As with everything this past year, the winter holidays are going to be celebrated a little bit differently because of the pandemic. Museums are continuing to offer virtual programs, tours, et. cetera to help us all engage with and keep our spirits up during the holiday season. While we are figuring out how we are celebrating this year, I thought I would do a short examination of the history of holidays that take place during this time of year.
There are many holidays celebrated in December around the world, and the ones I mention in this blog are only a sample of what holidays are out there. I have included in the list of links a link to the December holiday calendar that shares various holidays celebrated this time of year (even some that secular holidays). The holidays celebrated in December include but are not limited to Yule, Christmas, and Hanukkah.
Yule is a celebration, practiced by pagans, neo-pagans, and other individuals who incorporate witchcraft practice in their lives, which involves gathering together to enjoy meals and gift giving, and activities like feasting and wassailing (where the tradition of singing carols comes from) are sometimes regarded as sacred. Also, it is one of the celebrations from the Wheel of the Year acknowledging the change in seasons; Yule represents the celebration of death and rebirth in nature, and the eventual return of the sun from its weakest point in the year, faced during the winter season. Some of the traditions that are practiced during this Yuletide time are but not limited to decorating the Yule tree, lighting the candles on the Yule log, making and hanging wreaths, and telling stories.
This celebration corresponds with the astrological change of the Earth tilting away from the sun, known as the Winter Solstice. The amount of sunlight on Earth during this time varies, short day and long night to long darkness, depends on which part of the globe one lives on. In the Northern Hemisphere, it also marks the first day of winter. In Mary Kate Hagan’s article “Winter Solstice Celebration”, she pointed out that
Winter Solstice is a time to pause, with the restraints of winter, to perceive the seeds of our future growth. It is an invitation to align ourselves with the turning of the seasons and the natural world, experiencing ourselves as being woven into the sacred web of life, acknowledging the mystery of the Divine creative presence pulsating through all. (185).
Yule is linked to a number of religious celebrations and spiritual traditions that coincides with the Winter Solstice which occurs on December 21st this year in the Northern Hemisphere.
One of the most common examples of Yule’s connection with other religious celebrations and spiritual traditions is Christmas. A lot of the traditions that have been adopted into Christmas traditions came from pagan celebrations. Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Our Most Cherished Holiday is one of the examples of books written about the history of Christmas and its roots in paganism. Nissenbaum used documents and illustrations in his book to share Christmas’s carnival origins and shows how it was transformed, during the nineteenth century, into the celebration we know now. His book also shared the origins of Christmas traditions from St. Nicholas to the Christmas tree and the practice of giving gifts to children.
Christmas is the celebration in the Christian religions to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and, especially in the secular world, gather with loved ones by giving presents and having meals together. There are many customs that vary in different countries, and in the United States Christmas traditions are celebrated together with many customs from other cultures and countries. Families around the world decorate the tree and home with bright lights, wreaths, candles, holly, mistletoe, and ornaments. Some individuals attend church on Christmas Eve, and Santa Claus comes from the North Pole in a sleigh to deliver gifts; in other parts of the world, Santa arrives on other modes of transportation such as in Hawaii he arrives by boat and in Ghana he comes out of the jungle. Another holiday celebrated in December is Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday.
Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish people honoring the Maccabees’ victory over King Antiochus who forbade them from practicing their religion. They celebrate over eight nights to remember how the oil in the temple was supposed to last for one night ended up lasting eight nights. To celebrate Hanukkah, they start with a prayer, the lighting of the menorah, and food. The menorah holds nine candles, eight candles to be lit on each night and the nineth is used to light the other candles. Also, children play games such as the dreidel, sing songs, and exchange gifts. Unlike Christmas, the days the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah changes each year because the holiday follows the lunar cycle. This year Hanukkah starts at sundown on December 10th and ends on December 18th. As I am writing this blog post, it is the sixth night of Hanukkah (when this is posted, it will be the seventh night) and will be lighting the menorah with my husband and his family.
All of the celebrations that I mentioned above and the ones I share within the links section have in common is the focus of celebrating with loved ones whether we are in person or not. While celebrating the holidays this year will be different, technology will be able to help us connect with family members as we focus on getting a better control of the pandemic.
I am taking a break from posting on the blog for the holidays. I will be working on the campaign and more posts on the blog for the upcoming new year. Stay tuned for more posts and exciting developments in the new year! Thank you all for your continued support, and I hope all of you have a fun and safe holiday.
This is the second part of my experience at this year’s virtual NEMA conference. If you have not read the first part, check out the link here: NEMA 2020 Virtual Conference: Part 1: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1bD . Then come back here to see the rest of this post.
On the third day of the NEMA conference, the first session I attended was the keynote with Sarah Sutton, the Principal of Sustainable Museums, and Cultural Sector Lead at We Are Still In. The presentation was pre-recorded, and once we finished watching the presentation Sutton was available to answer our questions. In the keynote Climate Change. Covid-19. Racial Inequality: What Each Crisis Can Teach Us for Tackling the Others, Sutton’s presentation addressed that the lessons from decades of climate advocacy have noticeable parallels with the experience of fighting Covid-19, the efforts to manage an economic recovery, and the work to address racial inequality. Also, the argument made was museums are perfectly suited to help communities because science, data, language, politics, history, and human nature are all mixed up in the problems and the solutions cope with and overcome these crises.
