Preserving COVID-19 History: An Important Museum-Community Partnership

April 23, 2020

We are already seeing how we are affected by this pandemic, and museums as well as historical societies are reaching out to the community to contribute photos, videos, stories, et cetera about their experience in quarantine. While it is not appropriate for museums to collect equipment that are needed now to help those with the virus, all of us are wondering what the future will be like once the pandemic is over and should understand that one day this will become a part of our global historical narrative. Museum professionals and historians especially know that the more we preserve from this time the more people in the future will understand the how and why the pandemic occurred. Historians researched and museum professionals developed exhibits on the epidemic that occurred in 1918 (also known as the Spanish flu) to help readers and visitors comprehend the impact it had on the world. This will most likely happen to help future generations understand the impact of the coronavirus and learn the lessons we are learning now to help move modern medicine forward. In the meantime, we will figure out how we will get through the pandemic, and how to express our emotions with and support one another.

Our healing as a community, state, country, and as a global community could begin by learning from what we experienced, talking with one another, and preserving our memories for future generations to learn about these experiences. One of the ways we can figure out how people in the world are affected by being in quarantine, limiting physical contact with others, and traveling for only essentials is to develop the relationship between museums and the community further so we would be able to preserve these memories.

It is hard to think about this pandemic in the historical context perspective while we all are still emotionally, mentally, and physically involved. The important thing in maintaining a museum-community partnership is to learn what the community needs during this time, and to provide resources and activities to help individuals cope with changes in our society caused by the pandemic. When we keep communication open between our community and our institutions, virtual visitors are able to continue to trust museums to be the safe space to express concerns they have on current events. The more visitors trust museums to help them through the tough times, the more likely they are to share with museums and historical societies that decided to preserve community memories of their pandemic experiences.

We are seeing historical societies contacting their communities to encourage them to share what they are doing in their quarantines. The Connecticut Historical Society, located in Hartford, Connecticut, released a message through their member contact lists and social media outlets asking them to reach out to their staff with photos to preserve this part of Connecticut history. Another example is the Rhode Island Historical Society which shared its call for stories on social media. On their Twitter page, the Rhode Island Historical Society stated

Help make history by contributing to the new online Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive. This is a collaboration of RIHS and Providence Public Library. Stay safe! As the song goes, Rhode Island is Famous for You.

http://ricovidarchive.org

1:40 PM · Apr 16, 2020

RIHS reach out to virtual visitors with a survey to make sure they produce content the audience would benefit from. Also, they created a website that offers a space to contribute to the online collections and to browse through the collections individuals already contributed. There is also a section on the website that provided individuals with a guide to personal archiving, and it gives advice for individuals on how to back up as well as share their records.

The next example is the Three Village Historical Society in East Setauket, New York. In a Facebook post, they asked

Please consider sharing your thoughts and experiences, for the archives, as we learn how to get through each day in our new normal. Most importantly, stay paused and stay healthy.

April 17 at 10:48 AM

The post also stated that community members in the Three Village district should send an email to submit their story, video, or image. In addition to sharing on social media, they released a blog post describing the importance of preserving this history to remember the anniversary of the town’s founding 365 years ago. According to the Town of Brookhaven Historian Barbara Russell,

This worldwide pandemic becomes part of our local history as it affects our residents as well as those across the globe. Historians in New York State have been asked to record this event in their local municipalities, so I ask you all in the days, weeks and months ahead to share your experiences with me. You can write, video, create visual art, even clip your local newspaper articles. Let your neighbors and family and friends know they are welcome to contribute. Let us turn our town’s anniversary into an opportunity to record an unprecedented moment of time for future generations to know and understand.

Russell stressed the importance of community through these difficult and unprecedented times, and to encourage the community to become involved in preserving their history.

Do you know a museum or a historical society that is asking about preserving pandemic experiences? Let me know in the comments.

As always, stay safe out there and be good to one another.

Links to Resources and Additional Examples:

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/83093-public-libraries-after-the-pandemic.html

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/

https://aaslh.org/museums-and-victory-gardens/

http://ricovidarchive.org

https://www.tvhs.org/blog

www.chs.org

www.rihs.org

What Kind of Learning Are We Doing? The State of our Education during the Pandemic

April 16, 2020

After last week’s American Association for State and Local History’s Conversation series on Empathetic Audience Engagement During a Crisis which focused on how museums should be addressing the needs of and helping the members in the community, I decided to take a look at what is happening with education outside of the museum field. I wanted to see what education experts are discussing and sharing with the public on addressing learning during this pandemic, and to see what else museums are doing as well as what museums could do for our communities. The following is some information I have been gathering on the current state of our education system.

Our educational system was especially affected by the pandemic when the school buildings closed for the rest of the school year, and left students, parents, and teachers with the task of attempting to continue education from their homes. Museum professionals do what they can to reach out to the community with resources on coping with the stress, anxiety, and many emotions we are feeling while living in a pandemic; they also provide education programs for varying audiences including students, teachers, and families. We have seen varying types of museum programs and activities released on their websites and social media platforms. We are also seeing reactions to and a lot of discussion about the current state of our education system.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution released an opinion piece earlier this month that was guest written by two University of Georgia professors in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, Stephanie Jones and Hilary Hughes. Hughes and Jones discussed in Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning or online schooling on how learning has changed during this pandemic and that it is different from the learning mediums we are used to under normal circumstances. They made these points in their piece:

So, let’s call this what it is: Covid-19 Schooling; or better yet, Teaching and Learning in Covid-19. What we’re doing today is teaching and learning to be in Covid-19.

