AAM Virtual Conference 2020 Experience

June 4, 2020

This past week I was able to attend the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) conference. Like the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, AAM decided to hold the conference online to present content that will help move the museum field forward. The AAM virtual conference took place on May 18th, and June 1st through June 4th. Its’ theme this year was: Radical Reimagining. Since this is the first-time museum associations in the United States are holding conferences on the internet, there are bugs they would go through as multiple museum professionals interact with one another from the comfort and safety of their homes. I liked that in response to the murders, protests, and police brutality, AAM responded not only with a statement but made sure the sessions we attended continued the discussion of racism in this country. One of the sessions I attended today was the PSA of the Future with speakers from Poster House (the first museum about the history of posters) and Isometric Studio (a visual identity and graphic design consultancy based in New York City).

The PSA of the Future session, including a brief history of posters and PSAs, had an interactive workshop in which participants were encouraged to design our own posters. We were introduced to elements of poster design, have the opportunity to exchange ideas about the subject matter, and design our own posters in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I shared the design I worked on in the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram after the session concluded:

When registration first opened for the conference, there have been concerns expressed across social media by museum professionals because of the fees AAM charged while many museum professionals are facing furloughs, layoffs, job hunting halts, et. cetera. They also made arguments that charging high fees contradicts not only the theme of the conference but also contradicts its efforts for a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible museum field.  According to AAM’s website: Registration for the virtual conference is $235 for all AAM members and $345 for non-members. In addition to releasing a statement for their losing revenue reasoning, they also encouraged registrants to make donations in addition to the registration fees and sponsors were able to provide for a number of deeply discounted ($25) registrations. Even though I was one of the lucky individuals who was able to register for $25, I wonder how many people were actually able to receive it or were able to even pay that much.

Since I have not been to the AAM conference before this year, I was curious as to not only what the conference was like but how they would be able to handle operating a virtual conference. I enjoyed the sessions I was able to attend live while connecting with other conference participants was limited to sending messages during sessions, an open chat, and a few virtual networking events. A networking section was later added by the last day of the conference.

Because I did not receive an email that I was able to register for the conference at $25 until the Friday before the full conference began on June 1st, I missed the General Session due to previous engagements but attended the sessions for the rest of the day. Instead of attending the last few minutes of the General Session, I went to the MuseumExpo, as well as throughout the day, which includes various links to conference sponsors, booths with external links to services they have, tech talks, and virtual poster sessions. The virtual poster sessions were about twelve downloads of PowerPoint presentations on relevant topics in the museum field. I attended the following sessions on June 1st: Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research, Moderated Open Chat, Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance, and Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World.

The Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research session had the following speakers: Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann, Museum of Science, Boston; Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett; Madeline Smith, Slover Linett; Peter Linett, Slover Linett; and Tim Hallman, Asian Art Museum. Slover Linett uses tools of research, evaluation, community dialogue, and experience design to help cultural organizations become more inclusive, innovative, and relevant. The speakers discussed the 6 Ps of Experience Design, which is a framework for the cultural sector from Slover Linett. The 6 Ps of Experience Design are: Programming, People, Place, Policies, Promises, Personality, and a Bonus “P”: Purpose. I have included a link to the framework in the resource section below for more details about the 6 Ps of Experience Design.

The Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance session had Camille Tewell, North Carolina Museum of Art; Jacqueline Benitez, California Academy of Sciences; Matt Schullek, Ohio History Connection; and Tami Moehring, CILC – Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration as its speakers. In the session, participants discovered how distance learning can help museums increase their reach. Also, we joined small group discussions led by the speakers to talk about developing content, infrastructure requirements, marketing, and making museums more accessible. In the Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World session, we heard Kate Brueggemann (Adler Planetarium) and Donna McGinnis (Naples Botanical Garden) share information about building a fundraising management plan that can leverage our institutions as we are preparing for re-opening our institutions.

I also attended a part of the Virtual Reception which was led by Songdivision, in which we were all in the Zoom calls (much like the ones we were in for the sessions) watching the group as they engaged us with live performances and a rock-and-roll game show. Because I have not experienced a reception on the virtual platform for a conference before, I decided to check it out and enjoyed the music they played.

The rest of the conference was a similar experience I had on the first day with some changes including a new moving and significant session that was added to take part in the discussion on racism, unrest, and the role of the museum field led by Lonnie Bunch (14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and Baltimore Museum of Art), and Lori Fogarty (Oakland Museum of California). I have included the link to where I logged in for the conference for an overview and specific details of the sessions that were offered throughout the four days.

