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Capacity Building with Argentina: A Virtual Speaker Series

Jul 12, 2021 | By Chloe Tenn

The Smithsonian Institution consists of 19 museums and 12 research and cultural centers, and the national zoo, presenting unique opportunities for partnership and collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a need for significant adaptations by museums around the world, presenting the opportunity for innovation, particularly through programming in the digital space. Opportunities for bilateral exchange – learning from each other – helps strengthen global museum practice, and foster cultural understanding. In fall 2020, the Smithsonian Office of International Relations (OIR) developed a virtual speaker series for colleagues from Argentina to exchange best practices and provide opportunities for cross cultural discussion. This reciprocal exchange strengthened Smithsonian efforts to build the capacity of museums internationally – and conversely, learn from international colleagues about their own adaptations, appropriate to their local context.

Running weekly through October and November 2020, this eight-session speaker series connected 37 diverse participants from Argentinian museums and cultural institutes with Smithsonian leaders from around the Institution. The program was developed in collaboration with long-standing partners, the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires and Argentina’s Ministry of Culture, with whom Smithsonian has engaged with on a variety of custom-designed programs.

Smithsonian session leads included experts from various units, including the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and the Smithsonian Latino Center. Weekly workshop topics ranged from reaching youth audiences to creating educational programming. Session content was delivered entirely in Spanish to facilitate expanded conversation and dialogue among participants.

Please see below for workshop topics breakdown: 

Session 1    Opening 
Session 2    Community Centered Practices in Museums 
Session 3    K-12 Bilingual Education Programs 
Session 4    Developing Interactive Programs for Families 
Session 5    Outreach and Public Affairs, Digital and Social Media, Community Bilingual Outreach
Session 6    Developing Programming for Youth Audiences 
Session 7    Broadening Your Audience: Why and How
Session 8    Closing 

Program participants were able to learn about best practices through case studies and gain a greater understanding of the broader Smithsonian. One participant’s testimony confirms their utility: “Principally, [I appreciated] the professional development, the tools and material[s] that I’ll be able to share with co-workers, and meeting and exchanging ideas and experiences with colleagues from other museums in the country, something that’s always enriching and necessary!”.

The series provided an opportunity for continual connection, reciprocal learning, and strengthening of professional networks. In an increasingly digitally interconnected world, opportunities to share knowledge and experiences through programs like this virtual speaker series can be rich and rewarding. The Smithsonian hopes to continue engaging with its partners in Argentina, including potential longer-term programs and engagement.

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