The first session I attended was called We Are Allies: How to Listen, Learn, and Become Anti-Racist Museums with Kristin Gallas (Principal, Interpreting Slavery) as facilitator and the speaker was Katherine Kane (the former Executive Director at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center). Gallas and Kane pointed out that museums must step up and commit to making their work and public spaces welcoming and equitable.
After the session, I had lunch with the Education Professional Affinity Group/Gathering (PAG). At the in person NEMA conference, there were PAG Lunches that encourage conference participants to engage with one another while taking lunch breaks between sessions; I wrote about previous PAG Lunches in past posts about the NEMA conference. Each PAG lunch also had themes for each one, and this year’s Education PAG Lunch theme was Grief and Recovery.
The next session I attended was Let’s Take This Outside with Brindha Muniappan (Senior Director of the Museum Experience at the Discovery Museum) as facilitator, and the speakers were Kate Leavitt (Director of Mission at the Seacoast Science Center) and Lorén Spears (Executive Director at the Tomaquag Museum). Within the session, each of them discussed how their four different organizations (children’s museum, science center, historic house/garden, and Indigenous museum) encourage visitors to spend time outside and think about their physical place in the world as a way to build life-long connections with nature and conserve it for future generations.
I attended the Fostering Community Within Frontline Staff with Helen Brechlin and Tom Maio, who are both from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts, for the last session of the third day. Brechlin and Maio shared how their frontline staff program not only supports their frontline staff but support the visitors during this pandemic. Their discussion focused on how to build and foster a positive working relationship with and among frontline staff.
The panel session for the fourth day of the NEMA conference was Celebrating Museums with Rebekah Beaulieu (Executive Director at the Florence Griswold Museum) as moderator, and the following individuals were the panelists: Catherine Allgor (President at the Massachusetts Historical Society), Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy) the Executive Director and Sr. Partner to Wabanaki Nations at the Abbe Museum, and Hallie Selinger (Visitor Experience Manager at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA). In the panel discussion, they talked about the question: Why do you love museums?
For my first session of the fourth day, I attended the Beyond Hands-On: Tapping the Non-Touch Senses in Exhibitions session. Betsy Loring (Principal, exploring exhibits & engagement, LLC, MA) and Laurie Pasteryak (Director of Interpretation at Fairfield Museum & History Center) spent some time reminding us of the many other senses that exhibitions can invoke instead of – or in addition to – touch. They shared examples of non-touch interactivity through sound, smell, and proprioception; and participants broke out into smaller groups brainstorm ways to inexpensively increase the sensory dimensions of exhibits.
The next session I attended was Planning for Interpretive Planning with Julie Arrison-Bishop (Community Engagement Director at The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association) as facilitator, and the speakers were Matt Kirchman (President and Creative Director at ObjectIDEA in Massachusetts) and Brooke Steinhauser (Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum). All of them discussed tackling the interpretive planning process and shared their tips and tricks for successful project planning.
The last session I attended on the fourth day was Happy House Tours: Working with Homeowners and Volunteers for a Great Event with Sue Goganian (Director at Historic Beverly in Massachusetts) as facilitator, and the speakers were Fay Salt (a Trustee at Historic Beverly) and Beverly Homeowners John and Jaye Cuffe. Goganian, Salt, and Cuffe shared their perspectives on how much work and cooperation it takes to run a house tour event. They discussed how they require many volunteers and lots of coordination, and a great partnership makes it possible even with limited staff and a small budget. Staff members share the financial, organizational, and community benefits, and how it is done before the pandemic and beyond.
Before I attended the sessions for the last day of the conference, I revisited the Exhibit Hall to participate in a live demonstration from Panospin 360. Located in Lowell, Massachusetts, it offers virtual tour services for hospitality venues, universities, conference centers, medical facilities, corporations, retail stores, historical sites, and national parks across the United States. I will go into more detail in a future services examination blog post.
The first session I attended on the last day of the conference was Resource Roundup: A Roundtable for Sharing (and Discussing) Sources Relevant to Contemporary Issues in the Museum Field with many museum professionals participating as facilitators and speakers. It was a session where participants could get a bibliography of sources and engage with colleagues via active discussion to explore resources, ideas, share information, and network. All participants were broken into a number of different groups on various topics, and were encouraged to attend more than one: Museum Compensation/Salary Transparency; Issues of Access; Evaluation; Decolonization; Museum Activism & Social Justice; Gender Equity & Leadership; and Museum Careers & Professional Development. The purpose of the roundtable was to:
highlight the key books, articles, and resources useful for understanding and navigating contemporary museum issues while encouraging participants to seek out and engage with literature in the field, and consider how it influences, inspires, and/ or applies to their professional practice.
While this year’s conference had a different format than usual, the Annual Meeting and Awards still celebrated museum colleagues, associations, and museums. The highlights of the Annual Meeting and Awards luncheon were presenting the annual NEMA Excellence Awards, presented to colleagues who have gone “above and beyond;” presenting the NEMA Lifetime Achievement Award honoring Susan Robertson, executive director of Gore Place; and a brief “state of the association” presentation from NEMA Executive Director Dan Yaeger. Also, NEMA members voted on this year’s slate of NEMA officers and new members, plus bylaw updates.
