By Michelle Lopez, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN 

As one of the recipients of the Douglas Evelyn Scholarship for Minority Professionals to attend the 2021 AASLH Annual Meeting, I was able to connect with museum professionals in-person after only interacting virtually for over two years. Engaging with a group of peers while answering a few questions from the “36 Questions for Civic Love” program during the Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion mixer allowed us to discuss topics and know one another on a more meaningful level than an average networking event.

To be able to finally meet in-person and physically hug one of my mentors was for me a thrilling and emotional moment of the conference. 

The hands-on workshop, “Red Flag! Identifying Preservation Needs While Cataloging Collections,” was an informative session to refresh and learn various procedures to examine and prioritize preservation needs. These methods are vital tools that I can take with me to assess the collection in my new role at the National Civil Rights Museum. In addition, I am such a fan of the workshops that Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts provides to the overall museum community and this workshop did not disappoint. 

Attending the behind-the-scenes tour of the Division of Arkansas Heritage Collections Management Facility was enjoyable as well as informative. To view how they utilized a large facility for three different collections was very interesting. I couldn’t help sharing a picture of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center’s early edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass to my colleagues back in Memphis. 

“Just Leadership: Organizational Justice in the Workplace” was a great session to hear how other museum professionals are breaking down patterns of elitism and colonialism within their workspaces. The speakers emphasized that it is essential for museum staff and leadership to work together for grassroots change in our own institutions in order for social justice to be reflective in our exhibitions and programs. 

Lastly, Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams’s keynote speech was inspirational as the museum community continues Doing History/Doing Justice. She advised the audience that change is the immediate responsibility of each of us. Most importantly, she reminded us that we need to pause… breathe.