How to Work with Museum Boards: A Relationship Between the Staff and the Board

Added to Medium, November 9, 2017

As I assist with preparations for my museum’s board meeting this week, I thought more on what I have learned about the board’s role in the museum. Throughout my career so far, I became more involved in getting to know the board and what their impact is on the museum. I continue to learn more as I become more involved in projects that help the board see the museum’s progress. To absorb more knowledge about museum boards, in addition to personal experience, I read books, articles, and blog posts on various information about museum boards.

There are a number of responsibilities boards have for museums and other non-profit organizations. According to Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0, board members have a number of responsibilities including but not limited to: ensure the continuity of the museum’s mission, mandate, and purposes; act as an advocate in the community for public involvement in the museum; review and approve policies consistent with the museum’s mission and mandate, and to monitor staff implementation of these policies; plan for the future of the museum, including review and approval of a strategic plan that identifies the museum’s goals and ways to attain them, and monitoring implementation of the plan; and ensure that the museum has adequate staff to fulfill the mission.

Museum board responsibilities are not limited to only the previously listed. Their responsibilities do have to be clear to make sure the board members understand how their tasks have an impact on the overall museum’s function. Board members do need to not only understand the museum director and staff roles to see the museum’s impact on the community.

To effectively run a museum there has to be a clear definition of roles and responsibilities of board members, the executive director, and staff. Each of them need to work together to fulfill the museum’s mission and meet the needs of its constituencies. The executive director and board balance their leadership roles between both of them, and the extent to which the board and director achieve this balance will vary from museum to museum and will depend on the size of the museum. Each staff member, director, and board member have a role to fulfill to keep the museum running.

By learning more about my role in the museum and other roles in the museum, I can see how all of our work keeps the museum running for the community.

I began to learn more about museum boards and my role in collaborating with boards during my most recent years in my museum career. For instance, this week I have been asked to look over financial records of Maritime Explorium’s admission records for 2017. I carefully looked through each information between January and October to make sure it was all accurate to prepare for an upcoming board meeting. By completing this task, I will be able to help the executive director and the board understand the trends of this past year so far and they would be able to move forward in planning for next year.

While I was learning from my personal experience and from the book Museum Administration 2.0 about the board’s role in the museum, I also read the blog posts about museum boards.

In the Leadership Matters blog post “It’s the board, stupid”, Joan Baldwin pointed out that not everyone on boards internalizes the museum’s mission, gets along with the executive director, contributes time and money and gets others to do the same, but if board members have understood their trusteeship as work, based in a museum’s mission, there would probably be less disruption, less mediocrity, and more organizational success.

No one is perfect, and it can be a challenge to keep things functioning in the museum. The most important thing to keep in mind is to have constant and clear communication between the board, director, and museum staff.

Communication also needs to be clear between the board, executive director, and staff. The more effective and accurate the communication among them are the more likely what changes unfold can be accommodated smoothly.

Board members bring a variety of values with them, and the director’s success in the museum is directly related to his or her understanding of the board and its values. The board’s composition needs to be reflective of the community it serves. Museums’ boards, in other words, need to reflect diversity in their leadership. In Rebecca Herz’s blog post “Museum Boards” from a few years ago, one of the former museum directors she talked with pointed out that “we need boards that can represent the range of communities served by our museums”. This is certainly true now as it was when this blog post was written. If we do not effectively represent our communities, then people within those communities will not see how museums can be valued. To be able to represent our communities, we need to start with a diverse museum board.

The best way to have a better understanding of how museum boards function is to take advantage of the opportunities to assist in projects that affect museum boards’ roles and to get to know your museum board members.

Have you been on a museum board? What is your experience like? If you work in a museum, how directly have you worked with board members? What have your experiences with boards been like?

Resources:
Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
https://museumquestions.com/2013/11/18/museum-boards/
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/its-the-board-stupid/

What Do You See? The Importance of the Visitors’ Perspectives

Added to Medium, November 2, 2017

Museums continue to work to make educational programs, events, and exhibits more visitor-centered. One of the first things museum professionals should consider is to understand the visitors perspective. It is sometimes easy to forget what it is like to see the museum one works for with a fresh perspective. When we learn from the visitors, we are able to appeal to visitors and potential visitors.

I previously wrote about visitors in past blog posts, and by developing this topic now we see that it is still relevant in the museum field. To best understand our visitors, we should observe as well as talk with our visitors.

When we are able to observe visitors during their experiences, museum educators especially can learn how to make programming more engaging, fun, and educational for participants.

In the Museum Notes blog, visitor observation and perspective discussion was developed in the post “Observation: Seeing, Un-seeing, Re-seeing”. According to the blog post, it stated “Without thoughtful observation, what can we know and understand about what is happening around us in our museums, in the experiences we create, and the connections we hope to foster?” They brought up a good point since we need to learn what our visitors want or need from their experiences, and if we do not observe how visitors react to our programming our field cannot move forward and would not be relevant within our community.

To find out how we can observe visitors effectively, museum educators should find the best methods that would be the most appropriate and effective for their institution. Museum Notes stated that “we engage in both formal and informal observation in research and evaluation, during prototyping, and sharing visitor comments.” When we find out how we observe visitors, we follow through with the method, and hopefully gather results that will make our services better for visitors and potential visitors.

