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Pennsylvania's Statewide Museum Association

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Chance for Change: Opportunities in a Community, PA Museums 2024 Conference

  • 14 Apr 2024
  • 6:30 PM (EDT)
  • 16 Apr 2024
  • 5:00 PM (EDT)
  • Harrisburg, PA


  • Two awardees may attend our Awards Event free of charge. If additional representatives from award-winning organizations would like to attend the Awards Luncheon, please use this registration type for those individuals. This registration type is for anyone who would like to attend only the Awards Luncheon.
  • Includes Keynote Speaker, Annual Meeting, sessions, and the tour of the PA State Archives
  • Includes Keynote Speaker, Annual Meeting, sessions, and the tour of the PA State Archives
  • Welcome Reception at the National Civil War Museum
  • Registration includes reception, conference sessions, awards event, and PA State Archives tour
  • Registration includes reception, conference sessions, awards event, and PA State Archives tour
  • Registration includes reception, conference sessions, awards event, and PA State Archives tour
  • Includes Keynote Speaker, sessions, and Awards Luncheon
  • Includes Keynote Speaker, sessions, and Awards Luncheon
  • Exhibitors and sponsors may use this registration category. Please contact us for a registration code.

Registration is closed

The PA Museums Annual Conference offers museum professionals an interactive forum for the exchange of ideas, professional networking and discussion of trends in the museum field. The event is an excellent opportunity for professionals to reconnect and recharge as well as learn from colleagues.

PA Museums will present “Chance for Change”, our 2024 annual statewide museum conference in Harrisburg. Our conference attendees will connect and learn as we join together for special events showcasing our member museums, educational sessions, tours, and speakers. We will also celebrate the winners of our annual Special Achievement Awards and have many opportunities to meet colleagues. We look forward to seeing you there!

Speakers' registration fees are waived for the day of their presentation. Sponsors and students may register at no charge. Please email Rusty Baker, Executive Director, to receive your registration code.

Thanks to our sponsors, a limited number of scholarships are available to cover registration costs for the PA Museums conference. Please email Rusty Baker, Executive Director, to learn more. Scholarships will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

PA Museums is committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment that is free of bias and intimidation. In keeping with federal laws, state laws, and non-profit best practices, PA Museums expressly prohibits any form of discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, genetic information, body size, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy, parenthood, status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran, or any other protected classification. By registering for our program, you are acknowledging PA Museums' Code of Conduct.

Lodging for attendees is on your own. PA Museums has reserved special rates on rooms for our 2024 conference attendees at Harrisburg’s Crowne Plaza. You can make your reservations online or by calling 717-234-5021. The cutoff date for our room deal is March 27.  Valet parking at the Crowne Plaza is $25/day, and the hotel is .6 miles from the State Museum.

For those traveling by car, there are several parking options available. Metered parking spaces and city parking garages are available within a 3 block radius of the Museum. Visit Park Harrisburg for more information about rates; the parking garage closest to the State Museum is the South Street Parking Garage.

PRELIMINARY PROGRAM (subject to minor changes)

Sunday, April 14th

Welcome Reception, National Civil War Museum, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Registration and Refreshments, 8:30-9:00 at the State Museum

Welcome, Rusty Baker, PA Museums, 9:00-9:30
State Museum Auditorium

Keynote Presentation, 9:30-10:15

Problems and Policies: Managing Collections in an Uncertain Future

Museums are confronting a wide array of unexpected challenges including managing digital information and objects, preparing collections for sudden, temporary closure, new risks due to climate change, developing sustainable collection care practices, decolonization, caring for larger collections with fewer staff members, and operating in an increasingly globalized museum environment. This presentation will consider how these and other issues can be addressed through the development of collection management policies and careful resource allocation.

