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/

 

How to Make Educational Programs Accessible?

Added to Medium, August 31, 2017

Museums prepare school programs for the upcoming year, and we figure out how to make these programs accessible for all students of various capabilities. There are different ways museums have developed programs that are accessible for all learners. For instance, museum programs are developed to be easily adapted to all ages and capabilities. Another way is specific programs can be developed to be geared towards specific capabilities. Many museums have a combination of programs geared to be easily adapted and towards specific capabilities.

 

It is important to be able to have different types of programs that can be adapted to all individuals with various capabilities as well as those geared towards different capabilities because each individual learns in different capacities and there should not be limitations to what they can participate in. Also, not many museums have the resources to create costly programs geared to people who need to learn in different ways including, not limited to, those with visual impairments, hearing impairments, and memory loss.

 

I learned additional information about accessible programming at this past year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference. The theme of the conference was “Inclusivity: From Within & Beyond”, and it was located at the School of Visual Arts.
When I was at this past year’s NYCMER meeting, I attended a session that discussed various accessibility programs. This session was called “Resource Workshop: Designing Accessible Materials”, and it was presented by Miranda Appelbaum (from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), Lara Schweller (from The Museum of Modern Art), Beth Ann Balalaos (from the Long Island Children’s Museum), Ellysheva Zeira (from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum), Charlotte Martin (from the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum), Emmanuel von Schack (from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum), and Roberto Chavez (from the New York Transit Museum). It was a workshop in which I participated in various micro-workshops where I learned more about designing social narratives and visual schedules, tactile objects, training resources, and digital resources.

 

During the Resource workshop, the presenters handed out various documents to assist participants in learning about how to create our own programs. For instance, one of the handouts we received was called “Creating Resources for People who are Blind or have Low Vision”. On the handout, it gave advice on verbal descriptions including having a plan in which the programs provide a verbal description interwoven with a story; use specific words in the description including composition, color, texture, pattern, and relative size; and be able to choose a few important features and consider the best way to order the information to not overwhelm the audience.
The handout also shared the best practices for objects. According to the handout, the best practices for objects are show and tell, give clear instructions, connect to the object’s physicality by asking the visitors feel an object’s weight and texture for instance, set a time limit with the kids, and be selective. There was also a DIY Object Ideas section in the handout that provides ideas to assist in teaching these programs.

 

These ideas include the use easy to find craft/household supplies including puffy/fabric paint, plastic lace, and restaurant squeeze bottles, jars and mesh (for smells). Another idea on the handout was to check out the Lighthouse Guild Shop where it has items such as bump/locator dots which can be used for all sorts of things and ‘High Mark’ tactile pens. One of the most important advices the presenters and handout provided was to not be afraid to try new things since one can always ask for feedback from participants with new methods and materials.

 

In addition to programming, it is also important to be able to provide resources easily accessible for all visitors. One of the ways to provide resources easily is an accessible website that make accessibility information easy to find on your institution’s homepage; it is also important to include a statement about your institution’s accessibility commitment, highlight the resources your institution provides, and to keep your website up-to-date with accessibility web standards.

 

Also, it is important to have visible signage about accessibility features visible to the public. In addition to visible signage, it is especially important to train staff to share information about accessibility features and to train staff with disability equality awareness in mind.
There should also be universal options provided for visitors when they come to the museums or institutions. In other words, it is important to integrate accessibility into every museum resource, to make accessibility options available to all users when possible, and to create kits and content for exploring exhibitions and object information in different ways. It is also important to opt for a Universal Design for every individual to be able to use to comprehend the material museums offer.

 

There are ways to have cost effective programs for accessible programming.

 

At the Long Island Museum, for instance, there is an In the Moment program that uses limited resources to educate individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss on the museum’s collections as well as help them with their memories. Each booked program is changed depending on which exhibit a group is interested in seeing. For instance one program would be interested in viewing an exhibit in the Carriage Museum building while another group would be interested in seeing the latest exhibit in the Art Museum building.

 

When the program is booked for inside the Carriage museum, various props representing the parts of a carriage from the collections are shared with participants. By allowing the participants to feel the props they will be able to begin to understand the significance of these items. For instance, they understand how heavy the materials made for the carriage and why these materials have to be the best quality.
In the Art Museum, some participants viewed the Long Island in the Sixties exhibit. Songs from the 1960s were selected and downloaded based on the different parts of the exhibit. They were also able to sit and look at pre-selected displays to view and discuss about. During both experiences, participants were able to bring pictures home of what they saw at the museum to share with loved ones and inspire continued discussion about what they saw during their visits.

 

Both types of In the Moment programs encourage participants to discuss what they see and remember from the past. When asked questions, participants share sometimes personal memories and observations. The purpose of these activities is to inspire them to talk and interact with their surroundings.
As we continue to keep up to date on accessibility standards, we should also be able to appeal to a wider audience through programming accessible for all types of learners.

 

What kinds of accessible programs have you learned about? Are there any methods that your institutions have practiced? What worked and/or what were the lessons learned from those experiences?
Announcement: On my website, I have included more resources especially about how to prepare for natural disasters and museums reactions to Hurricane Harvey. Take a look at https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.wordpress.com/resources/articles-I-am-reading/

What Can We Learn From the DreamSpace Project?

