(Image is of phenomenal swag we got from the good folks of Museum Hack.)

We at Museum Revolution spent several stimulating days at the annual conference of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in Washington, D.C. We learned, we were inspired, and we met amazing colleagues.

Here were our three key takeaways from this event:

1. Digital Is Coming to Museums, and It’s a Good Thing

If you attended AAM and somehow didn’t hear about digital technologies, you must have pulled a Matrix move to avoid the news.


We heard (and took part in) conversations everywhere about how to use digital, where to use digital, how digital technology can expand and improve the narrative presented in our spaces.

Customized experiences are what our audiences crave. How can we make the museum experience more engaging to our audiences, based on what they want to learn? If you want a great summary of what is coming in the museum world for digital technology (and when to begin getting on board with it), check out the NMC annual report.

And if you want the intelligent (and funny) headline overview of the report for museums, take a look at Nik Honeysett’s presentation on tech trends. It’s a great guide to what you need to be thinking about right now, so you can stay at least on pace with the rest of the world. And, if you are smart and well- funded enough, maybe get ahead of it.


2. Mobile Tools Can Engage Audiences Inside and Outside of the Museum

We are rapidly moving away from “No cell phone” rules. Why? Because phones are a portable reference tool. Like it or not, people are using them to get information while at your museum. So we can leave it up to Google, or we can provide a better experience ourselves.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, has harnessed social media to help engage and educate. They are a multi-year winner of the MUSE award, but they aren’t resting on their laurels. They developed a mobile app that got an honorable mention this year. They also have a great blog, including this entry on how they are posting educational content on iTunes.

Lots of museums are picking up the challenge and developing great social media content. The Brooklyn Museum developed a popular app called ASK Brooklyn Museum. Here are a few of the quotes in the iTunes review of the app:

I love this app. It completely changed my museum experience. I usually get bored when I don’t understand what’s going on but I was able to ask Andrew questions through my whole stay.

I had so much fun using this app, it totally changed my experience visiting the museum… I hope other museums adopt the same program.

There are several other examples of great and inventive museums. Check out this year’s MUSE winners for additional inspiration.

3. Museum People Are Inspiring and Creative

The people at the AAM conference brought an amazing mix of skills, ideas and creativity. Much of the conversation was around how great ideas can be implemented. The attendees discussed how to bring new audiences into museums, how to harness the power of digital technology to improve narrative and engagement, and how to create “Wow!”

We came away thinking about what is being done and where museums can go from here. There are lots of ways to keep our audiences engaged and invested in our missions. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get creative.

The conference was a great learning experience. Plus, we had fun.