Sunday, May 26, 2024

ACM heads to NOLA

The Association of Children’s Museums Executive Director, Arthur Affleck, invites professionals to New Orleans

Interview by Martin Palicki

The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and Louisiana Children’s Museum invite children’s museum professionals to InterActivity 2023: Leverage Our Voice in New Orleans, April 26-28.  “As our field continues to respond to challenges – and new opportunities – we know the importance of using our voice to advocate for our field, our communities, and most critically, the children and families we serve,” says ACM’s Executive Director Arthur Affleck. “We expect about 1000 attendees to come on down to the Big Easy, where the Louisiana Children’s Museum has invited us to experience their new home in City Park. This 8.5 acre, LEED Silver-certified campus represents a culmination of years of leveraging their voice as a place of healing and resilience for the community. 

Arthur Affleck, ACM Executive Director

“InterActivity 2023: Leverage Our Voice invites the children’s museum field to celebrate how far we’ve come as well as envision how far we’ll go. The conference will be organized to mark the conclusion to ACM’s 60th Anniversary Year as we look to the future under the guidance of our 2022-2027 Strategic Plan. Sessions will be organized by ACM’s four Strategic Priorities (Community; Children and Families; Advocacy, Policy, and Research; Organizational Strength), with equity, inclusion and sustainability centered throughout the conference program.”

For people who have attended InterActivity before, what will be new or different this year?

The great thing about InterActivity is that everything is new each year. We always go to a new city, a new venue, visit new museums, host new study tours in the city, have new and improved sessions and the keynote speakers are new to most attendees. Additionally, at InterActivity 2023, we will celebrate the conclusion of ACM’s 60th Anniversary Year!

What can people who have never been before expect?

Those attending InterActivity for the first time, or if it’s been a few years, can join us for “New Attendee Orientation” to learn how to get the most from the conference, take their learnings back to their colleagues, and meet ACM staff and members of the InterActivity 2023 Program Committee. Our InterActivity conference is not just about the sessions and the speakers, it’s about the community and the people who attend – and the networking! First time attendees will likely meet people who will become lifelong friends and colleagues.

Another thing to expect is a lot of learning. Attendees often come to expand their knowledge, learn, and improve their practice, whether they are in exhibits, education, development, external relations or other areas in the museum. Then they will experience the joy of two plenary sessions with 800 plus colleagues in one space, there to hear exceptional keynote speeches. 

In addition to the networking, sessions, and keynotes there is the “MarketPlace.” Here attendees will engage with about 100 exhibitors who offer products and insights into the latest trends, technologies, exhibits design approaches and more.

Why it is important for professionals to return to a conference like InterActivity now?

As the children’s museum field emerges from the worst of the pandemic, many visitors are returning but there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future. At the conference, we will discuss strategies for anticipating and addressing economic and other potential challenges to children’s museums.

We will also host a special “CEO and Directors Retreat.” During this retreat they will be able to re-energize, recharge, and engage with their peers before the conference begins in full. Together we will explore issues and opportunities of interest to ACM member museums – large and small. While new and exciting ideas will be discussed, this retreat will be decidedly tactical. We will surface and discuss some of the big problems CEOs are facing. For a portion of the retreat, we will use the unconference approach, which will allow attendees to select the hot topics they most want to discuss and explore with their peers. Last year over 100 CEOs attended the retreat.

What sort of social and networking opportunities can people expect?

First, ACM offers the annual Emerging Museums Pre-Conference to share foundational and effective practices of the field with those in the process of starting a children’s museum. The agenda changes each year to keep pace with new trends and insights, but always includes perspectives from recently opened children’s museums. These leaders with newly opened museums or soon to be opened museums can engage and network with experienced museums leaders. Some will find mentors.

Second, the conference is designed for social interaction and networking throughout. In addition to engaging during the sessions and workshops, attendees will spend a fair amount of time in the exhibit hall, where they will engage with exhibitors and sit for coffee or tea as they meet and greet old and new colleagues and friends.

What brought you to New Orleans for this year’s event?

New Orleans is one of the most popular destinations for conferences. This year, when our conference ends, Jazz Fest begins. Just a couple of the reasons for bringing our annual conference to the “big easy.” We also chose New Orleans because of the excellent Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM), which is our conference co-host.

What are some of the educational highlights?

Each day begins with an educational and inspirational Keynotes address. InterActivity 2023 includes six blocks of Concurrent Professional Development sessions which feature seven thematic streams. Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) is embedded in the sessions. There will be four study tours—including two at the Reggio-inspired Louisiana Children’s Museum, one at The National World War II Museum and one at 826 New Orleans: A Space to Cultivate the Voices of Youth Writers

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to seeing so many of my colleagues and friends from children’s museums from around the U.S. and the world. I am also looking forward to the keynotes and the big party on Thursday evening at the LCM.   


InPark’s staff will be at InterActivity 2023. Copies of the latest InPark Magazine will be available in all ACM attendee bags.

Special thanks to Arthur and ACM for their help in assembling this information. Arthur G. Affleck, III, M.Ed., JD, as Executive Director of the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), is the chief executive responsible for the strategy, development, and program execution for the organization.

Serving museum members in the United States and countries across the globe, the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) is an international nonprofit professional service organization representing and advocating for the children’s museum field. As one of the fastest growing cultural industries in the world, children’s museums have expanded exponentially in the past two decades. Currently, ACM serves over 480 total museums, businesses, educational organizations, and individuals in 50 states and 16 countries.

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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