Added to Medium, August 24, 2017

I was reading the Alliance Labs blog posts when I came across one that I found not only interesting but also relevant for museum professionals and other readers alike. It is an example of a blog post that provides information about how to have a better understanding of race and racism. American Alliance of Museum’s Ford W. Bell Fellow in P-12 Education and Museums Sage Morgan-Hubbard has transcribed an interview she had with Alyssa Machida, an Interpretive Specialist at the Detroit Institute of Arts, about the workbook, The DreamSpace Project in the Alliance Labs blog post “Building the Dreamspace in Museum Education”.

What is a Dreamspace? A Dreamspace is a place in the museum where museum educators are able to learn how to provide a safe space for discussion about race and racism.

We need to take the time to acknowledge what is going on in our nation and look deep down into ourselves and in our communities. The Dreamspace project is one of the ways we can do so in the museum field.

According to the blog post on incluseum website called “The Dreamspace Project: A workbook and toolkit for critical praxis in the American art museum Part I”, there is a growing need for tools and resources to guide museum educators in developing more nuanced understandings of race and racism throughout their institutions; in order to do so, Alyssa Machida researched concepts from critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and ethnic studies to integrate with museum education pedagogy.

Machida, as of last year, was working on the Dreamspace workbook which translates theoretical concepts into practical language and frameworks adaptable for art museum professionals with key vocabulary, diagrams and graphic organizers, ideas for building tours, and questions for critical reflection.

The purpose of this workbook is to take educators through a significant amount of content for the purpose of raising critical consciousness. Educators, especially in this day and age, engage us in wide-reaching social forces and dynamics beyond our peripheral vision, and as a result teach us how to become better human beings in the process.

Machida also discussed in the blog post “The Dreamspace Project: A workbook and toolkit for critical praxis in the American art museum Part 2” contextualizing, deconstruction, and decolonization. She explained that in the chapter of the Dreamspace workbook “Contextualizing: Mapping and Navigating Terrains” it introduces the practice of developing critical self-awareness, building knowledge of the many ecologies we inhabit, and expanding understandings of our roles and responsibilities. There are also key points that museums have to keep in mind when establishing critical self-awareness and openness to being challenged within ourselves to see individuals as agents of change.

The key points in mindfulness to keep in mind provide a framework for openness. In the blog post, she stated the first key point is everyone is complicit with racism; in other words, it is everyone’s responsibility to be attuned and counteract deeply ingrained behaviors and biases which will take time. The second key point is don’t let emotion get in the way of critically and consciousness; while learning about racism and systems of oppression is an emotional and painful, it is important to not let emotions take control since we are learning something that is changing our perspectives, and make sure we breathe, stay calm, and keep going. Then the third key point is to bring it up; these conversations are difficult to bring up to colleagues and supervisors but if you have trust and respect speak up since it is an opportunity for learning, teaching, and growth. The fourth key point is listen with your skin; in other words, when the subject of racism is brought up, be ready to put all biases and assumptions aside as well as listen for understanding. In addition, it is important to be open to being challenged and look for multiple ways to be supportive.

Machida’s work has gained a lot of attention in the past few days especially after what had happened in Charlottesville this month. These blog posts about her work were included as resources to look over while reading the Alliance Labs piece by Sage Morgan-Hubbard.

In the interview, Morgan-Hubbard used some of the questions in the Dreamspace toolkit. Some of the questions include: What was one of your first experiences with a museum? What does education mean to you? What is your personal learning style? Do you teach in a way that leans towards your personal learning style? and How do you see your role in society, or in your community?

By learning about Machida’s background in museum education and her work on the Dreamspace project, I am able to think about my own background and know that there are many museum educators that can identify with her answers.

When we understand more about individuals of all backgrounds within our own communities we would be able to provide a safe space for both museum professionals and visitors.

Here are the links to the blogs I referred to:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/building-dreamspace-in-museum-education/
https://incluseum.com/2016/08/11/a-workbook-and-toolkit-for-critical-praxis-in-the-american-art-museum/
https://incluseum.com/2016/10/13/the-dreamspace-project-a-workbook-and-toolkit-for-critical-praxis-in-the-american-art-museum-part-2/
Have you read the Dreamspace workbook? What do you think of the Dreamspace workbook and toolkit?

How Do We Educate Our Students About Charlottesville?

Added to Medium, August 17, 2017

Museum educators continue to prepare for school visits as the new school year approaches. As I was preparing for the upcoming school year, I as well as everyone in this country found out about the white supremacists rally and the attack that occurred on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. It made me sad to learn that this is occurring in our country, and more importantly I thought about the future generations trying to understand how and why this is occurring in our nation. Museums and history organizations made their statements on what has happened in our country and their stand on these tragic events. We, as museum professionals, have this one question in mind: how do we educate our students about what is happening in Charlottesville?

Throughout the museum and education community, I have seen many organizations have spoken about these events. The American Alliance of Museums stated in their newsletter and Twitter account “There is absolutely no place in society for the kind of hatred, racism, and violence that were on display this past weekend, and we offer our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and the community.”

The American Association for State and Local History also released a statement on the events in Charlottesville. They reinforce the importance of this organization, and what it stands for in this nation. AASLH
“abhors not only the violence of the clash in Virginia, initially over a Jim Crow era statue, but the hateful misunderstanding of history, the cruel misuse of the past, and the willful blindness to the historical record by the forces of white nationalism. As the national professional association for individual members, historical societies, history museums, and history sites that preserve and interpret state and local history, the AASLH stands for open discussion, reasoned research and interpretation, reliance on evidence and current scholarship, and the preservation of historical resources.”

Museums are not the only organizations that have made statements about the events in Charlottesville. Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit international educational and professional development organization that engages students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry, released a message as well.