This is not business as usual and it is unethical to act as if it could be. No one can (or should) expect the Covid-19 schooling happening at home to be anything close to usual, and perhaps this moment is providing all of us a chance to do something different: learn to be.

We continue to figure out each day how to proceed teaching and learning while we are facing this pandemic. It is most likely hard at first to figure out a new routine for education especially for parents and guardians who are suddenly have to deal with finding ways to educate their children; for students who have to adjust to not being able to interact with their peers and teachers as they are used to; and for educators who have to figure out quickly how to transition their lessons into an online format.

Hughes and Jones’ article was included in a reading list from a recorded podcast on WBUR-FM (Boston’s NPR News Station)’s website. They were also guests on the podcast with Luvelle Brown (superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in New York) and Henry Bucher (7th Grader at Deerpark Middle School in Austin, Texas) whose school district moved asynchronous learning via Google Classroom. All of the guest speakers on the podcast episode called COVID-19 Learning: How Parents, Teachers And Professors Are Adapting Their Approach To Education shared their insights on what is happening with education during the crisis and how they are coping with the transitions. They also stressed that what is important right now for education is for students to learn how to be, and this is an opportunity to take a moment to learn how to live in this new reality. The reading list also includes advice from a homeschool teacher and an article from the Washington Post about education leaders conclusions on the effect the crisis has on children’s learning.

The NWEA, a research-based, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency as well as providing insights to help tailor instruction, released possible outcomes of the coronavirus closures in article on their site (their information can be found in the resources list below). They pointed out some cautions while sharing the projections:

While the COVID-19 school closures have some characteristics in common with a summer break, many school systems and families across the country are implementing various online curriculum, instruction, and progress monitoring resources to offset the disruption. However, trauma, joblessness, and an increase in the number of families facing food insecurity, homelessness, domestic violence, and even the illness or death of a loved one could make academic projections even bleaker for our most vulnerable populations.

We need to remember that the families and educators are going through a lot in their personal lives while trying to figure out how to keep education going during this pandemic, and find a way to support them not just by promoting educational opportunities. The authors of the article continued by sharing what must be done to start supporting educators and families during this time:

Policymakers and the education community should further their work to provide support, especially in math, to students while school is disrupted.

Educators will need data now more than ever to guide curriculum and instruction to support students.

Researchers, policymakers, and schools should work together to understand potential policies and practices for recovery.

In the meantime, we should connect with our communities more than we previously have in the museum field to learn what they need from us.

There are a number of places that are contributing to provide assistance to help parents, guardians, students, and educators through this unpredictable time. For example, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center shared an online Care Package which is a collection of creative offerings by artists, writers, and scholars who they have collaborated with in recent years. The care package includes varying approaches to addressing uncertainty, anxiety, and grief through vision, reflection, and healing. Also, Google provided a hub of information and tools for teachers to help them during the crisis to help make teaching online easier.

As museum professionals, we should remember to take care of the human needs of our audiences as well as provide virtual education resources. Stay safe out there, and remember to be good to one another.

Links:

Opinion: This is not home schooling, distance learning or online schooling: https://www.ajc.com/blog/get-schooled/opinion-this-not-home-schooling-distance-learning-online-schooling/b9rNnK77eyVLhsRMhaqZwL/

AASLH Conversations: Empathetic Audience Engagement During a Crisis: https://learn.aaslh.org/products/recorded-webinar-aaslh-conversations-empathetic-audience-engagement-during-a-crisis

COVID-19 Learning: How Parents, Teachers And Professors Are Adapting Their Approach To Education: https://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2020/04/15/covid-19-learning

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Care Package: https://smithsonianapa.org/care/

Google’s Teach from Home: https://teachfromhome.google/intl/en/

 

Virtual Museum Impressions: Mount Vernon

April 9, 2020

While I was sharing previous blog posts about my impressions of museums I visited, I thought about the museums I have not visited in the past and decided to make a virtual trip to one of them. I remember as a child I visited Monticello, the home of the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson. My family and I were not able to visit Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington the first president of the United States, while we were in Virginia. Therefore, I decided to virtually visit Mount Vernon and its grounds for today’s blog post. My whole visit was overwhelmingly impressive, and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association’s efforts have proven its significance in our nation’s history will never be overlooked.

I visited every part of George Washington’s house and property including but not limited to his farms, gardens, hired and enslaved living quarters, and a gristmill. Even though I aimed to see everything in one visit, there is a ton of information to soak in so as if I was visiting Mount Vernon in person I would need to plan to make more than one visit to potentially see everything and learn all I could about the mansion. Within the tour, there are videos from both Mount Vernon staff and characters of George Washington, Martha Washington, and the enslaved servants discussing what it was like to live and work on the Mount Vernon property. At each point of the virtual tour, there are cursors that once clicked on it will share more information about an item in the collections and about the historic preservation process.