We also need to keep in mind when we observe we do not exclude our own actions within the museum. Museum Notes points out that,

“As good observers, we must also be observers of ourselves, studying our attention, checking our assumptions, and registering our focus. Questioning ourselves as we observe reminds us that we arrive at subjective interpretations, partial findings, and, hopefully, new questions.”

When we observe ourselves, we learn what we are currently doing to provide what the visitors want or need from our museums programming, events, and exhibits.

As we learn more about our visitors and ourselves, we should keep in mind what visitors’ rights are while they are participating in museums activities and interacting with the exhibits. In this month’s Brilliant Idea Studio blog, Seema Rao wrote about visitors in the short blog “Bill of Rights for Museum Visitors” which lists a number of certain rights museum visitors have while they are inside the museum. Some of the rights she listed are

“They have the right to just listen, to ask, to share, to question.
Again, they have the right to question.
They have the right to ask and question when their story isn’t included.
They have the right to notice when museums are doing it wrong.”

Visitors have various levels of interest in the material museums present depending on their reasons for visiting the museums in the first place. Sometimes they want to spend hours in the exhibits, and sometimes they want to walk through the exhibits to briefly see the exhibits. There are other times that visitors want to only attend programs such as a seminar, a family program, and an exhibit opening then leave.

Also, visitors should know how they can feel connected to the stories museums present as well as why they are significant within the community. If they feel they cannot relate to the museum and what it has to offer, then there would be no point from their perspective to go in.

Most importantly visitors need to feel that they can trust museums to allow them to express their desires for attending museum programs/exhibits/events, and for museums to trusts its visitors. They have many reasons for why they visit a museum, and if they feel the museum can provide a safe place or simply a place for them to relax visitors are more likely to continue their patronage to the museum. Visitors should also be able to provide feedback not only because it will help the museum continue to be relevant to its patrons but visitors also have a way to express what they enjoyed and what can be improved upon for future visits.

How does your museum or institution learn about its visitors? What feedback have you received from visitors that surprised (or not surprised) you the most?

Resources:
https://museumnotes.blogspot.com/2017/10/observation-from-seeing-to-un-seeing-to.html
https://brilliantideastudio.com/art-museums/bill-of-rights-for-museum-visitors/

What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums

Added to Medium, October 26, 2017

When I began my career as a museum educator, I learned about various local, regional, and national organizations that provide professional development and other resources for museums. As I continue my career in the museum field, I also learned more about international museum organizations that offer similar resources for museum professionals around the world. I understood that museums can benefit from meeting with other museum professionals to share ideas and learn from each other about various museum operations especially education programming. Museums and museum professionals have opportunities to gather and learn from one another to keep developments in the field moving forward.

During tonight’s #MuseumEdChat on Twitter, myself and other participants emphasized the importance of learning from other professionals in the field. One of the participants, on answering a question about mentorship, pointed out that “people with varying areas of expertise need to mentor you through different issues”. There are so many professionals with various areas of expertise we work with that it is important to collaborate and seek guidance.

Another participant also thought about “colleagues in museums in other countries who literally risk their lives to preserve culture.” Museum professionals in many countries are dedicated to preserving culture, and work together to provide resources to help one another.

If we continue to engage with museum professionals both within our country and outside of the country, we will not only have a better understanding of one another we will also be leading by example on dealing with current issues in the world.

I was first introduced to international organizations when I learned about MuseumNext.

Museum Next is an organization that began in 2009 with the question “what’s next for museums?” They discovered that the answer to this question is as varied as the people who are building it. This organization builds a global community of museum leaders, innovators and makers who champion future thinking in museums. MuseumNext has led to collaborations that span the globe, and the influence of this passionate community can be seen in action in museums all over the world. It offers conferences held throughout the year in Europe, North America and Australia to offer participants the opportunity to hear inspiring presentations, pick up career skills in expert hosted workshops and network with fellow delegates.

When I began writing my blog, I began to learn more about international museum organizations through LinkedIn and other social media outlets such as Museums Association and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

Museums Association is a UK based organization that inspires museums to change lives. It is the oldest museums association in the world (set up in 1889) based in London, and is independently funded by memberships. Their memberships are made up of museum professionals, institutions and corporate members. Museums Association values a lot in making museums have impacts on lives. This organization values having the courage to say what they believe; passion about delivering diversity and equality; working collaboratively, inclusively, and ethically; and lead change by example. The Association advocates for museums, sets ethical standards and runs training and professional development for members wishing to further their careers.

Museums Association is governed by a board of trustees from all parts of the UK museum community, elected by MA members. It runs various professional development programs, including conferences, and mentoring and regular training events.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is an organization created in 1946 by and for museum professionals with more than 37,000 members and museum professionals who represent the global museum community. A diplomatic forum made up of experts from 141 countries and territories was formed to respond to the challenges museums face worldwide. ICOM carries out international missions thanks to international mandates in association with partners including UNESCO, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Also, ICOM is committed to providing cultural institutions with the necessary support and risk prevention tools when faced with conflict situations or natural disasters.

