the American Association of Youth Museums (AAYM) to the Association
of Children's Museums (ACM)
AAYM began in 1962 with a small group of children's museum
directors who decided it would be helpful for them to meet
informally as a group during the American Association of Museum's
(AAM) annual meeting. Michel Spock says, "AAYM stayed
informal for about a decade. We resisted turning it into a
real organization. We didn't take minutes or have formal meetings.
It was for directors - to discuss our common purpose and our
problems and issues." Approximately ten children's museums
were operating in the United States at this time.
In the early 1970s, while still informal,
and still only for directors, the organization did elect officers
and take meeting minutes. Minutes and memories of that time
recall both a sense of playfulness and a seriousness of purpose.
Bonnie Cusick, executive director of the Duluth Children's
Museum says, "I remember one funny day. Michael brought
in some objects from a factory - small, red, toy rubber boots.
Everyone had them on their finger, dancing with them."
At the same time, minutes from those early years of AAYM meetings
describe members passionately talking about the role of children's
museums, the importance of museum education, and the purpose
of the organization. Out of these meetings came plans to research,
write, and publish (1981) what became Museums, Magic and Children
by Bonnie Pitman, a landmark work in museum education.
A defining moment of change for AAYM came
in 1986 at its annual meeting held at the Brooklyn Children's
Museum. A discussion of the future direction of AAYM resulted
in a decision to take a leadership role in the field of emerging
children's museums, providing support and technical assistance.
Selma Shapiro was elected president of the association with
the stipulation that membership be opened up to all different
kids of staff. Remembering that meeting, Shapiro says about
AAYM, "I believed in it. It was going somewhere and it
had to be open."
The association took its new direction seriously.
The first issue of Hand to Hand, the quarterly journal
of AAYM, was published in winter 1986/1987. A part-time AAYM
director was hired to coordinate InterActivity, to produce
Hand to Hand, and to offer other forms of technical
assistance. Kate Bennett, executive director of The Rochester
Museum and Science Center and AYM president from 1990-1992,
remembers the late 1980s and early 1990s as a time of many
During this time the organization's name
changed to the Association of Youth Museums (AYM), the Great
Friend to Kids Awards was instituted, strategic planning was
initiated, the first membership directory was published and
the reciprocal membership program was established. Also, in
1991 AYM received an Institute of Museum Services grant to
work on standards for the field and published The Professional
Practices for Children's Museums document, which AAM uses
when a children's museum applies for accreditation.
In 1994, AYM, with the start-up financial
support of the Knight Foundation, completed its transition
to a professionally staffed office in Washington, D.C., with
247 members and Janet Rice Elman as executive director. Today
AYM has become the Association of Children's Museums (ACM),
employs nine staff and serves over 500 members, including
affiliate museums, museum consultants, museum staff, students,
academic professionals and corporate members.
Elman says, "From my first day the
phone has rung off the hook with questions from people interested
in starting children's museums in their communities. The growth
of ACM has paralleled the amazing growth of the field and
the pace is still strong. I am constantly in awe of the commitment
to serving the needs of children and families demonstrated
by our members. So strong is that commitment that children's
museums across the country and around the world are willing
to share information with one another in an effort to continuously
improve upon the best practices in the field.
ACM strives to enhance the capacity
and further the vision of children's museums in order to make
them places for children and families where play leads to