The last session I attended for the last day of the conference was Accessibility for Online Programs and Communication Channels with Susan Robertson (Executive Director at Gore Place) as facilitator, and the speakers were Charles Baldwin (Program Officer, UP Designation, Innovation and Learning Network at Mass Cultural Council), Emily Carpenter (Web Designer and Digital Marketer, WA), and Aaron Rawley (Volunteer Coordinator at Gore Place). Within the session, the speakers spoke about how participants of all levels of technical knowledge could improve access to their digital offerings for visitors with disabilities. Participants learned from each presenter on how Gore Place, for instance, makes digital programs and communication channels more accessible through universal design. The discussion included but not limited to accessibility for social media, webinars, and websites.
Thank you all for your patience as I complete this second part of the conference coverage! If you have any questions about the sessions I attended above and in the previous NEMA virtual conference post, you can find my contact information on the Contacts page. Stay tuned for next week’s blog post about the holidays this year, and be sure to check out my campaign I have started on the Buy Me A Coffee site:
It is that time of year again to talk about the importance of Giving Tuesday and generosity as we prepare for the holiday season. Giving Tuesday is a global movement that started in 2012 to encourage people to do good especially during the holiday season. It inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. Last year, according to their website, individuals in the United States raised $511,000,000. While the Giving Tuesday event occurred on December 1st this year, it is not the only time individuals can donate to museums and non-profit organizations. It is a reminder to be inspired and inspire to do good Museums and non-profit organizations prepare each year for Giving Tuesday to connect with the communities they are a part of, including through emails and newsletters, and encourage community members to donate to their causes if they are able.
There are many Giving Tuesday campaigns that museums and non-profit organizations utilize to bring awareness to their causes. Some of them include but are not limited to:
Three Village Historical Society, which works within the community to explore local history through education about the history of the people who have lived in the Three Village area from earliest habitation to the present, sent emails out to members, volunteers, et. cetera the Giving Tuesday campaign. Within the email, they were selling the new book A Celebration of House Tours Past to commemorate the 40 years of the Candlelight House Tour that would have occurred this year and were originally going to have a limited-space dinner to replace this year’s tour but had to cancel due to updated regulations in response to the pandemic. The Candlelight House Tour typically accounts for a large portion of the funding that sustains TVHS for the year to come. The email also stated:
All of us at the Three Village Historical Society are doing everything we can to give back as we continue to adjust to the world around us. We are excited to offer new virtual programming in the coming year to help you engage in online education, and learn something new about our local history!
That’s why we’re asking for your continued support this #GivingTuesday. If you are able, please consider making a donation today. We’ve set an ambitious goal of 50 online donations and new or renewed memberships. You can become one of our generous supporters with a donation of any amount or with a new membership beginning at just $40 annually.
In addition to the donation and membership, there is also an Online Holiday Market. Originally going to be outdoors, the Holiday Market have items that include but are not limited to vintage framed photos, ornaments, books, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tote bags.
I received an email from Reimaginewhich is a non-profit organization sparking community-driven festivals and conversations that explore death and celebrate life. Reimagine shared a letter from one of their collaborators, she wrote about how much Reimagine meant to her when she lost both of her parents, to show how the support they receive helps them build a community that gives needed space for grappling with loss.
Facing History and Ourselves is a global organization with a network of 300,000 teachers, in every type of middle grade and secondary level school setting, that uses the lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate. Through the partnership with educators around the world, they are able to reach millions of students in thousands of classrooms every year. Within their Giving Tuesday email campaign, Facing History and Ourselves expressed their gratefulness for this year’s Thanksgiving for the teachers’ creativity, compassion, and resilience as well as the contributions members made to make the work with teachers and students possible. Also, they expressed that while the holiday season will be challenging for all of us they found hope in the teachers being able to use their resources and being able to help teachers transition to remote learning when the pandemic hit.
The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) shared their Giving Tuesday campaign through the members’ Weekly Dispatch email newsletter. They ask readers to think about doing good with AASLH through the Annual Fund, and shared that the donations power new professional development programs, efforts to improve diversity and inclusiveness, and help promote the relevance of history.
Preservation Long Island sent a thank you letter to express that they are thankful for the continued support through their virtual programming. There were also included links to make donations and becoming a member if one is able to do so.
Each of the above examples pointed out that if you are able to make a donation to please make a consideration to donate, and that you do not need to wait until Giving Tuesday to extend generosity.
In the past four years since starting this blog then ultimately the website, I wrote and released 200 blog posts. Thank you everyone who has read, shared, and commented on the blogs from when I first posted a blog to the most recent blog posts. To celebrate this milestone, I decided to do something really special for the blog and website. The blog and website will be expanded to offer everyone more opportunities to bridge between individuals and the museum and public history field through various projects that strive to be more accessible offsite.
Some of the various projects I am planning include books to become a part of the narrative within both fields. I will be making an announcement soon about an upcoming book project on the museum field I am starting work on.
In order for these projects to come to fruition, I ask you all to make a donation of as little or as much as you can on the donation page. I believe that every little bit helps, and that it is especially hard nowadays make large donations. This is why I created a page on Buy Me a Coffee, and you can access it on the donations page. Buy Me a Coffee is a more simple and fun way to support projects like this one, and you do not need to create an account to contribute. You can donate as little or as much as you could. On this page, I am also offering consulting to provide advice on content creation as well as advice on any upcoming projects related to museums, history, and public history.
If you are not able to make a donation, you can also share this post and donation page. Also, I will share updates in the blog on how the projects are coming along to share with you what each donation is working towards; so, stay tuned.
Thank you in advance! Your support is greatly appreciated.