ICOM also organized International Museum Day, a worldwide event held around May 18th which aims to increase public awareness of the role of museums in developing society since 1977. Participation in International Museum Day promotes greater diversity and intercultural dialogue among the international museum community, and each year ICOM identifies a theme for the event. I have spread awareness of this worldwide event for years since I discovered it early on in my career. This past year’s theme was “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums” which focuses on the role of museums that, by working to benefit society, become hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people.

In addition to previously mentioned, ICOM also operates thirty international committees on a range of museum specialties, who conduct advanced research in their respective fields for the benefit of the museum community. Some of the committees include CECA – Education & Cultural Action, DEMHIST – Historic House Museums, ICOM-CC – Conservation, and ICFA – Fine Arts.

There are so many international museum organizations out there that emphasize the importance of museums and what they offer.

On the social media outlets, I have had discussions with museum professionals from various countries including but not limited to Uganda and Nigeria; there have been sharing points of view as well as sharing advice during these conversations. By connecting with museum professionals outside the country, I learn more about the museum field on a larger scale and appreciate so much diversity our world has to offer; we could (and should) celebrate what all of us in the world have to offer.

Do you know of other international museum organizations? What has your experience like connecting/networking with international museum professionals?

Resources:
http://www.museumsassociation.org/home
https://www.museumnext.com/
http://icom.museum/

Anniversary Special: One Year of Writing about Museum Education

Added to Medium, October 19, 2017

As a way to celebrate both the one-year anniversary and my birthday tomorrow, I decided to reflect on the past year and share plans moving forward for the blog. It has been exactly a year today since I started my first blog entry on Medium, and so much has happened since then. When I began my blog, I talked about how I became the museum educator I am and what led me to start writing it. I stated in my blog,

This story will continue not only with a discussion about my experiences in greater detail but I also will discuss recent topics in the field as well as recent books and journal articles I read. I also will write about conferences and workshops I attended. What I hope to accomplish with this blog is to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field.

Now a year later, I kept my promise and discussed recent topics in the field including museum professionals leaving the field and what to do to make the field more appealing to stay in. Also, I discussed what I have been reading and discussed topics based on what I read in books, journals, blog posts, and articles. I briefly discussed my professional development experience in the blog.

Since I started the blog a year ago, I have met with many people who have expressed their thoughts, opinions, and insights on the ideas I shared. I shared my blog posts each week on social media outlets LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to reach out to people especially other museum professionals. Especially on LinkedIn, I read many comments, opinions, and insights to the topics I discussed. I am thankful for everyone who has read and responded to this blog since you all gave me insights on your perspectives on the museum field and continued the discussion on these topics. Also, I thank those who reached out to ask me questions and for my advice. When you respond to these blog posts, I am able to not only know what you thought about the current topic we are also able to learn from one another to keep moving our field forward. Because of this blog, I have also became even more involved in the field than before I started writing.

Ever since I began writing this blog there have been many developments including meeting new people, joining Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM), and creating a new website to promote the blog in addition to sharing resources I come across.

After writing about gender equity in the Lunch with NEMA program, I was asked if I would be interested in joining Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) which is dedicated to educating museum professionals about gender equity and assisting museum professionals in discussing gender equity among colleagues. In addition to this, I created a website that is used as my professional reference and where I promote my blog.

When I created my website, https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com, I hoped to promote not only my blog but to also promote my expertise by sharing resources I refer to and open communication with viewers to discuss topics on museums. I designed my website so visitors can see an abbreviated version of my resume, and if they are interested in learning specific experiences there is a contact page where they can ask me to send them a copy of my resume. Also, my website has various resources organized into various topics including education and interpretation, educational resources, books on museums and public history, and blogs I read. These are resources I share that show I keep up to date on current topics and trends in the field. While I update my website, I also check on the number of individuals who have accessed my website.

I have seen people who have visited my website come from not only within the United States but from many countries around the world. There were individuals from Iceland, Israel, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, Spain, Germany, Ireland, China, Bangladesh, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Switzerland, and Italy. When I saw the amount of people from different countries visiting my website, I saw the potential in continuing to make my website grow and reach out to more people.

I have learned a lot in this experience and I am thankful for each moment that led me to this point in my career.

Moving forward, I have additional ideas and projects I am continuing to work on. Since I realize there is international attention to this website as well, I will look out for resources that discuss international museum topics to add to my website.

While I have posted for the most part only once a week, I know that there is so much I want to write about so I want to write more than once on a regular basis. In order to do so, I want to make sure this blog and website can be financially supported to keep it running. I will launch my Patreon page to help support my website and blog.

Patreon, for those not familiar with the website, is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or patrons. It is popular among YouTube video makers, artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and other creators who post regularly online.

On my Patreon page I encourage all to make a contribution to help support the blog and website, and/or share my page with others. There are a number of rewards you can earn when you contribute which are: acknowledgement on my website, send information you come across to me on museums and history, and make requests for what I should write about for the blog. When you make higher contributions, in addition to the previously mentioned rewards we can arrange for an hour meeting, a two-hour meeting, or an unlimited meeting for either a meet and greet or seek consulting advice.

My goals are when I reach 50 patrons contributing I will post two blog entries per week instead of once per week. As more patrons contribute to my blog and website, I will increase the number of blog entries per week.

I encourage visiting and sharing my Patreon page, listed here: https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward

Thank you all for your continued support during the past year, and I hope you all continue to read as I continue to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field.

