NEMA 2020 Virtual Conference: Part 1

November 19, 2020

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.

Whova (Mobile)
Whova (Laptop)

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.

Day 1

Keynote Presentation: Colleen Dilenschneider

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:

Superconnection:

  • 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

Elevated Expertise:

  • 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.

Exhibit Hall
Your Museum Career: Now What?

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.

What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid
Resources to Create Virtual Games, What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid

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:

Concept of Programs from Vermont Historical Society, History is Happening Now: Collecting the Covid Experience

Day 2

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?

Past NEMA conference coverage:

Mini Blog Post: #NEMA2019

#NEMA2019 Recap

Recap: The 100th Annual New England Museum Association Conference

Information about Whova App

Museum Memories: Long Island Part 1

November 12, 2020

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.

Links:

Museum Memories: Connecticut’s Old State House

Museum Memories: Stanley-Whitman House

Museum Memories: Connecticut Landmarks Historic Houses in Hartford

Museum Memories: Noah Webster House

Halloween in the Museums 2020

October 23, 2020

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.

The following list includes:

Children’s Museum of New Hampshire: They have both Halloween kits for pick up and a virtual experience combining the fun of Halloween and science.

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.

New York Botanical Garden: The Great Pumpkin Path, October 3 – November 1, 2020, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Festival: If you are in the area, there is a harvest festival at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. October 24-25, 2020.

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.

I have also included a link to the post I wrote last year which includes the history of Halloween here: The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate

What are your plans for Halloween this year?

What Kind of Ancestor Will We Be? AASLH Asks Us During the First Virtual Annual Meeting

October 22, 2020

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:

Virtual Exhibit Hall

Link:

#AASLH2020: Day 1: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-18K

#MuseumEdChat: NCoC and Museum Leaders

October 15, 2020

In preparation for the workshop next week, NCoC and Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath, the MuseumEdChat Twitter conversation focused tonight’s discussion on what role museums could play as 2020 comes to a close post-election. The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) dedicate their work to strengthen civic life in America by connecting people together through a nationwide network of partners involved in a cutting-edge civic health initiative, their cross-sector conferences and engagement with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations interested in utilizing civic engagement principles and practices to enhance their work. With this partnership, museum leaders and thinkers are virtually gathering together to support museum staff and imagine the roles museums, as trusted civic institutions, can play in whatever 2020 has left in store.

The Twitter discussion explored four areas of museum work with the theme of community in each question. For those who are not familiar with #MuseumEdChat, discussion hosts and participants used the Q1/A1 format and the #MuseumEdChat hashtag in replies in order to be seen by all participating in the discussion.

Because Twitter at the time of this post was not letting me, and as I suspect other participants, post our responses to the questions I am posting my answers to this blog post. Here are the following questions and answers for tonight’s discussion:

Q1. Operations: What should concern museums regarding their operations and serving their community after the election? Is your museum discussing this at all? #MuseumEdChat

I think it is important to figure out the decisions that would be best for each individual museum on how they will operate and serving the community since each museum is different and the communities they serve have their own needs to attend to. Museums should be discussing with one another what could be the best approaches for within the museum and community, and the individual museum will use what was discussed to figure out what approach works best for their own institution.

Q2. Messaging: What ideas, messages, publicity, etc. could museums share with the community that would be valuable right now *and* post-election? #MuseumEdChat

I tested posting to Twitter by attempting to send this answer as a response: A2 I think museums can share resources that would best educate the public about what the issues we are voting on and set up programs & statements on what the next steps would be for museums and how they’ll continue to work on serving the community now & post-election. #MuseumEdChat

Q3. Programs: What kinds of programs would you like to see #museums do for the community post-election? (Again, think about those scenarios…)

I would like to see museums plan programs for the community that focus on mental health to help people in the community deal with how the pandemic and the election has impacted them these past months.

Q4. Staff care: How could museums help staff practice self-care and provide for them given the potential election outcomes and the role of the #museum post-election? #MuseumEdChat

Museum leaders should dedicate some time in the day for staff to practice self-care whether each staff member wants to practice by themselves or practice self-care together. There should be focus on letting staff figure out how to care for themselves as well as their families to prepare for the impact the election results will have on what is happening in their own lives.

I plan on attending this workshop coming up on October 21st from 3pm-5pm EST to better educate myself and participate in the discussion on how museums can best serve the community post-election.