The Mansion has approximately fourteen rooms that were set up and preserved as if the Washingtons were still living in their home. On the first floor, it contains the more formal parts of the Mansion, including the dining rooms, parlors, central hall, and Washington’s study. Inside the Mansion, there is an entryway called the Central Passage which is the place where visitors who came by carriage through the west front drive (the front of the house) were greeted. The Mansion also has a two-story piazza located on the east front (facing the Potomac River); it was treated as an outdoor room, serving afternoon tea to visitors and family members seated in simple Windsor chairs. Not only there is a view of the Potomac River, there is also a view of the wooded area that was originally an 18-acre deer park. On the second floor, there are six bedrooms and one of them is the Washingtons’ bedroom. On the third floor, includes a number of rooms that were used for storage and living space, and provides access to the cupola. The cupola was added to the Mansion to help cool the house, as it draws hot air out through open windows; by providing a strong vertical axis, the cupola also helps disguise the asymmetry of the west facade, facing the bowling green (the grounds in front of the Mansion). Washington’s home is not the only building on the property.

Washington’s estate also includes more than a dozen outbuildings where more than fifty enslaved men and women learned trades to make tools and textiles, care for livestock, process food, and construct and repair many of Mount Vernon’s buildings, including the Mansion itself. Some of the buildings include the blacksmith shop, smokehouse, stable, spinning house, and many more. There were also four gardens: the upper garden, lower garden, botanical garden, and a flower garden and nursery. Each garden served different purposes including providing food for the Mansion and experimenting with new plants. Washington also had a farm called the Pioneer Farm where enslaved workers put Washington’s innovative farming and fishing practices, hoe fields, cook over a fire, sheer sheep, and harvest crops into practice. Also, on the estate there was a distillery and a gristmill; today, the property has fully functioning reconstructions of the distillery and gristmill where George Washington’s whiskey, flour, and cornmeal were made.

The estate is also the location of the tombs and memorial where the Washingtons and enslaved individuals were buried and are remembered. There are two tombs: the old tomb where the Washington family were originally buried and the new tomb that was constructed under George Washington’s request; then the whole family located in the tomb were relocated to the new one. Also, there is a slave cemetery where the Mount Vernon staff is conducting an ongoing archaeological survey of the Slave Cemetery on the estate. According to their website, they stated about the slave cemetery:

From an archaeological standpoint, the best way to commemorate the lives of those free and enslaved individuals who lived and died at Mount Vernon is to thoroughly document the locations of individual burials on the landscape.

Mount Vernon also has a memorial dedicated to the enslaved individuals which is located about 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River.

The previous information I learned about Mount Vernon is only some of what I have learned in virtual tour. I recommend learning more about George Washington and Mount Vernon through not only the virtual tour but also through the education resources available on the official website. What I learned from this tour is the staff at Mount Vernon are continuously dedicating their efforts to preserve its history as well as investigate the untold stories the estate holds.

Links:

https://virtualtour.mountvernon.org/

https://www.mountvernon.org/

Upper Garden Livestream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqQi93Ao65Q

Museum Staff and Boards: How We Are Adapting Our Museum Practices

April 2, 2020

In addition to providing museum virtual experiences for visitors, staff, directors, and boards need to figure out how to adapt their operations to the virtual world under fast changing circumstances caused by the pandemic. This past week I participated in a couple of American Association State and Local History Conversation webinar series focusing on what next steps museum staff and boards could do to keep their museums running. I attended AASLH Conversations: Leadership, Boards, and the COVID-19 Crisis that focuses on how leadership should respond as the pandemic continues to effect the world, and I attended AASLH Conversations: Planning for an Uncertain Financial Future to figure out how to develop a financial plan for our museums as we face this unprecedented situation. The information I will share in this post are developing resources and are important takeaways from each one I participated in. What all museum professionals should remember is that, like many of us in and out of the museum field, we are all still learning and adapting to the ever-changing circumstances around the world.

There are many considerations museum professionals have to make decisions when facing this pandemic including keeping communication clear between museum leaders, staff, and board members. During the AASLH Conversations: Leadership, Boards, and the COVID-19 Crisis, some of the most important points made was that it is important to be transparent about the realities with your board and team, be compassionate to others and yourself by stepping back when needed, and be creative as well as flexible to figure out the solutions. The speakers Christy S. Coleman (the CEO at the American Civil War Museum) and Katherine Kane (the former Executive Director at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center) emphasized that: business as usual will not work. It is important to acknowledge that museum leaders have to operate differently and find out how to serve the community. Also, both staff and boards are scared about the pandemic on both the professional and personal level, and as leaders we have to address the hard stuff and explain what we are planning to keep communication open to all. Museum leaders need to recognize that they should adjust their time to virtually meet with board members since they have their own work and families they need to take care of on top of dealing with the pandemic; meanwhile, staff members need to know whether or not they will be laid off, furloughed, or pay/hour reductions.  Museum professionals also need to consider their museum financial plans and figure out what their next steps are based on their past and current financial reports.

Becky Beaulieu, the director of the Florence Griswold Museum and author of Financial Fundamentals for Historic House Museums (2017), was the speaker for the AASLH Conversations: Planning for an Uncertain Financial Future in which she shared her insights and advice. Beaulieu pointed out that we are facing an unprecedented time, and because of this the webinar like the previous one was focused on creating a discussion in which she will share her thoughts and answers to participants’ questions based on her expertise. She described in detail about business interruption plans (emergency plans for when something unexpected happens especially a pandemic), and shared three important things that need to be clear when developing a business interruption plan: what is your team and their responsibilities (i.e. who is writing the checks, contacting vendors and sponsors for events, etc.), what is your recovery time, and what are your core operations. Also, she stressed that it is important during this unprecedented time to create a source for all staff members to access resources from the museum community to inspire your own plans. Another important takeaway is to make sure to figure out what your plans A, B, and C are when considering cuts and funding options (i.e. insurance, grants, and for only the last resort-endowments). Museum professionals have difficult decisions to make during this time to make sure we continue to serve our communities, and having these conversations on a regular basis with other museum professionals within the field will help all of us during the pandemic.