Planning Education Programs: The Significance of School Program Registrations

Added to Medium, October 12, 2017

One of the important parts of planning education programming in museums is the school group registrations. Early in my career, I had limited knowledge of the registration process since I was still learning more about the education part of my role. I always understood the significance of managing registrations for school programming, and continue to learn more about the registration process as I move forward in my career. We determine how many materials are needed for school programs, how many staff or volunteers are needed for each program, and when the space is needed for school programs by using the number of registrations we have in the school year. Before the discussion of registration is addressed, there are also many steps education departments in museums take when booking programs for the year.

To effectively have a smoothly run educational department, an organized system has to be in place for every step in the process from conception of programs to the delivery of the programs. I especially learned more about the significance of each step while I was the Long Island Museum, and learned their process. Each museum have similar and different processes depending on the size of the museum and funding, however I am more familiar with the processes of the museums I have worked and currently work in so I am able to explain the process based on my experiences.

When museums plan for educational programs (public school, private school, homeschool, camps, etc.), education departments use educational standards teachers use for their own classrooms as well as materials available from their museums. Once the programs are planned, a marketing plan is organized and executed to be sure local schools and other schools within the region are familiar with programs museums can offer.

Collaborations between the education department and communications department is vital in delivering the museum’s options in educational programming. The layout of the programs not only has to be visually appealing but communicate accurate information about the programs. Once the final decisions are made, the brochures are distributed and other promotions are shared on the museum’s website and social media outlets.

As the calls start coming in for registrations, an organized system is very significant to keep track of school groups. Documents are filled out with information on what schools are interested in visiting, the name of the teacher signing up for the program(s) as well as contact information such as phone number and email, the approximate number of students participating, and the program(s) he or she is signing up for. Teachers and other leaders are most likely to register months in advance whenever they have the time to register so museum education departments need to keep this in mind when completing the registration process and sending out reminders.

Also, an arrangement for payments is made ahead of time so the education department knows how the school is paying for the deposit and/or program fees. Education departments a lot of times know beforehand which payment method schools prefer especially if the schools have signed up for programs in the past.

Once the information is written down and saved in a Word document, the information is indicated on the calendar so the entire museum staff knows what is expected. Education staff also make sure that reminders and special instructions (directions and expectations for the programs) are sent to the teacher, or whoever is the main contact for the registration process. When the day arrives, museum education staff arrange to run the check-in process as smoothly as possible to have the students participate in the allotted time for the program(s). It is also important to be as flexible as possible since things do happen that may prevent school groups from arriving on time so having an efficient check-in process is especially helpful in these cases. I have personally went through this process a number of times as a museum educator.

The process I am most familiar with is using the G Suite, also known as the Google Apps, and keeping track of the information on Microsoft Office documents. G Suite has a couple of items such as Gmail and Calendar for communication; Drive for storage; and Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Sites for collaboration. When I was at the Long Island Museum, I used the Google Calendar to not only make note of what dates schools are interested in coming but also learn about what is going on in other departments at the museum since it is shared by the whole museum staff. Once I received the required information, I made a notation on the Google Calendar to show the school, number of students and the grade level, and the program they are interested in. Also, I make sure all of the information is filled out in the form created on Microsoft Word including contact information of the main teacher who signed up for the program or programs.

Meanwhile at the Maritime Explorium, I continue to learn about how the G Suite is used among the rest of the staff. The G Suite is used for more that registrations for school programs and other programs such as birthday parties and workshops. It is used to send emails and keep track of instructions for programs such as set up and the constructivist lesson plan.

While learning and recalling the registration processes used, I did a little research on my own about other software available to assist in organizing reservations.

There is a company, Double Knot, which creates software that provides online solutions for various administrative tasks especially online management of events, programs, memberships, ticketing and admissions, facility reservations and online fundraising. Their focus is to make sure museums and other non-profit organizations spend more time on delivering their missions.

Double Knot has a field trips and mobile classroom reservations online booking software designed to create an availability calendar that reflects even the most complex schedules in addition to support for blackout periods and flexible scheduling by day, week or month. It also displays a searchable reservations calendar that lets individuals begin the booking process with a single click. The software provides a way for museums to accept both online and offline payments for programs. Also, this software provides a simpler school group check in process by scanning a single group ticket.

When teachers book with museums that use this software, each reservation can trigger an email to the education department staff so they can call to touch base, learn more about the group, and answer any questions. Then those who complete the reservation would receive an automatic confirmation with all of the information needed especially museum staff contact information and any special instructions for them to follow prior to the trip.

By figuring out the best way for one’s museum to run the registration process, the education departments will be able to effectively fulfil the educational component of their museums’ missions.

What software or process do you find works best for your museum or organization? Has there been significant changes in how the registration process is done when and if your organization switched?
Resources:
https://gsuite.google.com/
http://www.doubleknot.com

Museum Education’s Canon: A Focus on Museum Education in Historic House Museums and Science Museums

Added to Medium, October 5, 2017

The September edition of Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education attempts to answer the question it presents throughout the Journal : “Does Museum Education Have A Canon?”