Roger White, President and CEO of Facing History and Ourselves stated in an email sent to newsletter subscribers:
“As educators, our first concern is the millions of young people watching Charlottesville unfold. As we return to classrooms across the United States and the world, we will be called upon to manage difficult conversations about the evil, base bigotry at play. We will need to provide historical and cultural context for the violence, for the references to Nazi language and events, and for the legacy of slavery in the U.S. that underlies the pain we see across the nation today.” Roger White, August 14, 2017.

As I read through these statements, I thought about how we should explain these events to our children and students. It is important to express that we should be accepting of every person within our community. One of the resources I read which I agree with is an article written by CNN’s Jessica Ravitz on the topic of what we should be telling children. According to Jessica Ravitz, we should be proactive, not just reactive; don’t ignore; and empowering kids as well as yourself.

Children should be taught at an early age to appreciate diversity and practice empathy at home, in the classroom, and within their community. Also, it is important for parents, guardians, and teachers to be honest and frank about these events in an age-appropriate way, as well as reassure them they are safe and remind them there is still good in the world. I agree with these tips because we all should be able to make the choice to take a moral stand and do not support hate crimes.

Teachers should be able to encourage students to learn about different cultures and identities in addition to what had happened in our past to understand why we should continue to work at decreasing the hate in our communities and nation.

What should museums do to help educate students about what happened in Charlottesville? Museums need to continue to fulfil their education missions, and inspire people to learn more about the community around them to learn how to appreciate diversity in addition to practicing empathy. According to Paul Orselli’s blog post, “What can museums do to resist?”, now is not the time for museums to be “neutral” or to sit on the sidelines. He has a point that museums should not be neutral because we create a space where people can come together to acknowledge our past and help one another respect and appreciate each individual from all backgrounds through our collections and programming.

Various museum professionals have been vocal about what has happened in our country, and what we should do moving forward. Seema Rao for instance wrote a post for Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2.0 called “How Museums Can Resist Racism and Oppression”. Seema wrote this post in response to a program she participated called MuseumCamp (a summer professional development program at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History) in addition to the news on what happened in Charlottesville. Both Nina Simon and Seema Rao started an open Google Doc to assemble ideas for specific things both museums and museum professionals can do to resist oppression.

Some of the ideas from the Google Doc include staff can share their feelings together; have an open ear for those that need to express their feelings, thoughts, ideas, vent, etc.; raise money for organizations that support inclusion; educate themselves on anti-racist terminology, history, activities, and opportunities; and reach out to colleagues in Charlottesville with unencumbered, unquestioning support.

Also, in the Google Doc, museums could, but not limited to, host conversations for visitors; if open conversations are not possible, then provide open talk-back boards (remember to talk back); model inclusion in their programming, work together in regions to create safe spaces for inclusion; and offer space to local NAACP, BLM, SURJ, and other anti-racist groups for their own events, meetings, and public forums.

There is more than one way we can encourage inclusion and diversity, and practice empathy as we have seen in this blog post. I implore everyone, including everyone who reads my blog, to take action however you can and…be good to one another.

While I was reading social media posts about what happened in Charlottesville, and the statements from organizations including American Alliance of Museums and American Association of State and Local History on what happened in Charlottesville, I came across resources that will help all educators approach this topic with students. Here are the following resources I read and recommend everyone to read and use:
Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/13/the-first-thing-teachers-should-do-when-school-starts-is-talk-about-hatred-in-america-heres-help/?utm_term=.6fc22fdfe36f
NPR: http://www.npr.org/2017/08/14/543390148/resources-for-educators-to-use-the-wake-of-charlottesville
Harvard: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/02/talking-race-controversy-and-trauma
CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/health/talking-to-kids-about-hate/index.html (article referenced in this blog)
Paul Orselli: http://blog.orselli.net/2017/08/what-can-museums-do-to-resist.html?m=1
Museum 2.0: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2017/08/guest-posted-by-seema-rao-how-museums-can.html?m=1

 

What are you and your organizations doing in response to the events in Charlottesville? Do you have ideas on what museums should do?

What I Love the Most About Being a Museum Educator

Also posted on Medium, August 10, 2017.

As the school year approaches, I reflect on my experiences as a museum educator from previous museums in addition to the museum I am working with now. My career in museum education so far has been a rewarding field not only because I am surrounded my interesting material but I have the opportunity to translate that knowledge to audiences of wide age ranges. I have been recently asked by one of the parents I was talking with at the Maritime Explorium the following question: What do you love the most about being a museum educator?

When I told her my answer, I kept thinking about my experiences so far as a museum educator and thought I would share some of them here.

All of my experiences have included everything I love about being a museum educator including:
1. Interacting with kids: I love hearing from them about what they learned as well as what they can teach me. When I talk with them, I can see in their expressions how much they enjoy what they are hearing and doing. Also, I love that I have the opportunity to reach out to various age groups rather than only one age group.

2. Bringing their lessons to life: I enjoy being able to show them how the lessons they learned in the classroom can be applied outside the classroom. One of my favorite ways is being able to dress in costume to portray an individual from a time period to show how this person lived back then.

And

3. Leaving an impression: I also feel that if I hear kids say “I want to come back here again” or “I don’t wanna go” I know that I have done a great job showing them how fun and informative visiting the museums can be.

To explain the examples of what I love about being a museum educator, I would start with my most recent experiences then share some details from my previous experiences.

At the Maritime Explorium, I assisted in teaching a couple of library workshops at the local library for young kids and for third grade students. Young kids learned about archeology by digging through small sandboxes finding treasure. The second workshop was learning about how bridges are built and how they are supported. I love seeing the look on the kids’ faces when they learned something new and when they are enjoying the time they spent on these projects.

