Blaine County Museum's Samantha French Joins MAM Board
February 15, 2023
Blaine County Museum director, Samantha French has expanded her involvement in strengthening Museum profiles across the state. Recently French was asked to join the Museums Association of Montana (MAM) board, and gladly accepted the offer. The MAM mission statement states, "We are a non-profit, professional organization whose goal is to strengthen all of Montana's Museums. MAM is an organization dedicated to helping museums throughout the state to better tell their stories, preserve our historic structures and artifacts, and advocate for support of our museums. Annually we host a museums conference and provide workshops for our members. We also act as a voice for Montana's museums assuring that our communities and our elected officials understand the value we bring to the state. We accomplish this by supporting their efforts to collect, preserve, and interpret our shared heritage for all Montanans and our visitors. By furthering the missions of Montana's museums through collaboration, the promotion of standard best practices, grant-sponsored projects, and advocacy on the local, state, and national levels, we will ensure the preservation of our rich history."
French explained the request, "I was asked to join the MAM board by Sabre Moore, president of MAM and Executive Director of Carter County Museum in Ekalaka. Sabre is a leader in the world of Montana museums, and she has been a wonderful mentor to me during my time as director of Blaine County Museum." MAM is in need of new board members and are actively trying to fill out remaining Board positions, "There were several vacancies on the board, and Melissa Rost, director of O'Fallon Historical Museum in Baker, is another recent recruit."
As far as what role French will fill specifically that is still undecided, "I have no specific role on the board yet, but I look forward to attending meetings and learning more about how I can contribute my insights. For the time being, I am honored to represent the Hi-Line and North Central Montana on this board! Being on the board will also help me stay plugged in to the museum community in our state, and to learn more about how we can contribute and grow."
French has been very active in her role as Blaine County Museum Director and is constantly working to benefit museums, "I attended my first MAM meeting on January 11th in Helena. The following day, MAM hosted Museum Advocacy Day at the capitol rotunda, which Blaine County Museum cataloging intern Olivia Finley and I attended. We had the opportunity to set up a table in the rotunda and share information about the Blaine County Museum with legislators from across the state. A new and rewarding experience for both of us!"
French talked about what's on the upcoming agenda, "Currently, the MAM board is busy organizing their annual conference which is to be hosted in Missoula. The theme is 'Speakeasy: Museum Ethics in Challenging Times', and the conference will consist of seminars by Montana museum professionals about organizational ethics. The conference will also include trainings on practical museum skills and on policy building." French goes on to explain the importance of this conference, "The function will be to assist museums across Montana fulfill best practices. Conferences are useful for professionals who have limited skills in some areas of museum management and limited resources, and need help filling in knowledge gaps, so to speak."
The unique nature of small town museums creates a need for Directors to go beyond their specific level of training from the get go, "Personally, most of my educational background is in curating exhibits, and my practical background, prior to being Museum Director, was mainly in storing archival and museum collections. But there is so much that goes into being a director of a small museum, from ethics, to policies, to visitor services, to exhibit creation and planning, and outreach and education, to name only a few. Many museum directors in small-town Montana are like me and have some formal training with the obligation to wear many, many hats to do an effective job. The MAM conference helps professionals like me who would like to continue their museum education, but who may not have the time or resources to do so formally."
French has a request in to the Board, "With the approval of Blaine County Museum's Board, I'd like to attend the conference with Olivia, who is also interested in learning more about all thing's museums. Olivia has been employed at the Blaine County Museum for the past seven months with the help of a $10,000 grant provided by the Foundation for Montana History. Due to the pandemic, I have never attended a conference in person myself, and I look forward to the opportunity this year."
March will mark the four year anniversary of French taking over as Blaine County Museum Director, and in that time she has brought many traveling exhibits in as well as guest speakers and looks forward to continuing to do so in the future. If any community members have ideas for exhibits or speakers that they feel may be of interest, please contact the Blaine County Museum and visit with Samantha, she will be eager to talk to you.