Reflecting on NAAM: “The Future of the Past is Collaboration”

The National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM) Annual Conference was recently held in Naples, Florida. The event was hosted by Miles Collier at the Revs Institute, a world-renowned car museum he founded. For nearly 30 years, NAAM has been dedicated to the growth of automotive history and preservation. The Revs Institute served as the birthplace of the organization in 1994. I was fortunate enough to be one of four of the founding members. Since then, NAAM has grown to host dozens of conferences for its more than 150 members organizations.

This year’s conference was particularly exciting since NAAM partnered with the World Forum for Motor Museums. That fabled organization traces its roots back to 1988 and its founding members Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Michael Ware, the Director of the National Motor Museum in England. At the time, WFMM was created to help cultivate collaboration between museum directors and curators that specifically collected and displayed road transport vehicles.

I have been actively involved in both organizations now for more than 20 years. I was on the planning committee for WFFM’S 1991 conference and presented my first professional paper at the Forum. Since the 1990s, I have attended numerous NAAM and WFMM conferences. Each has been a career highlight for me as they allow for professional development on both national and international scales. However, 2022 was different. This was the first year I was going as a representative of Exhibit Concepts.

As you’d expect, the 2022 conference was one of the largest to date. The theme was “The Future of the Past is Collaboration.” It’s one of the tenets that NAAM was founded upon. Now as we look toward the future, a major challenge facing the industry is finding ways to make automotive museums relevant to younger and subsequent generations. To overcome this, we must rise to the challenge and play a crucial role in interpreting our automotive history and creating truly unforgettable visitor experiences for all audiences. I am certain that in the years to come, NAAM and its members will rise to this challenge.

I have reason to be optimistic for what’s to come. Over the years, I have found myself continually impressed and elated to be in the company of others who find passion in the preservation and presentation of the world’s automobiles. For many of us, we have dedicated our careers to this goal. Since that first meeting at The Revs, I have gotten to know countless members of NAAM and together we have worked to bring automotive stories and history to life. The visitor experiences we have created have educated millions of people across the world and will continue to be enjoyed by millions more for years to come.

The National Association of Automobile Museums, and its partner organizations across the world, strive to provide information and resources to all car museums and raise professional standards within the field. Throughout this year’s conference, I was happy to see that there is still passion and growth for the automobile museum. Several new museums are nearing completion, and some have recently opened. Most of these projects are relying on NAAM, and its vendor partners such as Exhibit Concepts, for guidance on creating one-of-a-kind experiences and engagements for their audiences.

This year, I was proud to help share Exhibit Concepts’ capabilities with my long-time collaborators at NAAM. Many were interested in learning the company’s history and were impressed with our innovative interpretive planning process and world-class craftsmanship. As I start this new chapter at Exhibit Concepts and look toward the future with NAAM, my goal is for Exhibit Concepts to be the go-to company for automobile museums when they seek to creatively tell their stories. As I have done in the past and as I will continue to do, I’ll be looking to help preserve automotive history for generations to come.

The 2023 conference will be held at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, in April. The theme of that conference is “Take it Forward,” which will once again address issues of preservation, presentation, and relevancy. 

Picture of Matt Short

Matt Short

Matt Short is an account executive at Exhibit Concepts with over 20 years of museum management experience. More recently, he has transitioned into a sales role within the industry. He provides a diverse background to the Exhibit Concepts team and has a passion for storytelling and bringing history to life.


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