If you want to learn more about these webinars, the link to the AASLH Conversations series is here: https://learn.aaslh.org/covid19response

Museums Offering Virtual Experiences during the Pandemic

March 26, 2020

We are all in this together, and museum communities around the world are sharing virtual experiences they have created before the pandemic or because of the pandemic. This past week I shared previous blog posts about the significance of virtual experiences in the museum field. Current events prove that virtual learning and experiences are vital more than ever. I have been researching virtual experiences that are currently being offered since I am currently working with the Education Committee at the Three Village Historical Society to create virtual learning experience, and this project was one of the reasons why I was inspired to see what museums are offering.

I came across Scholastic’s resources which provide online classroom resources and lesson plans from museums across the United States. One of the Scholastic’s resources includes a virtual field trip to the Museum of the American Revolution with Lauren Tarshis, author of the best-selling “I Survived” book series including “I Survived the American Revolution, 1776”. Including an introduction and a behind the scenes tour, the site also includes a vocabulary list, discussion questions, a frequently asked questions sheet, and Lauren Tarshis’s narrative nonfiction article “Blood, Smoke and Freedom,” about the experiences of one of the young soldiers featured in the virtual field trip for each grade level between grade 2 and grade 8. The Museum of the American Revolution itself provides resources from their own website available. In addition to the virtual field trip, the Museum of the American Revolution also other digital resources including but not limited to a virtual tour of the museum, an archive of Read the Revolution book excerpts, a digitized collection of the Museum’s art and artifacts, the Museum’s comprehensive lesson plans, and a free coloring book.

Another museum that has a virtual presence is the Mill Museum-The Windham Textile History Museum. The staff last month opened their new exhibit called “Unlacing the Corset, Unleashing the Vote” celebrating the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Because the museum was closed due to the coronavirus, they created a virtual version of this exhibit. According to the exhibit’s introduction label, the exhibit uses stories, fashion, undergarments, and photographs to explore the collective of Connecticut women’s experiences in the century since the 19th Amendment. The exhibit focuses on fashion for political empowerment which is reflected in increasing choices about clothes, styles, and comfort. The virtual exhibit features a narrative about early 20th century women’s history focused on women from mill towns of the northeast and photographs of the collections featured in the exhibit.

There are virtual experiences offered in museums outside of the United States. Some of the examples I found were on the MCN website. MCN, a not-for-profit corporation that envisions a world in which all museums are empowered digitally to achieve their missions, posted a very well detailed list of virtual museum experiences around the world in their post “The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections”. The list is broken up into a number of sections including virtual tours/online exhibits, e-learning, online collections, and digital archives & libraries as well as subsections for art, science, and history museums. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, for instance, offers an e-learning experience that has an interactive timeline on its website. The Canadian Museum of Nature has an e-learning experience for kids with coloring pages of Artic animals and plants, garden plants, and dinosaurs. The Musée du Louvre in Paris and the São Paolo Museum of Art in Brazil are offering a virtual tour of the museums. Also, Les Fruits de Mer, a non-profit French association based in Grand Case, Saint Martin, provided lists of resources of activities, books, films, et. cetera about Caribbean wildlife.

Museums have previously been offering museum experiences online to reach out to their audiences as our world is becoming more accessible through technology. This has been evident especially in previous blog posts I have re-shared on social media with lists of resources I found at the time I wrote those posts. With many museums closing their doors of their physical museums due to the pandemic, it is important for museums to connect to its audiences, reach out to new audiences, and its museum professionals with one another through the virtual world. Numerous resources from museums are available on the internet for individuals of all ages, and it would impossible to explain each one in full detail without making this blog post too overwhelming.

I have included a list of resources I have come across in my search for virtual experiences for all of you to explore in your own time. If there are any resources you would like to share, please continue to share them. Stay safe and be good to one another!

Resources:

https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome/grades-3-5.html

http://www.scholastic.com/beyondthebattlefield/

http://www.scholastic.com/webcasts/

https://www.amrevmuseum.org/education/digital-resources?utm_source=welcome-mark-text&utm_medium=cc&utm_campaign=welcome-mark-text-cc-ongoing-general1

https://millmuseum.org/current-exhibit/

http://mcn.edu/a-guide-to-virtual-museum-resources/

https://springfieldmuseums.org/about/updates/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/68-cultural-historical-and-scientific-collections-you-can-explore-online-180974475/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20200323-daily-responsive&spMailingID=42092612&spUserID=MTQ4MDg3NTIwNDQ0S0&spJobID=1722260882&spReportId=MTcyMjI2MDg4MgS2

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/weeks-best-livestream-learning-opportunities-180974465/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20200323-daily-responsive&spMailingID=42092612&spUserID=MTQ4MDg3NTIwNDQ0S0&spJobID=1722260882&spReportId=MTcyMjI2MDg4MgS2

https://www.cilc.org/community

https://www.docsteach.org/

https://www.civicsrenewalnetwork.org/featured/resources-for-learning-at-home/

https://www.archives.gov/legislative/resources

https://founders.archives.gov/

https://anamericaninrome.com/wp/2020/03/italy-museums-visit-for-free-online/

https://adventuresinfamilyhood.com/20-virtual-field-trips-to-take-with-your-kids.html

https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

Previous Posts on Museums and the Virtual Experience:

