider world, and further their mission—at little or no cost? Through interaction. We will discuss how to keep tabs on your site’s “word of mouse” and how to use social media as a starting point for connecting with younger and more diverse audiences.

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