My Favorite Moments from AMM 2016

Wow! What a great time we had in the Twin Cities! We at AMM and our teammates from MAM are thrilled with the attendance (over 360 people) and with the many conversations we overheard, inspired by the sessions, speakers, and events. We appreciate everyone’s participation and cannot wait to see what Des Moines brings in 2017!

I’ve been reflecting on the amazing things I saw, heard, and did last week and thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite moments from AMM 2016.

Digital Photo File Name: DP355835.tif Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 12-28-2015

Fragment of a Queen’s Face, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Where did they go? During our Friday night event, a three course culinary adventure hosted by three museums in St. Paul, one bus load of attendees did the unexpected. They made a last-minute call to get some fresh air, enjoy nice weather, and explore historic St. Paul on foot between venues. They ditched the bus and found themselves on a new tour during which they took in the beautiful architecture, listened to live music, and spotted some local characters. When they were discovered by the rest of the group, they were observed sharing some laughs about their surprising change of events and feeling a new appreciation for the city. These “forty on foot” made the experience what they needed it to be and they are likely never to forget it!

Perhaps they were inspired by Keynote Nick Gray, founder of Museum Hack, who that very day shared how he built a business on unexpected adventures. Nick expressed a desire to create personal connections between people and objects and new relationships between visitors and museums by providing carefully crafted tours – no, journeys – through museum exhibits. Employing tactics that pique visitors’ curiosity, like “museum gossip” and questions about the unknown, Museum Hack tour leaders provide unexpected museum experiences and lasting memories. “People can sense when you are speaking from the heart,” Nick reminded us. The crowd at Nick’s talk was riveted by his personal museum story (the date with so-and-so where he discovered that art history was complex and that the Met has some rare treasures) and his interpretation of the object he adores most today at the Met, a fragment from a statue of an Egyptian queen.

Or maybe it was Linda B. Norris, Thursday’s Keynote speaker and creator of The Uncatalogued Museum. Linda challenged attendees to insert creativity into all aspects of their lives, practice it until it is routine “like riding a bike.” She also urged us to cut our visitors some slack. “We worry too much about what our visitors will do.” We overheard numerous conversations after Linda’s talk; she really inspired a need to break free from constraints we live and work by and frankly, play a little.

I was thrilled to see that some of our sessions offered opportunities to play, think creatively and/or collaborate, like Escape Room Challenge: Stretch Your Imagination and Collaborate to Find Solutions.


Scott Pollock and ASI staff lead a deranged millionaire tour

Our evening events also encouraged playfulness and spontaneity, by pairing beer tastings with evaluation methodology and letting us romp through a forest in kid-sized animal costumes. (Remember when Scott Pollock from American Swedish Institute led us on a ridiculous storytelling game through The Castle at ASI? Oh, man. That was awesome – and embarrassing!)

Side note: None of this could overshadow the copious amounts of extraordinary and  beautiful food at each venue. I was very inspired (to eat) by the many tantalizing dishes including Culinaire’s open-faced sausage sandwiches and hand-crafted truffles as well as the fancy deviled eggs and other locally-inspired treats served at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. To all of the event chefs from Chowgirls Killer Catering, Culinaire, D’amico, Kafe 421, and Lancer Catering, I applaud you! I have never seen more happy conference event attendees in my career. Honestly! 

Now that I think about it, it’s possible that our rogue tour group needed to stretch their legs after the beautiful sit-down feast at the Science Museum of Minnesota prepared by Lancer Catering.

No matter the reason(s), they encapsulated our conference theme perfectly. Consider them our new poster children for “Becoming the Unexpected” by seeing an opportunity and seizing the day, even if it was a shock to me and our other event organizers!

We Don't Need a Bus

We Don’t Need a Bus! Unexpected Tour Group (Photo posted by social media ambassador, Jorie Glassner, pictured front right)