Dr. Ian Miller: Keynote Speaker 2016

The ICOM NATHIST Conference Organizing Committee is delighted to announce Dr. Ian Miller as the keynote speaker for the 2016 annual meeting. Ian is Curator of Paleobotany and Director of Earth & Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in the USA. In addition to running the Earth and Space Sciences Departments, he is in charge of the world-class collection of fossil plants at the Museum. His research focuses on fossil leaves and their applications for understanding ancient ecosystems and climate. Beyond his work as a scientist, Ian also leads an ongoing major Museum initiative. Called the Colorado Experience, this initiative aims to deepen peoples connection with the natural world. Ian received his PhD and MA in geology and paleobotany from Yale University, and his BA from The Colorado College. He has been with the Museum since 2006.

Ian’s talk will focus on his work with audience development:

Natural history museums occupy a unique space at the confluence of culture, education, preservation, science, and entertainment. They inspire wonder; they preserve, study and interpret the treasures of the past for the future; and they are the bastion of lifelong learning. While these incomparable qualities remain the core of natural history museums, the information revolution of recent decades has brought forth an existential conundrum: Is the age old adage “if we build it, they will come,” really true? Most natural history museums have realized that the answer to this question is “no,” and have recognized the need to engage their audiences for their feedback in order to improve visitor experience, to build bigger attendance, and to create a public of dedicated members. Yet, lurking behind the bright, new technology-infused exhibits, past the skilled scientific communicators, and through the now often permeable doors to the collections, our creed remains: the institution deems what is relevant and what is interesting. In light of this seemingly interminable trait, how might the 21st century natural history museum transform to truly meet the needs of the community? I believe that the institutional culture of natural history museums needs to change by placing the community’s needs at the heart of what museums do. Museums should intentionally engage their community early and often in their planning and development efforts, they must build lasting relationships, and they should respond with empathy to their community’s needs, goals, and interests. If community is genuinely added to their core values, natural history museums will ensure they remain relevant on the societal landscape into the next century.

To find out more about Ian, check out his page on the museum website.