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St. Louis Gears Up to Host World’s Largest Convening of Museum Professionals

Category: Press Release
Two women and a man stand in front of stacked pieces of art
From left: Dr. Frances Levine, Dr. Donald Suggs, Laura Lott


November 24, 2016

ARLINGTON, VA – The clock is ticking for leaders of more than 40 St. Louis area museums, historic sites, botanic gardens and other cultural institutions. Only six months remain before the city will play host to more than 5,000 museum professionals from across the United States and abroad, who will gather May 7-10 for the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) 2017 Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo.

The Alliance has appointed two leaders from the St. Louis cultural community to spearhead the city’s planning for the event:

  • Dr. Donald M. Suggs, publisher and executive editor of the St. Louis American newspaper, Missouri’s largest black newspaper, is serving as general chair of the event. In that role, he offers advice and counsel on the local planning process and promotion of the annual meeting.
  • Dr. Frances Levine, President and CEO of the Missouri Historical Society and Missouri History Museum, is serving as chair of the local Host Committee. In that role, she oversees Host Committee activities before and during the annual meeting.

“We’re honored and excited that Dr. Suggs and Dr. Levine will help bring the rich St. Louis cultural tradition to our 2017 Annual Meeting,” said Laura Lott, Alliance president and CEO. “Their experience in the arts and their strong voice for social justice makes them the perfect champions for this event.”

“St. Louis is experiencing a renewed sense of itself as a vibrant region,” said Suggs. “There is a $380 million project that is transforming the landscape around the region’s iconic symbol. The St. Louis Gateway Arch will have its somewhat isolated national park and the adjacent riverfront better connected to downtown’s renovation and growth. This forward-looking project exemplifies some of the region’s recent growth and expanded energy that portends a more bright and interesting future for the region.”

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“Our region benefits from an incredible breadth and depth of cultural institutions—we have something for everyone—and so our local planning team is highlighting the best of St. Louis,” said Levine. “We love visiting our museums and institutions, sending guests up the Gateway Arch, showing off Forest Park, and dining at restaurants in our city’s diverse neighborhoods while listening to great live music. We want to help our fellow museum professionals understand why we love to call St. Louis home.”

The largest gathering of museum professionals in the world, the AAM annual meeting attracts leaders and decision makers from a wide range of cultural institutions that include art, history, and science museums; military and maritime museums; children’s museums; aquariums, zoos, arboretums, and botanical gardens; and historic homes and sites. The 2017 meeting will have as its theme, Gateways for Understanding: Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion in Museums.

The St. Louis event also will feature AAM’s first-ever Trustee Summit, where museum board members and trustees will hear from an expert panel on best practices for museum governance, and discuss the results of a 2016 nationwide survey of museum directors and board chairs. At a November 4 kickoff event, more than 40 St. Louis area museum directors and trustees gathered to learn more about AAM’s new museum governance initiative, supported by Northern Trust. The initiative aims to strengthen museums’ connections with their communities by engaging museum boards, and by helping museum directors build and maintain strong governance structures.

Suggs is a native of East Chicago, Indiana, where he attended public schools. He graduated with B.S. and D.D.S. Degrees from Indiana University and then completed his post-graduate work at Washington University Dental School and Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Active in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s and 70’s, Suggs served as chairman of the Poor People’s March-On-Washington in 1968. Later, he became founder and chairman of the African Continuum, organized to bring serious non-commercial African-American artistic endeavors to St. Louis. He was a long-time president of the Alexander-Suggs Gallery of African Art based in St. Louis and New York City (1970-1989). He is a founding member of the Center for African Art, (now the Museum of African Art in New York City) and is a former member of the board of directors of the Studio Museum in New York as well. Suggs currently serves on the St. Louis Art Museum Board of Commissioners and its Collections Committee, along with dozens of other nonprofit boards in the St. Louis area.

Levine is a native of Connecticut, received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Southern Methodist University, Dallas. She was the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts and Sciences at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. She was the director of the New Mexico History Museum from 2002 until spring 2014. There she oversaw the development and construction of the newest museum in the Museum of New Mexico system. In 2009 she attended the prestigious Getty Museum Leadership Institute. She is a member of AAM, the American Society for Ethnohistory, and the Santa Fe Trail Association. She has served as an evaluator for the AAM Accreditation review process for museums in the US and Mexico.

More details on the 2017 Annual Meeting are available at, and you can follow the event on Twitter at #AAM2017.

The following St. Louis area organizations are participating in the 2017 AAM Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo:

  • 10th Street Gallery
  • American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog
  • Alliance of Black Art Galleries
  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
  • Campbell House Museum
  • Central Library
  • Central Print
  • Contemporary Art Museum
  • Dynamic Arts, LLC
  • Explore St. Louis
  • The Griot Museum of Black History
  • Holocaust Museum
  • Inside the Economy Museum (Fed. Reserve Bank)
  • International Photography Hall of Fame
  • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
  • Laumeier Sculpture Park
  • The Luminary
  • The Magic House
  • Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District
  • Mercantile Library at UMSL
  • Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
  • Missouri Botanical Garden
  • Missouri History Museum
  • Missouri State Parks
  • Museum of Contemporary Religious Art
  • Museum of Transportation
  • National Blues Museum
  • Pulitzer Arts Foundation
  • Regional Arts Commission
  • Scott Joplin House
  • Sheldon Art Galleries
  • Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
  • Saint Louis Art Museum
  • St. Louis Chess Club
  • Saint Louis Science Center
  • Saint Louis Zoo
  • University of Missouri—St. Louis
  • Via Partnership
  • World Chess Hall of Fame

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 30,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Joseph Klem
Director, Public Relations
American Alliance of Museums

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