Next week I am continuing the discussion about AAM and virtual conferences since there was a lot of detail to put into one blog post.

If you have attended virtual conferences, please share your experiences and impressions. Also, if you have any questions about the conferences I have attended please visit the contact page where my contact information is located.

Resources:

AAM Virtual Conference

Annual Meeting Information

The 6 Ps of Experience Design

See also: NYCMER 2020 conference blog post

Why the Conversation about Gender and Museums Matter?

March 5, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

Global Perspectives on Museums

Added to Medium, September 20, 2018

I recently received AAM’s recent Museum magazine, What Binds Us? Global Perspectives Local Solutions, in the mail. As I read the articles, it made me think about my own experience in learning more about perspectives outside of the country. The magazine provided numerous examples of how museums outside of the United States face similar situations U.S. museums deal with as museums continue to maintain their relevance in society.

In her introduction letter, Laura Lott, the president of AAM, wrote about the importance of connecting with other countries around the globe. Lott revealed in her letter that she expanded her knowledge of countries around the world in her earlier years. She went to Tokyo, Japan as an exchange student for a year. Lott briefly revealed this about her experience:

I learned more during that year—about the world, about myself, and about life—than I could have in 12 years of school. A global perspective will do that. In many ways, I am still on that journey, as one of the greatest attributes of museums is their ability to create fresh vantage points from which you can see the world.

By having a global perspective, one can learn so much about the world around us and about oneself. I had a couple of similar experiences of having a global perspective, and I wish to broaden my global perspective more than I have in the past.

When I was a young child, I traveled outside of the United States for the first time. I went to Ontario with my family. A couple of things we did on this trip was to see Niagara Falls and saw a documentary about the history of Ontario and Niagara Falls. In middle school, I went on a French class trip to Quebec where we met our French-Canadian pen pals.

Before traveling to Quebec, my class were assigned to French-Canadian students of the same age to communicate our experiences in French. I learned a lot from the experience and from my pen pal Audrey. For months we communicated about various things such as what our schools were like as well as our families, our favorite places to visit, and what activities we like to do. Our teacher arranged to have our class travel to Quebec to meet our pen pals in person.

During this trip to Quebec, my class and I explored Quebec City learning about the history and culture of the French Canadian city. While we were in the City, our class stayed in the Chateau Frontenac, a historic hotel located in the historic neighborhood of Quebec City. The Chateau Frontenac opened in 1893, and was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981. Then we traveled on foot around the historic neighborhood and visited many sites including historic churches and The Battlefields Park where it is home to 50 historical artillery pieces. We met with our pen pals during our visit, and talked with them about our visit so far. Our class learned about maple syrup and ate at a place where the maple syrup was gathered. Also, we went to Village des Sports where we went tubing. While I treasure these memories, I do wish to continue to broaden my global perspective.

When individuals visit museums and historic sites they can learn so much about history and culture, as well as making connections with the people around the world. Lott discussed identifying with one another and learning from one another:

When we at AAM discuss issues with our counterparts in the United Kingdom and Europe, South America, and even farther afield, we find that issues we had thought were uniquely American are more universal than we had imagined. Race relations, complex histories, even models of advocacy and funding—museums around the world are laboratories in which we can hold these issues up to the light in order to understand them better.

Since these issues are universal, we can communicate with one another about what all museums can do to educate our global community and resolve problems our institutions face. In my previous blog post, What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums, I pointed out “If we continue to engage with museum professionals both within our country and outside of the country, we will not only have a better understanding of one another we will also be leading by example on dealing with current issues in the world.” There are a few examples of museum organizations that help museum professionals around the globe help one another in pursuit of understanding and education.

In my blog post, I discussed about Museum Next, Museums Associations, and the International Council of Museums. These museum organizations have the common goal of serving the global community.

Museum Next is an organization that began in 2009 with the question “what’s next for museums?” They discovered that the answer to this question is as varied as the people who are building it. This organization builds a global community of museum leaders, innovators and makers who champion future thinking in museums. MuseumNext has led to collaborations that span the globe, and the influence of this passionate community can be seen in action in museums all over the world. It offers conferences held throughout the year in Europe, North America and Australia to offer participants the opportunity to hear inspiring presentations, pick up career skills in expert hosted workshops and network with fellow delegates.
Museums Association is a UK based organization that inspires museums to change lives. It is the oldest museums association in the world (set up in 1889) based in London, and is independently funded by memberships.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is an organization created in 1946 by and for museum professionals with more than 37,000 members and museum professionals who represent the global museum community.