The following links are where you can participate in the discussion and to learn more about National Conference on Citizenship:

NCoC x Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath

National Conference on Citizenship

#AASLH2020: Day 1

September 24, 2020

AASLH Conference 2020

Earlier today was the first day of the virtual American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) conference. This year’s theme is “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” It was an engaging and thought provoking first day with sessions focusing on being aware of our blind spots in terms of diversity and we could learn more about women in history through generations. I have included some tweets I released throughout the first day below with brief explanations of what session each tweet is referring to. The first thing I will address is

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. I also thought about my answer to this year’s conference theme:

One of the sessions I attended was #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter: Black Women Leaders Overcoming the Double Burden. In the session, the speakers revealed a number of disturbing statistics on how many people make up the museum leadership in the entire country:

Meanwhile 85 percent of the individuals in museum leadership roles are white men. This shows that we still have a way to go to making the museum field more diverse. We should not expect that when we fulfill one criteria for diversity our work is done because our society is continuously changing, and we need to continue to learn how to be better organizations.

Another session I attended was Generations of Women: Complicating Traditional Timelines which focused on three case studies of researching women’s history through using sources found from census records, books, articles, et. cetera and generations of their families. The speakers discussed how keeping track of what happened in history through generations rather than dates because people can relate to generations since we all belong to generations.

The previously listed sessions and tweets were just a sample of what I did today. I learned so much, and I look forward to learning more in the next few days (until September 30th).

Follow me on Twitter, @Steward2Lindsey, to see my thoughts and reactions in real time. If you would like to attend the conference, click on the AASLH conference page.

Stay tuned!

Services Examination: Curious Experience Design

August 27, 2020

Earlier today I came across a group on LinkedIn promoting Curious Experience Design and I decided to take a closer look at their website to see what it is. It has been a while since I released a post examining services and websites geared towards museums, therefore I thought that I would find out what this was about. Curious Experience Design, according to their site and social media pages, designs immersive experiences that enliven the mundane and invite participants to get curious. On their website, they revealed that they not only provide services for museums, but they also worked on projects for festival entertainment, birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, concerts, open houses, corporate events, team building, brand activation, library programs, college events, prom after-parties, and more.

Their site also described what they designed within their site and in their portfolios they shared on the site. According to the site, they design multimedia games, immersive events, and education programs. They believe that at the core the art of game design is a process of designing experiences and the media is only a tool to create an engaging game experience. Also, I liked that they stated “You don’t need the flashiest technology to impress” because each museum has the opportunity to provide engaging interactive games/exhibits and education programs; while museums have varying budgets to spend on exhibits and programs, there are opportunities to create engaging ones with the resources they have to implement. For the immersive events, they blended live-action role playing and immersive theater, and encouraged participants to wear costumes and become characters themselves.

In addition to multimedia games and immersive events, they also developed educational programs for museums and classrooms between primary school and college. They expressed their belief that learning should be fun since learners can be motivated to engage with subjects being taught by creating compelling stories and challenging players through exploratory play. There are museums, including ones I have previously worked for, that are working towards incorporating more storytelling and interaction to help students in education programs not only take away the important lessons but also gain memorable experiences from. The examples of projects they have worked on were shared on their website in the portfolio section.

One of the projects they worked on took place at the Bostonian Society in which they created an immersive game. According to the portfolio, the educational immersive game was designed to put players into the events that let to the American Revolution on the exact locations the events took place. Inside the portfolio, they stated

Participants were assigned to use a guidebook to locate interpreters on the streets of downtown Boston. Once located, the interpreters, playing 18th-century characters, drew the players into the political intrigues of 1765 with riddles, ciphers and secret plots. Players undertook a series of challenges, culminating in a participatory reenactment of a colonial protest march through the modern, urban streets.

I appreciate that in this program that the participants were able to be in the same locations where the events took place because it would help them become more engaged with the history if they were able to either be in the locations physically or in simulated locations.

If you are curious to learn more, visit their website I have included below.

Links:

https://www.curiousxp.com/

https://www.curiousxp.com/blog/echoes-of-the-past

Should Museums Die? A Conversation about Reforming the Museums

August 6, 2020

Last weekend there was a Death to Museums unconference that was livestreamed on August 1st and 2nd, and is now available to view on their YouTube channel. According to their website, Death to Museums is inspired by 2019 edition of FWD:Museums, a journal produced by students and faculty in the Museum and Exhibition Studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

At the time of publication, the journal questioned whether museums can continue “business as usual” or if they should be reimagined anew. We find renewed relevance in this theme at a moment when museums are collapsing before our very eyes. We challenge the idea of returning to “normal” once the pandemic ends when “normal” means inequality, instability, extremely low wages, and an embarrassing lack of diversity across museum staff. Instead, we want to harness the collective potential of museum workers working towards radical change.