Thanksgiving will look different this year not just due to the pandemic. It is still a holiday in which we should acknowledge our past and as I said in last year’s Thanksgiving post:
As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, we should remember to not only express what we are thankful for but to also learn more about Native American culture and their perspectives about the holiday.
It is especially important now, even while times are hard, to remember what we are thankful for and find ways to safely connect with others. A number of articles including from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal cover what we could do to have a safe holiday during the pandemic whether we are with our families or by ourselves this year. The Wall Street Journal for instance released articles “The Covid Thanksgiving: Outdoor Heaters, Virtual Meals, Grandma Stays Home” and “Traveling for Thanksgiving During the Pandemic? Here’s How to Stay Safe” that discuss the tough decisions people in the United States have to make and share information on what precautions that should be taken if one invites family over for the holidays.
The New York Times released articles as well to provide information on how to handle preparations for Thanksgiving during a pandemic. Anna Goldfarb’s “Solo on the Holiday? Reach Out” released advice for individuals who find themselves by themselves during the holiday. Goldfarb stated various ways to still enjoy the holidays as well as advice on dealing with being by oneself, and had shared more detailed explanations behind them:
Accept whatever feelings bubble up
Identify what’s most important to you and focus on achieving it
Take a social media break if you need it
Be gracious and live in the moment
Tara Parker-Pope wrote an article called “Serve Up Some Extra Precautions at Your Thanksgiving Table This Year” which discussed health concerns of the pandemic while sharing what one should do if they decide to invite family members outside of the household for Thanksgiving. Health officials recommend keeping home gatherings small, but it is better to not invite people who do not already live within the household. Parker-Pope also listed them with more detailed explanations behind them, and the following was what she stated in the article if one plans to invite people in the house:
Assess the risk
Ask your guests to take early precautions
Move the dinner outside
Reduce the time you spend together
Wear masks during downtime
Don’t share serving utensils and other items
The links of the previously mentioned articles I have discussed are posted below. In addition to what Thanksgiving would be like this year, I have also paid attention to more information available about indigenous people today and Thanksgiving since the post I wrote last year. I included a link to that post below for more about the history of Thanksgiving.
This past year, I attended the virtual AASLH Annual Meeting and one of the sessions I attended was called #IndigenousLivesMatter: Centering Voices of Indigenous People. The speakers were Fawn Douglas and Ashley Minner, and Patrick Naranjo was the moderator. Fawn Douglas is a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, where she previously served as a Tribal Councilwoman; she is an artist whose works include murals and performance that aims to shine a light on race, class, and gender to ask what it means to be Native in the contemporary. Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland, and an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Minner’s current research focuses on the changing relationship between Baltimore’s Lumbee Indian community and the area where they first settled. Patrick Naranjo is the director of the American Indian Graduate Program at the University of California, Berkley. Naranjo has published several articles and continues to transform higher education experiences for Native and Indigenous people through the intersection of Native heritage, academia, and cultural concepts.
All three of them had a discussion about the history and the disparage of the American Indian identity and issue. They emphasized within the session that having some meaningful conversation builds awareness and revisits a narrative of fore change in the current context. During the session, the speakers shared a number of resources on indigenous nations and to help us identify indigenous people who occupied the land first to help us acknowledge the people who live on the land we live on before us. This conversation is not only an important one to learn how we become better ancestors for future generations (the theme of the AASLH Annual Meeting was What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?) but it is one of many important examples of why indigenous lives matter. Thanksgiving this year for me will be reflecting on what I am thankful for especially in the mist of the pandemic, and how to be a better individual by learning about indigenous culture as well as the issues that need to be addressed.
I hope everyone has a safe Thanksgiving!
I included an updated list of resources I shared in last year’s blog post on Thanksgiving and Native American culture. These resources came from research that I did on my own, and some that were shared during the AASLH session #IndigenousLivesMatter: Centering Voices of Indigenous People.
This year I decided to attend the virtual New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference not only for professional development reasons but to also find out how they will execute a virtual conference. Like in previous conferences, I have also participated in the conversations and shared my thoughts on Twitter using the conference hashtag: #NEMA2020. Also, I decided to split it into two parts since there is so much information I gathered, it would be too long to fit into one post. I will post the second part after Thanksgiving. I learned that the majority of the recordings from the conference will be available after the conference for three months.
In case you are not familiar with the NEMA conference, I have included a few previous blog posts I wrote about a couple of the conferences I attended in the past below. I found out as I signed up for this year’s conference that the whole conference would be held through the app Whova. The app, Whova, has been used in previous NEMA conferences and I have used it as a way to network and keep track of the conference schedule. Whova has provided a platform this year to participate in the conference virtually, and the app could be used not just on the phone but also on the laptop/computer.
The NEMA conference took place between Monday November 16th and Friday November 20th. It was originally going to be located in Newport, Rhode Island (the same place where I attended my first NEMA conference seven years ago) but due to the pandemic it was switched over to the virtual platform. Like the rest of the virtual conferences I attended this year, I missed interacting with people in person however I did find it convenient to attend online. It saved me some time commuting to the in-person location and I did not have to worry about finding a hotel to stay in during the week. This year’s theme is Who Do We Think We Are Now? There are over sixty sessions, multiple keynotes, networking lunches, and a virtual exhibit hall.