Global work in the museum field is discussed in the articles featured in the Museum magazine.

I will share a couple of examples from the magazine to show common issues museums face and the work museums throughout the world do to serve their communities. One of the examples is the article “Full Engagement: Museums globally are expanding their social role—and value—by engaging underserved communities” by Yael Grauer (p.17-21) which discussed the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities change to serve the local community since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and discussed how this museum and other cultural institutions are working to figure out how to better engage with underserved communities. Grauer shared a few tips on how to engage with underserved communities:

1. Think local. When making programmatic decisions, put yourself in the place of the people in your community that you want to serve. Consult with people who already work with the communities you’re trying to reach. Asking questions and being open to seeing things from another perspective will help you develop skills to apply to new programs or initiatives.

2. Make time to listen. While museums excel at structured programming, sometimes it’s important just to listen, particularly when you are visiting people in their schools or homes. Often, people want to share their own small treasures or connection with the art. This is a good way to strengthen your museum’s connection with the community.

3. Embrace new ways of operating. Engaging different audiences may mean that the museum needs to move from its comfort zone and try new things, or focus more on relationships than imparting knowledge.

4. Learn from peers. Seek out projects that are similar to what you’re trying to do so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. However, keep in mind that you’ll likely need to develop new ideas or make adaptations to meet the specific, unique needs of your community or institution.

5. Be patient. Accept that you might make some missteps at first. It takes time to draw interest from different parts of the local community.

These tips can help all museums around the world engage with their communities, especially their underserved communities. With adjustments to reflect what the communities’ needs are, following these tips will help museum professionals on the path to better serving communities within their countries.

Another example of articles in this magazine is “Confronting Canada” by Karine Duhamela (p. 32-37). The Canadian Museum for Human Rights attempted to tell the story of Canada’s history as it celebrates the country’s 150th anniversary in 2017. A tough reality check came during the celebration for the country as a historical and contemporary world model for peace, tolerance, and respect for human rights with projects and stories that emphasized themes of diversity, inclusion, youth, the environment, and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The definition of reconciliation was challenged since for most Indigenous people the country’s anniversary is not a cause for celebration; they saw this as a celebration of 150 years or more of land theft forced assimilation, and genocide. This argument caught curators and interpretive staff’s attention and worked to find out how they could approach the reconciliation process in a different way to tell a different story. The article shared three keys to meaningful engagement which are: invest in relationships, invest in time, and invest in resources. Meaningful engagement is a continued effort for all museums especially for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights who continue to work with Indigenous peoples.

The lessons shared in this edition of the magazine would help all museums face similar situations within their own communities. By sharing these lessons, museums will be able to effectively serve the global community and strengthen all of our global perspectives.

What museums and sites outside of the United States have you visited? How did your experiences help shape your perspective of the world around you?

Resources:
http://www.museumsassociation.org/home
https://www.museumnext.com/
http://icom.museum/
https://www.quebecregion.com/en/
Museum magazine, What Binds Us? Global Perspectives Local Solutions, September/October 2018, American Alliance of Museums
What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums, October 26, 2017,  https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-l0

Significant Resources in the Museum Field

Added to Medium, May 3, 2018

As museum professionals, we continue to develop our education through professional development resources provided in various sources including but not limited to books, websites, blogs, webinars, conferences, seminars, and magazines. We learn so much from these resources, and therefore we continue to use the same ones we continuously use. Museum professionals also seek more resources to use to assist in their practices.

In my blog post Writing about Museum Education: Using Professional Development to Our Advantage, I stated that,

I truly believe professional development is important for all career paths, especially in the museum education field. Professional development in the museum education field have many opportunities to help museum professionals develop their careers to make sure they are up to date with latest theories and skills.

Professional development has many opportunities for all museum professions to develop their careers. There are many options to choose from, and we do not need to stick to one resource to develop our careers and skills. Museum professionals are able to make sure they are up to date with latest theories and skills by seeking networking opportunities.

One of the most important resources museum professionals use is their own experiences as well as experiences of other museum professionals. While we can learn from the materials we gained access to, the best resources are the ones gained from experience and sharing these experiences. By doing our jobs as museum professionals, we have practical knowledge of what occurs on a regular basis in museum practices. Museum educators especially regularly apply skills they learn from the programs they teach; when they teach programs on a regular basis, museum educators learn what methods work or what needs to be improved on a case to case situation.