I also teach different activities during Maritime Explorium’s public hours. One of the summer activities I taught was making balloons into various items and making balloon rockets. While I was teaching these activities, I also was showing one girl how to work on other projects including how to turn a light bulb on only using a battery. After teaching her the activities and projects through the constructivist approach, she decided to go back to the balloon station to make stress balls using balloons and rice from the rice boats. To thank me, she gave one of them to me as a thank you for helping her. This was one of my top moments that made me love what I do as a museum educator.

I look back on each of my experiences, and I think about how many students I have had a similar impact I have had at Maritime Explorium.

My love for being a museum educator began during my summer internship at Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford. I had the internship while I was at graduate school in Central Connecticut State University. I was able to get an internship at the Old State House after I interviewed Rebecca Tabor-Conover, Public Programs Coordinator, for my Introduction to Public History course.

On my first day of my internship, I assisted with a group of 140 elementary school students from kindergarten to second grade. One of the activities I worked with the students on was the I Spy program. In I Spy, the kids created and designed their own spy glass using paper towel tubes and designed them using whatever materials they could use such as markers, color construction paper, and stickers. Once they were completed, the kids walked around the Old State House and used their spy glasses to “spy” what they see in the museum.

I enjoyed seeing the look on their faces when they saw so many things they have never seen before and not expected to see in the museum. For instance, there was a recreated Museum of Curiosities inside one of the rooms on the second floor of the Old State House that featured a two-headed calf. Then they also pointed out various things they noticed including the tall original Lady Justice statue which used to sit on top of the Old State House.

While I was in graduate school, I became a museum teacher at the Stanley-Whitman House. I taught school programs between kindergarten and fifth grade, and these programs taught them about 18th century American history as well as Farmington history. What I enjoyed the most was seeing the students’ faces, especially the kindergarten students, when they arrive at the museum as well as while they explored the house with me. As a museum teacher, I dressed in costume to portray an 18th century woman that will explain through object-based and inquiry-based methods.

I also joined Connecticut Landmarks’ Hartford properties, Butler-McCook House and Isham-Terry House, to provide public tours and teach public programming. One of my favorite memories of working with kids was during First Night Hartford programs. The most recent one I had worked on included a craft activity in which kids made samurai helmets using gift wrapping paper and string to wear during the New Year’s Eve parade in downtown Hartford. I also enjoyed seeing the look on their faces when they saw the real samurai helmets that are in the Butler-McCook House’s collections; they thought it was so cool to see those helmets, and it is one of the unique features of the Butler-McCook House.

After I graduated from graduate school, I joined the Noah Webster House as a museum educator teaching students about West Hartford history, Noah Webster, and 18th century American history. Like while I was at the Stanley-Whitman House, I also dressed in costume to bring history to life. Depending on the program, I either simply dressed in costume and taught students through object based as well as inquiry-based methods, or I portrayed a woman who lived in West Hartford (or West Division as it was known back then) during the 18th century named Deborah Moore Kellogg who took control of her property after her husband died in a farming accident. When the program called for students to pretend to be individuals from 18th century West Division, I portrayed Deborah Moore Kellogg while we worked on chores such as cooking recipes in the kitchen and carding wool. I demonstrated cooking over a hearth, and the students love not only preparing the recipes but they also love watching me put the pots and pans over the fire to cook the recipes.

Once I moved on to the Long Island Museum, I occasionally dressed in costume to demonstrate life on 19th century Long Island. I wore a costume to dress as a schoolmarm, a teacher who taught lessons including reading, writing, and arithmetic in one-room schoolhouses. Every time I demonstrated lessons for the students, they were very excited about not only for writing the lessons on slate boards (small chalk boards) but also for 19th century games children back then played.

As I continue my career in museum education, I hope to continue inspiring students to not only learn about the materials the museums have but also to return to the museum to continue to play and learn. I leave these questions for you all to ponder:

What do you enjoy the most about your career? Do you have favorite stories from your museums/organizations?

 

How Museum Can Gain Visitors’ Attention through Educational Programming: Homeschool and Other Non-Traditional Programming

Added to Medium, August 3, 2017

Museum educators prepare for the upcoming school year by not only preparing for school programs but also non-traditional education programs such as homeschool days and scout programs. As museum professionals, we recognize there are various groups interested in educational programming museums have to offer. Museums, however, need to continue to expand its offerings and spread the word to those groups to remain relevant for all visitors.
I have had some experience in education programs for non-traditional groups. It is without a doubt a different experience from school programs. At the same time, what all of these programs have in common were the ability to educate and engage students with the materials offered by museums.

Homeschool programming in museums vary depending on what museums offer to their visitors. For instance, my first experience educating homeschool groups was at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society. There was one homeschool group that came to Noah Webster House, and the students participated in an educational program that was adjusted to accommodate the small homeschool group in one of the pre-existing school programs.

I later experienced working with homeschool students in Long Island Museum’s Homeschool Day program. In May of 2016, there was a Homeschool Day planned in collaboration with the Smithtown Historical Society. Individuals participating in the program were able to visit both places in the same day or choose which place to visit for Homeschool Day. The families signed up with either organization, and they made the decision on whether to visit both places or one of the places. At the Long Island Museum, homeschool students and their families participated in a couple of interactive activities in addition to touring the Museum’s campus. They learned about parts of a 19th century stagecoach, experienced what it was like to attend school in a one-room schoolhouse during the 19th century, and visited the Samuel West’s blacksmith shop. Meanwhile at the Smithtown Historical Society, those who visited the place visited the historic structures and learned how to write with scratch pens (later version of the quill pen).

Many museums created programs that appeal to homeschool students and the majority of these programs helped homeschool students as well as their teachers network with each other. During my research on homeschool programming, I discovered a number of museums that have different programs that welcomed homeschool students and families to their museums. For instance, the New York Historical Society developed the Homeschool Academy which is designed to supplement their curriculum with engaging lessons in their classrooms, studios, and galleries. Also, the Museum of Play had programs geared towards homeschool students.

The Museum of Play in Rochester, New York offer various opportunities and programs for homeschool students to engage with the interactive exhibit spaces. While homeschool students and their families can participate in the Museum’s homeschool activities and lessons aligned with state and national standards, they also have the option to register for school group lessons that can be adapted for homeschool students’ needs.

There are other places that participate in their own versions of Homeschool Day. For instance, the Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air, and Space has Homeschool Days that feature talks and discussions geared towards appropriate age ranges and abilities. Also, there are activities that include an educator-led tour of the Museum as well as a chance to explore various topics through our historic artifacts, photographs and demonstrations. Homeschool students and their families also have time to travel the museum on their own, and can participate in a self-guided scavenger hunt. In addition to the Homeschool Days, homeschool groups of 10 or more students are also invited to take part in the Museum’s K–12 school programs.

Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, New York also has Homeschool Days that include activities such as guided tours and scavenger hunts. Also, when they bring 25 or more students, homeschool families can explore the Museum’s galleries, see a Giant Screen film, and Planetarium Show in addition to attending museum classes. They are welcome to register for any of the museum classes; and the educator-led programs include active discussion, fun visuals, hands-on demonstrations and other related activities.

I also did some research on homeschool programs in Connecticut museums since the beginning of my career in museum education began in this state. One of the examples I found was the Children’s Museum in West Hartford where it has a program known as the Homeschool Series. The Series offers various days in February, March, April, and May which they are able to participate in programs related to science and nature. This museum offers programs that encourage families to engage in hands-on science instruction, inquiry-based learning activities, and cooperative learning opportunities.

The New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut has Homeschool Days that take place on second Mondays of every month between October and June. According to their site, each month features a different artistic element or medium, historical period, or special exhibit, using the galleries as the classroom. Homeschool students participate in inquiry-based learning and flex visual literacy skills with in-depth discussions of works of art, and sessions end with studio workshops that allow them to delve into the creative process.

Mystic Seaport also has Homeschool programs students and families can engage in during their visit. Their homeschool programs are a series of hands-on learning programs designed specifically for homeschoolers ages 4-13, adjusted for each age; each day of the program concentrated on one theme. Also, Mystic Seaport has Homecoming Community Sailing in which students practice boat handling and become familiar with the basics of water safety and wind.

Connecticut Historical Society has Homeschool Days, or events that give families the opportunity to enjoy engaging, educational workshops, tour our galleries, and connect with other homeschool families. There are short workshops on a variety of topics that are taught throughout the day; two Homeschool Days are scheduled at different parts of the year.

There are many museums and organizations that offer homeschool days and programming. While there are some differences, depending on what the museums’ offer, one of the things they have in common are how they offer interactive events that encourage participation in hands-on activities. These activities not only help homeschool students and families connect with each other but also assist with supplementing their education standards.

In addition to homeschool programs, there are other groups and programs that also encourage connecting with other people and engaging with the materials museums offer. Scout groups, for instance, are also drawn to visiting museums for their educational programs.

Boys and Girls Scout programs encourage them to be active members in their communities and part of these programs inspire them to earn badges that showed they accomplished a task and/or skill to move up a level in the program. Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and the Long Island Museum, for instance, have programs that are adjusted to meet the these organizations standards not only to allow participants to enjoy their visit but also earn the badges they needed for their programs.

Another example of other programming is family programs that connect them with other families and engage them with the hands-on activities. For instance, while I was at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, I worked during a program called Bookworm Adventures with storytelling as well as crafts and other hands-on activities. The particular theme I worked during was Dr. Seuss, and I assisted young children make green eggs of green eggs and ham using marshmallows and green covered chocolates. Meanwhile, the kids pinned a tail on the Cat in the Hat, played with toys, listened to Dr. Seuss’ stories, and made other crafts.

Museums have so many programs and resources to offer. By extending them to groups including homeschool students and scouts, we reach out to audiences that will have another place to interact with other people and take advantage of what we have to offer in educational programming.

What other museums or organizations have similar programs I discussed? Has your organization considered expanding programs like homeschool programs if it does not have a program already? If your organization has similar programming, please share the accomplishments and challenges your museum or organization accomplished.

To learn more about the programs I mentioned in this post, check these out:
http://www.nyhistory.org/education/homeschool
http://www.museumofplay.org/education/homeschool-students
https://www.intrepidmuseum.org/homeschool-days
http://www.cradleofaviation.org/education/homeschool.html
http://www.thechildrensmuseumct.org/programs/homeschool-programs/
http://www.nbmaa.org/classroom/11
https://www.mysticseaport.org/learn/k-12-programs/homeschool/
https://chs.org/education/home-school-day/

 

Day at the Museum: Field Trips for Kids and Museum Educators

Added to Medium, July 27, 2017

Before we know it, it will be time for kids to return to school. The highlight of the majority of the students’ school year is the field trip or two. Both kids and museum educators look forward to these field trips for different reasons. Kids enjoy time away from the classroom to play and to, ultimately, learn. Museum educators look forward to interacting with the students to show them ways to bring the material they learn to life, and to assist teachers in teaching the material the students learn in the classroom. To successfully fulfil our institutions’ missions as well as our schools’ expectations, we learn about what the teachers’ standards are for in the classroom they make sure to follow to help their students fulfil the requirements. By seeing how field trips effect kids and museum educators, we can understand how field trips are appealing and continue to be appealing for years to come.

