Wednesday, October 27, 2010
conference before vacation
The opportunity to go to Hawaii arose because the national conference for work was in Honolulu. We'd been told by the administration that we could only go if there was a grant to pay for it and since my only grant is from the state and certainly doesn't include a conference, i figured i wouldn't be going. However, fTM Felicia had budgeted for 2 people to go to the conference under her grant about Communicating Climate Change (C3) and wasn't sure that she would be able to make it so i went in her stead. I got to Hawaii on a Thursday evening, had my first taste of Honolulu traffic (yick) and checked into the Ala Moana Hotel. Generally, at a conference you get to stay in a much nicer hotel than I can normally afford and this one was no exception. Here is my post after checking in and finding that i had an ocean facing balcony. sigh Bright and early the next morning i set off for the Hawaii Convention Center for an all day pre-conference workshop about outreach, and was welcomed by this very large bronze gentleman who is supposed to symbolize the generosity of the native people. I love that the atrium was so huge with its vaulted glass ceilings, that palm trees were growing inside and that there were giant ceiling fans to keep the air circulating. The atrium and the meeting rooms were fully enclosed, but there was a general sense of openness to the convention center since most of the walkways and corridors were open air. There were lovely courtyards of mosaics and flowers and even a rooftop garden, which will get its own post. I spent the whole day with my compatriots from around the globe, talking about how to do our jobs better and empathizing with each other's tales of woe. [though honestly, we tend to laugh at each other's tales of woe and our own; in fact, we played a (non-alcoholic) game of I Never trying to see who had the most ridiculous story from the road] I did a presentation on staff training and got to hang out with my beloved fTM Frack, who was hosting the workshop: That night, there were buses taking attendees into Chinatown to various bars and restaurants for a bit of pre-conference networking. We chose to go to Murphy's Bar and Grill because who doesn't want to go to an Irish place in Chinatown in Hawaii? Though it has been Murphy's for almost 25 years, this building has been a holder of one of the 5 original "retail Spirits" licenses issued on Oahu since the 1860's. Turns out that they had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for their Shepard's Pie. Several people tried it with much satisfaction, but i went for a Blarney Burger which has a white cheddar and Guinness cheese on it. Geeks from around the globe! the lovely lady next to Frack is the woman crazy enough to marry him The conference officially opens on Saturday morning with a breakfast and speakers. Every location does something different to kick off the festivities and i was close enough to the back of the room to see people lining up for a processional. This woman at the front of the line started an invocation chant that was answered by this guy who was standing on the stage. They sang back and forth to each other, the board members walked to the front with a garland offering and then there was dancing: Sorry the pictures are so dark, but i wanted to share them because it was only after the welcoming comments got underway that we found out that all of the singers and dancers were actually employees of the museum, not hired entertainers. All day Saturday was workshops and talks and work related things that you don't care about, but then Saturday night was the luau party at Bishop. Each year the sponsoring museum throws a party in the museum on Saturday night, themed to highlight their city, state or region. The food was pretty good, though i don't think you will ever be able to convince me about poi, and i enjoyed the entertainment. They had set up a stage on the vast lawn between the buildings of the Bishop (the museum will get its own post) so these pictures are back lit at night making it tough to see what's going on so here's 20 seconds of it so that you can hear what it was like: Though we did explore the museum a little i want a snail this big to ride in my backyard most of the evening was spent eating and drinking and learning native skills like weaving leaves into bracelets. You can see how hard i am concentrating here next to Mrs. Frack. I love, love the arm cuff i made. Sunday morning started much too early, with me having to hop a taxi to the other end of Waikiki to get to the other conference hotel for a 7am breakfast meeting with the other C3 representatives. Yes, this is inside the hotel. The lobby is sheltered, but open. Cool. The meeting was very interesting and ended up running so late that i missed the first morning session at the conference center. I did, however, go to a really, really good session on using narrative structure in museums. It was well presented and had great handouts since one of the presenters represented a design firm. Now i want an air cannon that shoots chicken feathers. A great deal of my day was spent manning the Baltimore Visitor's booth (why are there no pictures of it if you were there for 3 hours? you say; i don't know) as my museum is sponsoring next year's conference. One of the most valuable things for me and my job at the annual conference is an all-day Monday session called Outreach Live, where we go to a school and watch several different museums perform with actual students. It is a chance to see different ways of doing my job. The folks at Bishop chose a school way, way, way over on the leeward side of the island called Kamaile Academy where 60% of the students are homeless. Housing costs are so high in Hawaii that a family can have both parents working and a car and still be homeless. We saw tent colonies along the beach where, by law, if you have a tent and a fishing pole in the water you are considered to be camping on the beach instead of living on the beach. (obviously to be respectful there are no pictures, but it was interesting to see) The school was situated right at the base of a mountain and had kindergarten through middle school students. After a lovely Oli welcome ceremony where the kids presented all of us with handmade paper leis, we broke of into groups for observations. The final performance was top be a multi-media assembly by the bishop team with all of the kids in the cafeteria before a pizza lunch. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties resulting in everyone sitting and waiting. Sitting and waiting with a roomful of kids is never a good idea so the Hawaiian culture teacher suggested that the students should show of some of their hula skills to the guests. Singing and playing a ukulele the Auntie (their customary title of respect) called on different groups to perform. Most mainland people think of hula as being a danced exclusively by girls, but traditionally both sexes dance, taking on different roles to tell different stories. Here the guys show us about warriors, and then a line of girls shows us a story about the ocean. The best audience response came from the song about a couple in love when she had to sit on his lap. Apparently the concept of cooties is universal. Tuesday i went to one session on colossal failures in museums and what we learn from them. It was really good, though, as with all good sessions, we ran out of time. Then it was the closing reception and lunch. I bid farewell to my CEO as i left lunch and officially began the vacation portion of this show. I'd like to say that i did something fabulous and adventurous immediately, but honestly i spent the afternoon at the pool checking my work e-mail for the last time, swimming, reading and enjoying the adjoining steam room and sauna.