In the twenty-first century, we have many options for communicating with one another to learn through each other’s experiences. Museum professionals can meet in person at conferences, seminars, and workshops, or online. Whether they are online or in-person, museum professionals can talk with one another to gain inspiration for their own projects or practices.

The benefit of interacting online is that museum professionals can communicate with other museum professionals outside of their region on a regular basis rather than waiting for the next national meet-up. Another benefit I mentioned in my blog post Online Communities: Why They Are So Important for Museum Professionals was

It is important that museum professionals have the opportunity to connect with one another since one of the best ways to continue adapting programs and exhibits is to learn from other museum professionals. Not many museum professionals have the opportunity to meet with others in person for various reasons especially not having enough time and money to invest in traveling to museum conferences and workshops.

If museum professionals are not able to attend conferences and workshops for whatever reason, providing a way to communicate online will help more museum professionals learn from one another to help move the museum field forward.

There are many opportunities online to communicate and learn from other museum professionals. For instance, there are online communities through social media such as the Emerging Museum Professionals group on Facebook, museum groups on LinkedIn, and #MuseumEdChat on Twitter. Each of the examples I listed inspire museum professionals to ask each other questions and seek advice related to the field, and encourage discussion among one another.

In recent months, I discovered that there are also online mentorships programs like the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM’s) Museum Education Professional Network that provides space for mentors and mentees to communicate with each other. Museum professionals at each career level can apply to be a mentor or mentee to seek advice from one another, and learn from one another’s experiences. Once selected, a mentor and a mentee is matched together based on similar experiences and backgrounds in the museum field to then begin communicating with one another.

Another example of an opportunity online for museum professionals to learn from other museum professionals experiences is the blogs posted on personal websites or museum websites. I have written many blog posts in the past couple of years that continue to gain attention from all of you who have continued to read them (and I thank you for continuing to read each of these blog posts). Also, I have read many blogs from other museum professionals in the field. One of the most recent blog posts I have read came from Anne Ackerson and Joan Baldwin in their blog Leadership Matters.

Their most recent blog post, Museum Leadership: Being vs Doing, discusses the importance of knowing the difference between “being” a museum leader and “doing” your role as a museum leader. They also discussed where museum professionals should turn to if we find ourselves in a situation where we are managing more people than tasks. It is important that all museum professionals understand where they can turn to find information that will help us be effective leaders. We all need to remember that if we find our organizations are not helping us perform well in our roles we should speak up so we will figure out how we can effectively accomplish our goals.

We have unlimited resources that we can gain access to especially for museum professionals in the museum field. Our resources continue to develop as we learn from one another, from books, blogs, networks and online communities, and we move forward with changes based on what we learned. We do not rely on only one resource as the most significant resource since we need to keep our minds open to change as our communities and our field continue to evolve with the times. The museum field is fortunate to have so many outlets we can reach out to learn more about our roles in our organizations.

What resources have been the most helpful for you in your field? Have you participated in online communities like the ones I mentioned in this blog post?

Resources:
http://www.aaslh.org/
https://www.aam-us.org/
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/museum-leadership-being-vs-doing/
Writing about Museum Education: Using Professional Development to Our Advantage 

Online Communities: Why They Are So Important for Museum Professionals 

 

 

Museums Prove that Education is for Everyone

Added to Medium, March 15, 2018

As museum professionals, we need to help visitors and other individuals outside of the museum field understand the significance of education and the museums’ role in education. I have reiterated its importance in the museum field in previous blog posts but it is an important point that needs to be reiterated especially when we need to show that education is for everyone. The latest edition of American Alliance of Museum’s Museum magazine is dedicated to education by discussing all-ages programming in museums.

In a message from the President and CEO Laura Lott, she stressed that as an Alliance we need to find new ways to engage the education community and share our resources. We need to make sure individuals outside of the museum field are aware of what we can offer to help people of all ages see what museums have to offer especially through educational programs. Also, we need to show that our educational programs are not limited to school field trips. We should show our visitors and other individuals not familiar with museums that our programs are created to engage with all ages. A couple of articles that show examples of programming for all ages include cultivating lifelong appreciation of museums through teen programs, and about early education programs and how they make sense for all types of museums.