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/05/13/museum-education-online-museums-position-in-the-virtual-world/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/08/01/virtual-museum-experiences-impressions-of-museum-education-roundtables-journal-of-museum-education/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2020/02/20/how-virtual-exhibits-can-be-accessible/

Website Examination: Museum Savvy

March 19, 2020

With recent events allowing many individuals to work remotely, there are numerous online resources that are being shared for educational and entertainment purposes. Online resources are also available for museum professionals to explore. For instance, last week I heard about a new website called Museum Savvy which is a resource for museum, archive, conservation, cultural heritage, public history professionals, emerging professionals, and students. I explored the website and thought it was interesting not only because there were numerous resources available for museums and museum professionals, but I admired the pictures displayed on the site. Also, I think it is important to find out more about what is going on in the museum field around the world, especially during this pandemic, so it is great to see websites that have information and associations from international museums. The following is what I saw the website offers as of the date I wrote this post.

Museum Savvy features a blog that covers varying topics going on in the museum, cultural heritage, and public history field. One of the most recent blog posts shared information gathered about the coronavirus and resources available for museums. Other blog posts include museum jobs of the week and Museum Listservs (electronic mailing lists to allow sender to send one email to the lists). The blog has at least 100 categories on varying topics in alphabetical order from archaeology and archives to graduate school programs and museum studies. Also, their archive section included posts from October 2019, January 2020, February 2020, and March 2020.

The website also has a museum jobs page that is a free job board and links to websites that list museum jobs, internships and opportunities in the United States and abroad. This page has three links to relevant posts for opportunities. One of the links leads to the most recent blog post on museum jobs of the week. The other links leads to museum job websites and Canadian museum job websites. Museum Job Websites features links to national and regional job listings, state museum association job listings, and one link to international listings for The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. A list of Canadian museum job websites, that was complied by the Museum Studies Collective (a networking and publishing site for students and emerging art/museum professionals based in Canada), included links to the Canadian Museum Association, the Ontario Museum Association, and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.

Museum Savvy provides a museum studies page which lists topics and programs offered for museum studies that are in person and online located in the United States and throughout the world. There are twelve links on the page that lead to list of programs on the following topics: art programs, arts administration, history, anthropology, art & artifact conservation, cultural heritage, exhibits, collections management, education, historic preservation, digital humanities, and online programs. The page includes long lists of schools by state that offer museum studies programs specifically Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and certificate programs on varying concentrations. Museum Savvy has a list of online programs that originate in schools in the United States. Also, the page has lists of museum studies program from around the world in person and online. Museum Career Development is another page on Museum Savvy that lists professional networks, online courses, webinars, workshops, conferences, and career mentoring. Museum Professional Resources is a page on Museum Savvy that continuously update the list of resources on archival supplies, collections management, exhibits, education, artifact conservation, and Listservs & discussion groups.

If interested in learning more about this site, I included links below.

Links:

http://museumsavvy.com/index.html

http://museumsavvy.com/museum-savvy-blog/covid-19-resources-for-museums

http://museumsavvy.com/museum-jobs.html

Museum Studies Collective: http://www.musesc.ca/

Note: Stay tuned for my next blog post that will focus more on virtual museum experiences that are being offered during this time. Stay safe out there and be good to one another!

How are Museums Dealing with the Coronavirus?

March 12, 2020

Since the coronavirus cases emerged in the past couple of weeks in the United States, there have been many questions people had about the coronavirus and what we should be doing to help prevent the spread. Museums are dedicated to both serving and being a part of the community as trustworthy resources. To do so, museum professionals need to make decisions to protect the staff, volunteers, and visitors especially from spread of diseases and viruses such as the coronavirus. Museums and non-profits are working hard to find out what decisions they need to make that will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Because there have been concerns expressed by many individuals, museum professionals need to take many things into considerations especially the health and safety of their visitors while figuring out how to financially support their museum operations. As the staff and board meet to figure out how they will move forward, they are listening to health experts and making decisions based on what the state policy is put in place for the state they are located in. There are museums that decided to take precautions and cancel public programs because of escalating health concerns relating to the spread of the coronavirus; they also point out their priorities are the health and safety of their visitors, and recommend their visitors to follow the guidance of the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes watching for the symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Also, the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) stated that they are collecting recommendations and resources more specific to historic sites and other history organizations and will share these as they become available. The New England Museum Association (NEMA) stated on their Twitter account: We’re keeping track of our region’s responses to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. We will be adding updates on this thread of how our area museums are responding.

The American Alliance of Museums released resources and information for the museum field to help individual museums prepare both internally and externally for outbreaks in their communities. Some of the information they shared include educating the public on COVID-19, reviewing staff policies and administrative concerns, reviewing cleaning and collections care policies, preparing for closures, preparing for COVID-19 as an individual, and using digital platforms to remain connected to audiences during quarantines.

Tonight’s MuseumEdChat on Twitter was about sharing information about what our museums response are to COVID-19. Also, a Google Doc was released to share resources as well as museum/programming cancellations that will be continually updated. Some of the questions discussed were: did your museum have an emergency plan in place prior to COVID-19, or are you developing or modifying one as the situation develops? Bonus: did you consult with anyone on your plan? Our discussion reinforces the point that museum professionals have a lot of considerations when trying to figure out plans as our country faces the coronavirus pandemic.