On the first day of the conference, I attended the first keynote, three sessions, and visited the virtual Exhibit Hall. The keynote speaker for the first day was Coleen Dilenschneider who is the Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS. Dilenschneider is also author of the popular website Know Your Own Bone, and during the keynote she shared contemporary research about potential museum visitors in New England. This presentation focused on shifting sentiments, the insights these shifts provide for the future, and why agile, strategic museums are especially well-positioned to engage and inspire their communities during this time of change and beyond.
One of the key takeaways from the data Dilenschneider shared was when participants answered the question (what would make you feel comfortable returning to cultural organizations?) the number one answer for participants in the United States and in the New England region was mandatory face mask coverings. She also pointed out that there are three trends that are indicating positive change: superconnection, elevated expertise, and activating new audiences. The following are from the notes I took during the session of the survey results Dilenschneider shared:
to the web at home, work, and on mobile device
people prefer to stay home, the safest place to stay during the pandemic [according to survey]
more people spend time using digital sources for media consumption
highly credible source of information
visiting a(n) [organization type] is educational
opinion has increased during the pandemic
We are trusted experts.
Activating New Audiences:
Length of leisure visit preference in New England: preference to take day trips increased in 2020.
Leisure travel means: increase in personal vehicle preference
Newly activated visitation increased significantly in 2020
Newly activated visitation=new visitors, or those who have not visited in the last 3 years or so.
After the first keynote, I went to the virtual Exhibit Hall to see the exhibitors’ services and what giveaways they are offering for this year’s conference.
The first session I attended was called Your Museum Career: Now What? This session was aimed to help participants get ready to deal with the issues in the field that were amplified by this crisis. Each of the speakers talked about understanding museum salaries and doing your research before applying; the divide between “essential” and “non-essential” positions; coming out of the shutdown trauma and returning to work; taking control of the application process; how to get your digital and physical materials ready; and how to handle an all-virtual process. Some of the advice they shared for the job search post-COVID include:
pay close attention to the details of the job description, and while your resume may not be a 100 percent match to the job description it has to be enough to meet the qualifications
do not be afraid to apply to something you haven’t done in a while
look at the priority of listings in the job description; it will show what responsibilities are the most important for the role.
In the session, the speakers also shared their advice on how to understand museum salaries. A couple of the points they made on understanding museum salaries were:
look up the 990 forms of organizations but keep in mind that everything is different in 2020
do the research first then put down a reasonable number that is fair to you
Also, they provided advice on virtual interviews. According to the speakers, when you get a virtual interview it is important to run the technology beforehand. I believe that advice goes both ways because while it is important that the interviewees should make sure their internet connection, sound, et. cetera is working, it is also important for interviewers to make sure everything on their end is working for a successful interaction throughout the interview. For interviewers, speakers also recommended that the instructions and materials for the interview should be sent ahead of time to the interviewee in order to make sure they know what to expect for the interview process; also, if interviewers do not send log in information for the interview, the interviewee will not be able to get into the interview on time. A couple more advices they shared for interviewees are to dress the part (because it would also be a mood and confidence booster) and to have notes near you so that you would have visual reminders of what you want to say and ask in the interview.
The second session I attended was called What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid. Each speaker talked about how they were coming up with solutions like live radio, letterboxing, alternate reality games, unique Zoom interactions, and GoPro cameras to deliver engagement with an isolated audience using on-hand tools. There were five different presentations that addressed how they responded to and adapted programs because of Covid. Each speaker shared interesting programs, games, et. cetera that museum professionals could create their own versions. For instance, there are online puzzle hunts, radio broadcasts, mobile escape games, and phone- and letter-based immersive theater.
The third session I attended was called History is Happening Now: Collecting the Covid Experience. Representatives from three organizations recounted their efforts to capture the impact of the pandemic on their communities by collecting time capsules, written reflections, artwork, signage, masks, and other objects. Strategies discussed will include fast-forwarding development of projects in a moment of crisis, collecting methods and logistics, reaching different constituent groups, web archiving on a shoestring, and legal considerations. The speakers from the Norwich Historical Society (Vermont), Champlain College Archives (Vermont), and the Vermont Historical Society have shared their projects on keeping track of how the pandemic has impacted their communities and what they have faced during the process. The Norwich Historical Society for instance had a blogger help document curbside pickup for collecting items for their collection, and they also created a space online for members of the community to upload paintings that depict emotions felt during this time; they also had encouraged members of the community to paint murals, called Community Circles, that depict their answers to the question: What brings you hope?
I have also included some highlights of the presentations I shared on Twitter through #NEMA2020
Norwich Historical Society:
Champlain College Archives:
Vermont Historical Society:
On the second day of the NEMA conference, I started the day by attending the second keynote of the conference Museums, Race, and the Road to Inclusion. The keynote speaker was Jamal Jimerson who is the founder of Minority Inclusion Report and the Managing Partner at Thought Partner Solutions. Jimerson spoke about the issues of board and staff diversity, and the layers of systemic racism that is pervasive in society; he also spoke about how museums can stay effective and relevant in this changing world by aligning their values based on equity and inclusion with their practices. Here is a highlight of Twitter posts from this keynote presentation:
The first session I attended was called Leadership At All Levels – Exercising Influence When You Don’t Have Authority. Within this session, the speakers challenged the traditional idea of leadership in museums (leadership comes from the top-i.e. head of an institution or department in order to be a leader). They explored what it means to be an influential mid-level or emerging leader, and shared practical tools for leading without official authority, an understanding of what it means to step up and why it is essential for our success, and strategies for showing and developing our leadership skills no matter where we are in an organization. The following is a highlight from the session I shared on Twitter:
The third session I attended on the second day of the conference was Moving from “George Washington Slept Here” to “Who Cleaned this Chamber Pot?”: Redefining School Programs to Meet 21st Century Learning and Teaching. Within this session, the speaker provided tools, takeaways, and tips to help museum education professionals revamp school programs in order to be more intentional and utilize current strategies in education. The session covered how to make minor, no cost changes that have major impacts that include adaptations for specific grade ranges, sensory learning integration, and student-directed experiences. Each of the sections in the session presented tools and strategies that are applicable across the field and could enhance existing programs.