There is also an article written by Ericka Huggins and Kevin Jennings, two keynote speakers for the 2018 Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo in Phoenix, encourage museums and museum professionals to create more inclusive education programs. Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, educator, Black Panther Party leader, and former political prisoner. Jennings is the new president of the Tenement Museum and is the co-founder of LGBT History Month. In their article called “Who Will Tell My Story?”, Huggins and Jennings share some of their thoughts on the power of storytelling, and how important it is to be authentic and inclusive in this work.

Both of them shared their experiences through storytelling and shared important facts that museums should think about moving forward in education. Huggins pointed out that we can learn to be global citizens by making sure museums support the larger community in thinking beyond nation-states. Jennings stated that he believed museum professionals should take a hard look at what stories we tell and don’t tell, and consider what that says about whose lives we feel matter. Huggins’ and Jennings’ statements are important considerations because we all need to remember we have a significant impact within our communities and we should work together to be more inclusive.

Conversations about museums proving education is for everyone, and inclusion, has recently been taking place though online discussions such as today’s EdComVersation through the American Alliance of Museums and the Twitter discussion #MuseumEdChat. Both of these online platforms have discussed social justice and museums by discussing the importance of inclusion and diversity within our museum community from the staff to the visitors.

Today, I participated in an EdComVersation discussion about engaging audiences as socially responsive museums. It was hosted by Rebekah Harding, Associate Director of Learning and Engagement at the Ronald Regan Presidential Foundation and Institute, and Sheri Levinsky-Raskin who is the Assistant Vice President, Education & Evaluation at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Chair for Professional Development for AAM’s Education Committee (EdCom). The guest speaker was Monica O. Montgomery Nyathi who is the founding director and curator of Museum of Impact the world’s first mobile social justice museum, inspiring action at the intersection of art, activism, self and society.

According to the EdComversation event webpage, Monica believes that museums can best engage their audiences when they catalyze socially responsive practice, acting as conveners, sites of conscience and spaces that welcome difference. To prepare for the discussion, we were given links for pre-reading material including my blog post “Reaction to Article: Museums transition from institutions of elite to places that ‘promote humanity’” which made me glad because I am always happy to see how individuals especially museum professionals benefit from continuing important discussions using resources such as the ones I provide.

During this program, we discussed how to embrace the needs and nuance of modern audiences, and how educators and front line staff can fuse informal educational with the wave of social activism the world is experiencing, to create space for awareness, inspiration and understanding of social movements. We used a new format called Zoom, which allowed all participants to not just type in their questions and responses, but they could also use their computers’ microphone and video camera to participate in discussions.

Zoom also had a feature that allowed us to form smaller groups to chat with each other to address questions such as:

How does your institution incorporating current events or social activism into the lesson, tour or discussion? How might you incorporate more of this?

What forms can socially responsive museum practice take? How have you observed it in local and national museums in the field? How have you observed it in your own?

What are the possibilities of celebrating and explore issues around material culture, power and untold stories, to honor visitor voices, challenging apathy and illuminating ideas?

I enjoyed this format because it allowed me to get to know other museum professionals I would not have been able to with the old format of listening to speakers and typing questions into a chat feature. The old format seemed to lead to passive participation. While this is a new feature and it would take some getting used to, I see the potential in having a more interactive experience in these discussions.

One of the statements that stuck with me was when said “museums are a partner for learning and enrichment but shouldn’t be overshadowing- if you want to know what audiences want- ask them and involve them”. We need to establish and maintain our relationships between museums and our audiences to understand what we all want from our experience in educating ourselves about social justice and social movements.

This discussion was continued during tonight’s #MuseumEdChat on Twitter. Participants answered a number of questions about social movements, and continued to discuss these questions within the hour and beyond the hour discussion. One of the questions asked was: Why should museums connect with visitors through social movements?

I believe that museums should not only remain relevant in today’s community by connecting with visitors through social movements but museums can provide resources that will help visitors get educated about the issues social movements address. I have also read other responses to this question, and one of the responses that stood out to me was:

Because social movements are an important part of the human experience! They are part of what drives change in societies across time, cultures, etc. By engaging w/current social movements we can teach empathy and appreciation for movements of the past.

This response stood out to me because it is true that all social movements, in the past and present, are part of the human experience. Many changes within our society were made because of the social movements that occurred. Social movements today are getting a lot of attention and inspiring more discussion on what changes we need to make in our community and in our government.

Another example of the questions asked during the #MuseumEdChat discussion was: What makes a good partnership with an audience successful? I believe successful partnerships with an audience need to have open communication and build the trust between museums and its audiences so visitors are more likely to turn to museums to learn about the issues and the past to understand the present social movements.

