2018 CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Till Earth and Heaven Ring

Celebrating the Progress and Sustaining the Promise of African American Museums

The Association of African American Museums (AAAM) has reached a milestone: 40 years of gathering the black museums field together for advocacy, professional development, and collaboration. Hosted by the Hampton University Museum, marking its 150th anniversary, the 40th annual conference of AAAM will be held in Hampton, Virginia, August 8-11, 2018. 

The conference will be inspirational and aspirational, reflective and forward-looking. While change sweeps our political and cultural landscape, African American museums anchor our communities and remind us how to persist and thrive. Our museums draw on the history and culture of rich legacies that prevail through peril, and we have much to celebrate.  

Notable progress has been made since America’s first black museum was established at Hampton Normal and Industrial Agricultural Institute (Hampton University) in 1868. Over the course of a century, the black museums movement revolutionized museum models by placing people and community at the center of their origin and mission. In the name of human and civil rights, African American museums became central to the cause of social justice. Since then, the black museums field has grown exponentially, and, in 2016, the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., blazed a new trail. In the 21st century, our museums continue to interpret local, national, and international perspectives in innovative and interactive ways that educate and empower our visitors. 

Looking toward a viable future for African American museums requires a continual tilling of the field that maximizes our possibilities. Strengthened by our roots, black museums invest in and sustain the promise of the future. During these complex times and milestone anniversaries, 150 years after the founding of the Hampton University Museum and 40 years after the creation of AAAM, we look back with thanksgiving and gaze ahead with resilience.  

Our host city, Hampton, Virginia, offers an ideal context for celebrating our progress and sustaining our promise. The fine arts holdings at the Hampton University Museum include the largest collection of works by the artists Henry O. Tanner, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barthe, and Samella Lewis. In addition, Hampton University is home to one of the leading HBCU planetary science programs and to the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, the world’s largest freestanding proton therapy cancer treatment facility.

With that in mind, this conference will expand an understanding of the important roles of African American museums in all walks of life including the arts, sciences, social justice activism, advocacy, and leadership from the past to the present and beyond. This occasion provides an opportunity to look at how our museums function in the pragmatic terms of collections stewardship, fundraising, operations, community engagement, programming, and marketing.

Conference presenters may propose to analyze the best practices that make black museums relevant and socially responsive or interrogate the actions that black museums must engage for a sustained future. Using a variety of formats such as TED Talks, structured conversations, panel discussions, and skill-building seminars, presenters are invited to emphasize sustainable models for black museums, archives, libraries, and cultural centers.

Presenters may examine any number of questions regarding the progress and promise of African American museums and are invited to explore these topics and more:

  • What practices, projects, partnerships, and procedures most advance the progress of African American museums? 
  • What does progressive and impactful programming look like in black museums? 
  • How is impact best measured? 
  • What are the best practices for fundraising in African American museums? 
  • What models of leadership have been most effective moving black museums forward?
  • How can African American museums maximize technology for greater impact and engagement?
  • What does effective succession planning look like in African American museums?
  • How can African American museums better cultivate closer relationships with donors and supporters? 
  • What is the role of social media in advancing the mission of African American museums, especially in the name of social justice?
  • How can African American museums use intergenerational collaborations and mentoring to enhance the pipeline of prepared professionals entering the field? 

From James Weldon Johnson’s classic poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the conference theme calls us to celebrate the journey and accomplishments of black museums while preparing for the future. Join us as we celebrate that progress and sustain our promise.

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