Annual Convening Save the Date: Oct 12-14 San Francisco
AAMI’s Annual Convening Call for Case Study Proposals

We hope you will join us in San Francisco and Oakland for AAMI’s Annual Convening on October 12th and 13th, 2023! 

Let’s share our successes and victories while together we consider what’s on the horizon for the field of art museum interpretation. Case Study presentations have become something of a tradition at AAMI annual convening. Presenters speak candidly about real-life interpretive opportunities and challenges they’ve encountered and solved, often through creative and experimental means. Attendees value the opportunity to hear from a range of colleagues and learn about varied approaches to tackling issues that many of us face. 

The Convening Committee welcomes proposals for 10-minute-long case study presentations at AAMI 2023 in San Francisco. Submit your proposal by completing the submission form by midnight on Sunday, July 30. Notifications will be made in August.

Check out our YouTube channel to access content from past virtual convenings.


How the Word Is Passed: A Conversation with Clint Smith

September 28, 2022

AAMI is honored to host New York Times bestselling author Clint Smith for a Fall Virtual Convening. In 2018, Smith set out on an unprecedented tour-of-tours, visiting dozens of museums, historic sites, and other locations with legacies of slavery. The stories these institutions tell about their—our—past range from intentional reckonings to reticent omissions to sensational and even dangerous revisions. In How the Word Is Passed, each chapter closely examines one site at a time, detailing Smith’s experience as a visitor on guided tours, in exhibitions, and during events. He expands on his observation by talking with stakeholders and staff as well as additional research. With candor, Smith considers the intersection of many of his own identities at the time with these experiences—as a poet, educator, PhD Student, new father, Southerner, and descendant of enslaved people.

Moderating the program will be Adrienne Lalli-Hills, Director of Learning and Engagement at the First Americans Museum. As part of their conversation, they will delve into aspects of Smith’s book that have resonance and clear applications for interpretation and others in the museum field committed to anti-racist work.

DEIA and Interpretation: AAMI Fall Virtual Convening

November 18, 2021

Join guest speaker Omar Eaton-Martínez, Senior Diversity Fellow for the American Alliance of Museums, along with AAMI Board President, Swarupa Anila, in conversation about the interplays of DEAI, social justice, and belonging in the field of Interpretation.

Interpretation as a Field: Where Are We Now?

July 23, 2021

Interpretation professionals share a history of strategies and struggles. It’s a new field—so how far have we come? And where do we need to go? In this hands-on discussion, Irina Mihalache and Courtney Murfin share insights from their study Interpretation as Field and invite participants to help shape future research. Funded by Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the research team will share findings around some of the sector’s key questions:
 What resources, theories, and practices most influence our work today? 
 Have we made any headway in our relationships with curators? What about designers,
programmers, and marketers? 
 How can interpretation integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our knowledge and
Read more about the study here.


Irina D. Mihalache, Toronto-based academic
Courtney Murfin, Interpretive Planner, Royal Ontario Museum

Curator-Interpreter Show and Tell: Reflections on A Perfect Power: Motherhood and African Art

Friday, March 26, 2021

4:00 PM EST/3:00 PM CNT/2:00 PM MTN/1:00 PM PAC

Join Baltimore Museum of Art Director of Interpretation, Verónica Betancourt and Associate Curator of African Art Kevin Tervala, for a lively and informal discussion of the interpretive strategy for A Perfect Power: Motherhood and African Art (on view from April 5, 2020 – March 7, 2021). Hear how curators and interpreters worked together to bring a contemporary lens to the interpretation of 19th and 20th century artworks.

Virtual Panel: Toward Inclusive Interpretive Practice: Metasynthesis Study Findings

Friday, January 29, 2021

4:00 EST/3:00 CNT/2:00 PM MTN/1:00 PM PAC

What does it mean to be an institution that that practices equity and inclusion in interpretive planning? How can museums be responsive to and representative of their communities’ needs? 

In 2018, the Detroit Institute of Arts, in partnership with GaribayGroup, finalized a ground-breaking study: the analysis and synthesis of six years’ worth of data gathered from front-end studies for various exhibitions and reinstallations. These studies surfaced issues voiced by individuals whose heritage is reflected in the art—but who are typically excluded from participation ideation or planning processes. This panel will focus on simple, powerful, and effective approaches for addressing issues of equity and cultural representation in interpretation, alongside reflection on the findings from a 2021 vantage, as art museums work to design and achieve institution-wide DEAI plans.


Swarupa Anila, AAMI Board President and Senior VP for Exhibition and Gallery Development, Royal Ontario Museum


Cecilia Garibay, Principal, Garibay Group

Ken Morris, Director of Visitor Research and Evaluation, Detroit Institute of Arts

Virtual roundtable: December Diplomacy

Monday, December 14, 2020
4:00 PM EST/3:00 PM CNT/2:00 PM MTN/1:00 PM PAC

Ahh, diplomacy…that fundamental, yet oft-overlooked element of interpretive planning. As IPs, we sit at the centre of many different stakeholders, both inside and outside the museum. We discuss, advocate, persuade, suggest alternatives, and gently push back. And even though it’s a truth universally acknowledged that honey is a better accompaniment to a thorny conversation than vinegar…diplomacy can still be difficult and exhausting. 
Like any muscle, diplomacy skills need to be flexed and stretched to be useful—so join Jennifer Foley, Julia Forbes, Gamynne Guillotte, and Judy Koke for tips and insight on navigating these (occasionally) tricky waters. This event will be recorded; attendees will be notified if the recording is uploaded to YouTube.

Virtual Happy Hour: Nightmare at the Museum!

7:00 PM EST/6:00 PM CNT/5:00 PM MTN/4:00 PM PAC

We all have that nighmare-ish story from work—
Maybe it was the time you had to talk someone down from the abyss of a 300-word intro
Or the Big Idea that mysteriously crept up to five increasingly convoluted
Or the (possibly possessed) colleague who said, “I don’t see why the target
audience can’t be visitors with a PhD in art history.”

Tune in to our virtual happy hour with your favorite beverage and your most chilling museum nightmares. But beyond the jump scares, we want to hear about the creative twists you used to save the day—as a community, we learn and grow from each other’s experiences. No story? No problem—you can just listen in. This is an informal event, and a safe and judgment-free space.

The event will not be recorded. Costumes encouraged!

Have a great tale you’d like to keep a bit mysterious? Fill out this form and we’ll share your story anonymously.

To Touch or Not To Touch

June 5th, 11 am – 12:30 pm EST

To touch or not to touch? Museums are wrestling with this question among others as they make plans to reopen their galleries to the public. Join interpretation colleagues to share strategies for adapting a range of in-gallery audience engagement tools to meet new safety measures/expectations during the COVID-19 crisis.  In this interactive session, participants will break into smaller groups for discussion and then be brought back together to share with the larger group. Results will be compiled and shared through the AAMI blog.

Read the recap of the convening here.

Can Interpreters Change How Museums Work?

Friday, August 7, 2020 | 9 am Pac/10 am Mtn/11 am Cent/12 pm East

Amidst massive layoffs in the field, a global pandemic, and a historic racial justice movement, the need to move beyond statements of support for change is clear. While calls for equity and sustainable, community-centered museum practice are not new, the present moment may offer a rare chance to make major inroads. As staff who work across departments, how can we help create alignment so that change lasts? This will be an “in the weeds” conversation on how anyone with interpretive responsibilities can leverage interdepartmental work as a means of ensuring change isn’t left to the realm of one person, exhibition, or program. Micro presentations by staff from Philbrook Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, and Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center will be followed by break out sessions where participants will share ideas on how we can face challenges and make change possible.

Presenters: Tracy Truels is Assistant Director, Interpretive Engagement at Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tasia Johnson is Manager of Interpretive Technology at Seattle Art Museum; and Adrienne Lalli Hills is Associate Director of Studio School at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and EdD Out-of-School Learning Student at the University of Pittsburgh.

AAMI Session: Digital Engagement in the age of COVID-19

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 12 Pac/1 Mtn/2 Cent/3 East

The coronavirus pandemic has forced museum interpretation professionals to re-examine our strategies and practices for visitor engagement. Most of our standard in-gallery engagement tools are rendered at least temporarily obsolete, forcing a shift in outreach activities to digital platforms to provide low- or no-touch access to content and experiences. 

This panel explores a few of the ways Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art continues to adapt to our new professional landscape by highlighting a few projects, both virtual and in-gallery, where collaboration among the interpretation, communication, and education teams are creating new kinds of digital engagement opportunities for our guests in an age of uncertainty.

There will be time at the end of the presentation for discussion and collective sharing.

Presented by: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Moderator: Robin Groesbeck, Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation

Participants: Neal Johnson, Digital Media Director; Stace Treat, Head of Interpretation; Brittany Johnson, Interpretation Specialist

Bringing people together, 6 feet apart: Fostering Social Experiences in Museum Galleries in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

Thursday, September 3, 202012 | Pac/1 Mtn/2 Cent/3 East

Interpretation staff from Newfields will briefly discuss experiences with balancing social distancing guidelines and reduced touch interpretive tools with the goal to create active, social encounters in art museum galleries. Newfields staff will share how visitors have engaged with adapted interpretive tools in Edward Hopper and the American Hotel, organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

After the brief presentation by Newfields staff, we will split into breakout sessions for participants to discuss the following questions:

  • How can we create human-centered experiences when people aren’t at the museum?
  • How can we create human-centered in-gallery experiences when we’re following safety guidelines?
  • What tools have you used to achieve either of these goals? What has worked well or hasn’t worked as well? What tools would you like to try?

Presenters: Tascha Horowitz, Director of Interpretation, Media, and Publishing, Newfields, Indianapolis, IN; Maggie Ordon, Interpretation Planner, Newfields, Indianapolis, IN; Wednesday Rees, Interpretation Planner, Newfields, Indianapolis, IN

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