Wednesday, April 30, 2008

But Wait—There's More!

I just got back from the Museum of Contemporary Art and thought I'd share a few photos. I was particularly taken with the roof, with its incredible views and tiered garden. I also loved David Altmejd's mirrored room, complete with large-scale sculptural works crafted in reflective surfaces. The pictures of that didn't come out that well...

Thanks for Coming!

My second AAM Annual Meeting is nearly complete, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Four-plus days of total immersion with colleagues from across the country and around the world made for a rewarding, enlightening and exhilarating experience. My heartfelt thanks for all those who came to Denver and created such a wonderful atmosphere.

The greatest thing about working in this field is the fabulous people you meet. I talked to hundreds of interesting, committed people these past four days and have learned from each one. The insights we gathered in Denver will likely inform the coming year for AAM and better enable us to serve all of you.

Now, next week all of us at AAM will begin planning and thinking about next year's meeting in Philadelphia. I hope all of you can join us there. Come and find me; I'll be the tall guy with the beard.

The Fierce, Vulnerable Power of Imagination

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon strode onto the stage to give his keynote speech on Wednesday--jeans, black jacket, slight case of bed head, scruffy beard. Museums, he said, are to him a kind of imaginative space. He then spent the rest of his time on an eloquent essay/harangue about childhood: how the woods behind his house, though tame and urban, still held “unfathomable shadows” at night and how he freely ranged the “topography of childhood” on his bicycle.

He bemoaned that his was “the last generation of children that adults left alone,” offering several metaphors for, and illustrations of, the mental regimentation and orthodoxy that today’s kids face. Chuck E. Cheeses and the like are “jolly internment centers,” planned by adults; children ride bikes “armed as if for battle.”

Forms of children’s entertainment—and parents—should not be “unctuous butlers of the imagination,” he contended. Kids need “a gap, a small, enchanted precinct of adult disapproval, the deep, furtive pleasure of annoying one’s father.” All sports are now organized, kids treat-or-treat in school gyms and letting one’s children play in the streets invites abductions. We need, he argued, a line between a child’s world and an adult’s.

Chabon never mentioned museums again after his opening lines. I assumed his point was that museums can help give kids ammunition—information, ideas, experiences—for their imaginations. As two colleagues swifter than I am pointed out, though, he may also have been issuing museums a warning: Remember to give kids room for their imaginations to roam free.--Leah Arroyo

Because It Was There

The bus ride up into the foothills of the Rockies would have been enough. But two amazing experiences awaited those of us who went to Tuesday's evening event at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum.

The first thing we saw when we entered--well, not the first thing; the museum store is always the first thing--was a gray climbing wall, 50 feet high. A fake vertical cliff, basically, with handholds and footholds conveniently placed. Lines quickly formed. Now, I have a fear of heights, but I went over to the bunny-slope line anyway. And do you know I went up that faux mountain like Spider-Man? Cheers rang out from below, as they had anytime anyone made it.

The other treat: Jake Norton--who has successfully climbed Mt. Everest not once but twice--gave a riveting talk, complete with videos, about the trip up Everest in which he and his team found the body of a legendary English climber who vanished in a landslide near the top in 1924 (we'll never know if he made it). The evening showed me all over again how museums can introduce you to new worlds and excite you about ones you'll probably never see.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kids Again

Attendees were not bouncing off the walls at tonight's evening event at the Children's Museum of Denver. They were stuck to them. Once partygoers literally tore themselves away from the Velcro wall, they were spotted roping a steer, playing with blacklit bubbles, donning bunny costumes and boarding a fire truck—once they were done with their mac and cheese. The 2008 AAM Annual Meeting: Bringing out the adult in all of us.

