Museum Conferences Share 2020 Vision

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

January 22, 2020

There are always many more conferences I want to attend than I can logistically get to. Every year I go through the exercise of reviewing the ones I’ve not made it to yet, and debating which ones to attend this time around.

As part of the exercise, I check to see which ones may be local, or at least in a location I would like to visit. Then I make selections on which ones I attend for the year—never fully satisfied because I still end up missing so many good conferences.

Schedule, Budget,and Travel Logistics

Of all the history, cultural heritage, and museum conferences I attend, museum conferences are by far the most expensive. With schedule, travel, and budget constraints, most of us need a strategy for determining our conference schedule. For more on how to determine which conferences you go to and how to conference on a budget please see these Lucidea posts: How to Increase Museum Conference ROI and How to Conference on a Museum Budget.

The Conference Themes Feature 2020 aka Futurism

In viewing the conferences slated for the coming year, we can see obvious thematic ties to the year 2020. Many conferences are tapping into the futurism that 2020 has held for us all, and are applying it to the museum and cultural heritage sectors to explore the challenges and opportunities the future holds.

Museum Conferences for 2020

Below is a list of all of the conferences I am considering for 2020. Each listing provides the conference name, date, location, cost of registration and early bird date, theme, and abstract as provided by the conference websites. At the time this post was written several conferences were still 10 to 11 months out so please check each conference website for updates on conference details. The museum conferences are listed in date order:

National Council on Public History
Date: March 18-21, 2020
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Cost for Registration: $180 (member)
Early Bird Rate Ends: February 5, 2020
Theme: Threads of Change
Abstract: Our 2020 theme, “Threads of Change,” gestures toward Atlanta’s rich history and contemporary community around fiber arts and industries as it invites us to contemplate generation and regeneration, tradition entwined with revolution, roots alongside reinvention. “From threads, fragments, and disparate materials,” our Program Committee co-chairs Ashley Bouknight and Brian Joyner write, “public historians create multi-layered quilts of historical meaning that reflect, frame, deconstruct, reassemble, and repurpose narratives.” To press another fabric metaphor, we will consider our “big tent” of public history, and direct attention to the wide array of practitioners who have long gathered under our capacious canvas. “Public history work lives in museums, archives, publications, and historic places,” but it is also, as our thoughtful Program Committee reminds us via this year’s Call for Proposals, “history as activism, history as storytelling, and history as healing. Our challenge is to reconnect to our local, activist roots, to forge new and stronger partnerships, and to incorporate new fabric into our collective endeavor, one thread at a time.”

Date: March 23-25, 2020
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Cost for Registration: £480
Early Bird Rate Ends: not listed
Theme: Transforming Museums
Abstract: Join museum professionals from around the world in Edinburgh for our annual European conference. This year the event examine transformation in museums. How do we make change happen? How do we transform our organisations and how can we better serve our audiences.

United States
Date: November 19-20, 2020
Location: Washington, D.C.
Cost for Registration: TBD
Early Bird Rate Ends: not listed
Theme: TBD
Abstract: TBD

MuseumNext Digital Summit
Date: December 4, 2020
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cost for Registration: TBD
Early Bird Rate Ends: not listed
Theme: Digital
Abstract: TBD

Date: March 31-April 4, 2020
Location: Los Angeles, California
Cost for Registration: $700
Early Bird Rate Ends: January 1, 2020
Theme: no annual theme change
Abstract: The MW (MuseWeb) conferences convene annually in North America and Asia. Our meetings and proceedings feature advanced research and exemplary applications of digital practice for cultural, natural and scientific heritage. Formed by leading professionals from around the world, our community has been meeting since 1997, and recognizing the best in cultural heritage innovation through the GLAMi awards annually. More than 1,350 papers from the past 23 years of MW conferences are freely accessible online and offer an unparalleled resource for museum workers, technologists, students and researchers that grows every year.

Canadian Museums Association
Date: April 14-17, 2020
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Cost for Registration: $650 (member)
Early Bird Rate Ends: January 12, 2020
Theme: Vision 2020
Abstract: How do our actions and perspectives of today shape our future? What can we learn from risks that we took — or didn’t take? How can a clear and compelling vision shape a better tomorrow? Please join us April 14-17 in historic Montreal as we celebrate the strength of the Canadian museum community and explore Vision 2020!