John E. Simmons (B.S., systematics & ecology; M.A., museum studies) began his professional career as a zoo keeper before becoming a collection manager at the California Academy of Sciences and later at the University of Kansas, where he also served as director of the Museum Studies program until 2006. He received the AAM Superior Voluntary Service Award (2001), the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Mentoring of Graduate Students (University of Kansas, 2005), the Carolyn L. Rose Award for Outstanding Commitment to Natural History Collections and Management (Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, 2011), and the AAM Registrar’s Committee Dudley-Wilkinson Award of Distinction (2016).  He has served as a site reviewer from the Museum Assessment Program (MAP) since 1993, is a former board member of the Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists (ARCS), and has published more than 150 papers and 12 books. He has been a writer and consultant for Museologica (an international museum consulting service based in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania) since 2007, and teaches courses and workshops on collections management worldwide.

A Free Online Toolkit for Streamlined Collections Management Policies, 10:30-11:15, Delaware Classroom

Embark on a transformative journey with our workshop introducing the Online Collections Management Policy Tool (CMPT). Tailored for small to medium-sized museums, it serves as a catalyst, mitigating the challenges that often deter policy development. This free tool aims to empower museum staff, fostering professional growth within the field. By sharing insights and practical strategies, we hope to inspire confidence in tackling this essential task, enabling practitioners to provide optimal care for their collections without the burden of excessive time commitments. Join us and take the first step toward greater professionalization in museum management.

Dyani Feige, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts

How to Support Title I Schools - No Matter What Your Budget, 10:30-11:15, Allegheny Classroom 

Join our presentation as we unravel the impact museums can have on young minds, emphasizing the Unpacking the Past program initiated by the Penn Museum in 2014. Focused on breaking barriers faced by teachers in Title I schools, we delve into successful strategies honed over a decade of collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia. Through the lens of community outreach, relationship-building, communications, content, and development, we'll share insights on addressing obstacles that hinder participation in museum programs, even when they are free. Be part of the discussion to empower students and teachers in underfunded districts, exploring considerations and budget-friendly strategies.

Emily HirshornChristopher LaChapellePaul Best and Laura Dimery, Penn Museum

Cultivating Our Roots, Activating Our Future, 11:30-12:15, Allegheny Classroom

Join us as we navigate the inspiring transformation of the Paul Robeson House & Museum. Evolving from a volunteer-led community non-profit to an organization with full-time staff, our journey emphasizes sustainability through thoughtful organizational structure.  Discover how we've evolved into a thriving community hub, fostering collaborations with West Philadelphia organizations. Learn the essential elements of sustaining a museum by cultivating effective boards and staff.  Gain insights into the journey of becoming a community hub through strategic alliances, impactful programming, and community outreach. Be inspired to position your museum as a trusted community institution, actively contributing to positive change.

Janice Sykes-Ross, West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Valerie Harris, WPCA Board Member

Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Funding for Museums, 11:30-12:15, Delaware Classroom 

The most important artifact of any historic site museum’s collection is their historic building and is often the strongest association with the organization’s mission and is a key element in the interpretation and programming provided to their visitors.  PHMC’s grant program assists historic house museums and historic sites with a reliable funding stream to assist in planning and execution of capital projects.  When museums complete these projects following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Buildings, they ensure the long-term preservation of these significant buildings.  

Case studies of two well planned and executed projects that exemplify stewardship will be reviewed.  Both properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  To maintain that designation, the board and staff of both organizations consider projects carefully and execute them with the highest degree of precision with experienced craftspeople.  This commitment to preservation and thoughtful planning not only ensure that the projects are completed appropriately but also are attractive to the grant program.

Karen Arnold, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Christine Turner, Historical Society of Dauphin County

Claudia Albertin and Glenn Vernon, Albertin Vernon Architects, LLC

Luncheon, 12:30-1:00 pm
Keystone Building Atrium

PA Museums Achievement Awards, 1:15-2:00 pm
State Museum Auditorium

Responsible Museum Professionals, 2:15-3:00, Delaware Classroom

Join us for a transformative session on cultivating museum leaders equipped to navigate industry shifts, societal changes, and address long-standing inequities. Presented by the Drexel Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program, this session focuses on empowering museum professionals to embrace roles in creating inclusive, accessible, equitable, sustainable, decolonized, and anti-racist practices. Challenge the "myth of neutrality" and contribute to building a more just world through museums. Gain insights into pursuing responsible museum practices and receive talking points for articulating the evolving role of museums to leadership and boards. Strengthen your impact in the field and be a catalyst for positive change.