Now, THAT'S Outdoor Art

The sculpture garden at the Museum of Outdoor Arts includes African artworks and bold modern works by Patrick Dougherty, but the overriding theme at Monday's evening bash was Lewis Carroll. To get to the reception area, we walked past a series of bronzes by Henry Marinsky portraying famous scenes from Alice in Wonderland: the Caterpillar confronting Alice from atop his mushroom, complete with hookah; the Mad Hatter's tea party; the imperious Queen of Hearts scowling down her nose. Real people in appropriate costumes played croquet. Over the loudspeaker, Grace Slick commanded us to go ask Alice. Even the water bottles read "Drink Me." You gotta love a literate water bottle.

But nothing could compare with the walk back through the sculpture garden once the sun began to set over the snow-capped Rockies. The modern art did its best to compete: Kaleidoscopic images were projected onto huge white globes; brightly colored lights flickered across geometric shapes. But guests who'd been hustling back to their buses stopped, stepped out onto the lawn and, in silence together, watched Denver's greatest art exhibition, on permanent display.

For the Folks at Home

Here are a few random pictures from MuseumExpo. I'm not a great photographer, but I thought those of you who couldn't make it would like a taste of what's going on here in Denver.

More Lessons from the Outside

Why limit the lessons to games and TV? Across the hall from Steven Johnson at the session "Eye on Design: Inspiration from Outside the Museum," speakers also discussed learning from spaces and pastimes beyond museums' walls—from public gardens to baseball games. Emily Sloat Shaw of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden cited her favorite place, Boston's Fenway Victory Gardens. Within the busy city, Bostonians cordon off private sections of the garden to plant flowers, socialize or quietly sit and read. Shaw challenged museums to create such personal spaces within their public institutions.

As the hardcore "Lost" fans have done, "Eye on Design" focused on creating communities. The minor league Albuquerque Isotopes makes Jennifer Atkins of Andrew Merriell and Associates, an interpretive planning and design company, think about museums. Before each game's first pitch, the announcer introduces the team as "YOUR Albuquerque Isotopes." This sense of community ownership is enhanced by a local flair—the stadium serves slices from an area pizza joint, for example—and a laid-back, sociable setting. How, Atkins asked, can we make visitors see our museums as THEIR museums?

And how can we bring in visitors that wouldn't normally enter our doors? Nina Simon, chair of the session and creator of the Museum 2.0 blog, suggested museums can form communities that draw in non-traditional audiences as well. Nike and Apple recently teamed up to produce Nike+, a sensor that slips into your sneaker and connects with your iPod to track how far and fast you've run. Users then upload and share this information with an online community of runners, who challenge each other to run further and faster. The sense of fellowship has inspired even those intimidated by running to hit the track.

"They took an activity that can be unpleasant and isolating and created a product that creates a virtual community," Simon said. "You get motivation from other people without having to watch them run faster than you."

Wising Up with World of Warcraft?

Author Steven Berlin Johnson's seven-year-old nephew, Wyatt, was restless during a rainy family vacation a few years ago. To distract him, Johnson gave Wyatt a rudimentary tour of SimCity, one of the bestselling video games of all time, in which players control every aspect of a virtual city—from zoning to taxation to transportation. Simplifying for his nephew, Johnson stuck to exploring the game's graphical elements, such as icons of children romping in a digital playground.

Then he showed Wyatt a part of town where he was having trouble. The factories he built were boarded up, deemed unusable by his virtual citizens. Wyatt looked at the screen, at his uncle, back at the screen. "I think you need to lower your industrial tax rates," he suggested.

After a double-take (or two), Johnson realized that Wyatt had been processing the brief overview of SimCity on a very high level—and one that's hardly unusual for his generation. As much slack as our reality TV-driven popular culture receives, today's "mindless" activities are actually making us smarter, Johnson argues in his book Everything Bad Is Good For You, also the title of his Thought Leader session this morning. He maintains that an increasingly sophisticated lineup of video games and television shows has made us able to think on a much higher level than we could 30 years ago.

