Friday, September 7, 2012

AAM Rebranding Roundup

There's been quite a bit of discussion about the rebranding of the American Association of Museums as the American Alliance of Museums, revealed on September 5.

The direct coverage and explanation from AAM comes in a couple of forms. First, their general announcement, with an outline of the changes, is pretty good, and has links to learn more. (Was I the only one who noticed the website lagging in the first few hours after the announcement? Guess it caught everyone's eye!)

The Center for the Future of Museums has had a few blog posts about the changes. The Fractal Taxonomy of Museums, by founding Director Elizabeth Merritt, talks about the commonalities of museums (and aquariums and public gardens and all sorts of other spaces that fall under the museum rubric). The post-announcement statement by AAM President Ford W. Bell, The Future of Museums, and AAM personalizes the changes and re-affirms his commitment to advocating for museums.

I've read some good, thoughtful analysis about the changes in a few places. Max van Balgooy at Engaging Places did a really terrific overview of the impact of those changes on historic sites. I agree with him that AAM has felt at times like an art museum's playground. The changes in the organizational membership structure in particular sound like they'll be beneficial to smaller museums.

Jamie Glavic at Museum Minute points out that there's a difference between "association" and "alliance," and that difference really can signal a shift in thinking.

The Western Museums Association calls the new AAM the "Rebel Alliance" and argues that the name and logo changes are necessary because the entire organization has changed.

Lee Rosenbaum at CultureGrrl is more skeptical, however. She blogged about the odd reveal via website change and then post at the Center for the Future of Museums here, and now wonders if the shift might be more of a marketing ploy and membership drive than anything else. Ford Bell responded to her questions in a guest post soon afterwards.

ArtInfo quotes Lee and has found one museum that already appreciates the new membership system.(Wow, that was really fast!)

I'll choose optimism. I think the changes really do open things up for smaller organizations to get a foot in the door and begin the process of professionalization, while banding everyone together.

I remain, however, troubled by the way the changes were made. I appreciate that AAM has done member polling, but I am frustrated at the lack of communication about the upcoming changes. There was no "changes coming soon!" press release or member email, just an unannounced total makeover of the website that went up a week before the changes were even explained. I would have much preferred a graduated rollout with a series of announcements.

I am particularly uncomfortable with the new logo. Quite frankly, I find it ugly. I don't see A or M in there. It's busy. It makes me mostly think of a school of fish.

On the plus side, my old AAM logo water bottle is now a collector's item.

PS - in case anyone was wondering, the other AAM, the Automobile Association of Malaysia, went through its own rebranding in June.

Edited to add:

From Peabody's Lament, "the official blog of the American Hysterical Society," a museum & public history satire blog, comes this tongue-in-cheek coverage.

Brand New, a blog about corporate logos, does an utterly fascinating post about the new AAM logo, which I complained about above. I'm still not sure I like it, but I get the concept much more now.

1 comment:

  1. Tongue-in-cheek? We meant every word. Thanks for sharing our drivel.

    T.H. Gray, Director-curator
    American Hysterical Society