Collective Wisdom: Cross-Sector Collaborations


We often hear talk about engaging in partnerships and collaborations, which can take a wide variety of forms and cover a vast range of topics, but we rarely talk about cross-sector collaborations between libraries, archives, and museums (otherwise known as LAM institutions). The Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries, and Museums (funded by IMLS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and OCLC) brings together professionals from organizations in these related fields to strengthen our understanding of disciplines outside of our own specific bubble (in my case, the museum bubble). The primary focus of the Coalition is to foster opportunities to create cross-discipline continuing education and professional development initiatives.

This topic may seem a little out-of-place for a blog focused on natural history collections, but that just goes to show how we are often so focused on the specific needs of our individual disciplines that we forget about the many other institutions outside of the traditionally-defined museum sphere that also engage in preservation and education initiatives intricately tied to our own goals. Archives, libraries, and museums often share similar challenges and needs but rarely work together (or even talk to each other). There is a wealth of opportunities for productive collaboration amongst these diverse institutions, such as research, joint exhibits, digitization of collections and resources, and shared insights into educational programs, preservation techniques, funding resources, etc.

The potential represented in these kinds of collaborations resulted in the Collective Wisdom: Libraries, Archives, and Museums (LAM) Conference Exchange project. I was lucky enough to be one of 18 professionals selected to participate in this project, and along with representatives from museums, archives, and libraries from around the country, we will embark on a journey to discover opportunities for cross-sector learning and understanding. We will be traveling to three major national conferences, one from each sector (AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpoALA Annual 2016Archives*Records 2016), to engage in networking and brainstorming sessions.

I am extremely excited to break out of my museum bubble to learn from our colleagues in the archives and library fields and to bring back my discoveries to SPNHC and other museum-based professional organizations so we can all work together to advance our preservation and education goals. If you would like to keep abreast of our escapades, please follow us @LAMCoalition or #LAMcw. If you have any ideas about related collaborative opportunities, whether it’s something that is already up-and-running or something you think would be a good idea, please get in touch.

Stephanie Allen is the Collection Manager of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma, in charge of the collections of Ethnology, Contemporary Native American Fine Art, and Classical Archaeology. She currently serves on the Board of the Oklahoma Museums Association, as a co-chair of the Emerging Professionals Committee of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and as a member of the Lexicon Task Force of the Registrar’s Committee of the American Alliance of Museums.

Next time on Cracking the Collections: Join us for a sneak peak into the Emerging Professionals activities lined up for the 2016 SPNHC Conference in Berlin!