For example, Johnson pointed to Lost, one of today's most-watched series. Yes, people sit down to passively watch the show each week—but there's nothing mindless about it. The characters, plot lines and unsolved mysteries number in the hundreds. Compare this to perhaps the most complex show of the 1980s, Hill Street Blues, which never became a huge hit; NBC eventually put out a press release admitting it made the program "too complicated" for viewers.

Today, we not only understand, we participate, creating communities that dissect and explore our favorite games and programs in-depth. Johnson flashed slide after slide of webpages from Lost fansites, where viewers post theories, ask questions, even create detailed maps of the show's imaginary island. Same goes for digital games, such as the popular and incredibly elaborate Civilization IV. Invested in the characters, the unfolding stories, fans dedicate literally hundreds of hours thinking about pop culture.

Compare this to the typical museum visit: two or three hours, 20 or 30 minutes per exhibit, and that's it for at least a few months. Entertainment today involves challenge and engagement, Johnson explained. If museums can apply the lessons of popular culture, we have a "great opportunity to take the Wyatts of the world, bring them into your spaces and figure out how to challenge and engage them as well."

I Just Got a Massage

Yes, there are sessions on everything from working mothers to green building to public speaking basics. But if you're here in Denver go—now—to the Life Balance Spa (room 604) and get a chair massage.

This is the first year for this feature, and I'm thinking it's a keeper. It was the perfect 15-minute break from carrying a too-heavy bag, running from sessions to meetings to sessions and sitting for a long, long time.

There are also yoga and t'ai chi classes in the mornings and evenings. Fun fact: The yoga instructor also works with Shaquille O'Neal. He brought one of Shaq's shoes to class this morning!


Look for a fresh idea to kick-start a membership campaign. Keep on top of the latest in media and technology gadgets for your museum. Or just sit and brainstorm. AAM's Marketplace of Ideas is chock full of inspiration. I literally have chills walking through here—okay, it's the convention center A/C—but this is one of the most incredible places at the annual meeting. You can practically see the wheels churning in everyone's minds!

The Marketplace of Ideas is hosted by the Standing Professional Committees of AAM, and no matter what your area of interest—curatorial, visitor research, development, marketing, education—there's a solution, idea, new thought or practical advice to glean. My only advice is to prioritize. It's only one day!

Period Rooms Are Timeless

The image of museum professionals is that of a somber lot. That myth was thoroughly debunked by a Monday session at the AAM Annual Meeting, when talk of curatorship, literature and—egad, sex!—had a packed room roaring with laughter.

The session was titled "Exhibitions That Changed My Life," and leading off was noted educator, author and museum historian Marjorie Schwarzer. Her focus was on period rooms, their evolution in the museum toolkit and how over the years they have addressed history, immigrant assimilation, the desire to be rich and, yes, sex.

Schwarzer said that from the time of the first period room in America—George Washington's bedroom at Mt. Vernon, unveiled in the 1860s—period rooms have played a critical role in American institutions. Yet she also said that the perception of museums a century ago was that of "cluttered attics," and she had her audience laughing with her reference to John Updike's novella, "Museums and Women," in which he wrote movingly of his dread at the prospect of a visit to the local museum.

Yet, according to Schwarzer, period rooms also demonstrated our continuing "fascination with the super wealthy." She cited the Peacock Room of James MacNeil Whistler (now on display at Washington's Freer Gallery of Art), a creation that spawned numerous imitations—including one at Elvis's Graceland!—Dewey Blanton

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Lines Were Led

At tonight's emerging museum professional event, "Lead Between the Lines" at the Tattered Cover Book Store, partygoers were charged with sharing thoughts on leadership from a book or song. The responses were as diverse as the crowd, which included those from all walks of the field.

The folks who stepped up to the open mic were inspired to lead by everything from Darwin to Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma to Where the Wild Things Are. AAM's Anne Goska applauded Wild Things hero Max for his fearlessness and urged those in the crowd to stand their ground. "Go out there and have no fear of those people gnashing their teeth at you," she said.