The session set up was interesting to me because it was a half hour pre-recorded session then the rest of the time was an open discussion; I liked that it was a somewhat different way of participating in a virtual conference session, and I could revisit it when I need to during and after the conference. I liked that there was also an opportunity for all participants to share their own experiences in revamping school programs and our own wants in adapting programs in an open discussion section. Here are a few tweets I posted to contribute to the discussion about the session:
The last session I attended on the second day was Stretching the STEAM/STEM Pipeline- Advancements Through Community Collaborations. It was an interesting session that pointed out museums should ask how they can help their community especially when it is facing social and economic challenges, and the academic achievement of area youth is tested. The speakers from the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, Connecticut shared their experience in answering the question: How can we step outside of our museum walls and unite with likeminded community stakeholders to make a lasting impact on STEAM/STEM achievement?
The presenters used their program “Bringing the Museum to the Neighborhoods” to highlight the steps necessary to successfully engage, coordinate, and manage a common agenda with collaborators and stakeholders who maintained varied missions and processes, and strive to advance a common agenda to support the community. For their program, the Children’s Museum collaborated with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford, the Hartford Public Library, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to provide a program that would encourage families within the Hartford community to engage in activities. Here are some highlights from that session:
The next three days of the conference will be covered in the second blog post covering this year’s NEMA conference. In the meantime, enjoy the blog posts I have previously written about past NEMA conferences I have attended since starting this blog.
To catch up on my live reactions to the virtual NEMA conference, follow me on Twitter at this username: @Steward2Lindsey and check out the hashtag #NEMA2020 for conversations among museum professionals, including myself, about the keynotes, sessions, and virtual meetups.
If you attended this year’s virtual NEMA conference, what do you think of the sessions and the virtual platform so far? Which one of the sessions I attended would you like to learn more about?
In the past, I previously wrote about the memories I had about my experiences in the museum field so far. To read the previous blog posts, check out the links below. Each experience taught me a lot and the lessons I learned help me move my career forward. My career has led me to move from working in Connecticut to working on Long Island, New York. Since I am still currently on Long Island with my husband and my career is still active, I am splitting this post into multiple posts to share each experience and lessons I have learned in each one. The following is a sample of the memories I have of working at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York.
At the Long Island Museum, I continued my career as Museum Educator and the role I had was both in educating school groups, camps, and individuals with Alzheimer’s and in education administration. I utilized object-based and inquiry-based methods to educate Pre-K-5 students, families, senior citizens about 19th century Long Island history and art on museum campus buildings such as the Carriage Museum, 19th Century Schoolhouse, and Art Museum. Inside the Schoolhouse, I dressed as a schoolteacher for two different types of school programs: one that is focused on learning what school was like through acting as schoolchildren in the 19th century as part of an overall program called Long Island Long Ago, and one that is focused on learning through discussions and demonstrations of the 19th century school day on Long Island from the 21st century perspective.
I also taught programs for various audiences. For instance, I prepared for and taught a program called In the Moment engaging individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the exhibit space. The program allows participants to engage with the exhibit by encouraging them to share memories as they touch replicas of items in the exhibit, listen to music relevant to the exhibit, and answer questions that are about what they are feeling and listening to. They also received cards with pictures from the exhibits they could bring back with them as a reminder of their visit they can share with their loved ones. Each program is different in each exhibit, and when there was a new exhibit a program needs to be developed. In an exhibit Long Island in the 60s, I was assigned to download music that were relevant to the exhibit and print out pictures to create the cards. Also, at the end of the program we set up snacks and drinks for participants and caregivers to enjoy before leaving the Museum.
On the administrative side of my role, I was in charge of the volunteer program for larger school programs. I created the schedule for volunteers participating in most education programs based on availability, and distribute them to volunteers, add to online Master Calendar (Google Calendar), and in art room where we meet for programs. The majority of the volunteers were retired so they were able to volunteer during the day when the school programs were scheduled. Some of the volunteers participated in the Long Island division of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (R.S.V.P.), and are using their experience at the Museum to record their hours on sheets that I sign off on and I send them in the mail at the end of the month to the person in charge of volunteer hours at R.S.V.P.
In addition to running the volunteer program for school programs, I also worked on a number of administrative tasks with the rest of the education department to keep it running at the Museum. I coordinated the assembly and distribution of brochures for school, children’s, and public programs. In addition to assembling the brochures, creating address labels and post marking the brochures, I also worked on maintaining an updated list of teachers and other personnel for school brochure mailings by researching school lists in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Also, I answered phone calls from teachers interested in school programs and organizations interested in group tours, and booked school programs and group tours using the Microsoft Office Suite to record the necessary information such as contact information and type of program; then once the information is gathered, I would update the Master Google Calendar to let the rest of the Museum staff know what is going on for that date. Depending on the program, I would also schedule volunteers to educate the school group and I would schedule a volunteer to lead a group tour depending on their availability.
