Small Museum Association

    Small Museums Working Together

2016 Conference Information

32nd Annual SMA Conference: Museums & More

Sunday, February 14 - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, Ocean City, MD


12:00 - 5:00pm Registration Desk Open

12:30 - 4:00pm Workshops:

Finding “More” Funding: Grant-Writing Workshop for Small Museums, Edith Gonzalez Salva

Finding funding to support the important work of small museums can be a daunting task for a busy staff. This workshop will teach how to find funding opportunities, prepare more competitive grant proposals, and integrate this effort into an already-busy schedule. Participants should bring a copy of their museum’s mission statement for the hands-on portion of the workshop.

DIY Exhibits for Small Museums, Jesse Gagnon & Susan Randolph

During this hands-on workshop, presenters will go over the nuts and bolts of how to develop and execute exhibits where limited staff time, small budgets, and complicated spaces and collections are a factor. The workshop will cover basics of script development and non-traditional presentation methods, such as portable, interchangeable, and economical exhibit panels; hanging fabric and vinyl banners; pull banners; Velcro boards with laminated exhibit items; and various outdoor signage. This is a show-and-share workshop, and attendees are encouraged to bring examples of how they have created non-traditional exhibit components in their museums and historic sites.

4:30 - 5:30pm State Association Meetings (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, & New Jersey)

5:45 - 6:45pm Wine & Cheese Reception in the Resource Hall

9:00 - 10:30pm BATTLE DECKS

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


7:15am to 4:00pm Registration Desk Open

8:15 - 9:15am Keynote Address: Anne Ackerson (

Anne’s long professional career with cultural and heritage organizations as a staff leader, a board member, and a consultant provides her with the ongoing challenge of melding the practical realities of an organization’s work with the need to think big and smart. As we reflect on the massive socio-techno-economic changes taking place in society today, we must come to terms with how museums and their sister institutions can embrace meaningful change. Anne will share what she thinks eight of the most critical issues are for leaders of small museums today.

9:30 - 10:30am Morning Sessions I

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

11:00 - 12:30pm Morning Sessions II

12:30 - 1:30pm Lunchtime Discussions

1:30 - 3:00pm Afternoon Sessions I

3:00 - 3:30pm Ice Cream Social

3:45 - 4:45pm  Afternoon Sessions II

6:30 - 10:00pm  Annual Banquet

A favorite among many SMA attendees! Come for dinner and to dance in concert with your colleagues. Additional activities include the announcement of award winners, raffle, and a silent auction. Consider dressing in red to show your small museum love.


7:15am to 10:45am Registration Desk Open

8:15 - 9:15am Plenary Address: Laura L. Lott, President & CEO, American Alliance of Museums

Laura L. Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, will share an early look at AAM’s next 5-year strategic plan and what it means for small museums. In 2012, when Laura was AAM’s Chief Operating Officer, the Alliance introduced a tiered membership structure that put membership within the reach of museums who previously couldn’t afford it. At the same time, AAM offered new stepping stones for small museums on the path to accreditation. Laura will discuss how the new strategic plan will build on those efforts and invite your feedback on the organization’s direction for the future.

9:30 - 10:30am       Morning Sessions I

10:45 - 11:45am Morning Sessions II

Session Information 

Monday Morning Sessions I

Collection Match: Don’t Reject, Redirect!, Meghan Ryan Guthorn & Dawn Sherman-Fells

Collecting institutions want to maintain and improve donor relations and grow their collections. However, records and artifacts offered by a donor may not fit an institution’s mission, or the institution may lack the resources to support them. Identifying an institution that may be better suited to receive the records or artifacts offered is often difficult as no single resource for identifying alternate institutions exists. We propose Collection Match--a tool to facilitate the solicitation and redirection of proposed donations among cultural heritage professionals. This forum will facilitate a discussion about the proposed tool, gauge professional interest, and seek volunteers to participate in its creation, development, and maintenance. 

Increasing Access Through Collaborative Initiatives, John Orr

For nearly 30 years Art-Reach has been serving individuals with disabilities and those facing economic disadvantages by creating innovative collaborations with both the human service and cultural engagement sectors. Art-Reach currently works with over 170 human service agencies and partners with over 172 cultural organizations to produce accessible opportunities in the arts, broaden engagement, and build new audiences from underserved populations. This session will focus on the lessons learned over the years and include challenges and solutions to building collaborative programs using Art-Reach’s ACCESS Admission initiative as a reference point. In 2015, ACCESS Admission engaged over 41,000 individuals and united the efforts of 31 museums, gardens, and historic sites in a joint effort to mobilize low-income populations to engage with their local museum community.