Laura-Edythe Coleman, Drexel University

Creativity, Community, and Collaboration: How Museums Can Inspire Students to Generate Change, 2:15-3:00, Allegheny Classroom

Join us in unraveling the impactful work of the National Liberty Museum, dedicated to fostering authentic and collaborative interactions around liberty. Our Learning and Engagement team will showcase skills, activities, and pedagogies supporting our mission, transforming the museum into a space for community engagement and positive change. Explore the Young Heroes Outreach Program, a civic action curriculum for grades 4-8, empowering students to address social issues and become positive changemakers. Gain insights into teaching civic action, executing long-term projects, and facilitating programs that uplift student voice and choice. Dive into our innovative lesson, Art in Action, and discover how to spark conversations around social issues using your collection. Learn the journey from student-led projects to a captivating exhibition, and gain best practices for recognizing and elevating student work in your museum. This session offers creative ways for museums to engage with young people, positioning them as trusted community institutions.

Erin Dempsey, Alexis Jennings, National Liberty Museum

Art Economic Empowerment:  A Nexus of Creativity and Prosperity, 3:15-4:00, Delaware Classroom

Dive into the transformative synergy between art, equitable development, and economic empowerment.  Explore how art becomes a catalyst for inclusive opportunities, community upliftment, and sustainable growth, featuring inspiring case studies and practical approaches that empower artists and advance economic justice.  Uncover the power of art initiatives in addressing socio-economic disparities, strengthening community bonds, and providing platforms for marginalized individuals to express themselves and achieve economic mobility.  Explore strategies to equip artists with essential business skills, financial literacy, and resources, enabling them to turn creative talents into viable and sustainable careers.  Learn about effective collaborations involving artists, community organizations, policymakers, and businesses to promote inclusive growth, cultural diversity, and fair economic benefits distribution.  Discuss the significance of creating supportive environments, such as affordable studios, cultural hubs, and art districts, fostering artistic expression, attracting investments, and contributing to community well-being.

Leave this session inspired and armed with actionable insights to integrate art and economic empowerment into community development initiatives. 

Shekhinah B., The Women's Coalition for Empowerment, Inc.

Promotional Puppies and Exhibit Driven Programming, 3:15-4:00, Allegheny Classroom

Explore the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center’s successful shift towards exhibit-driven programming, breaking free from a structured schedule that often targets the same demographics. This session will spotlight our experience with the "Animals in the Army" temporary exhibition, demonstrating how it opened doors to engaging programming beyond our traditional offerings. Learn how exhibit-driven programming can diversify attendee demographics, attracting a broader audience to your museum.  Discover strategies to collaborate with organizational partners, both within and outside the museum, to support exhibit development and enhance programming.  Unravel the success of this low-cost, high-engagement approach, offering practical insights on using exhibit-driven programming to bring positive change and broaden community engagement.

Amanda Womack, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Registration and Refreshments, 8:30-9:00, The State Museum

Welcome, Rusty Baker, PA Museums, 9:00-9:30
State Museum Auditorium

Keynote Presentation, 9:30-10:15

Avenues to Action: Keys to Community Engagement

Museums are dynamic organizations, centers of gravity making a positive impact in our neighborhoods and our lives. Our institutions often expand on their mission, inviting discovery, discourse, and civic participation, as America's demographics change and audiences priorities continue to shift. 

In this keynote, learn from a national community engagement expert how to craft intentional, interactive, experiences that meet the needs of diverse communities. Hear case studies and inspiration for ‘Avenues to Action’, ways to holistically engage and mobilize goodwill between museums and their publics. 

Monica O. Montgomery is a transformational museum leader operating at the intersections of community engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion to spark ecologies of promise. She is known for founding diversity initiatives (Museum Hue & Museum Workers Speak). As a keynote speaker, graduate professor and consultant, she forecasts sector insights to create embracing spaces in museums.  She previously served as curator of social justice and programming for the FUTURES exhibit that celebrated the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary. Montgomery has directed three museums and independently curated 50 plus social justice, contemporary art and public history exhibits, experiences and festivals .  

She teaches graduate courses about museums, community engagement and social justice at renowned institutions like University of the Arts; American University and Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Pratt Institute, and New York University, among others. Montgomery holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Communication from Temple University, Philadelphia, and a Master of Arts in Corporate Communication from LaSalle University, Philadelphia. She resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia stewarding the Montgomery Collection a private archive of African American antiquarian books on world history, culture and art.  

What's Changing In Fundraising & How Nonprofits Should Adapt, 10:00-10:45, Delaware Classroom

Join Chad Barger, CFRE, ACNP, a fundraising master trainer, in an insightful workshop unveiling recent fundraising research findings. Explore the evolving landscape of nonprofit fundraising, supported by the latest donor trends, academic research, and perspectives from fundraising thought leaders. Gain valuable insights from real-world frontline stories, offering a comprehensive view of the current state and future direction of fundraising.  Explore the impact of recent external events on fundraising dynamics, gaining awareness of shifts in the fundraising landscape.  Acquire actionable tactics and strategies to empower nonprofit organizations in adapting to these changes, strategically positioning them for fundraising success.

Elevate your fundraising game by staying informed and equipped with practical approaches. This session promises a dynamic exploration of the evolving fundraising realm, ensuring you are ready to navigate the changes and thrive in the world of nonprofit fundraising.

Chad Barger, Productive Fundraising


Community of Changemakers: Ambridge Heart and Soul, 10:00-10:45, Allegheny Classroom

Explore community engagement strategies through Old Economy Village's leadership in Ambridge's Community Heart and Soul program. Over four years, staff has played a vital role in this civic development initiative that focuses on fostering a sense of belonging and boosting opportunities in small towns. In March 2020, Ambridge Borough, with partners, secured a Community Heart and Soul grant. The program, a four-phase community development process, empowers towns by cultivating a shared sense of belonging. Old Economy Village embraced this chance to understand their community's needs better and quickly took a leadership role in the process. Old Economy Village staff engaged in storytelling, reflections, and building community relationship phases. Through active listening sessions and Community Network Analysis, they connected with residents, collecting insights on desired programming and audience needs to shape future planning for their town and organization. Learn about the Heart and Soul process, discuss lessons learned, and highlight the impact of strategies such as Community Network Analysis on museum planning. Learn how this approach positioned Old Economy Village at the heart of our community, shaping our initiatives for the future.

Sarah Buffington, Heather Hicks, Alice Trowbridge, Old Economy Village    

Museum Ideas Swap-Meet, 11:00-11:45, Delaware Classroom 

Join the conversation as we chat about what tips and tricks we use in our museums everyday. Bring your questions about supplies, museum standards, event planning, outreach ideas, collections conundrums, and available resources. Come prepared to share your low budget solutions, tried-and-true methods, fun outreach ideas, and vendor/ supplier contacts. This session is a true conversation where we will share information and try to answer our PA colleagues important museum questions. Everyone is welcome, no matter the size of your museum.  PA Museums outreach and webinar topics for 2024 will also be brainstormed.  If you're wondering how something works, chances are other museums have the same question.

Patti Wood Finkle, Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery

Impactful, Accessible, and Inclusive Museum Copy,11:00-11:45, Allegheny Classroom 

How does the language we use affect how visitors connect with our programs, collections, and spaces? Museum copy shapes how audiences view our collections and purpose. It’s vital that our labels, catalogs, brochures, and other copy reflect our commitment to connecting diverse audiences to our content. Discover assessing, editing, and creating museum copy that is impactful, inclusive, and easy to understand. Get tips and tools for assessing and increasing readability, inclusivity, comprehension, and connection. Attendees are encouraged to bring copy from their current and planned visitor-facing materials to practice assessing and editing.

Jessica Connor, University of the Arts 

Luncheon, 12:00-12:30 
Keystone Building Atrium

PA Museums Annual Meeting, 
12:45-1:30 pm
State Museum Auditorium

Please join us to review what PA Museums has been up to as we also welcome PA Humanities' executive director, Laurie Zierer, and development & research manager, Nick Crosson, to present findings from PA CultureCheck. This annual study by PA Humanities and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is an effort to gather and amplify the voices of Pennsylvania’s cultural, arts, and humanities organizations, along with other nonprofits and community groups. The two primary goals were to continue tracking the post-pandemic recovery and regrowth and to look deeper at the many ways organizations are engaging with their communities. Zierer and Crosson will give an overview of the research and share critical findings about attendance, hiring, and volunteer engagement at Pennsylvania's museums and historical organizations.


Inclusive Interpretation: How the Demuth Museum has Incorporated LGBTQ+ Themes, 1:45-2:30, Delaware Classroom

Explore the Demuth Museum's reinterpretation project unfolding from 2022 and culminating in its unveiling in 2024. This case study delves into the motivations and methods behind the museum's journey, focusing on the active integration of LGBTQ+ and disability themes to enrich Charles Demuth's narrative and illuminate his artwork.  Review the research phase, emphasizing collaboration with external voices such as public historians, art scholars, and local resources. Gain insights into the strategic use of consultants for specialized expertise and the development and execution of four interpretative themes. The implementation of customized evaluation tools and share the project's reception among existing and new audiences will also be covered.

Abby Baer, Greta RymarDemuth Foundation

From Functional to Aspirational: Creating Mission Statements that Propel Change, 1:45-2:30, Allegheny Classroom

Explore strategic planning and mission statement development with the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Rosenbach Museum & Library. Between 2020 and 2023, both institutions underwent transformative processes, reimagining their mission statements from operational and aspirational perspectives. This session serves as a case study, offering insights into crafting robust mission statements, addressing challenges, and ensuring alignment across staff, board, and stakeholders.  Delve into the questions that guide strategic planning.  Learn how strong aspirational mission statements empower organizations to navigate cultural shifts, fostering agility and proactive responses to crises. Discover the role of a well-defined mission in building authentic loyalty and trust within communities.  Explore the link between aspirational and operational missions, understanding how they shape daily activities. Strategies for achieving immediate successes, building confidence among staff and board members, and addressing long-term challenges in fulfilling the organizational vision will be addressed.

Kelsey Bates, The Rosenbach Library

Beth Shalom Hessel, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Single, Taken, or It's Complicated: Museum Career Advice For All Stages, 2:45-3:30, Allegheny Classroom

Are you in committed relationship with your museum career, thinking about breaking up, or searching the "Classified Ads?" This session is for museum professionals at all stages of their career! Our presenter will share top tips about making your resume stand out, planning ahead even if you are in a "committed relationship," and advice for when you are ready to move on.

Alli Schell, Marshall Steam Museum / Your Museum Career Coach

Tour of PA State Archives 3:45-5:00

The Pennsylvania State Archives, which is part of PHMC, collects, preserves, and makes available for study the permanently valuable public records of the Commonwealth, with particular attention given to the records of state government. The State Archives also collects papers of private citizens and organizations relevant to Pennsylvania history.

Visitors to the new Pennsylvania State Archives building can use the public computers to research their own family history – with free access to Ancestry.com. They’ll be able to view digital records that the Archives has put on the internet and many images that are not yet available online. They can interact with Digital Gateway touch screens to see selected documents and videos from the Archives or browse the library of books related to Pennsylvania history. Visitors can research the history of their family, town, or county or explore maps of the area where they live or access records, maps, and photographs about the development of Pennsylvania’s canals, railroads, and industries.

The new building houses the Commonwealth’s archival collections – more than 250 million documents that are kept in perpetuity by PHMC for all Pennsylvanians. These collections were transferred to the new building throughout late summer and early fall of 2023 – a process equivalent to moving a typical three-bedroom house 78 times.

Construction began in May 2020 and was completed this past summer at a cost of $75 million. The new 145,000-square-foot structure replaces the familiar tower at Third and Forster streets, adjacent to the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The Archives had outgrown the space, which was built in 1965 and lacked adequate fire suppression and environmental systems to protect the Commonwealth’s most valuable documents.

Please click here for parking information for the PA State Archives.

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