Kicking off this morning’s general session was the “Spark” video produced by the local host committee in conjunction with AAM. There was something powerful about viewing it as a group–we laughed, emotions flew left and right and we felt profound pride for our involvement with museums. If you haven’t seen, follow the link to YouTube–you won’t be disappointed.
On to the speakers: Ford Bell came on stage and assured the crowd that we’re on the right track and to keep doing what they’re doing. “The public believes in us,” he said. “People come to us for learning and inspiration. The come to us for reassurance. When museums excel, communities thrive.”
After a local host committee thank-you from Please Touch Director Nancy Kolb–whose museum threw a rocking opening night party–Bell came back with IMLS Director Anne-Imelda Radice. The two answered questions from the audience about small museums, H1N1 “swine” flu and greater consideration for the disabled at the AAM meetings.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter then addressed the packed house, referencing the hard partying that went on the night before. “It’s a testament to your committment that so many of you are here this morning.” On a more serious note, he demonstrated that he gets museums, stressing the importance of their economic impact. “Attendance at Philadelphia museums is greater than all four [local] sports teams combined.”
All of this was a warm-up for keynoter Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of biographies on Albert Einstein and Ben Franklin. Talking mostly about Einstein, Isaacson emphasize the Nobel Prize-winner’s constant questioning of authority and the norm, which ultimately led to his success. “The roots of creativity,” he said, “are in the ability to challenge assumptions.” Indeed.–Susan Breitkopf, AAM editor in chief