Saturday, June 26, 2010

Great Marketing Opportunity for VAM Members!

We have partnered with Highway Information Media, LLC to bring you a great marketing opportunity, right when you need it most! We have heard wonderful feedback thus far on this program. Many of our members are wasting no time taking advantage. But act fast - we are only offering this great program through July 2010. Find out more.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

VAM's Mission and "About Us" Statement as a Word Cloud...

created at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fundamentals Forum - Day 2

I'm a bit late getting yesterday's information up - it has been very busy here in Blacksburg!

Day 2 (Wednesday, June 16) started early - Scott Harris talked me into getting up for a morning constitutional (walk around campus). It did wake me up, and got my appetite roaring for breakfast in the dining hall. Hmm - French toast, omelet to order, belgian waffle or just good old eggs and bacon?

The first session was a general session on Museums and Boards presented by A.T. Stephens, Mike Henry and Doug Harvey. Breakout sessions followed for the rest of the day, 2-3 at a time: Daily Museum Operations, School Programs, Basic Marketing: Working with the Press, Outreach and Partnerships, Collections Management 101, Annual Fund and Membership, Technology and Social Media in Small Museums, and Administration: Personnel Issues.

We ended the day with another general session that basically provided an opportunity to explore some of the things that had come out of earlier sessions, get questions answered and to talk about our "aha moments" so far.

The faculty have been great - all the sessions have been outstanding, and they have provided a wealth of information and tips, referral to other resources, and generally the benefit of their years of experience in the museum world. They have made themselves available during breaks and mealtimes to answer questions, suggest options for specific situations our participants bring up, and have gone out of their way to be helpful.

After dinner, we had a special treat. Terry Nicholson, Museum Manager for the Town of Blacksburg, and Terri Fisher, Executive Director of the Giles County Historical Society, led the group on a walking tour of the Virginia Tech campus. Particularly moving was the memorial to the students and professors lost during the terrible shooting tragedy a year ago.

We also got to see the preserved Odd Fellows Hall, a museum celebrating the history of the African American inhabitants of Blacksburg,

and the GeoSciences Museum (thanks to Lyn Sharp, the Outreach and Collections Manager) where the highlight was the black light room showcasing the fluorescent and phosphorescent rocks.

Far out, man!

After our hike around campus, many folks came back to the dorm and headed for bed - it had been a long and full day. But there were a couple dozen folks who decided to continue the conversations from the night before in the Third Floor Lounge. On tap this evening was the movie "The Magnificent Seven", with contributed commentary. Quick - name the seven hired guns.
Did you remember Horst Bucholtz???
Margo Carlock

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At the Museum Fundamentals Forum in Blacksburg

Fundamentals Forum - Day One

One of VAM's most popular programs is taking place this week in Blacksburg, Virginia on the campus of Virginia Tech. The Virginia Museum Fundamentals Forum, otherwise known as "museum boot camp" is a three-day, intensive seminar on every aspect of running a museum. Cost of the program is an incredibly low $85 per person, and that includes three days of instruction, a reference manual that will be an invaluable resource for the rest of your career, PLUS all meals, lodging and linens for the duration. This low cost makes it really affordable for just about everyone, and is made possible through a generous grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Yesterday, June 15, was the first day. After the flurry of "move-in", with everyone unloading their bags and pillows, finding their dorm rooms, and in some cases meeting their roommates (a single room was available for an extra $40), we launched right into the meat of the matter. A general session on museum history, issues (past, present and future), and ethics kicked things off, followed by breakout sessions on: Starting a Museum; How to Plan for a Disaster; Public Programming 101; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Financial Management; Volunteer Management; and Family Programming. Faculty teaching these sessions included John Verrill (museum consultant), Mike Henry (Colvin Run Mill), Scott Harris (New Market Battlefield), Jeanne Niccolls (collections consultant), AT Stephens (Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh-Durham), Linnea Grim (Monticello), and Lori Blackwood Robert Russa Moton Museum).

What people really like about the Forum is the casual atmosphere and the focus on interaction - getting questions answered and learning from real-life situations. The ethical conundrums we were asked to explore really elicited a lot of back and forth, and it was clear why determining just what is the ethical position to take can be tempered by different factors. I sat in on the Starting a Museum session because we help a lot of museums with these issues (and forms!!) at VAM, and a refresher course is always a good idea.

Dinner in the dining hall was a bit unreal. I say that because there were so many choices, and all of the food was definitely restaurant-quality. Everyone was looking at each other and saying the same thing - we never ate this well when I was in college!! I chose the Pan Asian station, and had won ton soup, an egg roll, and Szechuan Beef with rice. Coconut cake for dessert, and that was a real tough choice because they also had German Chocolate cake and apple crisp. I can see why freshmen gain weight - I'll have my own "Freshman Fifteen" when I leave I'm afraid.

In the evenings we like to get everyone together to socialize, network, continue the day's discussions, and generally let off some steam and relax. The dorm lounge was packed, and as I looked around the room every single person was engaged in a deep conversation with their colleagues - just what we were hoping for!

But there was plenty of silliness, too. We discovered there was no microwave but A.T. and I rummaged around the kitchenette and found a beat-up skillet and a cake pan - and "cowboy popcorn" was born. Rip open a package of microwave popcorn, put it in a skillet with the cake pan as "lid", and voila! A little smoky but definitely popped corn.

Which came in handy for the movie. Mike had brought a copy of the remastered "Story of a Patriot" from Colonial Williamsburg (longest running film in history, it was filmed in 1957). With the sound not great from our laptop speaker, the group contributed running dialog that I suspect was not actually what the actors were saying. I did say silliness, right?

Well. lights out at 11pm and with the group all tucked away in their dorm beds time to look forward to tomorrow! I'll try to blog each night to let you all have a peak into the Forum experience.

Margo Carlock
Executive Director and Interim Hall Monitor, VAM