I also assisted in logistics for school programs especially for programs with volunteers led stations. I was one of the educators that kept an eye on the school buses arriving to the Museum to make sure that they were arriving in the right parking lot for where the program was taking place. Also, I met with the teachers to check the school groups in and collect order forms and money for gift shop items they picked out before their arrival; I made sure that the gift shop items arrived to the administration office so they can be delivered to the kids at the end of the program. Once the kids were given the introduction in the program, the kids were split up into different groups and I would be one of the educators to make sure that each station ends on time for the switch. In addition, I also ordered and kept track of the school programs supplies inventory.
Every time I look back on this experience, I am always amazed by how much I did with the Museum while I was there. I also learned more about the administrative side of running the education department, and what it was like to work on projects in a larger museum than I was used to in historic house museums. The experience also inspired me to continue to learn about the administrative side of museum education. I will continue to share memories from my Long Island experiences in future blog posts.
In the meantime, next week I will be sharing my experience at the New England Museum Association’s virtual conference.
I remembered that today is Guy Fawkes Day so I had to acknowledge it before I started the blog post. Anyhow, last month I released a post on the books I wanted to read for the rest of 2020. I asked you all what you are reading, and below is a selection of books that have been shared with me through social media.
Ron Chernow’s Grant
From the writer of Washington and Hamilton, Ron Chernow wrote a biography of another general and president: Ulysses S. Grant. Chernow’s biography provides an understanding of the general and president who faced frequent changes in successes and failures in his career and personal life. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
2. Tejano Patriot: The Revolutionary Life of José Francisco Ruiz, 1783–1840 by Art Martínez de Vara
Art Martínez de Vara wrote a biography of one of the important figures in Texas history. The biography takes a closer look at the life of José Francisco Ruiz and his contributions go beyond being one of two Texas-born signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Ruiz went through a transformation during the war of Mexican independence from a conservative royalist to one of the steadfast liberals of his era. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
3. Frederick Jackson Turner: Historian, Scholar, Teacher by Ray Allen Billington
Written in the 1970s, Billington wrote a biography of the historian Frederick Jackson Turner who was known for his paper on “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” that was presented at the 1893 American Historical Association meeting held in Chicago. For more information, check out the link about Turner here and for the biography here.
4. Brief History of History: Great Historians And The Epic Quest To Explain The Past by Colin Wells
Wells goes into brief detail about history that is described history as a living idea. Also, it provides summaries of historians and their important works. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
5. John Arnold’s History: A Short Introduction
Arnold released an essay about how we study and why we study history. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
6. Alun Munslow’s History of History
Munslow wrote a book which confronts several basic assumptions about the nature of history. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
7. A Relentless Spirit: Catharine Ladd by Patricia Veasey
Patricia Veasey wrote about Catherine Ladd who was an innovative educator and writer. She juggled marriage with numerous children, established and conducted female academies, contributed poetry for publication, wrote and produced plays, helped raise funds for rebuilding her war-ravaged town, and submitted political commentary—all within 19th century cultural constraints. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
8. Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact by Randi Korn
Korn wrote on how the idea of intentional practice grew from a confluence of political concerns, observations of museum in the marketplace, and the increasingly deafening call for museums to be accountable. Also, it describes the seven principles of intentional practice and provides basic intentional-practice strategies, exercises, and facilitation questions. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
9. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
A novel written by O’Farrell, Hamnet is set in England in the 1580s during the plague. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
10. Pull of the Stars by Emma Donohue
Donoghue’s novel is set in Ireland in 1918, and it is about a nurse working in an understaffed hospital where unexpected mothers were quarantined together after coming down with a terrible new flu. For more information, check out the link for the book here.
If you would like to share what you are reading or are planning to read, please let me know in the comments. Have you read the books above? If you have, what do you think of them?
Since it has been a while, I decided to plan another virtual trip to a museum. In a previous visit to Salem, Massachusetts, I was not able to visit the Peabody Essex Museum and decided to write about my virtual experience. According to their website, the Peabody Essex Museum is a museum of international art and culture that is dedicated to connecting art to the world. Also, the staff and board strive to create experiences that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the world through exhibitions, programs, publications, media, and other related activities.
During my visit to the Peabody Essex Museum, I took virtual tours of their exhibits that were available on their website. Each tour has a 360-degree experience within their spaces powered by Matterport Lightshed Photography Studio; to move around in the space, I clicked on the rings and used the mouse to zoom in/out, and to look all around. The exhibits I explored were Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, Asian Export, Fashion & Design, Maritime, Where the Questions Live, Art & Nature Center, and Powerful Figures.
Jacob Lawrence was a leading modern American painter and the most prominent black American artist of the time. In the exhibit Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, his pieces were his responses to the fraught national political climate and according to the exhibit panel he wanted to visualize a more complete American history through word and image. The exhibit is a series of 30 paintings that interpret pivotal moments in from the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic between 1770 and 1817; his goal was to revive the struggles of the founding fathers and underrepresented historical figures in his art for his day and for future generations.
