Making History and Recording It

Association of African American Museums 2016 Conference

The 2016 AAAM Annual Conference will be held in Riverside, CA and hosted by the Dora Nelson African American Art & History Museum.

For the first time in over two decades, the Association of African American Museums will host its annual conference on the West Coast, in the southern California city of Riverside. AAAM has traditionally held its annual convening in the East or Southeast, as the organization’s membership is historically drawn from this region of the country. The 2016 annual conference’s location in California is a departure from past practice; it provides AAAM the chance to cast its gaze afar, to new horizons.

This occasion presents the opportunity for African American museums and museum professionals to come together and look at our work in new ways. The museum world is always undergoing significant change, but with seismic demographic shifts, sweeping cultural trends, and growing transnational interconnectivity are pushing African American museums to think deeply about who our audiences have been, who they will be in the future, and what we must do to successfully engage them with our collections, our programmatic offerings, and our spaces. If we exist to represent and share the stories of African American life, how do we define and critically explore that source community? If we strive to be relevant to black patrons, are we recognizing the myriad motivations and identities of this audience? If our missions, and bottom lines, necessitate engagement with audiences outside the African diaspora, what places of confluence are we acknowledging or actively creating?

The 2016 AAAM program committee is issuing a call for session proposals that explore the changing audiences of African American Museums. These proposals should put forth new, original, and leading-edge models and ideas that address the evolution of African American museum visitorship. We want to learn how our organizations are defining their current/future audiences, how they are engaging these audiences, and what implications these changes have for the museum field. The long-term sustainability of African American museums rests on our ability to attract and successfully serve our visitors. This goal requires an ongoing exploration of the complexity of our audiences and a willingness to diversify approaches and offerings to engage them.