Museums are also making decisions based on the safety of their staff and volunteers by postponing or cancelling professional development programs while most are waiting to see if new developments in the spread occurred when it gets closer to the programs. The New York City Museum Educators, for instance, postponed their professional development program and would re-open registration for the program once they confirm a new date. Also, the Museum Association of New York’s (MANY), as of the date this blog post will be released, Board of Directors are meeting and have contacted the venues and legislative representatives to help gauge their response to let members know what is happening with the annual conference. It is hard to not let fear take over our senses, but we should learn the facts and take the appropriate precautions.

The most responsible thing we could do is to educate ourselves on not only what it is, but we should understand how to properly take care ourselves. I included a number of resources to help provide knowledge on the coronavirus. Also, I discovered a course offered by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (which is a world leader in research and postgraduate education in public and global health, and its mission is to improve health and health equity worldwide) through FutureLearn, and in the course you could learn the latest of what we know about COVID-19, presented by international experts. I implore you all to take care of yourselves, and be good to one another.

*As of March 13, 2020, AASLH released a blog post on four steps that can be taken if feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 preparations: https://aaslh.org/covid-prep-4-steps/

Resources:

Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

Daily Updates: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Links:

#MuseumEdChat COVID-19 Response Resource List

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/uk-museums-coronavirus-1795818

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/08/813396080/coronavirus-italy-orders-massive-shutdown-amid-spread

https://advisor.museumsandheritage.com/news/museums-around-the-world-respond-to-coronavirus-fears/

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/coronavirus-brings-nonprofits-unexpected-costs-even-at-its-earliest-stages/

https://nonprofitaf.com/2020/03/a-few-things-for-nonprofits-and-foundations-to-consider-in-light-of-the-coronavirus/

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/rome-raphael-coronavirus-quarantine-1797390

https://observer.com/2020/03/museums-prepare-for-coronavirus-us-outbreak/

https://www.aam-us.org/programs/resource-library/human-resource-resources/health-in-the-workplace/

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/03/05/information-for-the-museum-field-on-the-covid-19-coronavirus/

Course: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/covid19-novel-coronavirus?utm_campaign=fl_march_2020&utm_medium=futurelearn_organic_email&utm_source=newsletter_broadcast&utm_term=200310_GNL__0030_&utm_content=course05_cta

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

Why the Conversation about Gender and Museums Matter?

March 5, 2020

In honor of Women’s History Month, I decided to address the importance of the conversation about gender and museums. I recently received the March/April edition of the Museum magazine from the American Alliance of Museums called “The Illusion of Identity”. The moment I saw the title I was confused since I did not understand what they were going for to describe the overall content of the magazine. It became clear that the magazine articles’ main topic was about gender. Not only is it a disconnect with the articles but it misrepresents what gender and identity are; gender and identity are not the same. Because I heard so much about the contributions made in the magazine, I decided to take a closer look at the articles for this edition, and see how each one adds to the conversation about gender and museums.

The articles were “The Life and Legacy of Harriet Tubman” written by Andrea DeKoter and Kimberly Szewcryk. It shared the life of Harriet Tubman, the central figure in the Underground Railroad, and how she influenced the writers quest for human rights and dignity. “Practicing What We Preach” by Paula Birnbaum is about students who co-curate a feminist art exhibition to test assumptions on inclusion. “The Art of Conversation: The National Museum of Women in the Arts”, written by Emma Filar, describes a conversation series called “Fresh Talk” focuses on the interplay between women, art, and social change. Kara Fedje and Jared Ledesma’s “Abstract Art, Concrete Goals” discussed what happened when The Des Moines Art Center diversified its audience with an exhibition on queer abstraction. “Beyond Binary” by Melissa Alexander and Dina Herring which was written about an exhibition on the many faces of gender identity unmasks the slippery nature of truths.

In the regular sections of the magazine, President and CEO of AAM Laura Lott provided some thoughts on women’s rights in “100 Years Later, Redefining Advocacy”. Lott shared a condensed history of the American Alliance of Museums, which was founded as the American Association of Museums in 1906 in New York City before it was relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1923. Also, she wrote about AAM’s recommitment to museum advocacy and the ability to have secured bipartisan congressional support for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She also stated the AAM’s strategic plan asks museum professionals to think more broadly about advocacy. According to the segment, Lott pointed out that The Alliance aims to equip members and allies to make the case for museums and to help you tell your stories. AAM provides a toolbox for museum professionals to help advocate for museums since museum professionals are the best advocates to explain the significance of museums to policymakers and the public. Museum magazine also shared statistics about gender and sexuality.

The statistics suggest the conversation about gender and sexuality is important to address within museums. For instance, there is a 313 percent increase in Merriam-Webster dictionary searches for the pronoun “they” in 2019 vs. 2018; “they” was selected as the dictionary’s 2019 Word of the Day. Ninety-nine percent is the percentage of countries where women could vote with the Vatican City as the holdout. Also, there are four in ten history museum-goers who think history museums should be inclusive, including sharing stories of women and LGBTQ people. There are 142 countries that provide at least some legal protections based on sexual orientation, meanwhile 55 countries provide no protection and no criminalization. Seventy countries criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults. By looking at these statistics, it shows that while we have made so much progress in our society in terms of gender and sexuality, we still have a long way to go.

