Monday, April 28, 2008


At high noon on Monday, MuseumExpo 2008 was officially launched with an opening reception. Buffet tables laden with Western food--barbecued beef and chicken, veggie chili, salads, desserts--were distributed throughout a huge exhibit hall that offers the largest showcase of museum products and services in North America.

Every year, it's one of the meeting's biggest attractions; many people buy day passes just to get into the Expo. This year, more than 350 exhibitors are hawking everything your museum could possibly need, from traveling exhibitions, framing and art handling to audio tours, book printers, liability insurance--even fossils, and who doesn't need those? You wander around and grab the freebies designed to lure you in: pens, chocolates, raffle entries, little reading lights attached to clips. Even if your museum doesn't need heated windows that eliminate condensation or an interactive exhibit that measures brain activity, you can spend some pleasurable time finding out what's out there and filing it away for future reference.

As an AAM staffer, I shouldn't use a word like "favorite," but my favorite booth, not only of the Expo but of all time, sells inversion massage therapy chairs. Oh . . . my . . . GOSH, are those things great. They look like Barcaloungers, but Barcaloungers with a difference. A salesguy asked if I wanted to try one of the three on display. "Watch out; you might never get up," said an attendee who was already splayed out in one.

I sat. The salesguy hit a button. The chair began to hum, to vibrate, to recline. Your body parts fit into depressions shaped like legs, buttocks, back, neck, head. I was happy enough with the humming, but then the massage truly started. Starting at your ankles and working its way north, the blessed contraption starts squeezing and releasing, massaging its way up along your legs and hindquarters, giving a sensation like a baker's rolling pin up your lower and upper back. ("The lumbar region and neck are the two main problem areas," explained the salesguy; "Whatever," I would have said if I'd been still capable of forming words.) The squeezing-releasing concludes at your neck, then the whole process repeats itself downward in reverse.

I took a brochure, even though they're $6,000. Well, $4,295 if ordered at the Expo, and the floor models will be discounted further after the meeting for locals who don't need delivery. Still too rich for my blood; it's mainly chiropractors and such who buy them. But someday. This I vow.

But oh, yeah, the Expo. It's the nerve center of the meeting, bringing together much of what you need into one spot. In addition to the booths, there are, for example, e-mail centers, a cafe and a museum store featuring goods from local museums. And just before you enter the hall, there's the AAM Bookstore, an exhibition of winning entries in AAM's annual Museum Publications Design Competition and booths for registration, information and the press. There are also lots of places for informal chatting. Check it out; when I was there, there wasn't even a line for the massage chairs.

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