Museum educators go through a number of steps in preparing for students and teachers’ visiting the institutions. Throughout the year, museum educators attend professional development programs when there are opportunities to do so. Museum educators from various institutions gather together to learn about methods that work in educating school groups. Also, museum educators use a number of resources to learn about what teachers need to know about education standards including Common Core Standards.

Teachers plan their school field trips during the summer for their students in the upcoming year. As museum educators, we prepare for school visits by promoting school programs to teachers with flyers so the teachers know what programs are offered. While at the Long Island Museum, for instance, I assisted in keeping a list of teachers in each school district up to date which is continually updated each school year. Then I use the labeling machine to put the address labels on the school program brochures. Once the school program brochures are distributed, teachers interested in booking programs call to schedule field trips for their students to participate in. After the programs are booked, the supplies are prepared to make sure there is enough for each type of program booked.

Once the preparations are made museum educators wait for the school groups to arrive and then guide the groups through the program once they arrive. There are many things for museum educators to consider when gearing their school programs towards the students and chaperones.

Museum educators can learn a lot about what field trips are like from the other side. Tara Young’s Alliance Labs article “Museum Fieldtrips From the Other Side” went into detail about what it is like as a museum professional to be a participant in the field trip experience. She shared takeaways from a field trip to Lexington and Concord she participated in as a chaperone. Young pointed out in her article a number of takeaways from her experience as a chaperone that museum educators should keep in mind when planning school programs including kids need guidance in making connections, the experience is about so much more than the content, a schedule is just a suggestion, and the skill of the interpreter(or interpreters) makes or breaks the whole experience.

As museum educators, we understand that when we teach school programs there has to be at least some flexibility to make sure that students not only have a positive experience but be able to learn as much as we can teach them. Also, when we treat our schedule as a guideline rather than the rule we are able to be prepared for whatever comes including but not limited to when school groups arrive late and have to leave the museum by a certain time, and technical difficulties. The flexible schedule also allows the students to have a special takeaway from the experience rather than focusing on the school program schedule. By attending professional development programs and training sessions, we would be able to be better interpreters to guide students in the interactive programs we teach.

Young also stressed that it is important to address the physiological needs of the students visiting museums such as water breaks when it is hot outside especially when the majority of the visit is outside . Museum educators need to allow time and space for teachers as well as parents to address those needs, which leads to the whole group being better able to focus on the trip’s curricular goals.

These takeaways are important because to understand the lessons our programs teach the kids need to interact with the material in a way that makes them active participants in their education.

Another way to be able to provide a memorable experience for students attending field trips is to think about your own experience attending field trips when you were a student. For instance, I thought about all of the museums and sites I visited as a kid and what I remember the most about each of these experiences is being able to interact with the activities as well as to be educated. As a museum educator today, I remember my inner student and translate that experience into my own teaching methods.

What do you remember about your own field trip experiences? Has it effected the way you educated school groups that visit your museum or institution? Is there an example of a day that showed how much impact your programs had on the students visiting?

To read Tara Young’s original article, click here: http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/museum-fieldtrips-from-the-other-side/

Is Children’s Play Declining? What are Museums Doing to Encourage Playtime

Added on Medium, July 20, 2017

When I was on Twitter this week, I came across a tweet from Sage Museum Ed, the American Alliance of Museums’ Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Ed. She tweeted an article that came to my attention from Huffington Post called “Children’s Play is Declining, But We Can Help Reclaim It”, written by Huffington Post contributor Merete L. Kropp who is a child development and family specialist. Kropp shared data that showed how play has been decreasing over the years. According to the data she shared, between 1981and 1992 there was a 25 percent decrease in children’s time spent playing even though experts in child development have stressed the importance of playing. Playtime has continually decreased over the past 25 years as the article claimed.

Kropp discussed the number of possibilities that contribute to the decline in play and how to encourage children to dedicate their time to play. A few of the examples she briefly discussed about the contributions to decline in play include overly structured schedules, too many extracurricular activities, decreased recess time in school, and increased time in front of a screen. While children find ways to play, they play in small amounts of time in between activities and waiting for their parents or guardians to spend time with them when the adults are occupied with other tasks such as meal prep time and talking on the phone. Then Kropp shared how children should be encouraged to have their playtime with a couple of points including scheduling unstructured time for children to be bored and entertain themselves, providing simple toys with multiple purposes that give opportunities for creativity and problem solving, and following children’s lead during playtime and allow them to negotiate and communicate on their own terms.

This article made me think about how museums have been providing many options for children to engage and play not only during school programs but also during the summer. Museums, especially in the museums I have worked for, can engage children in providing outlets for them to be creative and the desired time to express their creativity. Also, museums have the ability to provide time children can dedicate to, as Kropp pointed out, “participate in complex scientific discovery as they hypothesize, experiment and make generalizations about the world and how it works”.

Museums I work for currently and those that I have worked for have various activities and programs that allow children to express their curiosity as well as their creativity.

The Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, for instance, has various projects and activities that encourage children’s creativity and playtime. Inside the Explorium, there is a bailing boat, or a boat that removes water from the boat, filled with rice where kids can play inside the boat. Kids are encouraged to play with the rice by figuring out how many cups of rice could fill a bucket, how many spoonful of rice can fill a bucket, and which size funnel would the rice come out the fastest. They not only entertain themselves using the rice but they also learn about measuring in the playing process.

Children in the rice boat also have the time to use their imaginations, and create their own play world. With the rice boat, there are toys including sea creatures in addition to white pipes, funnels, buckets, shovels, plastic cups, bowls, and spoons. They use these toys and tools to create endless possibilities for the world and games they create. For instance, one girl pretended she owned her own restaurant and served various dishes using the rice as her creations. Another example of unique possibilities was when a girl today pretended she was able to create a roof using the white pipes.

Also today, a brother and a sister walked in and created two different ways of play. The brother took the pipes and created a maze that would send the rice through on the other end of the pipes. Meanwhile, his sister used the bowels of rice to feed four toy sea turtles and an octopus, and then used two buckets to create their homes (she buried each of the toys in the rice, and pretended to create rooms for these houses). The rice boat is not the only place in the Maritime Explorium where children can have the opportunity to be creative and play.

In addition to working on activities such as puzzles, Legos, drawings, and learning how to turn on a light bulb only using a battery, there is another activity children can create projects however they wanted with limited instructions. Located in the front center of the Maritime Explorium, especially during the summer, there is a project children can work on that changes each week to give them a chance to create something new to take home.

Some of the projects the kids worked on were bug houses, building with paper towel and toilet paper tubes, and seascapes. Bug houses are places where bugs are attracted to and use for shelter outside made out of twigs. Seascapes are dioramas of views of the sea, and were made with either cardboard, Styrofoam cup holders, or paper with the option of adding sand onto their projects; they also have the option of creating their favorite sea creatures to add to their seascapes. Each of these projects had additional tools and materials such as scissors, tape, glue sticks, paper, ribbons, markers, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks children can use to make their projects unique and creative.

There are endless possibilities, especially for their building with paper towel and toilet paper tubes projects, for children to make their projects their own unique projects. For instance, one of the girls participating in the building with tubes project, using the tools and materials available, created her own robot.

Since the Maritime Explorium believes in the constructivist theory, museum educators like myself give few instructions on how they are made in order for children to not only do their projects by themselves but they develop their own problem solving skills and express their creative energies. As long as the building is open during public hours, the activities introduced at the Maritime Explorium provide opportunities for children to increase their playtime which coincidently are also encouraged in Kropp’s article.

Another example of a museum that I worked for and that also provide ways for kids to spend time playing is the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society in Connecticut. Noah Webster House offers a number of summer camp sessions to allow kids to not only learn more about 18th century America but they also have opportunities to express their creativity.

The summer camp at Noah Webster House in partnership with Westmoor Park, called Colonial Kids’ Adventures, I taught before coming to Long Island allowed children to learn, be creative, and play. Kids have time to learn about 18th century life by performing the tasks individuals living in the time period would have completed such as laundry and mixing recipes to be cooked over a hearth, as well as creating crafts related to the time period including corn husk dolls. They also have time during the day to go outside and play with 18th century toys including ball in cup, stilts, and hoops. I also not only supervised play with the toys but also games that the children decided to play.

When the summer camp children visited Westmoor Park, they participated in outdoor activities that not only allowed them to learn but to play as well. Children learn about outdoor chores on the farm by participating in activities that assist in taking care of the animals including cleaning out stalls. Also, they participated in nature walks throughout the park. Then they played games during lunch breaks and after craft activities. Throughout the program, the children work on their skits which allowed them to express their creativity.

The only rules the children had in creating their skits were they had to be set in the colonial period and reflect what they saw and or learned during the camp. Also, the children were divided into groups based on the assigned family names of people who lived during that period. I assisted them by answering questions they have such as what props and costumes they would need to use for their skits. They created their own dialogue in their stories, and one of the stories I remember was a day in the life of a family traveling through town, visiting neighbors, and eating together at the table. At the end of the program, they performed their skits for their friends and families. Summer camps were not the only way children could have playtime at Noah Webster House.

During public hours and programming, there is a space in the museum that allows children to express their imaginations and creativity. In the lean-to of the 18th century house, there is a space that has a small hearth, cookware, toy food, and silverware that allowed children to pretend to cook and role play stories they come up with. Also, in the rooms off of the lean-to, there is a buttery that stores pretend food the children can use for their playtime and there is another room with a Noah Webster farm set they can play with as well as a sandbox with treasures inside to allow children to find them as if they were archeologists. There are also programs that are geared toward young children that allow playtime and creativity.

Bookworm Adventures, for children between three and six years old and the theme for each program changes each time it is held, promote reading as well as playtime. During the Dr. Seuss themed program I taught, the kids not only listened to Dr. Seuss stories read out loud but they also played with toys, drew and colored pictures, and made crafts. I assisted kids make a sweet version of green eggs and ham using green covered chocolates and marshmallows.

Based on my experience in the museum education field and what I have read in Kropp’s article, I noticed that children not only have a number of things to do in the day but they do need to find more time to play. While the museums I worked for provide opportunities to play, sometimes they are restricted to how long the museums are open and when their adults need to go on to the next thing in their schedules whether it is for kids to attend places such as lessons and/or sports or their adults need to run errands. There are other times that the families also planned other activities to spend more time together. We need to learn to make sure that children can have more time on their own to play, imagine, create, and learn so that way they will be able to understand the communities and society around them more. Museums provide these outlets for children, and should be taken advantage of when the opportunities arise.

