Any worker in a small museum can find an excuse not to participate in professional development opportunities. “I don’t have enough time,” or “They can’t spare me,” or “We don’t have the funds to pay for it” are just a few we’ve all heard (or said).

I’ll always challenge the argument, though, that attending local, state and regional conferences – let alone AAM’s and AASLH’s Annual Meetings – costs too much.

If you can find 3-4 days to step away from cleaning the toilet, designing an exhibit, and reassuring a donor you’ll care for her grandmother’s wedding dress responsibly, consider applying for a scholarship. Believe me, it’s worth it!

Many conferences and workshops have scholarships available, whether it’s based on merit or on you working as a conference assistant.

AASLH is no different.

When AASLH met in Richmond two years ago, I knew I had to attend. I’d never been to an AASLH meeting, yet I’d heard great reports about them. Richmond was close, so I couldn’t ignore it.

I looked around for scholarship opportunities and found a perfect fit. AASLH’s Small Museums Scholarship is dedicated to professionals like me. We’re hungry to learn what’s new and exciting in our field, but we lack the funds to do it.

Not long after completing a simple application, committee members told me I had received the scholarship. I soon became hooked on the work AASLH does.

A year later, AASLH asked me to join their Small Museums Committee, something that has helped me appreciate the role of small museums even more.

All of this resulted from securing that scholarship.

I look forward to Birmingham and meeting kindred spirits who want to improve themselves, learn something new, and make contacts throughout all levels of our profession.

And best of all, I’ve now come full circle. As a member of the SMC’s scholarship subcommittee, I’ll pay it forward by helping to choose this year’s winners!

Lindsey Baker is the executive director of the Laurel Historical Society (LHS), a community-based organization focused on bringing exciting programs, informative exhibits, and meaningful partnerships to the Laurel area. In her role at the LHS, Lindsey has developed partnerships with a wide range of community organizations including theaters, restaurants, art galleries, museums, libraries, businesses, schools, and more. Bringing together the community around a shared understanding of the history and culture of Laurel is her passion.