Gender equity in museums, for instance, is still important to not only discuss about but museums need to make more efforts to making museums more gender equitable for its professionals. Amy K. Levin’s point of view article called “No More Platitudes: Fifty years after women’s lib and Stonewall, we’re still behind in advancing gender equity in museums” calls for more systematic and significant change in being more equitable in the museums for both exhibitions and the workforce. Levin included an institutional checklist for gender equity which includes the mission statement; exhibition content; collections/acquisition policies; database/catalogue categories; volunteer guidelines; employee policies, benefits, and hiring practices; and focus groups/public consultations. The importance of gender equity is emphasized not only in this point of view article but also in previous blog posts I wrote.

The post “Gender Equity in Museums: An Important Issue that Should Be Addressed” is one of the examples of why gender and gender equity is important within the museum field. I reflected that

The most important lesson I learned, and what we all should take away from this program, is that gender equity is not a woman’s issue it is a human issue. We need to recognize that equity is for all of us, and we need to find out how we can bring more awareness to equity.

By educating ourselves about gender equity, we would be able to better serve the public that walks through the museum doors. In another previous post about my experience presenting in a professional development program on gender equity and museums, I shared the Gender Equity Museums Movement (GEMM)’s mission as well as emphasized the impact museums could have when they strive to be more equitable for their staff; it will affect the experience museum visitors have while engaging with the staff and exhibits. The recent edition of Museum magazine shows we are continuing to strive for more equitable museums, and still have a long way to go. Since museums are seen as trustworthy resources for varying information presented in our institutions, we should be the example of advocating for social justice and equity.

Each article presented in this magazine show museums and museum professionals should learn who their audiences are, and continue to adapt to their community’s changing values.

Links:

How to Lead a Professional Development Program: Reflections of My Experience Presenting One on Gender Equity

Gender Equity in Museums: An Important Issue that Should Be Addressed

https://www.aam-us.org/programs/museum-magazine/

Curiosity about History: What Does this Mean for Museum Educators?

February 27, 2020

Earlier this month, the American Alliance of Museums released a blog post called “Curiosity About History is Growing Across Generations, a New Survey Finds” by Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns. The blog post revealed survey results from a survey conducted by Connor Prairie, Indiana’s first Smithsonian affiliate museum which is an outdoor museum that inspires curiosity and fosters learning by providing engaging and individualized experiences for everyone. They wanted to find out what individuals thought about history and museums since the general initial impressions of museums is each one focuses on one discipline (i.e. history, art, science) or one type (i.e. children’s, zoological, and nature). Also, they found that similar surveys have not been conducted in decades which was why they decided to conduct their own national survey. After examining the results, they emphasized how museums have the potential for so much more than a house for collections and museums will continue to evolve with the changing society. Once I read the blog, I kept thinking about what the survey results mean for museum educators teaching programs in history and decided to share a few examples from the blog post to illustrate how museum educators can utilize the results for their practices.

Museum educators in history museums, historical societies, and historic house museums in recent years have been learning to incorporate other disciplines to provide well-rounded experiences for the audiences they teach. In my experience as a museum educator, I developed my skills in teaching not only history but also art and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). All museum educators, including myself, could benefit from finding out from their audiences how to best create memorable and educational experiences. This survey is an example of what we can take away about how we can harness the increasing interest in history. In the post, Burns pointed out museums role in helping individuals connect with history:

The survey found that, second only to gatherings with their families, Americans most often mentioned visits to museums and historic sites as the situation that makes them feel most in touch with history. When asked which sources they most trusted for knowledge of the past, Americans put museums and historic sites first, ahead of grandparents, eyewitnesses, college professors, history books, movies, television programs, and high school history teachers. The survey demonstrated that America’s history museums have broad appeal and respect, while also having a real personal impact on Americans. People connect with the past when they visit museums and historic sites, and award these institutions a credibility that is greater even than an eyewitness’s account or a grandparent’s memory.

I have seen visitors who came to the museums I worked for tell me about what book, television show, movie, etc. that inspired them to visit this museum and asked questions confirming whether or not the information they learned in other mediums was accurate. For instance, at the Three Village Historical Society, which works within the community to explore local history through education, I spoke with visitors who came to see the Historical Society’s exhibit about the Culper Spy Ring (who collected intelligence during the Revolutionary War for General George Washington) because of the AMC television show Turn about the Culper Spy Ring. A lot of questions I received were how accurate the show was to what happened during the Revolutionary War and how the Culper Spy Ring operated. Museum professionals should make sure that their research is up to date when anything new is discovered so the narrative presented in programs and exhibits are accurate especially since our institutions are seen as credible sources of information.

The survey also pointed out that history museums are the number one most trustworthy source of information in America. Therefore, museum professionals, especially museum educators, have been doing something right for survey participants to state history museums are the most trustworthy source of information.

Burns continued to share results from the survey and some of the findings including why history is valuable to us personally, to our communities, and to our future. According to the survey,

96 percent of Americans believe it is important to look at our history to inform our future.

91 percent of Americans agree that it is important that people learn about history to build a strong foundation for the future.

42 percent of Americans now have a higher level of curiosity in history as compared to this time to last year.

Millennials showed the highest level of increased curiosity, at 55 percent, compared to 42 percent of Gen Xers and 28 percent of baby boomers.

These results show increasing interest in and curiosity about history within generations in America, and it is important to also appeal to the younger generations who seem to be the most interested in learning about history especially since a large number of individuals see history as a way to inform the future. Also, other results from the survey revealed that Americans believe in history museums can stress the importance of protecting the environment and develop critical thinking skills. Museum educators should learn about the communities their museums serve, and with survey results like this one we are able to evolve with the communities we are a part of.