To answer this question, one has to keep in mind that it is not easy to come up with the definitive definition of museum education cannon. There are many different types of museums that exist in the field, and various things that they focus education programming on. All museums have this in common: museum education departments have the challenge of figuring out the right balance of taking into consideration visitor wants and their highlighted objects and/or exhibits when planning their programs.

Journal of Museum Education “Does Museum Education Have A Canon?” has a number of articles discussing the main topic. For instance, Hannah Landsmann’s “Who’s Speaking?” describes the development and implementation of a program at the Jewish Museum in Vienna called “Enfach so? So Enfach” or “It’s that easy? Yes!” students are asked to photograph works that interest them, either because they like the works or because they do not; the program allows students to be the arbiters of what is a central and important object for discussion, shifting the valuation of objects to the visitor-oriented action.

Merete Sanderhoff’s “The Canon, the Web, and the Long Tail” discussed about releasing images of artworks into the public domain that creates a new possibility for the public to challenge the canon or create their own based on access to previously inaccessible images. This means that what people find both interesting and useful is defined not through art educators nor curators but through their own engagement with the works.

Carolyn Halpin-Healy’s “Well-Chosen Objects Support Well-Being for People with Dementia and Their Care Partners” discussed a series of programs called the Arts & Minds programs which aim to promote the well-being for people with dementia and their care partners. Ultimately, the choice of artworks for both contemplation and dialogue is contingent on intersecting criteria that also take into account symptoms of dementia, accessibility, participant interests and the inherent qualities of the art.

As seen in the previous examples the main focus of this edition was on art history canon, but the guest editors did point out that the questions posted in the Journal extend to other museums as well as art museums.

My experience in the museum education field provides some examples that answer the Journal’s question. I have some experience in the art history field but my main experiences have been in historic house museums and a children’s science museum.

An example of working with art history in addition to 19th century history is my work at the Long Island Museum. Like what was discussed in Halpin-Healy’s article, the Long Island Museum has a program that focuses on engaging individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other mental capacities called In the Moment program. Each program encourages discussion which inspire participants to remember their past memories. The programs are adjusted based on the what is on exhibit and what the groups are interested in. For instance, a group may be interested in visiting the museum’s Carriage Museum to learn about the parts of the carriage by feeling the parts and discussing what they see, and they use the things that inspire them to discuss about their own personal past.

While I was at historic house museums in Connecticut, each of the historic house museums find the balance between the focus on objects and appealing to visitors. There are many historic house museums in this country, and each one has to figure out how to adapt to visitors needs using the objects in its collections. For instance, Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, the Butler-McCook House in Hartford, and Noah Webster House in West Harford have unique narratives that tell a piece of Connecticut history.

Each location has objects displayed in their rooms that illustrate what life is like in the past. The discussions in group tours and school programs encourage visitors to not only engage with but to also make connections with the exhibits and activities that will make the experience personal. A lot of ways that are used in history house museums, especially the ones I worked in, used period costumes to help visitors step back in time to understand history on a more personal level.

Stanley-Whitman House, a living history center and museum that teaches through the collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington, programs focuses on colonial history using objects in the rooms. Each museum teacher wears period costumes while using items such as cookware to describe what individuals in the 18th century ate especially in Farmington.

Butler-McCook House is the only 18th century house standing on Main Street in Hartford, and is a time capsule that preserves Hartford’s history and the family’s history. While the house primarily focuses on the McCook family during the late 19th century and their artistic and intellectual interests, the school programs are adapted to the needs of the visiting groups. Public group tours and school groups that walk through the house are encourage to discuss their personal experiences of hanging out at home and they learn more about the McCook family lifestyle at home which would create personal connections to the history presented in the home. Visitors understand the similarities and differences of what home life is like between themselves and the McCook family.

Noah Webster House engages citizens by preserving and sharing history, promoting literacy and advocating greater cultural understanding. School programs focus on both 18th century American history and the history of Noah Webster who created the first American dictionary by using objects to immerse themselves in what life was like in 18th century West Hartford (or West Division as it was called then).

Science museums also have to address museum education canon in their programming. At the children’s science museum I work in, Maritime Explorium, we encourage students and visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on activities and projects. that promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) learning. Each week has a different main focus that encourages children to experiment, have fun, and learn the connections of these activities to the understanding of STEAM. For instance, one of the focuses was the science of harvest that focused on apples.

In this focus, apples are used to create star prints on paper using paints. Also, kids experiment with the browning process of apples. Kids use different liquids such as lemon and lime juice to see how well they can prevent apple slices from turning brown, and therefore make the apples last longer. By using apples, kids not only have fun with apples but also understand how the preservation process can be used to make fruits last longer.

Based on my experiences, I would say that museum education does have a canon. Museum education canon focuses on making educational experiences not only engaging for visitors of all ages but make a lasting impression that encourages return visits.

How would you answer this question: does museum education have a canon? What examples have you seen in museums that prove museum education does (or does not) have a canon?

“Leaving the Museum Field”: A Reaction to the Alliance Labs Blog

Added to Medium, September 27, 2017

This week I am posting earlier than usual because I have a family event this weekend I am preparing for and I also want to address a blog post from Alliance Labs, the American Alliance of Museums blog, discussing the topic of why many museum professionals are leaving the field.

It is an important topic because there are so many people considering leaving the field for various reasons, and we need to do something to work towards making our field more inclusive and rewarding for museum professionals to make it more appealing to stay. After reading this blog and similar articles, the experience made me think about my own reasoning for staying in the field as well as my resolve to be a part of making this museum field a more encouraging field to continue working in.

Sarah Erdman, Claudia Ocello, Dawn Estabrooks Salerno, and Marieke Van Damme last week talked about this topic in their blog “Leaving the Museum Field”. These four museum professionals got together after the 2016 AAM conference in DC to try to find out the reasons museum workers leave the field. In this blog, they presented their findings based on the over one thousand individuals who participated in a survey with open-ended questions. One of the questions that were placed in the survey include,
Why we stay. Hands down, we stay because of the work we do. Unsurprisingly, for those of us who have made lifelong friends at our museums, we also stay because of our coworkers. The close 3rd and 4th reasons for staying are “Pay/Benefits” and “No Other Option.” The least popular response was “Feel Lucky to Have a Job” (1%) and the write-in “I love dinosaurs.”’

I have mentioned in previous blog posts my reasons for joining the museum field, and for me my reasons are definitely for the love of the work I do as well as my passion for museums. In my very first blog post, “Writing about Museum Education”, I mentioned my family trips to museums inspired my passion for and my career in museum education. I also pointed out that

“Education for me has always been my favorite part of life, and while at times it was challenging for me field trips especially to museums have given me a way to understand the lessons I learned in the classroom.”

I still believe museums can illuminate an individual’s educational experience, and by continuing in the museum field I hope to make an impact on the public. It is a challenge to accomplish this when there are things that prevent me from fulfilling this goal.

As I was graduating with my Master’s degree in Public History, there were limited opportunities to get a position in the field that would meet the typical needs. Similar limitations were addressed in the blog post as reasons museum professionals are leaving. According to the blog,

Reasons why museum workers leave the field. We had about 300 answers to this open-ended question. We grouped them by theme and found the following reasons (in order of frequency of response):
1. Pay was too low
2. Other
3. Poor work/life balance
4. Insufficient benefits
5. [tie] Workload/Better positions
6. Schedule didn’t work.”

There was a point that I thought I should consider leaving. However, I thought about my experiences I have had at this point, and knew there is so much I still have to offer to the field. I began working at the Maritime Explorium, a children’s science museum, which is a little different from my previous experiences but is just as passionate about education for children and the public as I am. Also, I began work on this blog sharing my experiences in the museum field as well as my impressions on current trends in the field. I also became involved in museum organizations, including the Gender Equity in Museums Movement, to help other museums and museum professionals make a difference in the community and within their institutions.

In a way, I adapted my career in the museum education field and I found a way to stay in the field. I continue to work hard to stay in the field. This blog pointed out a number of ways to help museum professionals stay; it stated,

How can we prevent museum workers from leaving? Again, increasing pay was at the top of the list, but respondents also suggested many free or cost-effective ways to create better working environments, like:
Create mentoring opportunities
Respect each other – break departmental silos
Make room for new ideas.”

By following the previously mentioned suggestions, we as museum professionals will be able to work towards making museums a better workforce to stay in so we would be able to work within our communities better.

While I continue to face challenges in attaining these needs, I am thankful for every opportunity that I have experienced in the field. Each experience has led me to getting to know various people in the field and to learning lessons in the field that help me grow as a museum professional.

The key to making this field a more appealing field to stay in is to keep working towards making a change in our museums and the museum community. It would not be realistic to expect the museum field to be better overnight. We need to keep talking about this situation, and be able to learn from this experience to move forward. I included the original link to the blog in my resources section for all museum professionals to refer to, and it also includes a variety of resources related to this topic to refer to.

Please leave your responses about this topic on my blog and/or the Alliance Labs blog, and continue this discussion among your colleagues.
Resources:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/leaving-the-museum-field/
https://www.genderequitymuseums.com/

 

Museum and School Partnerships: Why They Are Important for Education

Added to Medium, September 21, 2017

To provide educational opportunities for students of all grade levels and abilities, museums and schools can benefit from forming a partnership with each other. As museum professionals know well, museums provide various resources for individuals of all ages. This is true for P-12 students who attend public, private, and home schools.

When museums and schools form a partnership, they will be able to help each other fulfil their goals and needs in education. Schools can benefit from this partnership since museums provide examples of how schools can broaden their approach beyond the narrow focus on academic work.

According to Evie Blad in her article “Scientists to Schools: Social, Emotional Development Crucial for Learning”, the social, emotional, and academic development are significant and central to students’ learning. Students must develop various skills that will be useful for the world outside of the classroom. For instance, the skills students need to be successful in the classroom and in life can be grouped into three areas: cognitive skills (beliefs and attitudes that guide one’s sense of self and approaches to learning and growth), emotional competencies (enables them to manage emotions and understand others’ emotions and perspectives), and social and interpersonal skills (enable them to read social cues, navigate social situations, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and to demonstrate compassion and empathy toward others).

Museum programming not only allow students to participate in activities that assist in understanding of academic materials in the classroom but the programming offer ways for students to develop the skills necessary to effectively integrate social, emotional, and academic development. In the museum programs, especially in historic house museums and museums I have worked and currently work for, they encourage students to understand their own capabilities and develop those skills to improve their knowledge.

Also, museum programs can show students opportunities to make emotional connections to narratives presented in exhibits. In historic house museums, for instance, museum educators share relatable stories of the people who lived in these houses through programming they will be able to identify with them. Museums can also educate students on making emotional connections through the programs that help them serve the community.

Maritime Explorium, for instance, has a program that not only teaches students how to build catapults to launch items (to measure distance) educators encourage their students to bring home their catapults as well as clay balls with native plant seeds inside to launch them into the dirt. By launching the seeds, they will help keep their environments healthier.

Educational programs in museums also encourage students participate in activities that encourage them to use and develop social as well as interpersonal skills. Students are encouraged to gather into groups to use teamwork to accomplish activities in the programs. Museums and schools can benefit from a partnership by creating opportunities for students to be inspired.

Students have opportunities to develop a lasting interest in museums. It is especially important to encourage young students to appreciate what museums have to offer. Anne Forgerson Hindley’s contribution to Alliance Labs, “Why Museums Should Care About Young Children”, went into details about why museums are focusing more on attracting early learners to these institutions. For instance, museums allow children to explore their interests through outlets including authentic objects, hands-on exhibits, and activities.

When the students explore their interests, they are able to express their creativity and their generous willingness to share their ideas. Museums offer programs that create these opportunities to express their creativity. As educators encourage their students to visit more museums, museums subsequently have an increase in serving their communities better and create more robust experiences for visitors of all ages.

The more times students visit museums for their programming, the more they are likely to develop their education that will make them more informed as well as well-rounded individuals making their communities better for the future.

For parents, guardians, and chaperones, how have your children’s experiences in museums made an impact on them as individuals? What examples can you share about museum-school partnerships that worked in your institutions? Please share your thoughts on museum-school partnerships.

Referred to in the Blog:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/why-museums-should-care-about-young-children/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2017/09/scientists_to_schools_social_emotional_development_crucial_for_learning.html

How Education Supplies Are Significant in Museum Programming

Added to Medium, September 14, 2017.

Supplies for programming in museums are endless and are selected based on the needs of each program. There are various ideas for museums to create school and public programs from, and they are based on each institution’s missions and educational goals. Since there are different ways educators can plan their school and public programs within their missions, we have to plan what supplies and how much supplies are needed as they plan the programs.

For instance, if a historic house museum focuses not only on its history and the family that lived there but also focus on serving the community, programs are planned to support the study of history and connect with members in the community to be relevant in its community.

School program supplies include but are not limited to paper, pencils, markers, crayons, paint, scissors, color pencils, and ink. Public program supplies include but are not limited to supplies used in school programs (depending on what program is planned for what audience), food, drinks, cups, and plates. The previous examples are supplies I have personally used, and have been in charge of the supply inventory in my career as a museum educator.

Depending on what an education department needs, many stores provide the typical supplies needed. If the programs require specific items not found in stores, there are places that museums partner with to provide materials needed. At the Long Island Museum, for instance, they had school and other children’s programming that allow them to pretend to turn over hay outside the barn on the Museum’s campus; the education staff travel to a farm stand that sells hay, and makes a purchase that should last throughout the school year.

An important issue in education programming museums have to address each year is funding for these programs. It is also an issue that educators faces in the school system.

I came across an article from Education Week called “Teachers Spend Hundreds of Dollars a Year on School Supplies. That’s a Problem.” Written by Ann Ness (executive director of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org), the article discussed how teachers have spent a lot of their own money to provide the supplies needed for their classrooms. According to Ness’ article, a survey of more than 1,800 public and private school teachers conducted in the 2015-16 school year stated that the average American educator spends $600 of their own money every year on basic supplies and they not only cover typical staples such as copier paper or colored pencils, but also go toward clothing and personal hygiene necessities for students who need them. Ness argued that educators need to have a better way to be able to have plenty of supplies for their students, and the students and parents need to urge their local school districts and state legislatures to adequately fund education that is able to provide supplies for students in need.

This article made me think about how this fact also applies to museum educators who need to purchase items for their programs. For each year, education departments in each museum have to figure out funding for education supplies.

Like educators in public and private schools, many museum educators use the money out of their own pockets to support the programs. At Connecticut Landmarks, for instance, one of my former co-workers would purchase food such as cookies and vegetables for the Cultural Cocktail Hour program that promotes local artists’ works. It is also possible for museum educators could be reimbursed for their purchases especially when there is room in the budget to reimburse them.

Whenever a museum educator purchases items for the program or programs, a receipt is saved so the director of the education department or executive director would sign off on the purchase and provide a check to give to the museum educator. To provide the funds to reimburse the education staff, the education budget includes an amount that has to be spent on supplies and should be enough to provide a part in the budget to give money to educators that purchase items for the museum.

The majority of the funds that support museum programming, and on a larger scale to keep museums running, come from grants that museums have to apply for each year. In each grant application, museums have to address what they hope to accomplish when they receive the funds. When they applied for grants they have previously received funds from, museums must address how much they have accomplished with the grant in the previous year(s) and how the grant would be essential for the upcoming year. This is an understanding that was reaffirmed while I was assisting the executive director at the Maritime Explorium on part of a grant application to keep the museum running programs for visiting children.

