Current and aspiring museum professionals who could not make this year's American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo did not have to worry about missing a thing. That is because Mark B. Schlemmer, an alumnus of the M.A. in Museum Professions program within the College of Communication and the Arts, reported on all the information shared when he served as an AAM social media journalist May 19-22.
Schlemmer, who is the New York Historical Society's registrar for collections, was one of just 13 museum professionals selected for the coveted position. In the role he used his @ITweetMuseums Twitter account to tweet about the range of topics featured at this year’s convention, which include community inclusion, fundraising and the role museums play in building empathy and creating change. He also answered questions and engaged in dialogue with those who follow his posts using the hashtags #AAM2019 and #AAMSMJ.
Through it all, Schlemmer hoped to keep his industry colleagues informed of the insights that arise from the event. Though the Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo is the largest gathering of museum professionals in the world, the University alumnus acknowledged that the vast majority of industry workers cannot attend the occasion due to a lack of funding, personal obligations and a myriad of other reasons. Thus, he planned to be the best possible conduit connecting the conference with those not present.
"Attending the AAM Annual Meeting is a privilege, and I sought to use my attendance to help create a parallel online experience to reach more museum professionals than those physically at the conference itself," Schlemmer said, adding that he hopes people take advantage of the work he and the other social media journalists shared. "Our job is to be there for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us."
This was not be Schlemmer's first time posting about museums on social media. On the contrary, the alumnus tweets extensively using his @ITweetMuseums account as well as the hashtag #ITweetMuseums, which he created six years ago as a way for people to easily find content about museum collections and other culturally focused subjects. Over the past several years, the Twitter account has amassed more than 14,500 followers, while more than 12,500 photos have been tagged with the hashtag on Instagram.
But Schlemmer values more than just the amount of engagements his social media efforts receives.
"I am grateful for the connections I've made, both professionally and personally, via social media over the years," Schlemmer said. "Through focusing my social media use almost exclusively on culture and culture sharing, I'm better connected with people around the world and hope my small impact on amplifying the work of museum professionals and the benefit and necessity of museums in general."
One museum topic Schlemmer posts often about is #MuseumsAreNotNeutral, an initiative launched by industry professionals Mike Murawski and LaTanya Autry in 2017 as a way of refuting the idea that museums need to avoid taking stances on issues.
"I believe strongly that museums are not neutral and that there is a distinct difference between being political and being partisan," Schlemmer said. "Every decision taken by a museum is based on a certain bias or perspective, which is never neutral. Challenging longstanding biases should be a paramount goal for any institution."
Schlemmer shared he made new connections through the conference — something he urges all aspiring professionals in the M.A. program to do as well. Schlemmer pointed out that there are numerous opportunities for students to make contacts in the industry, from joining groups like the AAM to taking advantage of the connections the M.A. program has made with various institutions and museum workers. He also emphasized that participating in listservs, Twitter chats and other online forums can both springboard their careers and benefit their research.
In short, as Schlemmer put it, "Be social, reach out and connect."
The M.A. in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Museum Education, Museum Registration, Museum Management, or Exhibition Development.
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.