Every spring, the National Air and Space Museum hosts a conference for other air and space museums to discuss our “mutual concerns.” The conference gathers representatives of over one hundred such museums, sometimes from as far away as Poland and Australia, and allows participants to communicate on best practices, innovative educational programs, and keeping our museums going through tough economic times, amongst other shared issues.
This year, from April 18 – 21, we gathered in Ottawa, Ontario, in part to celebrate Canada’s Centennial of Flight with our co-hosts at the Canada Aviation Museum. The agenda included twenty-one sessions presented by seasoned museum employees and newcomers alike on a variety of topics. This is truly a unique gathering of scholars, technicians, educators, administrators, conservators, and other museum employees looking to learn from colleagues outside their own museum’s walls.
Having worked on this conference since 2005, one thing quickly became apparent to me in working with such a diverse community of museum professionals…all of them are absolutely passionate about educating the public on the history of aviation and spaceflight. While the conference requires work I don’t normally do as a museum specialist (I’m in charge of our collection of space cameras), and takes time I might rather spend on doing research, the experience of interacting with this dedicated community always brings a sense of excitement that outshines any of the difficulties we have to overcome to make the conference a success.
Even after I returned from Ottawa, and during the next years-worth of work for the 2010 conference here in D.C., I’ll keep thinking about this wonderful group of people I get to reconnect with every spring. With them, I share common stories, common interests, and most of all, a common cause to see that my museum does its best to convey stories about the people, artifacts, and technology related to air and space history.
Jennifer Levasseur is a museum specialist in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum.