Waco Museums and Attractions is hosting the Peer Welcome Mat this week, hosting the annual meeting of the Texas Association of Museums with receptions and activities at more than half a dozen locations.
This is the association’s first in-person conference in two years, after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 meeting and turned last year’s meeting into a virtual one.
After two years of communicating by phone and Zoom conferences on how to deal with pandemic disruption, the members are ready to meet in person.
“The museum community is small, and we’ve really leaned on each other over the past couple of years,” said Rebecca Nall, deputy director of exhibitions at the Mayborn Museum and co-chair, along with Joy Summar-Smith, associate director of Dr. Pepper Museum and the Free Enterprise Institute. , of the Waco Museum Association Planning Committee.
Some 300 TAM members, just under a third of the state organization’s membership, will attend this week’s meeting, with the Mayborn Museum serving as the conference center on Wednesday and Thursday and the Dr Pepper Museum on Friday.
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“I think 2003 was the last time Waco hosted the conference and we’re very excited,” Nall said. “A lot of things have changed since then.”
Those things would include the opening of the Mayborn Museum, the Waco Mammoth National Monument, a downtown location for the Waco Art Center, and the creation of a downtown Waco Cultural District, to begin with, not to mention from one of the state’s top tourist attractions, Magnolia Market to the silos.
Daytime conference sessions will offer a mix of keynotes and moderated panel discussions, with evenings dedicated to socializing, networking, entertainment, and an introduction to Waco’s museums.
Cameron Park Zoo and Waco Mammoth National Monument will host attendees on Tuesday evening; Governor Bill and Vara Daniel’s historic village of Mayborn, the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday; and Art Center Waco, the Dr Pepper Museum and the Cultural District on Thursday.
TAM executive director Alex Freeman said museums need to adopt different ways to reach audiences and generate revenue during COVID-19 closures and visitor limitations, with many moving their programs and offerings online. . Waco’s Mayborn Museum, in fact, won a TAM award last year for its online educational programming, Mayborn Connect, created when schools stopped field trips.
Audiences unfamiliar with phone-based technologies such as QR codes or ticket purchases learned how to do so when restaurants adopted these technologies for contactless menus and curbside pickup. As a result, many museums are more likely to incorporate such technology to engage and inform the public, Freeman said.
“That’s the state of the world we find ourselves in,” he said.
The lessons of these changes trickled down to conference planning. This year’s meeting will allow TAM members to watch keynote presentations, business sessions and awards shows in person or streamed to other locations, one step away from the traditional conference setup of keynote presentations. in a hotel ballroom with breakout sessions in adjacent spaces, Freeman said.
The annual meeting’s programming and presentations will also include significant participation from Waco, led by 17 WAM members and executives from Creative Waco, McGregor’s SpaceX and Leadership Trek Corp.