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updated: 11/1/2010 11:05 AM

Conference takes visitors behind scenes at museum

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  • Participants in this week's Illinois Association of Museums conference will be able to catch what's left of the fall color at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

      Participants in this week's Illinois Association of Museums conference will be able to catch what's left of the fall color at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Peggy Frank, executive director of Naper Settlement, a 19th-century living-history museum in Naperville, is chairwoman of this week's Illinois Association of Museums conference being held in DuPage County.

      Peggy Frank, executive director of Naper Settlement, a 19th-century living-history museum in Naperville, is chairwoman of this week's Illinois Association of Museums conference being held in DuPage County.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Cantigny's First Division Museum will be one of the stops this week for participants in the Illinois Association of Museums conference in DuPage County.

      Cantigny's First Division Museum will be one of the stops this week for participants in the Illinois Association of Museums conference in DuPage County.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

People who like museums are coming to the Lisle/Naperville area in droves Wednesday to Friday, Nov. 3 to 5, for the Illinois Association of Museums conference at the Holiday Inn Select in Naperville.

From totally volunteer-run organizations to professionally managed institutions, IAM's membership is wide-ranging.

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Curators, interpreters, trustees, designers, facility managers, volunteer recruiters, grant writers, fundraisers and more will be in town for a fast-paced lineup on the nuts and bolts of their trade with a little dazzle to keep it fun.

You would expect no less from the 513 members who collect, categorize and store millions of items and then display their array with eye-catching appeal to entertain and educate the general public.

According to the IAM brochure, "Exploring the Magic of Place" promises "spellbinding activities" and "entertaining hocus-pocus."

"Our title acknowledges that each museum, whether it is an art, science, history or children's museum, has its own unique sense of place," said Peggy Frank, IAM board member and chairwoman of the 2010 conference. "How we convey our story, our messages and our experiences can be magical as we help people to think a different way, to expand their horizons, to relate to their own everyday life or, for a young person, may spark what they want to pursue as a vocation."

Frank said museums transport people almost in a magical way by the experiences they gain when they visit one. As executive director at Naper Settlement, Frank is familiar with the many cultural resources in the Western suburbs and is proud to showcase the rich and diverse selection at this conference.

There are 1,428 museums and historical societies in Illinois according to IAM statistics. The conference offers opportunities for members to network, experience venues, discuss challenges and share successes.

Among the locations conference attendees may visit on Wednesday is The First Division Museum and Robert R. McCormick Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton; the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville; and the Naper Settlement Curatorial Department to view its state-of-the-art off-site collections care and storage facility with its latest techniques and equipment.

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle will take conference visitors "Behind the Trees" on a tram tour to help participants understand the unique opportunities and challenges related to planning visitor experiences to an outdoor museum. A narrator will describe elements of the vistas and the history of the grounds.

"We'll discuss the process of creating a tram tour, asking them to evaluate all they see and hear, and we'll discuss these aspects later on," said Public Relations Manager Gina Tedesco.

From 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, buses will transport visitors to two other Lisle attractions: The Museums of Lisle Station Park and the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum at Benedictine University.

"We will have a progressive dinner here for the tour," said Lisle Heritage Society volunteer Joe Bennett. Bennett and the museum curator, Brian Failing, representing the Lisle Park District, will oversee the local visit.

"We are a small-town museum with five structures and a large volunteer staff that makes us much bigger than many small museums," Bennett said. "We welcome the opportunity to showcase the professional side of our museum, because we truly feel we have magic moments, especially when the sights and sounds of the museum add its magic to our special events."

Volunteers dressed in period clothing will tell the museum's story and show visitors parts of the storage and artifact collection areas.

At the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum of Benedictine University, visitors will enjoy hors d'oeuvres as they view two new exhibits of the Sonoran Desert and Arctic Tundra dioramas in an annex, said education coordinator Joni Marin.

"We are in the middle of construction of our rock cliff habitat that will feature our two bighorn, the high altar and the Marco Polo sheep in a diorama," Marin said. "People will see how a diorama comes together."

Museum details are at www1.ben.edu/museum.

The evening ends with entertainment at the Wentz Concert Hall and the Schoenherr Gallery on the North Central College campus in Naperville.

On Thursday, Nov. 4, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 28 vendors with resources and services that could benefit museums as well as other nonprofit organizations will be in the Exhibitor Hall at the Holiday Inn Select. There is no cost to visit the vendors.

Additional conference sessions include: Social Networking; Museum-School Collaborations; Weathering the Storm: Strategies for Fundraising; Strengthen Donor Relations; and Volunteer Recruitment and Retention.

The Friday informal round-table topics cover a wide range of museum concerns including sponsorships, cemeteries, museum stores, grant-writing, going green, re-enactments, documentaries, overnights, birthday parties and collaborations with libraries.

From 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, the McCormick Foundation will have the 45-foot Freedom Bus at the Holiday Inn parking lot. Members of the community also may tour the bus at no cost.

"People might find the brand new mobile museum fascinating as it tells the history of our freedoms," Frank said. "It travels across the country and we are pleased to have it make a stop for our conference."

Museums stimulate our curiosity and inspire. The annual IAM conference gives direction to carry those attributes into the future

"In 25 years, museums hope to be even more relevant to their communities, to everyday life and to the overall quality of life," Frank said. "They will be more of a central gathering place, a safe haven for dialogue and exchange for ideas as well as social comradeship. We are an integral part of the fabric of the community."

Frank said the general public may register for many of the individual conference sessions. Advance registration is a must. Go to napersettlement.org and click on museum conference for registrations or call (630) 420-6011 for details.

Joan Broz writes about Lisle. E-mail her at jgbroz@yahoo.com.

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