Do I have to join MAM in January to receive a full year of benefits? Not any longer! MAM offers a "rolling" membership, meaning your one-year membership starts the day your application is processed. If you join in July 1, 2016, your membership is good until July 1, 2017. In this way, MAM ensures a full 12 months of benefits to all our members and let's you choose when it is most beneficial to your organization's calendar and budget to renew. MAM will atuomatically send you notices when your renewal is due so you don't have to worry about missing any deadlines. And you can enjoy continuous benefits such as our newsletter, important updates, workshops and conferences.
MAM’s mission statement includes living collections. What are living collections? Living collections refers to organizations that maintain a diversity of living things. Aquariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and even land trusts that seek to preserve a specific habitat’s biodiversity maintain living collections.
My museum doesn’t have a specific collection, but we have exhibits or a historic structure. Are we a collecting institution? Yes! Museums, including children’s museums, science museums, planetariums, lighthouses, and other organizations that invite the public to learn about a thing, an artwork, a place, a time, or a phenomenon, fall under MAM’s mission because they interpret materials relating to culture or history. Historic structures, like homes, lighthouses, or barns, for example, preserve things of this world, and fall under the category of museum (see the next question).
What is a "museum"? The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) defines museums as institutions that make a “unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the things of this world.” This definition includes museums of art, history, science and anthropology; children’s museums; historic sites; halls of fame; aquariums; zoos; botanical gardens and arboreta; nature centers; and planetariums. (This description is drawn from AAM’s Code of Ethics for Museums.)
What do you mean by "interpret," does my historical society do interpretation? If your organization has any type of exhibit, sponsors programs where you or guest experts explain your collection or artifacts to visitors, or you encourage people to engage with artifacts or places to create meaning, that is interpretation. In other words, MAM's members want visitors to make meaning during their visit: learn something, experience something different, or gain understanding about the value of a place--these are meaningful experiences.
In 1976, the organization Interpretation Canada defined interpretation in this way: “Interpretation is a communication process, designed to reveal meanings and relationships of our cultural and natural heritage, through involvement with objects, artifacts, landscapes and sites.” This understanding of interpretation has been widely accepted in the museum field. Under this definition, any organization that interprets artifacts, human culture, science and technology, and/or the environment falls within the scope of MAM’s mission.
Why should my organization join? We’re a small historical society and we just serve our town. All historical societies and other small, all-volunteer organizations can benefit from MAM membership. Being part of a community of like-minded people who value culture, history, art, preservation and interpretation means that MAM members understand your needs and have often faced similar challenges. We can share ideas, training, and resources. Furthermore, your organization, by preserving local history, is performing an important service to our entire state. Your community is part of the larger Maine story, and MAM values the work you do to keep your story and our story alive.
What does being part of a community mean? In addition to the support you gain by being connected to others who share your values, our community gains more strength by being inclusive and representative of our field. When we apply for grants for new initiatives or speak to the legislature, our congressional delegation, and tourism leaders, decision-makers appreciate knowing the depth and breadth of the types of institutions we represent, as well as the geographic diversity. The data we collect through our surveys helps people understand the vastness of the cultural treasures our members are preserving for Maine's future generations as well as the number of people we educate and inspire every year. Furthermore, by pooling our resources, we can provide such additional programs and services as training and our website that benefit our community and our individual institutions at a lower cost to individual members.
Our organization is seasonal, or we are staffed only by volunteers. Why should we join? Many of MAM's organizations are seasonal, and many more have no paid staff. In these organizations, resources and volunteers' time are perhaps even more precious. In addition to increased visibility through our website's search feature and MAM’s positioning on the VisitMaine.com website, your organization can benefit in a number of ways. Our newsletter shares ideas from organizations similar to yours, you can get ideas about fundraising, grant deadlines, and workshops, not to mention see what other organizations are doing and get inspired. Don't waste precious time reinventing the wheel (so to speak); instead, build upon other’s experiences, connect with colleagues, and be inspired by all our members are doing.
MAM operates year-round, and we use the shoulder seasons to offer workshops and other events because we know how busy you are in the summer!
Only a few people in our organization are online. Why should we join? Although a number of other museum and archival associations have “gone paperless,” MAM has not. Our quarterly newsletter is mailed to all members, and we make sure that important member communications are sent by traditional mail to those members without email addresses. Therefore, whether your organization is online, only a few people have email, or you rely solely on the phone and regular mail, MAM can keep you in touch with the larger archival and museum community.