It takes “village people” to make an exceptional conference. On the surface, each Washington Museum Association conference is simply a collective of professionals coming together motivated by their dedication to improving the museum field. We educate, entertain and inspire, exactly what we do back home at our own museums, big or small, all across the state. Our gracious conference hosts open their doors, the presenters prepare their sessions and members, vendors and sponsors arrive. It’s a good start, but not quite enough alone.

What makes a conference truly exceptional are the goofy, unscripted moments and conversations. For me the 2018 conference in Bellingham was made special by coffee breaks with colleagues (and pints because, well, Bellingham), talking around the Heliotrope Hotel campfire, exploring the Whatcom offices, and performing an updated rendition of the Village People’s Y-M-C-A with the WaMA Board of Directors (It’s fun to go to the W-a-M-A!).

While we share a dedication to Washington’s museums, that is just one of many things that makes our members and colleagues phenomenal. Attend one conference and you’ll begin to establish a network. Attend several and you’ll really get to know the folks working in Washington’s museum field. The value of having a museum village readily available when you need advice or just want to chat is worth far more than the membership dues.

After the conference, I always return to my home museum with a renewed sense of purpose. While I sometimes wish I could work with my village people every day, (exactly how many board directors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?) our broad experience from all across Washington is what makes our village so special. See you in Spokane when our village reconvenes in 2019.