TAM 2020 in Reflection: Lorene Sugars

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Texas Association of Museums 2020 Virtual Conference Reflection
Lorene Sugars, Student Scholarship Recipient

TAM 2020 was an experience that was unique and like no other in a lot of ways. With a theme of “Tradition meets innovation”, no one could have predicted the amount of innovation the 2020 conference would need. While moved to May and online the TAM 2020 conference fulfilled all my expectations and more. Even from a computer screen, I was able to get to know other museum professionals from across our state and learn about the amazing work they are doing. As a student starting my career, these moments of learning and relationship building are important to me.

The conference came at a moment when museum professionals, both young and old, needed a reminder of why we do what we do. This past year has been hard for museums and culture professionals. Many of us faced furloughs or layoffs, or students like me graduated into a field in crisis with no end in sight. There were months when no one was sure what the next day, week, or month would bring, and indeed many of us still feel this way today. Yet, when we come together for conferences like TAM 2020, we reunite with colleagues, old friends, and a community that is passionate, dedicated, and driven to succeed. Through this, even when far apart, the conference had a feeling of togetherness and hope. Hope that you could plan future education programs or that reopening was possible and could be done safely.  I took notes throughout the conference and looking back through them a particular quote from Dr. Sue Anderson’s keynote stood out. “None of us can solve our problems alone, but we can connect together so that we don’t have to.” That is the whole purpose of conferences, to connect and work together with others. The virtual TAM 2020 conference was able to do this even in such a unique form. During a moment of crisis and uncertainty, we as museum professionals could connect, discuss, learn, and grow together in the present moment. While we didn’t solve all the questions of the year in four days, I hope we all took away ideas and lessons to bring back to our institutions or carry with us into the next phases in our careers. I know I did.

So, I want to take a moment at the end of this reflection to thank TAM and its staff for not only my scholarship and allowing me to attend this conference, but also for their hard work and dedication to making this conference happen. I am sure many, myself included, lamented the loss of those unique in-person conference experiences such as the meals, tours, and in-person networking, but TAM rose to the occasion and made the best out of an unprecedented situation. They could have canceled, but instead, they worked hard to allow the most important parts of conferences, the exchange of ideas and discussions continue virtually. TAM gave me, and I hope the other attendees as well, a moment of normalcy in a time that seems far from normal.