How do you feel about children’s playtime? Do you feel that playtime has increased or decreased in recent years? What programs do your museums or organizations offer to allow playtime or time to express their creativity?

To read the article I referenced to, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/childrens-play-is-declining-but-we-can-help-reclaim_us_5935c726e4b0c670a3ce6778?platform=hootsuite

Reaction to Museum Magazine: Engaging Visitors

Added to Medium, July 13, 2017

I decided for this week I am react to something different than I have reacted to in the past. As an American Alliance of Museums member, I receive regular subscriptions to Museum magazine published by AAM, and I thought I would give you my thoughts on the most recent edition of the magazine. The July/August edition of Museum magazine compiled many articles about engaging visitors in the museum. In addition to my thoughts on the Museum magazine, I am also going to briefly talk about other resources I have read on visitor engagement as well as my experience on engaging visitors to the museums I have worked for.

This edition of Museum magazine has the regular pieces from the departments. In the beginning of the magazine, a letter from the President and CEO Laura L. Lott discusses what is in this issue and additional information available to AAM members to sharpen the institutions’ focus on audience engagement through professional networks such as the Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE) and the Public Relations and Marketing Network (PRAM). There is a “By the Numbers” section that shares brief statistics of how museums impact the nation; this edition focuses on visitor statistics for museums. One of the statistics shared in the magazine was in 2016 forty-eight percent of those who participated in the U.S. leisure attraction visitors survey, published in the Voice of the Visitor: 2017 Annual Outlook on the Attractions Industry, visited museums. The magazine also shared what is new going on at AAM’s member museums, an article providing information about creating collaborative community-based programming, and an article on museum educators sharing ideas with Chinese counterparts as part of the strategic plan to connect U.S. museums with international organizations.

After the regular pieces, Museum has five features related to the magazine’s main topic.

Greg Stevens wrote about the 25th anniversary of AAM’s 1992 publication Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension of Museums called “Excellence and Equity at 25: Then, Now, Next” which includes an interview with the individuals who wrote the original publication discussing the document then, how it has changed to reflect what is happening in the museum now, and what they think the document will be used in the future. Everyone who was interviewed for the article agreed that the effort to address diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (referred to as DEAI in the article) in the museum field is still ongoing especially since as one of the contributors put it there will never be an endpoint where they will sit back and congratulate themselves on finally being inclusive. I thought that this last point shows there is always room to improve our inclusive programming in museums.

Another article is “Converting Family into Fans”, written by Bob Harlow and Cindy Cox Roman, which is about how the Contemporary Jewish Museum changed its focus and increased visitation to this museum. Their article shared various strategies they had used when they put together strategy and tasks including designing major exhibitions designed to attract families and new programs and a welcoming environment, reduce financial barriers, and develop community partnerships. Since I began my career as a museum educator, and when I started working at the Maritime Explorium, I have seen different ways of engaging families with museum programs and activities. I have participated in engaging families during programs such as family concerts, First Night Hartford, Family Fun Day, and the Mini Maker Faire. These programs have taught me how engaging families with museums are beneficial for not only museums but for families looking for ways to spend time together.

Sara Lowenburg, Marissa Clark, and Greg Owen discuss creating programs uniquely suited to build confidence, comfort, and community for veterans in the third article called “Serving Those Who Served: Engaging Veterans at Museums”. The article includes case studies from the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington on how their programming attracts veterans. Lowenburg, Clark, and Owen proved in the article that veterans can benefit from programs and activities museums can offer.

The article “Think of a Time When You Didn’t Feel Welcome”, written by Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, Michael Lesperance, and Renae Youngs, discuss how museums can align and apply the LGBTQ Welcoming Guidelines in their internal and external museum operations. I appreciate that this article is included in this edition since our mission for visitor-centered museums is to allow all visitors to not only engage with the museum programs and exhibits but to make sure all visitors are able to express themselves as well as feel comfortable within the museum while participating in its programming and interacting with the exhibits. It makes me sad that at different points people did not feel welcome in the museum, and by using the guidelines Lesperance and Youngs discuss in their article this shows that we are making sure that all visitors and staff members can feel they have a space to go to no matter what sexual orientation and gender they identify as.

The last feature “A Visitors’ Perspective on Visitor Engagement” by Max A. van Balgooy discussed how understanding visitors’ needs will greatly inform museums work in visitor engagement. I appreciate that this article was included in this edition because to understand what the visitors want we should learn from the visitors themselves.

Visitor engagement as a topic is not new but it is worth discussing because our audiences wants and needs change as the community and nation values change. I have discussed this topic previously with my book review on the Visitor-Centered Museum by Peter Samis and Mimi Michaelson that introduces various methods of creating visitor centered programs (the link to the original blog post can be found here: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/visitor-centered-museums-how-we-can-appeal-to-our-audiences-6a5ebc33853). MuseumNext, an organization that joins museums from across the world together to discuss what happens next for the museum field, posted a brief article on their website called “Visitor Centered Museums in Practice and its Future” covering a discussion Lath Carlson and Seema Rao (MuseumNextUSA speakers with 30 years’ experience in the museum field) had about what museums are doing now to be more visitor-centered and what directions the visitor-centered museums may be like going forward. The discussion can be found here: https://www.museumnext.com/2017/07/visitor-centered-museums-practice-future/. We continue to work towards an improved visitor experience for all visitors who come to our museums.

Have you read this edition of Museum? If you have, what are your thoughts? For those who have visited museums, whether you work for one or not, can you describe your experiences at the most recent museum you have visited? What did you take away from those experiences?