Team News

Utica Children's Museum Team Shines at the 2024 Association of Children's Museums Conference

This year, the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) conference was a vibrant gathering filled with innovative ideas, shared experiences, and the collective passion of museum professionals from across the globe.

Utica Children's Museum (UCM) team members Meghan Fraser McGrogan and Malik Johnson were among the attendees. Drawing on her insights and experiences, Meghan presented on a Universal Design panel with colleagues nationwide, adding a rich layer to the conference's dialogues. 

Their participation marked a significant milestone for UCM, emphasizing the importance of community, learning, and collaboration in children’s museums.

UCM Interim Director, Meghan Fraser McGrogan and UCM Education Manager, Malik Johnson at the Madison Children's Museum in Madison, WI
UCM Interim Director Meghan Fraser McGrogan and UCM Education Manager Malik Johnson at the Madison Children's Museum in Madison, WI

A New Team on the Block

For Meghan and Malik, attending the ACM conference was driven by a desire to connect with the broader museum community, discover available resources, and stay abreast of current trends in children's museums. As a relatively new team, they needed to establish connections with other professionals in the field, learn from their experiences, and explore collaboration possibilities. The conference served as an excellent platform for the team to immerse themselves in the children's museum world, gaining insights to guide their journey.

Goals and Aspirations

One of the primary objectives for attending the conference was to participate in the Universal Design Panel, a topic close to UCM's heart. Meghan shared their journey of building a new museum guided by the principles of Universal Design from its conceptualization to completion. The story behind UCM's organizational structure was also highlighted, showcasing its unique position as the first museum co-located with a human services nonprofit organization. This presentation aimed not only to share their experience but also to form meaningful relationships within the industry.

UCM Interim Director, Meghan Fraser McGrogan presenting at ACM on Universal Design alongside panelists UCM Interim Director Meghan Fraser McGrogan presenting at ACM on Universal Design alongside panelists

Preparation and Anticipation

Meghan and Malik focused on identifying critical topics of interest in preparing for the ACM conference and strategically planning their session attendance. While the preparation involved basic steps, their excitement was palpable, especially regarding sessions tailored for smaller museums. Meghan looked forward to learning from real examples that could be applied to UCM, enriching the museum's offerings and enhancing the visitor experience.

Key Takeaways and Insights

Meghan gained valuable leadership insights from the conference, particularly the understanding that growth involves challenges and that building new exhibits takes time. The inclusivity and willingness of children's museum professionals to share their practices also stood out as learnings. Industry trends, such as collaboration with community organizations and a focus on inclusion, were identified as influential factors for the future of children’s museums. Malik found that sessions focusing on museum growth and programming were beneficial for him, and his most significant takeaway is that “Simplicity is not a limitation” when it comes to children’s museum programming. 

Networking and Connections

The ACM conference was a fruitful ground for networking. Meghan and Malik met influential figures like Arthur Affleck and Deb Gilpin, as well as their museum designers, Greg Belew and Kathy Gustafson-Hilton. These connections promised potential collaborations and shared learning, enhancing UCM's network within the museum community.

Malik Johnson, Kathy Gustafson-Hilton, Meghan Fraser McGrogan, and Greg Belew from Hands On! Studios, Malik Johnson, Meghan Fraser McGrogan and Deb Gilpin, President and CEO of the Madison Children's Museum, Malik Johnson, ACM Executive Director Arthur Affleck and Meghan Fraser McGrogan

Looking Ahead

Inspired by their ACM conference experience, Meghan and Malik are geared to implement what they have learned into UCM's strategy. Despite the challenges of building a new museum and expanding their team, their collaboration with ICAN is poised to bring their innovative ideas to life. The excitement about creating a fun, safe, and meaningful space for children in their region and the potential impact of their ACM learnings on the broader community fuels their journey ahead.

As the Utica Children's Museum team reflects on their ACM conference experience, they stand at the cusp of a new chapter, inspired to innovate, collaborate, and contribute to the vibrant world of children’s museums.