Denise Gray, one of the evening's emcees and an educator at the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art, went out on
perhaps the biggest limb by suggesting that founding-father punk-rockers the Sex Pistols provided an example of how to lead. She quoted: "God save the queen; she ain't no human being. There is no future in England's dreaming. Don't be told what you want. Don't be told what you need. There's no future, no future, no future for you."

"Leadership equals risk-taking," Gray explained. "Challenge management. Be your own leader. If it makes sense, make trouble."

International Attendees: Plus Ça Change...

At today's International Attendees Welcome Reception, I assumed there'd be a babel of languages—maybe someone would even give me a chance to use my French or Spanish. I'd also get to eavesdrop on conversations about what was surely the vastly different world of museum practice in other countries. According to Heather Berry, my colleague in the international programs department, the 150 or so people who showed up represented an impressive range of countries from around the world.

"Fundraising for exhibitions can get difficult," one man told his group.

"We're going to have to work that out with the director and the board," I heard someone in another cluster say.

"Which sessions are you going to?" asked somebody else.

Hmph. I wonder if museums in other countries worry about visitation, too. It really is a global museum village.


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.

A Landscape of Change

On our second official day in Denver, the impressive surroundings clearly have made an impression on annual meeting attendees. Today's general session—keynoted by environmentalist and author Terry Tempest Williams—focused on the land. AAM President Ford W. Bell welcomed a packed Wells Fargo Theatre to Denver, the highest city to host one of AAM's 102 annual meetings. At a mile above sea level, Denver is "the perfect place to discuss the high-minded and lofty ideals of this profession," Bell said.

But the snowcapped mountains don't reflect the ideals of this year's theme, leadership. "Unlike the topography all around Denver, leadership is not about hierarchy," Bell noted. All museum professionals, from newcomers to trustees, are critical to what Bell called a "simple bedrock truth"—that museums are working toward excellence. Museums are essentials, not luxuries, Bell continued, just as AAM is not a trade association but a cause. "There's no better cause in the world than our great museums, and that's how we're going to work," he said.

Williams joined in this assessment. Taking the stage after introductions from Denver Museum of Nature and Science CEO George Sparks and Mayor John Hickenlooper, Williams choked up as she thanked museum professionals, who she described as "storytellers and alchemists."

"Museums are wonderful places to quietly be subervise on behalf of the land," Williams said, noting that museums have found a place in every book she's written—environmentally focused works such as Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place and An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. She worked at the Utah Museum of Natural History for 15 years, raising eyebrows by bringing in outspoken speakers and organizing unusual events. (Read Museum Editor in Chief Susan Breitkopf's recent interview with Williams for the juicy details.)

Williams honored museums for their capacity to break boundaries, create communities and, most importantly, tell stories. Today, "environmental stewardship is the new story, the old story which we forgot and now remember," she said. Museums have the power to draw attention to environmental issues, such as a recent display at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art that featured chunks of ice from the endangered Arapahoe Glacier in an incubator: a glacier in intensive care.

As Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights led Williams to spend seven years "watching" the work, eventually writing the book Leap about the experience, it only takes one museum experience to inspire change. "All museums are small museums," she said. "One person, one painting: transformation."

Salsa en la Vida

Santana’s Grammy-winning album, Supernatural, is playing in the background, and a clearly fabulous woman is personally greeting everyone. I’m about to experience Salsa, Spirit, and Soul: Leadership in a Multicultural Age, and author Juana Bordas is already entertaining the crowd. I think she just did a salsa move . . . okay, yep, she’s full-on salsa dancing! This isn’t surprising, since Bordas views salsa (the condiment, at least) as a perfect metaphor for diversity. “Just as no two individuals are alike, every batch of salsa is unico,” she explains at today's Thought Leader session.