Links:

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/02/03/curiosity-about-history-is-growing-across-generations-a-new-survey-finds/

https://www.connerprairie.org/

https://www.connerprairie.org/new-survey-nine-in-10-americans-say-our-past-should-inform-our-future-curiosity-in-history-expands-across-generations-with-millennials-leading-the-way/

How Virtual Exhibits Can Be Accessible

February 20, 2020

This past week in the United States, we celebrated Presidents’ Day and in honor of the holiday Bunk designed a virtual exhibit called Presidents Precedents that explores the shifting ways Americans have viewed the U.S. presidency. Bunk, a non-profit and non-partisan launched in September 2017, captures the passion for history and reveals the ways that people of different backgrounds and purposes are connecting with the nation’s history by searching the internet for the most interesting articles, maps, videos, conversations, visualizations, and podcasts about history that they can find. Funded by supporters of the University of Richmond, they hope to create a fuller and more honest portrayal of our shared past, and reveal the extent to which every representation is part of a longer conversation. Presidents Precedents is an exhibit filled with a collection of articles from varying sources divided into three categories: The Mandate, The Pulpit, and The Legacy. After examining this exhibit, I thought about other virtual exhibits and the significance of virtual exhibits, and I decided to explore museum virtual exhibits.

In my previous blog post “Virtual Museum Experiences: Impressions of Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education”, I shared experiences I have had with virtual reality and how museums have taken advantage of virtual experiences. Towards the end of that post, I pointed out that

Museum professionals have always investigated ways we can draw more visitors to our museums and sites, and as technology continues to develop we continue to figure out different ways we can reach out to people to share resources and collections.

This is especially true when museums are making their exhibits available online for individuals interested in visiting them. In the blog post, I pointed out the benefits of providing virtual experiences of museum exhibits online: Individuals can take advantage of virtually visiting museums and participating in museum programs that are far from home, or places that are not entirely handicapped accessible. Not many individuals are able to financially travel to museums in other countries and when museums provide virtual exhibits, they will at least be able to get a closer look at objects, exhibit labels, and additional information they can learn in each space. Also, there are individuals who are not able to physically access spaces in museums and by providing virtual exhibits to them they will be able to have an engaging experience within the space once inaccessible.

These are examples of virtual exhibits and tours I have come across from around the world:

The British Museum has a virtual exhibit called The Museum of the World which is navigated using the arrow keys or scrolling to explore back and forth through time. Also, it is set up as a timeline divided into five color-coded sections: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. When one clicks on a color circle, an object appears with a short description and the option to learn more about it; for instance, I clicked on Ceramic Bowl from the Path of Roses in Tunisia, Africa, and it includes an audio of a speaker providing more information, a Google map showing the location, a description of the object and its history, and pictures of related objects. Also, there are themes that visitors can explore the exhibit by in addition to the timeline: Art and design, Living and dying, Power and identity, Religion and belief, and Trade and conflict.

The Louvre offers virtual tours that allow individuals to visit the museum’s exhibition rooms and galleries. Inside the virtual space, visitors can tour three different sections of the museum, read an introduction to and descriptions of where they are located within the Louvre: Egyptian Antiquities, Remains of the Louvre’s Moat, and Galerie d’Apollon. The Egyptian Antiquities has collections from the Pharaonic period that are displayed on the east side of the Sully wing, on the ground floor and 1st floor. In the Remains of the Louvre’s Moat tour, it describes that originally the Louvre was a fortress built by the French king, Philippe Auguste; it was intended to reinforce the defenses that the king had ordered to be built in 1190 to protect Paris from attack via the Seine, and today visitors can walk around the original perimeter moat and view the piers that supported the drawbridge. The Galerie d’Apollon, which is a decorative art situated above the Petite Galerie, was destroyed by fire in 1661 and rebuilt. Also, the Louvre’s website includes descriptions of 55 rooms inside the museum and what is located in these rooms.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History offers varying museum virtual tours that allow individuals to take self-guided room-by-room tours of select rooms or areas within the museum on the computer and/or on cellphones. Also, there is an opportunity to access select research and collections areas with satellite support, research stations, and past exhibits that no longer on display. The museum’s website also includes other tours of the Smithsonian including the Smithsonian Castle and the Hirshhorn (a sculpture museum). Their virtual tours provide arrow links on the floor and the ability to use the navigation map to travel through rooms in the tours, and a camera icon give a close-up view of a particular object or exhibit panel.

Each example I explored has a different way of presenting virtual experiences. If museums have the capability, they should take advantage of making their exhibits and tours more accessible for all visitors. To learn more about virtual tours that are available, I included a list of links I found to virtual tours and exhibits that explore museums around the world.

Have you experienced virtual exhibits or tours? What are your impressions? Do you feel like you are as just engaged with the virtual experience as you would be in person? Why or why not?

Links:

https://www.bunkhistory.org/exhibits/30

https://www.bunkhistory.org/

https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com/

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour

https://www.si.edu/exhibitions/online

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/75809/12-world-class-museums-you-can-visit-online

https://www.top10.com/virtual-museum-tours

http://www.virtualfreesites.com/museums.museums.html

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/08/01/virtual-museum-experiences-impressions-of-museum-education-roundtables-journal-of-museum-education/