By Berlin Loa
A simple plan sparked by the recognition of common cultural heritage, the value of shared community knowledge, and the potential to put collective resources to work for our museums.
Pinal County, primarily a rural region, is located in the center of southern Arizona and home to 18 historical societies, museums, cultural centers, and natural resource parks. It lies between Arizona’s two main population centers – Tucson to the south and Phoenix to the north. There are local museum associations in both cities, but the great distances involved make travelling to meetings difficult if not impossible.
So Pinal County museums arranged their own Meet Up. The Meet Up is a quarterly, no-cost forum for staff and volunteers to engage with fellow leaders, cross-promote, incubate ideas, and share resources. Meetings are potlucks and rotate throughout the region allowing us to visit other sites and collections, view our own collections in context, explore this wide southwestern landscape, and support neighboring communities.
The first Meet Up took place in July of 2013 at the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society Museum. Many of us were meeting each other for the first time. We discovered common traits and challenges, but we also recognized a range of theory and practice between organizations. As a result, we have each identified room for growth and pruning in our organizations. And, with this diverse group having such a range of knowledge and expertise, we continually learn from each other.
Since that first meeting, the Meet Up now includes local chambers of commerce, county representatives, and others who support cultural preservation. Inviting others to the conversation is helping to identify our museums as important resources for the community, and will open doors for new voices, ideas, and resources in our own work as a part of the greater community.
We have not yet reached all of the museums and cultural centers in the region. A few chose not to attend for a variety of reasons, some didn’t respond, and others were just unable to participate. But, for those who are on board, we have already begun to visit each other more often; attend programs; call on one another for support with facilities, software, collections and operations issues; and to cultivate ideas for collaboration.
Current participants: Ak-Chin Him-Dak Museum, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Casa Grande Valley Historical Society Museum, HuHuGam Heritage Center, Maricopa Historical Society, Oracle Historical Society and Acadia Ranch Museum, Pinal County Historical Society, Queen Valley Historical Society, San Tan Historical Society, Santa Cruz Valley Historic Museum
Berlin Loa is an archivist and collections management professional. She works with nonprofit agencies in outreach, development, and capacity building and as a project-based grant writer and project manager. For more information you can contact her at [email protected] or visit her website at berlinloa.net.