Do I have to join MAM in January to receive a full year of benefits? Not any longer! Effective November 1, 2012, MAM has moved to a "rolling" membership, meaning your one-year membership starts the day your application is processed. If you join in December 2012, your membership is good until December 2013. 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 ogranizations 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 Association 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.