Book Signing, Anne Ackerson

Keynote speaker Anne Ackerson will be available to sign her book Leadership Matters (co-authored by Joan Baldwin) as well as answer any questions raised by her keynote address.

Virtual Interns: Boldly Going Where Few Museums Have Gone Before, Abigail Harting

As small organizations, there are rarely enough hours in the day, and limited funds to get our work done. Unlock the potential power of virtual interns for your site! Learn how the laws on internships apply to distance interns, build an understanding of the needs of virtual interns, and learn how to create an internship program that welcomes virtual interns.

Stellar Collaborations: Helping Your Museum Shine Through Successful Community Partnerships, Amy Walton

Learn how to create awareness of your small museum through successful collaborations with other nonprofits and corporate partners. “Stellar” collaborations can ultimately result in more memberships and more financial support. Learn how to make your museum more than it currently is...the potential is unlimited!

Monday Morning Sessions II

Team-Based Inquiry: A Practical Evaluation Approach for Non-Evaluators, Sarah Cohn

Do you sometimes have questions about the educational experiences you are developing? Are you interested in incorporating evaluation and reflective practice into your work? If yes, this session can help you learn to use evaluation to improve your practice. This session will introduce a practical, tested approach for building your evaluation capacity without adding much time to your daily work. The session is particularly relevant for educators, program and exhibit developers, and their managers.

Hacking Hallowed Ground: Lessons Learned, Elizabeth Scott Shatto, Auni Gelles, Brian Dankmeyer, Amelia Grabowski, & Jake Wynn

Recently, the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area sponsored a millennial engagement workshop led by Museum Hack, a group known for high energy, technology-infused programs that incorporate inquiry, storytelling movement, photo challenges, power moves and a little sass to shake up the traditional museum visit. Panelists will reflect on lessons learned and how “hack” techniques might be used in their future museum or battlefield interpretation. There will be plenty of time for Q & A and the session will include an interactive Museum Hack game that all participants can adapt to use at their home locations. If possible, bring a smartphone, iPad, or similar tablet.

Hate Mail, Cash Flow, & Angry Neighbors: Are You Ready to be an Executive Director?, Rod Cofield & Alice Estrada

Are you ready to be an Executive Director? Yes, you may have the content down and understand how to put together a budget. You may have even spent some time supervising other staff. But, are you ready for the community engagement, working with board members, assuaging angry neighbors, thinking like a business person, and being ready for the unexpected and to take charge? Join Alice and Rod as they combine a presentation and discussion with lessons learned during their time as executive directors. We promise stories about exploding toilets, hate mail, and how to deal with it all.

Peer Resume Review

Not sure if your resume reflects the impressive small museum professional you are? Bring it with you to receive feedback from fellow conference attendees and SMA Board, Emeritus Committee, and Conference Committee members.

Doing More With More and How to Get There!, Angela Yau

How do you craft meaningful programs and exhibits? It is not with a just the facts approach - throw out the textbook and delve into the heart of your visitor to create a message that brings them back for more. In this session you will learn how interpretation is an art and science that you can use to provide so much more to your visitor- more meaning, more value, more relevance, more aha! moments, and more engagement and learning and love for your museum. Learn how to connect to the heart of your story and share your passion to inspire your visitors.

Monday Afternoon Sessions I

Is That Real: Objects and Interaction in Small Museums, Lacey Villiva & Sarah Nucci

This session will explore a myriad of ways that museums can integrate touch into their experiences, from galleries to guided tours. We will discuss how to invite our communities to engage with the spaces in ways that consider a variety of different learning styles and entrance narratives. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about ways other museums have successfully included some touchable ideas and others that are still in their pilot phase.

Planned Giving: It’s Not Just for Big Organizations, Patti Bender

This session is an introduction to planned giving for organizations that are doing little or nothing to pursue gifts other than cash. While planned giving is often thought of as complicated, there are many simple, inexpensive ways to invite such gifts. The session will help participants change their view of planned giving from a focus on death, to a focus on helping donors make their best gift possible. We will discuss the basics of planned giving vehicles, options for accepting and processing such gifts, and cost-effective ways to market planned gifts.