The way they challenged the idea of returning to “normal” was the unconference, and on each day there were presentations covering a wide-range of topics that focused on the goal to challenge oppressive museum practices and change the practices for the better. Some of the sessions include but not limited to A Proposal to White Museums, Museum Empathy and Compassion Fatigue: How Museums Can Support Staff Wellness, Not “Now, More Than Ever”—How Museums Can Talk Straight in Weird Times, Museum Internships Past, Present, and Future: Dismantling Systems of Powers from the Ground Up, and Dismantling Barriers to Progressive Action. I recommend watching all of the sessions to see for yourselves the discussions about reforming museum practices.

While we are all focusing on protecting each other and staying safe during the pandemic, museum professionals are taking advantage of this opportunity to discuss the changes that need to be made and had needed to be made for a long time now. Among the many calls for change in the museum field, museum professionals discuss the issues museums have not made enough progress in resolving especially during this pandemic including poor pay, anti-union, gender pay gap, and other inequitable and inhumane behaviors that turned museum professionals away from the field. I have also discussed some of the issues that were presented in the sessions in previous blog posts, especially under the What’s Going on in the Museum Field section. Reform in the museum practices is really needed, and before making changes we also need to address as well as acknowledge the foundations of museums that led us to this point. The changes we need to make not only should be focused on the institutions but also on the individuals working in the museums such as encouraging more self-care.

What do you think about death to museums? What would you want to see from museums moving forward?

Check out the links below on death to museums and related discussions.

Links:

https://deathtomuseums.com/

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2020/08/03/is-calling-for-their-death-the-path-to-fixing-museums-a-leadership-agenda-2021/

https://news.artnet.com/opinion/limits-of-care-and-knowledge-yesomi-umolu-op-ed-1889739?

What’s Going on in the Museum Field

Museum Leadership: The People Matter

July 16, 2020

While museums are facing the pandemic, whether or not to re-open their physical doors, and anti-racism movements, museum leadership has been brought into question on how leadership could evolve to have a more people-centered focus. Earlier this week I came across the post on Leadership Matters called “Flat Hierarchies versus the Corner Office But What Matters is People”, written by Joan Baldwin, on the state of museum leadership during this pandemic and the rise of anti-racism movements. This post made me reflect on my experiences as a leader and on my previous thoughts on museum leadership expressed in the blog.

According to the Leadership Matters post, the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-racism movements exposed a lot of inequities that exist in the United States and in the museum field recent events led many to call for a new kind of leadership that is less paternalistic and hierarchical, more collaborative. In other words, museum professionals are looking for different ways to lead in the museum that does not support inequity, low pay for front-line staff, corruption, et. cetera. Baldwin raised a number of questions in address of this call:

But what does less hierarchical really look like? What if there is no leader, just a leadership team? Sounds great, right? Everybody plays to their strengths and happily gets the work done. But what happens in a crisis when decisions must be made quickly? What if the team can’t come to consensus? Or what if other members of the staff quickly learn to play one member of the leadership team against another to ensure decisions go their way?

Leadership has a number of considerations when faced with fast decision-making opportunities especially during a pandemic we all continue to face at the time of this blog post. The system of leadership looks different for each museum, institution, and non-profit organization, and no one answer can address all concerns each one has when figuring out how to lead. To determine the answers for questions like the ones posed above, if they are looking to change their approach to leadership, each institution and non-profit should examine what their own needs are before considering any change.

In addition to considering how to answer leadership questions, museums need to be reminded of not just who they serve but who is a part of the team within the museum walls. Baldwin pointed out that to be a museum leader is to also be a people person. In other words, she stated:

It means being someone who understands it’s not about you or about the content that brought you to the field in the beginning, but instead about the team you lead, and the people and careers you nurture. The absence of leaders who actually care about staff creates institutions where bullying is rife, where hot-shot attorneys are hired to defeat unionization, where sexually harassed women are told to go work things out with their co-workers is a horrific and bothersome bi-product of this absence of leadership.

Understanding that museums are run by people who are human with limitations is a significant part of being a leader, and based on the number of cases that have been shared on how front-line staff have been treated it seems that many museums have forgotten this fact. As well as remembering my experience in the museum field, this section of the post reminded me of an early experience I had as a leader, and while it was not in the museum field this experience had taught me the importance of being a people person in the leadership role.