American Alliance of Museums
Date: May 17-20, 2020
Location: San Francisco, California
Cost for Registration: $695
Early Bird Rate Ends: January 24, 2020
Theme: A Bridge to the Future
Abstract: Join us in San Francisco to envision how the world will be better because of the work museums do in coming decades. In this future, museums will ally with other sectors to address intractable social and economic problems–who will we work with, and how? The people who benefit from the work of museums will reflect the diversity of the communities museums serve. What will it take to make that aspiration come true? And on this journey through time, we will explore the challenges that will face museums along the way. Who will visit museums and what kind of experience will they expect? What financial models will museums use to sustain their work? How will philanthropy become more equitable and inclusive?

Society of American Archivists
Date: August 2-8, 2020
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Cost for Registration: $329 (member)
Early Bird Rate Ends: July 1, 2020
Theme: Creating Our Future
Abstract: We develop innovative approaches for selecting, describing, preserving, and accessing the archival record. We rely on our resourcefulness to address operational challenges such as staffing constraints and limited budgets; professional issues such as diversity and advocacy; and global concerns such as social justice and the impact of climate change. We draw inspiration from our interactions with our users, the constituencies we seek to document, and each other. We inspire insight, understanding, and new knowledge through the resources we steward and the services we provide. We ensure that the records of our public institutions are preserved and accessible to promote accountability, transparency, and civic engagement. We evolve our practices to be responsive to changing priorities and to chart new directions. We spark innovation across disciplines and professions by establishing new partnerships, alliances, and collaborative communities that challenge tradition and invite experimentation. As digital records and new forms of historical documentation proliferate in the archival landscape, we explore new techniques for carrying out our work, and pioneer the use of new systems and tools that we build and sustain. We are creators ourselves, engaging in the intellectual endeavors of description, interpretation, and generating original scholarship. The theme of ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2020 invites us to make visible the ingenuity that is inherent in our work—and to consider how we can leverage our creativity to sustain a future-oriented, vibrant, and intellectually invigorating archival profession.

ICOM: International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC)
Date: September 19-25, 2020
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Cost for Registration: TBD
Early Bird Rate Ends: TBD
Theme: Digital Transformation in Cultural Heritage Institutions
Abstract: The CIDOC 2020 conference in Geneva will address an important societal theme that cannot be ignored today: digital transformation in heritage institutions. The use of digital technologies, marginal in its infancy, has gradually modified the practices of the documentation but it has also transformed almost all the professions of the museum, leading sometimes to move away from the traditional conceptions of its missions.

Museum Ideas 2020
Date: October 6-8, 2020
Location: London, England
Cost for Registration: £177 with lower-priced tickets available for attendees who meet specific qualifications
Early Bird Rate Ends: not listed
Theme: Explore the Ideas Shaping the Future of Museums
Abstract: Museum Ideas 2020 – the ninth edition of the annual international conference – will explore new models of collaborative and socially engaged participatory practice, progressive public engagement, social impact and much more – sharing pioneering ideas that will help shape and support change in museums around the world.

Museum+Tech 2020
Date: October 2020 (TBD)
Location: United Kingdom (TBD) )
Cost for Registration: (TBD) )
Early Bird Rate Ends: (TBD) )
Theme: TBD but traditionally pairs tech with a societal theme)
Abstract: The Museums Computer Group (MCG) is a non-profit association of individuals, volunteers, who share a common interest in encouraging, improving and influencing best practice in the use of technology and digital platforms within the museum and heritage sector. We organise yearly Museums+Tech conference and other events across the UK providing opportunities for knowledge-sharing and discussions about the use of technology within the sector.

Museums Association
Date: November 5-7, 2020
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Cost for Registration: (TBD)
Early Bird Rate Ends: (TBD)
Theme: (TBD)
Abstract: (TBD)

Museum Computer Network (more commonly known as MCN)
Date: November 2020 (TBD)
Location: TBD
Cost for Registration: $550 (member rate for 2019)
Early Bird Rate Ends: 150 tickets available for first come, first served
Theme: no annual theme change
Abstract: Hosted every year since 1968, the Annual Conference is MCN’s marquee event and draws over 600 cultural heritage professionals from museums, historic sites and visitor attractions in North America and beyond. Attendees come from all areas of practice, from IT to digital outreach and visitor engagement, to collections, conservation, archival, libraries, curatorial, education, marketing, and more. A must-attend for all professionals in the musetech sector!


No matter which conferences you choose for the year you are bound to be inspired by both the challenges and opportunities the future holds. I’ll see you there!

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, grant writing and the future of museums for a wide variety of clients. Learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for museum collections management and download your free copy of Rachael’s new book for Lucidea Press, How to Select, Buy, and Use a Museum CMS.

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