Bordas is the president of Mestiza Leadership International, a company that focuses on leadership, diversity and organizational change. Communities of color—in particular, black, Latino and American Indian—are redefining leadership styles in a multicultural age, Bordas says. She outlines the leadership principles—born out of historical exclusion and the need to have political influence—that can be distilled from these communities’ cultural values, such as learning from the past, developing a spirit of generosity (“mi casa es su casa”) and working together for the common good.

Bordas points to cities like Denver, which is well on its way to becoming a dynamic arts and culture hub, as an example of the transformative power of multicultural leadership. Denver has a rich history of diverse leadership, including the first Hispanic mayor to be voted into office in a non-Hispanic majority city.

Now Bordas is walking over to the CD player—we're going to salsa dance as a group, of course! But before we get to risk embarrassment, Bordas leaves us with this call: Honor your heritage, be yourself and share your story with others. It is through these practices that we can ultimately fulfill our destiny of an equal society. Then it's time to dance, with Bordas counting out the beats: quick, quick, pause; quick, quick, pause.

First-Time Attendees Take Center Stage

On Sunday at 5 p.m., the annual meeting was just gearing up—airport shuttle buses were still hustling people to their hotels, the first gaggles of participants were exploring the convention center, the first sessions had concluded. As I made my way down the cavernous, near-empty halls to the lobby outside the Wells Fargo Theatre, site of the reception for first-time meeting attendees, I wondered how many people would have shown up for it.

I didn't need to worry. As I got nearer, I heard the indistinct but booming hubbub of several hundred people chatting, in a large open hall with soaring ceilings and walls of windows. No matter the language, you can somehow tell when there are cocktails being consumed, better-than-casual clothes being worn and introductory conversations being conducted at slightly heightened decibel levels in order to surmount the background music (in this case, a Western band).

As one might guess, many first-timers appeared to be in their twenties and thirties. But there was a significant representation of those beyond that demographic, including those well beyond it—whether museum vets who came out to greet the newcomers or people who had made a career change, graduating to the heights known as the museum profession.

"Don't I know you?" "Oh, you work in the D.C. area, too?" "I'm not sure which of these two sessions I'm going to. . ." The sound of connections being made, acquaintanceships being formed. Welcome, one and all.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Live at Red Rocks: AAM

Forget U2: Museum professionals put on quite a performance at Red Rocks tonight during the Museums Rock! opening party. Busloads took the 30-minute trek out to isolated Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, the dramatic open-air backdrop to concerts by such artists as Bob Dylan, Sonny & Cher and the Grateful Dead.

A healthy intake of s'mores, cheesecake and bananas foster—and selections from multiple open bars—quickly revealed a boisterous, musical group of annual meeting attendees. They mobbed the dance floor and lined up to perform video karaoke, donning sunglasses and lip-syncing Aretha in front of a green screen.

After a song or two, guests stepped outside to take in the lights of Denver and the rocks themselves—tonight enhanced by the "AAM Annual Meeting" projected on their side.

The Meeting Man

One of the more engaging personalities at this year's AAM Annual Meeting is Mario Bucolo. A journalist and consultant from Sicily, Bucolo is attending his ninth AAM confab, which may make him one of the event's true veterans. He is editor and founder of Museumland, an online publication concerning museums and a valuable resource for institutions on the continent.

Bucolo says he keeps coming back to the annual meeting to learn. "This event helps me make comparisons between museums in the United States and museums in Italy and across Europe," he said. "And what I learn here will provide plenty of material for my publication."

The AAM gathering has proven so informative to Bucolo that he has convinced three museum colleagues in Europe to attend this year.

And what are the differences between the U.S. and Europe when it comes to museums? Bucolo cited Europe's need to maintain old facilities and make them accessible to everyone. But he also mentioned differences that are more telling.

"In Europe there is no tradition of spending Sunday at the museum with the family," he said. "I would like to see museums in Europe promote this idea. Museums in Europe and Italy also do not invest resources in marketing, public relations or education programs. The U.S. is much better at these things."