One of my first experiences in a leadership role was back in high school thirteen years ago as a color guard captain. The high school color guard team was a small group with more seniors than other grade levels. By the time I was a senior in high school, one of the members in the same graduating class forcibly took over the captain position; she utilized the position to not listen to any input from myself and other seniors, and other color guard members, and focused on executing her own ideas. Her actions in the leadership role, including insulting and bullying members, led to many color guard members to leave. When she left the high school, I took over the role of color guard captain and worked towards salvaging the team by listening to remaining members on not only their needs but the ideas they had on making the routines better; some of the members that originally left returned to the team. During my experience as color guard captain, I understood the importance of group input since it not only opened my mind to other possibilities for creating color guard routines and remembering their needs as individuals and students, but I also recognized them as future leaders who will be carrying the torch once I graduated. The leadership experience that I have both witnessed and practiced myself had an impact on me ever since. I sought to continue my approach to leadership as a way to not only open myself up to growth but to help foster future generations of leaders move the museum field forward.

Since then I have learned about more responsibilities and considerations leaders face in the workplace to create a strong connection within the communities they serve. In addition to having a connection with the community, leadership needs to be practiced in order to learn how to be a more effective leader. This is especially true in the museum field. In my blog post, “Museum Leadership: What We Need To Do To Develop Our Skills in the Museum Field”,

There is a difference between having the knowledge and actually practicing this knowledge. If museum professionals are under the impression that there are only certain professionals that can exhibit their leadership skills, then we would be hindering our museum professionals and future professionals’ potential. We need to show museum professionals at all levels how leadership skills benefit all of them within the organization. Our field right now is working towards improving the museum workplace throughout the field but there are still issues we need to work through to untangle this web.

When museum leaders practice their skills, they are able to develop the skills they need to connect with other people and evolve as leaders for the future of museums. If museum leaders cannot connect with their staff, volunteers, and board members, then they would be less inspired to be open with their leaders on not only ideas that may help museums move forward but also on their needs as individuals.

To learn more about the Leadership Matters post, check out the link below.  

What is your opinion on leadership? Can museums figure out a way to have effective leadership that have their staff’s best interest in mind?  

Links:

Flat Hierarchies versus the Corner Office But What Matters is People

Museum Leadership: What We Need To Do To Develop Our Skills in the Museum Field

Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums

Museums’ Role in Activism

July 9, 2020

Activism in the United States, especially in the past few months, expresses the need for change and museums have been participating in many ways. It is important for museum staff on all levels to recognize their role in activism in order to effectively understand their role within the communities they serve as well as engage in. In one of my previous blog posts Reaction: Museum Values in Times of Crises, I pointed out that: If we do not get involved in the community and listen to what the members of the community need, then we cannot claim we are having any influence or involvement in our communities. I believe that this certainly applies to museums and activism.

Earlier tonight I participated in the #MuseumEdChat on Twitter to discuss museums and activism facilitated with the question and answer format. The first question that participants addressed within the conversation was:

Q1 How do you define museum activism? #MuseumEdChat

Among the many possible definitions, they all have one thing in common: museum activism is not limited to one location and one medium. For example, I pointed out that I define museum activism as museum professionals either individually or the whole museum spreading the word and taking action to make changes. Museum activism can come in all sorts of formatting from museum professionals participating in the Black Lives Matter movement to supporting museum unions fighting against inequitable workplace practices.  Communication is an important tool in museum activism, and without maintaining communication within and outside the museum walls we would not be able to go far in our activism to effect great change.

Another question that participants in the #MuseumEdChat addressed in the discussion was: Q2. Should museums consider themselves activist spaces? Why/why not? #MuseumEdChat. While I do believe that museums should consider themselves activist spaces, I think it is important that museums are not solely activist spaces because museums should be considered for multi-purposes that both serve and contribute to the community. If we use the museum space for one sole purpose, then we not only limit ourselves, but an imbalance would be created and therefore we would not be considered relevant in the activist role or in any role. Activism is a continuous series of actions that all museum professionals do and should take seriously if we want to effectively make significant changes within our society.

I have included links to relevant blog posts and resources in the list below.

What do you think the museums’ roles in activism should be?

Links:

Reaction: Museum Values in Times of Crises

Museums Are Not Neutral: A Discussion on Why There is No Museum Neutrality in Museum Education

Michelle Obama, “Activism”, and Museum Employment: Part I

Your neutral is not our neutral

Advocacy and Lobbying Without Fear: What Is Allowed within a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization

Oppression: A Museum Primer

Brooklyn Museum’s The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America