Innovating With Tradition: Engaging Communities Through Festivals, Exhibits, & Programs, Robert Forloney & Shannon Smith

During this session the panelists will share the diverse ways that folklife can be integrated into programs and exhibits, through research and participation. This approach can engage new audiences, create robust community relationships, and even strengthen whole communities. From a festival spawning a new rural museum and oral histories connecting recent immigrants and laborers to historic sites, to exhibitions developed from folklife research, participants will learn new strategies for incorporating their local folkways into innovative programs.

Small to Mid-Sized Museums: What are the Real Measures of Success, Steven Blashfield & Karen L. Daly

When you identify your organization as a "non-profit", logic suggests that your revenue and financial performance should not be the sole measure of success for your museum. But, so often with Boards and granting organizations you are compared on corporate measures to evaluate success. For museums the measures should be less about financial type metrics and more about "performance" and community impact. This session will look beyond those traditional metrics to discuss how to evaluate, plan for, and achieve successful outcomes. What are some alternative measures that might be useful? Moderators will share some of their own research and insights on this ongoing discussion in the field. Using their experiences at Dumbarton House and the Hermitage Museum and Gardens they will highlight some very successful outcomes that have at times defied traditional metrics applied to museums.

Free and Easy Websites: Planning and Creating a Website Using WYSIWYG Editors, Kelsey Ransick

The upsurge in What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) website editors has made creating and maintaining a website faster and easier. Following the style of the AASLH book, Free and Easy Website Design for Museums & Historic Sites, this workshop will guide participants through the process of developing and designing a site on one of two different platforms (Weebly or Wix). Participants are encouraged to come prepared with information useful for developing a site and bring laptops to follow along during the second part of the session.

Monday Afternoon Sessions II

Museum Scholarship in the Age of New Museology: Interdisciplinary Experiences from University of Maryland Graduate Students, Sarah Janesko, Jana Soeder, Mary Alexander, Blaze Buck, Leah Bush, Nadine Dangerfield, Sarah Hartge, Kevin Kim & Hannah Vahle

Graduate students from the University of Maryland, College Park's Certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture will lead a roundtable discussion on their experiences, challenges, and successes with research within museum scholarship. In the age of new museology, these students navigate the role of museums as institutions of influence within small communities and within their own professional development. Themes of collaboration, globalization and technology recur in their scholarship and in their expectations of the field's future.

Night at the Museum [Conference]: Museums in Pop Culture, Alexis Ainsworth, Lindsey Baker, John Orr, & Allison Titman

Why are museums such a recurrent theme in pop culture? How are they depicted in movies, TV shows, and even video games, and why? This lighthearted but thoughtful session will utilize clips and examples to challenge attendees to think about the multitude of ways museums are depicted to and perceived by the public, and what it means for how museums can and should engage with them.

Probing Gender and Interculturality at the American Historic House Museum, Lesley Barker

Using a combination of original research on interculturality in three St. Louis house museums as well as items from the Bolduc House Museum's archives and collections related to 18th century French American male/female interactions, this session will explore how looking for the "inter" cultural and "inter" gender of what a house museum preserves and interprets may suggest a fresh interpretative lens for these museums.

Beyond Playing Dress-Up: Exploring Refreshing Changes to Summer Day Camp Programs, Kimberly D. Boice

Two summer day camp programs at the historic Wentz Farmstead have explored ways to allow the campers to engage the public as a culminating activity, one as tour guides and another as exhibit curators. Our experience has found that not only are the kids up to the challenge, but able to succeed on everyone’s terms, including their own. Museum educator (& camp director) Kimberly Boice will share some of the lessons learned and inspire ideas on how to provide a similar experience at your site.

More Museums Means More Impact: How the Heritage Museums of Havre de Grace Grew Together!, Bethany Baker & Angela Yau

Are you in a place with many museums or organizations? Does that mean competition? Or can you all win by working together? The Heritage Museums of Havre de Grace is a partnership of six local museums that have won by working together and are all growing as we move forward. Each of us has a different business model and different mission but by identifying and marketing the related parts of our local history we can do more than if we stand alone. This panel discussion will share the wins, the draws, and the challenges along the way to creating partnership opportunities and documenting success and local impacts.

