Resilient, Together Theme

2021 AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo Theme:

Resilient, Together

Never before in AAM’s 115-year history has it been more critical to come together for our field’s future. By the time the AAM Annual Meeting kicks off in May of 2021, it will have been over a year since COVID-19’s first cases appeared, claiming millions of lives and jobs worldwide, and broadly illuminating the inequities in our society. The impacts on museums and museum professionals have been dire. Many museums are striving to meet the needs of their communities through education, psychological respite, humor, and joy. Many are also facing the painful prospects of job loss, substantial budget cuts, and permanent closure.

Our new normal is filled with uncertainty and disruption caused by the confrontation of two pandemics: COVID-19 and the systemic racism that has plagued our country for centuries. How can we come together now, embrace the change offered by the current crises, and build greater individual, community, organizational, and field-wide resilience? Which aspects of traditional practice left museums fragile and vulnerable to disruption? What is the role of museums in bridging divides, bringing communities together, and building empathy and understanding to build community resiliency when confronting crises?

Resiliency is defined by the ability to recover quickly from crises, to learn from mistakes, and in doing so, to find enrichment. It is a triumphant act to be resilient in the midst of a health pandemic, social and political upheaval, and economic and financial uncertainty. But what does resiliency mean for a community, a museum, or the field at large? How do we examine the challenges that create an uneven pattern of resiliency in the field? How do we fortify and adapt varying forms of resiliency to meet not only the present crises, but also determine and embrace what our future will hold? Becoming resilient requires examining the complexities of these topics, mapping paths to a more inclusive and equitable field, and adapting so that when we do bounce back, we do so with new vigor, together. What’s next starts now at #AAM2021.

While we will not be coming together in-person in Chicago, it remains one of the cities best fit to explore the theme, Resilient, Together. Following the devastation of the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago residents, and supporters across the country and internationally, joined together to help the city rise from the ashes. They rebuilt a newly imagined and stronger urban landscape that touted innovations such as the modern skyscraper. This incredible example of large scale recovery efforts supported by communities from the hyper-local to the global serves as inspiration for the recovery efforts of our field.