I had always dreamed of being a fancy adult and going to a conference for something. Somehow I got extremely lucky and ended up at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles as the curatorial assistant, and this year my dream of being fancy came true. The National Association of Automobile Museums, or NAAM, is a phenomenal organization that is dedicated to bringing auto museum professionals together to network and bounce ideas off of each other. For 2018, the conference was held in Herhsey, PA at the AACA Museum. With Hershey being right down the road, it made sense for Kendra and myself to make the trek and take advantage of this unique experience.
Here it is—conference time! I had only been to one other conference and it was not long after I started as a Museum employee back in 2008. That was a PA Federation of Museums & Historic Organizations, and it was truly inspiring and thought-provoking but this…this was NAAM—the National Association of Automobile Museums. Autumn and I were going to have the opportunity to talk with people who deal with the exact same stuff/issues/artifacts/debates that we deal with on a daily basis. And this year, it was held in Hershey, PA, a town I used to call home. I lived in Hershey itself for a year and a neighboring town for four. It was good to be back, though so much had changed.
I had been to Hershey, but it was years ago, while I was in either elementary or junior high school, so I was anxious to really take it all in this time around. Kendra and I met in the AACA Museum parking lot around 12:30 or so, and waited for the trolley that would take us on our historical tour of the city of chocolate. Once aboard the trolley, the selfies started, and actually didn’t stop the whole week! We were simultaneously snapping pics and listening to the tour guide tell us the story of Milton Hershey, his family, and his chocolate.
Our week started at the Hershey AACA Museum (where I interned/volunteered/worked back in the day) where we all met to board the trolley to travel around Hershey and get a history of the town and the man who built it, Milton Hershey. This trolley ride was a great way for me to learn more about a town I once called home, and I found out quite a few things I had no idea about before. There’s always so much history in our own backyards that we don’t even realize. Our tour guide on the trolley threw numbers at us left and right—810 kisses a second, 2 million pounds of kit kats and Reese’s PB cups a day—proving this is indeed Chocolatetown, USA.
Trolley stops included Hershey’s Chocolate World & the Hershey Story Museum. I especially enjoyed creating our own candy wrappers at the Museum and the chocolate tasting at Chocolate World. I mean, who wouldn’t?!
Our stops at Hershey Story Museum and Chocolate World were amazing. Hershey Story Museum was well laid out and told a lot of story with relatively few artifacts on display. We even got a behind-the-scenes look at the storage area, which is something us museum geeks always get excited about. (Even up in the gallery, you could tell who the ‘museum people’ were by who was looking at the signage materials, the window shades, the types of screws used to mount things, etc…we’re a strange bunch!) Chocolate World was a well-traveled destination for me at one point. When I lived in Hershey my roommates and I visited it often. But even Chocolate World had changed—more bells and whistles on the ride and our group was treated also to a special Chocolate Tasting session. Anytime I’m offered dark chocolate, I’m a happy lady. I really liked the educational and interactive aspect of the chocolate tasting—the different used of projectors, many-doored and paneled cabinets, and the use of rainforest sounds—to really immerse us in the activity.
Once we arrived back at the AACA Museum, we networked a bit, then headed across the street to check into our hotel. This was nice. This was really nice. Again, fancy adult things.
Upon getting back to the AACA Museum, we had a break before dinner. Time enough to check into our hotel across the parking lot and take a few moments to get ready. As a mom of three, having a hotel room with some peace and quiet was a welcome perk. Don’t worry—I’ll miss my kids like crazy real soon.
Around 6pm we strolled on back to the Museum for the welcome reception. We heard the NAAM president, as well as Jeff, the Director of the AACA Museum, speak about our schedule for the upcoming week. As I recall, we sat with two gentlemen from the Northeast Classic Car Museum, located in Norwich, NY. They were very friendly and interested in our Museum. Actually, everyone we talked to was interested in learning more about PA’s transportation history. Very cool and inspiring!
Our welcome reception that evening was lovely. It’s always nice to see how other venues set up for events and give us ideas or ways to compare how we do things. We sat with representatives from the Northeast Classic Car Museum and the San Diego Automotive Museum—the first of many contacts we’d make that week, each one enjoyable. We walked back to the hotel and got some rest in preparation for our marathon day in Washington DC the following morning.
The reception wrapped up around 8:30pm and Kendra and myself headed back to the hotel for some shut-eye. We needed as much sleep as we could get—Tuesday was shaping up to be a 17-hour day. We were excited and ready for the challenge!