6 smiling people wearing Museums are Not Neutral tshirts taking a selfie.

Did I mention Friday’s T-shirt Day was a community affair for the #MuseumsAreNotNeutral shirt?

By Sierra Van Ryck deGroot, Museum Hue

There is magic in people coming together and the magic was definitely felt during the AASLH Annual Conference this month. As a scholarship winner, it was an honor to be able to attend this conference as I had not been able to participate in AASLH in the past. However, the host city really was what cemented my interest in attending. As the new Deputy Director of Museum Hue, we are in the process of identifying arts and cultural institutions throughout New York state that are founded and led by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and all People of Color to ensure they are acknowledged, represented, and well-resourced in the communities they serve.  

One city that has continuously come up in our conversation has been history-rich Buffalo. Not only to be known for its role in the Erie Canal or even the eponymous Buffalo wing, Buffalo has a treasure trove of historic sites, especially Black history, deep in its streets. So to be able to come to a storied city like this for a major conference felt like kismet.

The conference brought together public historians, historians, arts administrators, and so many others to discuss the ever-present theme of Right Here, Right Now: The Power of Place. And what a place to have these conversations! I deeply appreciated the thought and care that the conference committee put into ensuring that folks were able to experience the richness of the sites in the area, planning visits to sites like Niagara Falls (U.S. side), Seneca Falls, and the Canalside. I felt like I had the wealth of Western New York’s history at my fingertips to visit. 

I also appreciated the open flow of the space where you could walk down the hallway and see your colleagues from all over. There were little nooks to step out of the main thoroughfare and catch up with those folks or even check in on your emails from work. The luncheons, the happy hours, and the mixers also contributed to the community connection. As an emerging leader, it was nice to see all of these offerings available to meet folks and make connections. I would honestly recommend AASLH as a wonderful introductory conference to be inspired by others, learn from the leaders of the field, and stay abreast of the major discussions facing our sector. It’s rare to have a professional development experience where you can have fun and learn, but I had a blast and basked in the richness of the host city, as well as reconnecting with the history community. I mean, where else would you get to ride a fully accessible, solar-powered carousel? Only in Buffalo!