Call for 2025 Proposals

News & Announcements,

2025 Conference Theme: Looking Back to the Future 

For the past several years, many museums have been deeply involved in planning programs and events to observe the 250th birthday of the United States of America. While this is certainly an occasion to celebrate, this anniversary also forces us as a society to reckon with ongoing inequities and challenges within the US that go back to its inception. As museums ask their audiences to look to the past to understand the present and shape a better future, perhaps now is a good moment in time for Virginia’s museum community to take pause and look back at its own history. 

Virginia is fortunate to have a rich and diverse museum community that preserves, protects, and interprets the Commonwealth’s cultures, arts, sciences, lives, and histories. The quality of collections, programs, and exhibits in the Commonwealth is exceptional. Creative collaborations between museums and other organizations lead to innovative approaches that have the power to transform communities.

As museum professionals in Virginia, we are blessed with a strong network of supporters and a thriving cohort of talented peers who deeply care about their work and each other. Virginia is a good place for museums and museum professionals. Yet we all know how hard our work sometimes can be. Budget cuts, pandemics, and natural disasters are just a few factors that have impacted our work in the past. With more unknown challenges on the horizon, let’s take a moment to look at the past and reflect on how we, individually and collectively, can use the past to create a more resilient and diverse Virginia museum community.

At the 2025 VAM conference, we invite you to do reflect on your own journey as well as that of your museums. We welcome sessions and non-traditional workshops that explore topics such as these:

  • As the nation is busy preparing for its 250th anniversary, Montgomery County, host of the 2025 VAM conference, will also celebrate its own 250th anniversary in 2026. What opportunities do museums have to combine local stories to a national or even global narrative? How have collaborations with higher institutions like Virginia Tech or other community organizations allowed museums to combine art, performances, history, science, and other discipline to develop programs that have changed the community? 
  • In addition to its mission, the institutional history can shape decision-making processes at a museum. What are some aspects that hold institutions back from embracing change, and what is needed to break the cycle? Does it always have to come from the board or leadership level?
  • As an industry, we spend a lot of time planning for the future, often at the expense of the present moment. We only tend to remember the journey that each of us has taken as museum professionals, or that our organizations have taken when another major anniversary is upon us. What are we losing by not considering the journey more often? What can be gained by being more intentional about considering the past?
  • What are some of the most impactful challenges you personally have faced in your museum career and how have they impacted your professional growth, and/or your organization? How did these impact educational programming, curatorial practices, safety & security issues, or administrative processes? 
  • Do we have the data? Are there innovative ways to look at records, files, finances, or surveys from previous years? Can these help us understand our past successes and failures better? Is that data even still relevant in this post-pandemic world? How can we develop more meaningful data and integrate it into our daily operations?
  • How does the history of an organization prevent attracting new audiences? Do we need to reckon with our own institutional past before we collaborate with descendant communities? What needs to be addressed internally before we can reach out to new external communities? 

These are just some ideas to consider, but we invite submissions from any other related topics such as education, curatorial, HR, workplace culture, professional development, supervisory practices, finance, management, safety & security, operational, etc. In addition to the traditional program elements of this conference, we will also offer roundtable discussions & affinity group meetings to create spaces and opportunities for reflection and fellowship.

We are excited to see you in Blacksburg in March 2025 as we take a moment in our hectic schedules to take pause and visit our diverse pasts. Let’s uncover and share our histories to build a more resilient Virginia museum community.

Dorette Sobolewski, Director Mountain-Valley Region

Submit your proposal for the conference in 2025.