This semester, as part of my internship at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, I got the chance to attend the Oklahoma Museum Association Conference in Edmond, Oklahoma during the second to last week of September. Since this was my second semester as legacy collections intern my boss, Susie Fishman-Armstrong, encouraged me to check out the Oklahoma Museum Association and their events, including their annual conference. I looked into it and found what sounded like a great chance to network and learn from others with more and varied experience in the museum world. At the conference I met museum professionals from all over the state and many different types of institutions, including science museums, children’s museums, art museums, historic homes, local historical societies, and one blues music museum. Through talking with others about the methods and especially the challenges of their museum I got to see a wider view than usual of the scope of a museum. The sessions were also interesting and varied, as I attended panels and discussions about topics falling under many subjects that I don’t normally interact with in my role as an intern in the collections, or “back of the house”, including museum education and programming. Workshops were also offered, which provided some hands-on learning and practical examples, and I had some time to meet vendors during the networking breaks, which was interesting and informative to see what sort of products and services are frequently needed by museum professionals, and to learn a bit more about conferences from the people who frequent them.
For a week or two before the conference I was a bit apprehensive, and worried whether I would be able to be engaged in discussions or really understand the sessions after only one semester at a museum. However, if anything this just went to show how thorough and diverse of training I’ve gotten from this internship, as after just over a semester I had pretty much all the bases covered for laws and standards, roles in the museum, collection processing, and physical care of artifacts. There is only so much I could have learned in a classroom or through my own research, and the chance to have gotten actual experience has been phenomenal. Additionally, this conference was just one of the many opportunities I’ve had through this internship to meet people actually working in museums and to learn from them, through tours of other collections within the Sam Noble, the volunteer Brown Bag Lunch talks, and events such as this. The learning opportunities have multiplied ten times over through getting involved here at the Sam Noble, and I highly encourage anyone to intern or volunteer who gets the chance. Even if you don’t jump right in and start with a large conference, there are so many experiences to learn from within our very own museum for both people who want to go on to make it a career as I do and for anyone with curiosity and the desire to learn.