If you visited www.aam-us.org last week you may have been surprised by the unannounced soft launch of the new website design.
I received several texts and Facebook messages from colleagues regarding the silent update. My initial response was, “wow, the website looks much better” followed by, “what is that logo?” followed by, “is that a new name?”
Why yes, yes it is.
The American Association of Museums is now (officially) the American Alliance of Museums.
So what? Is there really that much of a difference between an association and an alliance?
Noun: A group of people organized for a joint purpose
Noun: A union or association formed for mutual benefit
Um, yes. An email from AAM President Ford Bell, sent to members this morning, states, “Our new middle name signals our resolve to unite the entire field and speak with a strong, clear voice in making the case that museums are essential to our communities.”
How can we get art museums, history institutions, children’s museums, science museums, zoo and aquariums to all play nice together? It hasn’t always been easy. As an Engaging Places blog post rightly pointed out, “Those of us in the history field often felt like outsiders at AAM, which seemed to be dominated by art museums, our classier and richer cousins.” That’s certainly not the first time I’ve heard this. Truth be told, AAM’s old membership structure was simply out of reach for many under-funded institutions, no matter their intellectual concentration. Art museums often get picked on for being so well funded at the expense of other institutions, but as we all know, this is not the case for all art museums. In truth, almost all museums, regardless of focus, are struggling and competing for ever decreasing funding. AAM has clearly recognized this and, by re-branding themselves as an alliance, may be able to bridge that gap between individual institutional focus and what’s really at stake for our communities.
Imagine a world without museums, where you could never see a Titian masterpiece, in person, in all of its glory; where Sue the T.Rex is only in picture books; where the battle flags of the Civil War are hidden away in closed storage; where ZooBooks are the only connection children will ever have with the living collections of zoos and aquariums. Each of these experiences are different, and may come from a unique institutional focus – but they are each educational and inspirational, and they are all part of the AAM family.
I couldn’t agree more with Ford Bell: Museums ARE essential.
So, what does this branding shift mean? What’s actually changing? How is AAM going to help museum professionals and their institutions be the best they can be?
Their answer: Accessibility of both AAM membership and the accreditation process.
Membership Changes at a Glance*
- Tiered institutional membership so you can choose your level of engagement and benefits
- Dues based on your museum’s staff size, or what you can pay, so all museums can belong
- An all-staff package of individual memberships at one low price
- An opportunity to pass on discounts (20-50% off) to staff to purchase individual memberships
- A new, easy-to-navigate website with thousands of resources to help you and your museum succeed
- Access to 22 professional networks at no additional cost for Individual Professional members
The Continuum of Excellence*
Multiple entry points and customized assistance to reach higher levels of recognition.
- Two new programs to prepare for accreditation—Core Documents Verification and the Pledge of Excellence—encourage professionalism through standards of excellence and recognition of participating museums with different levels of achievement
- A streamlined, online accreditation program taking about 50% less time to complete
- Cooperative partnerships with other museum associations reducing the time and steps needed to become accredited
*All of this information is outlined on www.aam-us.org.
So, there it is. What do you think? Are you currently a member of AAM? Do you plan to become one? What is your impression of the changes AAM is making? What are you most excited about? What are your biggest questions?