Bucolo has worked with museums as a consultant on integrating multimedia techniques into their programs. In the early 1990s, the European Commission named him as part of a task force to explore this issue and to make recommendations to the museum world. Called the Medici Framework, this report has been influencing European museums since 1995.

Bucolo is a man of technology and a man of words. But sometimes he finds he has the most influence with his camera.

"Before coming to Denver I was in New York," he said. "I went to the Guggenheim on Friday night, when the museum has reduced admission and stays open late. The line wrapped around the block. I took pictures of this. This will show the Italian museums that staying open late is a good idea."--Dewey Blanton

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Of Bordellos and Boards

Amidst Catlins, Bierstadts and O'Keeffes, the leaders of AAM gathered to celebrate the hard work of the Denver host committee. The site was the Navarre, a late-nineteenth-century former bordello with underground tunnels to the Brown Palace Hotel so patrons would not be seen from the street. It has cleaned up its act considerably and now hosts a western, canon-driven private collection. Those in attendance tonight took in the stunning artworks as rapidly as they did the shrimp cocktail.

Expressing his gratitude for their "can-do spirit," AAM President Ford Bell called out a number of those who helped bring more than 5,000 museum professionals to Denver. Of the experience, George Sparks, president and CEO of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and general chair of the committee, said, "I feel like we're on top of a water slide. We're just going to enjoy the ride."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to Make a Great Thing Better

This will be my third AAM Annual Meeting—I've worked my way westward, like empire, from Boston to Chicago to Denver. Each time it's felt like cheating: I go to a great city, stay at a great hotel and spend four paid workdays listening to experts talk about the most interesting topics in the museum world, going to museums, partying at lavish evening events and being surrounded by the type of people who go on vacation from their jobs at museums and then head to more museums as soon as they get to their destinations. My kind of people.

I've had a ball every time, but I've been thinking of a few ways to take it even further. This year, I will push myself. Be it hereby enacted that I shall:

1) Pick a few session topics beyond my usual suspects.

2) Go to an evening event at a new type of museum (not much mountaineering in Washington, D.C., for example).

3) Talk to more people I've never seen before in my life. On the shuttle bus. Waiting for the elevator. Sitting next to me at a session (well, not during the session). Trying to grab used drink tickets out of the trashcan when the bartender isn't looking.

I also plan to do my usual experience-expanders: get there a day early and sightsee, walk in a few directions other than hotel-to-convention-center and back, attend a lot of sessions and events while keeping in mind that some downtime is a good thing.

Maybe I'll see you there. Distract the bartender for me, and I'll split the drink tickets with you.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The American Association of Museums (AAM) neither condones nor countenances the criminal recycling of drink tickets by its staff. Reprisals will be swift and uncompromising. See Employee Handbook, Sec. 3.23, "Dim View of Dumpster-Diving."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Packed and Ready for Denver?

Colorado Convention Center
Yeah, neither are we—but we’re getting close. We’re expecting 5,500 attendees this year, including more than 700 who have never before been to an AAM Annual Meeting. If you’re among the newcomers, stop by the First-Time Attendee Welcome Reception on Sunday, April 27, 5–6 p.m., in the Wells Fargo Theatre Lobby (outside the General Session Theatre). You’ll meet other fresh faces and special ambassador members who can help maximize your meeting experience.

Remember the location: You’ll likely visit the theater again on April 28 and April 30, 10:30 a.m.–noon, to catch keynote speakers Terry Tempest Williams and Michael Chabon. (Check out the Rocky Mountain News article on how both Chabon and AAM are preparing for the meeting, and a recent New York Times piece with extensive quotes from Williams.) After their talks, you’ll have a chance for a personal moment with each author in the AAM Bookstore. They’ll sign copies of their books, available for purchase throughout the meeting.

After Williams’ book-signing on Monday, head to the MuseumExpo™ Opening Reception for a complimentary catered lunch and the first chance to explore the sold-out expo hall—more than 350 vendors! Visit to plot your course.

Colorado Convention Center image courtesy of Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.