To be able to successfully run programs that make an impact on our audiences, we need to be able to get access to supplies.
What supplies do your institutions use for your programming? Are there other ways your organization or institution find funding for programs?

Here is the link to the article I referenced in this post:
http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2017/08/02/teachers-spend-hundreds-of-dollars-a-year.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2

Why We Need to Be Prepared: Resources on Preparation for Natural Disasters for Museums

Added on Medium, September 7, 2017.

In the past couple of weeks, we were either preparing for and assisting others in preparing as well as helping people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017-September 2, 2017) and now Hurricane Irma. Since these natural disasters occurred, the museum community continues to support those museums that had been through these hurricanes by sharing resources on how museums can prepare for these storms like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in addition to offering whatever we could to help those museums and the communities surrounding them. I was one of the museum professionals who shared resources on how to prepare for natural disasters; in my last blog, I stated that I have gathered resources and posted them on my website for those who want to learn more.

As a community of museums, we need to recognize that we should be able to be prepared for whatever storm or natural disaster that comes into our area. Many of the items in our collections are irreplaceable, and without the protection we need (insurance and preservation procedures) we could lose a part of our past that we may never be able to recover.

We have various organizations and resources that offer ways to help protect and preserve items on the national and state levels. The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York, for instance, is a collaboration between two long-running New York programs dedicated to service and support for archival and library research collections throughout the state, and is supported by the New York State Archives, New York State Library, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, and the New York State Education Department.

The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York offers various resources to assist museums and other organizations on preserving items in their collections. Back in June, I participated in a workshop called Disaster Response and Recovery: A Hands-On Intensive.

This workshop was an all-day program that allows participants to not only listen to advice from the experts affiliated with the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York but it also provided an opportunity to practice what we have learned through hands-on salvage activities. Participants were also given folders with additional information that can be referred to later on after the program has been completed. Inside the folders, there were pieces of information about the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York including what the organization is and the programs it offers especially educational workshops.

The folders also included additional information on disaster response and recovery. One of the pieces of information include guidelines for boxing wet books for freezing, and freezing and drying of book, paper, and photographic materials information and guidelines packet. Inside the folders, there were also additional information to supplement the presentation including information about the Incident Command System (the team that is gathered to respond and recover items after a disaster), and what we would need to recover specific type of items such as books, paper, CDs/DVDs, parchment/manuscripts, microfilms, black and white photographic prints, and textiles.

We were also given copies of the PowerPoint presentation to both refer to after the workshop and to take down additional notes on information they mentioned that were not brought up on the slides.

Also, it provided an agenda for the day’s workshop and information about the workshop speakers as well as a directory of museum professionals who attended the workshop.

In the morning, after a brief introduction, we were introduced to a few topics. The experts discussed the Incident Command System, Personal Safety, Site Assessment Techniques, Knowing When to Contact a Vendor, and Basic Salvage Techniques.

One of the first things the speakers pointed out that need to be done is to make human health and safety a priority. It is important to check in on the staff’s emotional and physical state since we should care about the individuals we work with to fulfil our organizations’ missions. Afterwards, the staff has to gather personal protective equipment (PPE) such as aprons, boots, gloves, goggles, and hard hats before approaching the situation.

The next steps in the recovery process are to assess the situation, prevent further damage, have a collections salvage, and return to as normal practice as possible. Each staff member should be assigned to different roles to record the damage, retrieve the items, and recover the items using appropriate techniques to best preserve the various types of items in the collections.

After a short break, we continued learning more about disaster response and recovery. We started to learn about the functional activity we would be participating in, and each part of the activity has a number of steps. For instance, we have to assess the site, assign roles, gather the supplies, and then set up the triage areas.

Once we assigned the roles to our team members, we proceeded to perform the salvage of items provided by the experts using the techniques we learned. After a lunch break, we continued the salvage but switched roles so each team member was able to practice what they have not done before the break.

In addition to this workshop, I also plan on gaining more resources from a webinar I found, hosted by the Texas Historical Organization, called Webinar: Responding to Hurricane Harvey. During this webinar, Rebecca Elder of the National Heritage Responders and Lori Foley of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force will host a discussion about emergency response. The discussion also includes opportunities to ask questions on emergency response, salvage, and recovery.

I recommend signing up for this webinar if your institution was affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. I also recommend signing up if you are curious about what resources are available for emergency responses.

During these times, we need to be there for each other and help support each other however we can. I decided to write about hurricanes and natural disaster recovery processes as a way to offer help to those who need resources on how to preserve their collections. My thoughts are with those still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the middle of Hurricane Irma.

What resources have you came across for natural disaster recovery processes? How does (do) your organization(s) prepare for and recover from natural disasters?
Here are some resources I referred to in my blog and a link to resources I gathered on my website on natural disasters:
Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York: http://dhpsny.org/
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1686939294244406785 (webinar I referred to in the blog)
Northeast Document Conservation Center: https://www.nedcc.org/
and the NEDCC article: https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.8-emergency-salvage-of-moldy-books-and-paper
Virginia Association of Museums: http://www.vamuseums.org/page/DisasterResources
My website and the resource pages I gathered for visitors: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.wordpress.com/resources/articles-I-am-reading/