MOMCC Luncheon Town Hall and Keynote

I’m a day late with this post, so forgive me please! For those not in the know, MOMCC has two conferences a year, and the annual meeting is always at the Fall Conference in November. The Spring Conference in March usually has a keynote speaker speaking on a relevant topic. This year our keynote was Steven Conn, Professor of History at Ohio State University. Besides the keynote, other activities during lunch was a short presentation by Historic Point Basse of their upcoming hosting of the Fall Conference in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin in early November, and a town hall meeting.

We don’t regularly hold town meetings in MOMCC, but there were three important issues that needed to be discussed with the general membership. First we spoke about the use of technology. There has been increased usage of online registration, a need for a new webmaster (Chris Gordy has been filling in, but there hasn’t been a permanent one for sometime) and social media.  A number of members have used the new online registration, however there have been some concern as there is a lack if notification regarding workshops. This needs to be worked out.

Issue two was a proposed rise in membership fees. MOMCC has held firm on membership dues for the last twenty years at $20 for an individual, and $25 for both a household and institutional memberships. Proposed new member dues would be $30 for an individual, $35 for family (I think, I forgot to write this one down) and $50 for an institutional membership.  There was concern on the raise of dues, both for individuals (who usually have to pay their own way to conferences) and institutions. Smaller institutions may feel a doubling of membership dues to be tough right now, though one of the benefits of institutional membership is the ability to send unlimited numbers of staff to conferences under the member cost. The magazine is the largest user of dues (every member receives it). The magazine is now costing more to produce than there are dues coming in. The board has decided that they do not want to take away color from the magazine and shrink the size of it, but to keep it as the high quality professional journal that it has become. Because the magazine is currently behind publication schedule, no action will take place until it is back on track. This will be revisited. These dues would also be in line with ALFHAM and other professional organizations.

The final topic for discussion was the “West Virginia Compact.” What is the West Virginia Compact, you may be asking? It is a proposal to merge the MOMCC membership into ALHFAM as a full region, but still retaining some of its independence. The Midwest Open-air Coordinating Council was created as an independent organization about the same time that ALHFAM was created, and because it represents museums in the eight Midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, it has been affiliated as the midwest region of ALHFAM, though MOMCC members are not ALHFAM members, though they do receive the conference rate. This is the same with ALHFAM members of the eight midwestern states of MOMCC. This was just an informational discussion as it has to be discussed between the two boards and have all of the details worked out. It will be interesting to see what develops.

As mentioned above (this is much longer than I planned, so it could have been in an old post!), the keynote “Do Museums Still Need Objects” was presented by Steven Conn, Professor of History at Ohio State University. In this thought-provoking speech, Professor Conn did not imply that we should all get rid of the artifacts that we exhibit and interpret, but we need to look at our location and the history of the place we are in. For those of this who have backgrounds in historic preservation and heritage interpretation, this is not new, but for many in the museum profession, it is.

Professor Conn used a project he worked on in the Germantown Avenue neighborhood of Philadelphia. in the late 1700s and the early 1800s, it was one of the wealthiest areas of the country, having many summer homes of Philadelphia’s elite class. This included George Washington’s summer executive mansion, the Chew House (Cliveden, now a National Trust property) and many others. Today, it is one of the poorest districts of Philadelphia. The Chews were the largest slaveholders in the north. Today, the descendants of many of those slaves still live in the neighborhood.

This neighborhood contains several historic house museums, besides Cliveden, with great collections of material culture, but experiences only about 5,000 visitors between them all, per year. When surveyed, the local population was not interested in what was inside the house, but of the landscapes and yards of the mansions, in a community with very little green spaces. With wanting to better connect with the community, they had to ask themselves “Why does this place matter?” Through the process, they have worked with the community and looked at their sites in a new light. As professor Conn said, “Figure out how to connect the past to what matters today.” (We hope to have the full text of the keynote published in an upcoming issue of the Midwest Open Air Museums Magazine.)

Words to live by.

–Rob Burg

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