This year's TAM conference, with its theme of Strength in Unity, saw several sessions focused on questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion, including the facilitator-led roundtables where participants had the chance to discuss these issues together in an informal setting. We are sharing some of the insights and questions that came out of those discussions through the newsletter: this final month is focused on the Docents and Tour Guides Roundtable.
The discussion focused on how important it is for our organizations to appeal to diverse audiences through our content but also by showing diversity and inclusion in our docents and guides, e.g. through race, gender, age, individuals with different abilities, etc. Being familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and person-first language helps us to open up our organizations to a variety of people, and creating inclusive messaging and training our tour guides on policies of the institution, as well as being clear about job descriptions and sharing information via orientation training sessions, can help clarify questions or uncertainties. Organizations should include ADA statements in volunteer information and organizational policies and incorporate it into training sessions. It is also important to provide an appropriate experience for varying groups; tailoring tours to the interests and needs of groups can enhance the experience for the organization and the customer.
As institutions we also need to recognize how welcoming and appreciative / inclusive our organizations are to the volunteers who are supporting us – engagement with the community to thank as well as recruit representative guides/docents is important. Events and recognition such as appreciation dinners, picnics, gift shop discounts, thank you cards, free parking, etc. all foster a stronger teamwork dynamic. Remember: Volunteers are unpaid for their time so understanding their relationship with paid staff and finding additional avenues for recruitment and acknowledgement of them can increase community ownership of your organization.
It's also a question of looking at the content and interpretation at your site or museum and to address where adjustments and change are needed. For instance, be aware of your organizational policies on “hot button” topics so that you are presenting key and consistent narratives from tour guides and docents, a necessary step to prevent the spread of incorrect information or negative PR. And remember previous negative connotations with a site or subject can still be addressed and used as teachable moments, providing a fresh forward-thinking message for your organization. It's also worth addressing "preconceived notions," i.e. find out how your organization is perceived in the community for its subject matter and if needed, rebrand/refocus to attract a wider audience.
In summary: Diversity and inclusion among tour guides and docents is two-pronged. In order for an organization to attract a diverse group of guides, it must ensure that its messaging and interpretation are accommodating and welcoming to a wide cross-section of the community. Likewise, guides must also be trained by the organization to understand the different types of diversity, including current laws regarding ADA, person-first language, official organizational policy regarding diversity, etc. And of course, the organization itself must work to promote diversity in recruitment on all levels including board members, staff, etc.
This month's Roundtable concludes our summaries of the 2018 TAM Conference Inclusion & Diversity Roundtables. You can access the notes from all four roundtable sessions here.
What You Need to Know for #TAM2019!
It might still be 2018, but it's time to start thinking about the TAM 2019 conference in Clarksville, Tennessee! This year’s theme is Connect, Cultivate, Sustain. Here's what you need to know so far:
Call for proposals
TAM 2019 will focus on the question: How can museums in Tennessee better cultivate valuable community resources, connect to new audiences in our backyard, and use them to become more sustainable institutions?
In 2019 as we gather near the river in Clarksville, the sessions and evening outings to local museums will allow time to discuss issues related to using our local resources to advance our missions within our communities. Get ideas on how to cultivate and connect to your community from the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, Austin Peay State University, Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center, Historic Collinsville, and the Don F. Pratt Museum at Fort Campbell.
Connecting to community is critical for sustainability for cultural institutions. Let’s gather in Clarksville as a museum community to share successes, learn from failures, and gain valuable information on how to make our institutions critical community assets. If you have a proposal for a conference session within this year's theme, we want to hear your idea – click here to submit your session proposal!
Note: This is a new online submission system. You will need to create a user name and password to submit your proposal. You can start it, save it, and go back to it prior to submitting.
Your question: It’s August, and that means it’s time to start thinking about TAM Awards???
Our answer: YES, it’s time to start thinking about TAM Awards!!!
We want to get awards nominations on your radar NOW for a couple of reasons! First, we want you to take note of all you’ve done and all the things you are working on, before you get so wrapped up that it’s already Christmas – for instance, the exhibits opening for the fall season and the great exhibits that have just closed; your awesome summer programs, camps, and events; and the new school programming! And so NOW is the perfect time to download a blank nomination form found here, and to start making notes and getting all the info you need to submit a nomination in a few short months. A little leg work now makes for a better nomination!
We also want you to know that we are going to be doing away with our traditional deadline extension. This is important! We will have a DROP DEAD DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES of JANUARY 25. No exceptions! This is your first notice; we’ll give you plenty of others. We want to make the application process fair across the board, and sticking with one deadline date does that.
Your awards committee plans to also look at some of our guidelines and criteria for nominations in several of our categories, including exhibits, volunteers, audio/visual entries, and publications. We are always striving to make things clearer for you and to make the nomination process as easy and as concise as possible. We also are hoping to put up some examples of good, better, and best nominations on the TAM website, to help guide you as you craft your own nominations. So keep an eye on the site for these updates and helpful hints!
That said, we are always available to hear your feedback, your thoughts, your ideas, and your suggestions on the process. Feel free to email Tori Mason, Awards Committee Chair, at email@example.com. And good luck to you all as summer winds down and the busy fall season begins! And think Awards!
Location, Location, Location!
The conference hotel for TAM 2019 is now finalized: the Riverview Inn in Clarksville! The TAM Conference group rate is $98 per night if you make your reservation by February 19, 2019. Call 931-552-3331 for reservations; you must use the group code: TAM Annual Conference to receive the discount. The hotel will require a credit card or deposit to hold the reservation.
The Tennessee Association of Museums is pleased to announce our joint scholarship program with Humanities Tennessee for the 2019 Annual TAM conference. Check out this link to learn more about eligibility, what the scholarships cover, and how to apply.