Museum Assistants Respond to NMAM

On November 2-3, the New Mexico Association of Museums held their annual conference at The University of New Mexico. UNMAM provided the opportunity for student Museum Assistants to attend the conference, allowing them to network with museum professionals and discover the range of experiences across the museum field. Below are four reflections on the conference from our student Museum Assistants.

Hannah Cerne – Research Assistant, Museum Assistant

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend and present my research at the 2023 NMAM Conference. The research I presented focused on the first exhibition displayed at the University of New Mexico Art Museum (UNMAM) titled, Taos and Santa Fe: The Artist’s Environment, 1882 – 1942.  Recently, I wrote an article for the UNMAM Journal discussing the first exhibition displayed titled, “From the Archives: Taos and Santa Fe: The Artist’s Environment, 1882 – 1942.”  Additionally, I had the pleasure of assisting Devin Geraci, Associate Director of Operations at the UNM Art Museum, with her session titled, “Revitalizing Student Employment in Museums.”

Attending the NMAM Conference, as well as presenting my research to museum professionals from all over the state of New Mexico, was a great pleasure. My participation at the conference allowed me to step into an expert setting as a future museum professional. At the conference I met and spoke with museum professionals from the Natural History and Science Museum, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Explora, New Mexico Museum of Art, Vladem Contemporary, and many other professionals from varying institutions. The opportunity to speak with people who are currently employed in the field I wish to pursue is inspiring, motivating, and groundbreaking as I begin to network in the museum environment. The conference encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and be introduced to other students pursuing a similar degree. Discovering like-minded students from the UNM campus and other Universities allowed me to make new connections with young and passionate professionals.

The experiences I received at the NMAM Conference are incalculable. The active museums and museum specialists in the state of New Mexico provided a stimulating environment for all current and future museum professionals to experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and look forward to attending and presenting at conferences in the future.

Nino Ricca Lucci – Museum Assistant

I’m sincerely grateful to have been able to attend the New Mexico Association of Museums Annual Conference this fall. Speaking on a panel with UNMAM Associate Director of Operations, Devin Geraci, and two fellow Museum Assistants gave me the chance to reflect upon and share my experience working at UNMAM for the past year. I’m glad UNMAM’s student employment program has been formally recognized, and that we were able to speak about that experience to people from other institutions and organizations who are seeking to develop work study opportunities for student workers. The conference gave us an opportunity to celebrate the museum’s success, as the conference was centered around the state’s Creative Industries Division, which awarded us a $100,000 grant earlier this year. It was fun to see my coworker, Hannah Cerne, present on her own research conducted in the museum archives, and get to spend some time with my coworkers outside the museum.

Laura Olson – Museum Assistant

Going to the New Mexico Museum Association Conference provided me a lot of opportunities to learn about new career paths and how to better include the public in museum decisions. The “Ask a Registrar!” session provided me with insights about what the job details as well as some of the struggles registrars face with databases and transferring data, as well as abandoned property and what to do with it.

Turning Outward: Listening to Connect to the Community was helpful in showing how museum staff can better engage with the community they are living in. Turning outward is “making intentional choices based on community sharing that will produce greater impact and relevance in the community,” (Explora). Getting to play the role of community member telling the ‘institution’ what I would like to see and then flipping the roles and getting to play the ‘institution’ role helped me understand what questions I should be asking in both roles and how to make museums a more inviting place for communities to gather.

Alejandra Rodriguez – Museum Social Media Assistant

The NMAM Conference was a wonderful opportunity to expose myself to alternate approaches to working within art institutions and museums as a whole. Reconnecting with familiar faces from my program and meeting new professionals who generously offered their expertise has expanded my network and resources in the museum field overall, this was an enriching and eye-opening experience, and I was so delighted to attend.

On Thursday, the first conference session I attended was “Ask a registrar!” and although this session was early in the morning the attendees demonstrated a collective enthusiasm for sharing experiences in the field. The audience was very involved in not only the questions but also in giving commentary and insight into their ideas and professional experiences as registrars. Some topics were about the different collection data systems such as “Past Perfect,” “Proficio,” and “TMS.” The leaders of the talk as well as the audience were very transparent about their experiences and struggles with each of these systems.  The later session I attended consisted of Museum Studies Graduate Students presenting on their own topics of museum research. It had reinforced my idea that UNM graduate students are so self-proficient and will find every opportunity to fix the issues that are brought up throughout their research. I caught the last half of the “Introducing Vladem Contemporary New Mexico Museum of Art.” This contrast between the proactive approach of graduate students and the successful completion of goals by the Vladem Contemporary New Mexico Museum of Art panel left me hopeful. It showcased the potential for aspiring professionals to find solutions and reach the end result of their efforts.

On Friday, the second day of the conference, I began with the session “Advocacy Stories Have Happy Endings.” I was not familiar with the American Alliance of Museums, but this enlightened me on all the resources available from this organization. This alliance helps museum workers as they are in the field and gives plenty of resources for advocacy work which the panelists were informing us that this could potentially solve funding problems for museums. I also found this a great resource to search for museum job postings and professional development resources. Overall, these experiences helped me create unexpected connections and gain broader perspectives than I once had. The conference has opened new possibilities within the art world, especially as I prepare to advance my career upon graduation. I am optimistic about the different possibilities in my journey ahead.