Tuesday Morning Sessions I

#CivilWarSelfies: A Social Media Sandbox, Kristen Butler, Auni Gelles, Matt Borders, & Autumn Cook

In 2014, the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area experimented with creating a social media-based game that encouraged visitors to take photos of themselves at sites related to the commemoration of the Battle of Monocacy. Taking Civil War Selfies was a fun, family-friendly activity, and when posted to social media, the photos extended the commemoration’s reach to participants’ friends and families. During this discussion, panelists will share what they learned from both the successes and failures of this experiment and ask audience members to share their own ideas on social media-based museum programming. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and continue the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #CivilWarSelfiesSMA.

Fundraising Analytics, Debra Scott

One of the biggest barriers to achieving sustainable funding for small museums is the high cost associated with acquiring and retaining major gift donors. Utilizing machine intelligence and predictive models is a strong counterweight small museums can use to maximize fundraising efficiency and lower fundraising costs. Attendees will learn how fundraising analytics can save vital time and improve overall efficiency in procuring major gift donors.

Low-Cost Solutions to Large-Scale Archives: Preserving the Sutliff Family Letter Collection, Melissa Karman & Meghan Reed

This session will explore the process of preserving a collection of 800+ letters from the 1830s -1860s.This process includes labeling, transcribing, preserving, and storing the Sutliff family letters with limited staff and budget. We will explore how we developed relationships with local universities to assist with transcription and how our staff utilized the letters for research and public engagement.

It Gets Better: Gender and LGBTQ in Small Museums, Meg Hutchins

How do we answer the question of gender and LGBTQ issues in museums? How can we embrace LGBTQ history within our communities and surrounding area within our own museums? How can this be done within our means and with our current collection? Let's have a discussion about these struggles and how we might be able to turn them into successes.

Free or Low-Cost Tech Resources for Your Small Museum: Workflow, Digital Marketing, and Web Solutions Utilized at Historic Sugartown, Faith McCarrick

The costs to create and maintain digital marketing, web and workflow solutions for your small museum can add up very quickly. To combat these costs, Historic Sugartown now takes advantage of a number of free and low cost technical resources available to non-profits and has been pleased with the results. This session will review a few of the products we now use, their usefulness, cost and how other organizations can access them.

Tuesday Morning Sessions II

Augmented Reality: What Is It?, Bill Schroh, Jr., Rachael Goldberg, & Ed Johnston

In this panel presentation, Bill Schroh, Jr., Rachael Goldberg from Liberty Hall Museum and Ed Johnston, a faculty member of the Robert Busch School of Design in the Michael Graves College at Kean University, would like to share their collaborative, cross-institutional efforts to further enrich Liberty Hall Museum’s collections and exhibitions with new experiential platforms involving augmented reality (AR) and spherical photography. AR enables the users of a smartphone or tablet to see a three-dimensional image on their camera screens. It enables them to move their devices around and see that content overlaid on top of their real-time experience.

Beyond Traditional Partnerships: Community & Constituent Services at NMAAHC, Nicole Bryner

The Office of Community & Constituent Services at Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture works to strengthen and elevate the profile of African American museums, historically Black Colleges and Universities, and other organizations through strategic partnerships on behalf of the museum. These partnerships are many and varied, working with small museums to large through our work with state, national and international museums and museum service organizations on varying types of programming, capacity building, and professional development. This session will make use of lessons learned to explore what makes a good partnership and how small museums can create partnerships that expand beyond traditional ideas of what a partnership is and what it can do.

Membership Lessons from the Small Garden, Stephanie Kuniholm

Public gardens and arboreta are often described as open-air museums with ever-changing collections of living plants. Much like their four-walled museum counterparts, public gardens are funded through a variety of revenue streams, including membership programs. Based on an in-depth study conducted in 2015 of membership programs at 300 public gardens, explore membership beyond the walls of the museum to learn from the successes and challenges of small gardens.

Bringing Large Museum Best Practices to Local Historical Societies, Hillery York

This presentation will show how institutional museum practices can be implemented within smaller, local museums. Many small museums feel overwhelmed by the processes taking place at large, well-funded institutions, but by adapting these seemingly daunting techniques, local museums can easily achieve best practices. Through her experience working at the National Museum of American History and volunteering at the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society, Hillery will demonstrate how to adapt institutional practices at the local level in the fields of museum cataloging, inventory and display.

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