A couple of the paintings include ones that interpret the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. Each painting included a quote from historical figures or primary sources on the side panels next to them. For instance, his interpretation of the Boston Tea Party had a quote from a song of 1773 which stated:
Bring out your axes,
and tell King George
we’ll pay no taxes
on his foreign tea…
While exploring the exhibit, I thought that the interpretations were interesting and visually striking especially since I was used to seeing paintings like the Signing of The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull as an example of historical interpretation in art. I believe Lawrence achieved his goal with his painting series and I enjoyed the virtual experience.
The Peabody Essex Museum not only provides virtual tours but there are also at-home programs inspired by the museum. For instance, there is a program called PEM Pals that is located on PEM’s YouTube channel. PEM Pals is a weekly program dedicated to art, stories and learning for children under the age of 5 and their caretakers; each new episode are streamed at 10:30am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesdays. There is also Drop-In Art Activities that provides video tutorials to create various projects including but not limited to: milk jug elephants, egg carton ladybugs, cotton swab tree painting, plastic bottle chandelier, map making, and bubble bottle. Another example of at-home programs is Explore Outside in which participants are encouraged to go outdoors to investigate the world with nature-based activity sheets for bird watching, neighborhood tree trek, and scavenger hunts.
One of the exhibits that are available in person with a sample of objects from the exhibit available online was The Salem Witch Trials 1692. It is on view from September 26, 2020 to April 4, 2021. The exhibit explored the hysteria that involved more than 400 people and led to the deaths of 25 innocent people (men, women, and children) between June 1692 and March 1693. There are many unfounded theories about the Salem Witch Trials about how the hysteria started, and interest in the Trials still persist to this day. If you are able to see it in person, I recommend visiting this exhibit.
I hope to visit the Peabody Essex Museum in person one day. To learn more about the Museum, check out the links below.
I decided to write a bonus post to share some examples of activities museums are doing for Halloween during this pandemic. While Halloween will look different this year, there are ways to still celebrate while being safe. Museums, whether the experience is virtual or in person, are a great example of resources on what to do this Halloween season. Each one on the list I have complied below includes a link with more information about each of these museums and events. Also, each listing that has in-person gatherings include safety guidelines to protect one another while participating in the events.
New York State Museum: New York State Museum’s Halloween Spooktacular is a series of free virtual experiences featuring storytelling, craft demos, science, and a close-up look at the Museum’s costume collections.
Litchfield Historical Society: There is an event called Scarecrows in the Meadow in which families can socially distant walk through displays of scarecrows while enjoying games and self-guided crafts. The event is ongoing until October 31st.
Queens County Farm Museum: There are a number of events occurring at this museum including Halloween on the Farm which is family friendly includes admission to the Amazing Maize Maze, hayrides, kids crafts at the Con Edison Ecology booth and trick-or-treating with the farm animals.
Norwalk Historical Society: This virtual event is a fundraiser that is selling tickets, $10 per household, for the movie Haunting at Mill Hill. Once the tickets are purchased, the movie link will be sent to the email used to purchase the tickets.
Green-Wood Cemetery: The cemetery is celebrating Día de Los Muertos starting on October 23rd, and a community altar will be installed in the Historic Chapel.
This is not a complete list. I hope this list will be a starting point for anyone looking for something to do this Halloween. If you know of other museums doing virtual and/or in-person events for Halloween, please share in the comments.
As I prepare to go through the virtual sessions I had participated in, the ones I did not get a chance to participate in live, and ones that were pre-recorded, I thought I would do a recap on the rest of the AASLH conference that concluded on September 30th. This conference theme was “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” and each session I attended and the ones that I will continue to attend after they were live addressed this question. The recordings are available until November 11th.
I previously stated in my blog post on the first day of the AASLH conference:
AASLH’s staff worked really hard to make this year’s conference a virtual one. Originally, this conference was going to be in Las Vegas, Nevada. If it were still in Las Vegas, I would not be able to go since I would not be able to afford the airfare in addition to the hotel and conference rate. While I do like to be in person when I participate in professional development programs, I like that by making this year’s conference virtual it is a little more accessible for more people to participate in. Also, at the time I was attending the first session there were 2,245 conference attendees and I believe it was at least more than half of the conference attendees that attended last year. Since the conference is online this year and that I was able to receive a scholarship to attend, I decided to attend this year’s conference to learn more to develop my skills as a museum and history professional.
Since I made the above statement, at the time of the last day of the sessions, the number of participants increased to 2,400 participants. I still agree that by making this year’s conference online it is a little more accessible for more people to participate, and the number of participants this year proved having a virtual conference is beneficial. Therefore, I believe hybrid conferences should be planned to make conferences as accessible as possible.
During the conference, I thought about my answers to the question “What Kind of Ancestor Will We Be?” and I know what kind of ancestor I want to be. I will be the ancestor who continues to learn about the world around me, to listen to other people’s experiences and dedicate my actions to working on a better world until we can truly say all lives matter, to remember to acknowledge my privilege, and to be able to share the lessons I have learned to the next generation. It is also important for all of us to acknowledge that the United States itself is a country of immigrants, including my family; my maternal great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy and my paternal great-grandfather immigrated to this country from England in the early 20th century. I also thought about previous generations like my great-grandfathers pondering similar questions on what legacy they would leave behind.
I have learned a lot in those days, and I included a highlight of the Twitter conversation I participated in while engaging in conversations during the sessions. It would be extensive to include everything in this post, and to see and participate in the dialogue follow the Twitter hashtag #AASLH2020.
Here is the highlight from the rest of the AASLH conference: