We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 AMM Awards! We look forward to celebrating their tremendous accomplishments during the conference in Indianapolis next week and virtual events to take place this fall.
Best Practices Award
1846 Israel and Avis Blodgett House Project
Downers Grove Museum
Downers Grove, IL
On July 14, 2022, the Downers Grove Park District officially celebrated the completed renovation of the 1846 Blodgett House on the Downers Grove Museum Campus which included restoration of the building and the addition of exhibits in the interior. The restoration of the house was 15 years in the making through a partnership between the Downers Grove Park District and the Downers Grove Heritage Preservation Corporation. Built in 1846 by abolitionists Israel and Avis Blodgett, the 1846 Blodgett House is believed to have been an active stop on the Underground Railroad. The preservation project consisted of moving the building onto the museum campus, reinforcing building walls and floors, and the addition of exhibits to the interior of the building.
The Park District’s goal was to increase the cultural impact that the museum has on the surrounding communities by serving as an education center for schools and illuminating Downers Grove’s heritage as a part of the Underground Railroad. The 1846 Blodgett House welcomed 2,383 visitors in 2022, and visitorship and program participation has continued to grow in 2023.
AMM looks forward to shining a light on the museum’s outstanding restoration project as this year’s recipient of the Best Practices Award!
Distinguished Career Award
Waters Edge Consulting
Tricia O’Connor is an educator, experience developer, artist, and writer who has worked in the museum profession since 1998. Tricia’s career in museums began at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. She later held positions at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Solid Light Inc, and has served as a freelance consultant for over 10 years. Her impact extends beyond the award-winning exhibits she has created for museum visitors to the ways she has made the process of exhibit development a joyful experience.
As her colleagues expressed in their nomination, Tricia exemplifies humility and intentionality in her exhibit development approach, as seen in her award-winning exhibit experiences — National Geographic Treasures of the Earth, The Power of Children: Making a Difference, and National Geographic MAPS: Tools for Adventure for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCM) and the galleries for the new American Civil War Museum in Richmond, VA—as well as her latest TCM project, Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See. Tricia’s love of learning and passion for play have also inspired curiosity and collaboration among project team members.
AMM looks forward to honoring Tricia’s creativity, career and accomplishments as this year’s Distinguished Career Award recipient!
Innovative Leadership Award
Historic Madison, Inc.
Jessica Spiess joined the staff of Historic Madison, Inc. as Director of Programs in July of 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her short time there, Jessica has greatly expanded the organization’s online educational and promotional outreach. Most notable is the creation of the award-winning virtual reality tour of the Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum, a one-of-a-kind industrial restoration. In support of the museum’s growing digital offerings, she has also rebuilt their social media presence, expanded internet access across their site, and advanced organization-wide technology upgrades.
Jessica’s other significant achievements have included the implementation of an inventive drop-in tour strategy to resolve long-time struggles with volunteer scheduling across the museum’s many properties. She has also revitalized the site’s internship program with new internship experiences, including “micro internships,” and established a closer relationship with Hanover College staff and students.
AMM looks forward to celebrating Jessica’s program innovations and problem-solving strategies through this year’s special Innovative Leadership Award!
Promising Leadership Award
Grand Army of the Republic Military Museum
Eric Pry began his career in museums while attending Aurora University. Over the last 8 years, he has held positions at Raupp Memorial Museum, Darien Historical Society, and Midwest Museum of Natural History. He currently serves as curator at the Grand Army of the Republic Military Museum in Aurora, IL. Since joining the G.A.R. museum, his role has expanded greatly, and he has overseen the installation of numerous exhibits and increased the visibility of the museum through social media marketing.
Through Eric’s community engagement and local advocacy efforts, he has been able to educate those who are unaware of the impact museums have on a community, foster new collaborative partnerships, and successfully complete numerous restoration projects. Eric is continuously thinking of new ways to engage visitors and improve the museum’s outreach while engaging local veterans groups in the area. Record-breaking attendance and unique collaborations, such as the cross-museum Downtown Aurora July Summer Camp program, demonstrate the growing relevance and community impact of the museum as a direct result of his hard work and dedication. Through his leadership, the museum has re-established itself as a vital community resource.
AMM looks forward to celebrating Eric’s leadership prowess and extraordinary projects through the Promising Leadership Award!
The Bakken Museum
The Groundbreakers Award recognizes museums that have “broken ground” on DEAI work, pushing past boundaries, breaking conventions, and addressing oppressive structures and systems in the pursuit of a better, more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future. This year’s recipient, The Bakken Museum, is being recognized for their public Equity Report, one step in their ongoing organizational change efforts.
The Bakken Museum’s Equity Report is a tool they are using to hold themselves accountable to their 2022-2024 strategic plan and their DEAI Theory of Change. Derived from the Museums & Race Report Card, the museum’s Equity Report describes what they have accomplished, what they are still working on, and what work is yet to come. Acknowledging that diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion work begins at the individual level and that gradual changes in orientations towards difference at an individual and organizational level can be difficult to see, the Equity Report allows The Bakken to call attention to, and critically reflect on, the work they have done. It is also a place to acknowledge where they feel they may fall short and an opportunity to model how they “show up” after they have made a mistake or not met a commitment. This accountability is critical as the museum strives for long-term outcomes and impact.
AMM looks forward to celebrating The Bakken Museum’s many steps – big and small – toward organizational change as this year’s recipient of the Groundbreakers Award!