What we should all take away from reading the latest edition of Museum magazine, and from what participants in the discussions talked about, is museum professionals and people outside of the museum field need to work together to find out how we can show them educational programs can be for all ages. We can also show them that not only our educational programs can be for all ages but we can also reveal that we are safe spaces to discuss social justice.

Do you have examples of educational programs in museums that are geared towards all-ages? How does your organization discuss social justice among the staff and/or visitors?

 

 

Response to Alliance Labs: 7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down

Added to Medium, March 1, 2018

This past week was Museum Advocacy Day 2018 hosted by the American Alliance of Museums where museum professionals went down to Washington D.C. and/or used social media to bring awareness of museums impact on the country to their state representatives, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. I came across this article from Alliance Labs posted last week, and I thought about these factors as examples of why we need more support from our government representatives to increase our funding to help museums function.

I also thought this article is a good edition to the leaving the museum field discussion. One of the top reasons museum professionals decided to leave the field because of the low wages museums offer. When we take a closer look at museum wages, and how they are influenced to be the way they are in recent years, we are able to find out how we can make a better case for increasing funding in our museums to better support our institutions and our professionals to our government officials.

Written by Michael Holland, “7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down” discusses how our museum wages are influenced to the state they are currently in nowadays. According to Holland, the factors that drove museum wages down are the way laws and policies are written; people on top making decisions that have museum professionals wear many hats or have a job that is multiple jobs in one; figuring out how to monetize museum professionals’ work; limited advancement opportunity; internal equity in the museum; spouses of museum professionals earning higher income helps supplement expenses; and there are many applicants applying for the few jobs that are available in the field.

After reading this article, I felt that based on my experience as a museum professional these factors make sense and that we should be better at having museum professionals earn reasonable wages. To start having museum professionals earn living wages, we should take a look at the factors that influence the wages. Holland discussed about government structure, law, and policy and how this is part of how museum wages are down. He revealed that,

Many museums are affiliated with governmental entities. Museums at state universities are staffed by people who are actually public employees (just like the football coaches, but without the exorbitant salaries). Sometimes this is helps employees (legislatively mandated cost-of-living pay increases), but the structural framework of employee classification can put some hard limits on salaries, making it difficult to change compensation significantly without also changing your title and job description. This means that even if the museum has success raising substantial funding from the private sector, they may not be allowed to spend it on their staff in the same ways that a private business can.

Contractor pay is not limited by job titles or classifications, and is instead a reflection of what the market will bear, and they charge what it takes to stay in business. Museums are paying what the work is actually worth, but they pay someone other than their own staff to do it. This allows administrators to follow the rules and stay within the compensation ranges dictated by governmental job classifications, since they’re technically spending the money on stuff (goods and services) instead of staff (their own personnel).

What stood out to me was when he stated “even if the museum has success raising substantial funding from the private sector, they may not be allowed to spend it on their staff in the same ways that a private business can.” To me, it means that museum professionals do not have the control they have to improve funding that supports wages if relying on one form of financial support. Museums do not rely on one source for financial support since there are a lot of resources needed to keep a museum running.

Another statement that stood out to me was museums paying what the work is worth to someone other than their own staff so administrators can follow rules and stay within compensation ranges dictated by governmental job classifications. A lot of times we do need to bring in outside help to keep the museum running, however it should depend on what we need and if any of the staff can do it before bringing in someone else on a project. The main point of this factor I believe is that we need to have this wages discussion with our government, and Museum Advocacy Day is a great example of how we can talk with our representatives about the importance of museums as well as the museum professionals who dedicate so much time to their museums.

Holland also discussed about corporate culture being absorbed in the museum culture. He stated in the post that,

Like many companies, museums these days are doing more with fewer people, and have surprisingly small staffs who wear a lot of hats. With fewer people on staff, anything beyond daily operations can exceed in-house capacity, and when it does, work gets contracted out. This arrangement allows the company—sorry, the museum—to trim operating expenses and then spend on specific projects only as needed, rather than carry the ongoing expense of a larger staff. I haven’t seen the math to allow me to say for certain whether or not this ultimately saves the museum money in the long run, but it might look favorable on paper during the tenure of any given administration.

Wearing many hats is a very familiar concept for museum professionals, especially myself. I have not also seen the math on whether the way museum staff run the museum saves the museum money in the long run, and while it might look favorable on paper those who suffer from how museums are run these days the most are the staff.

In our field, there is so much discussion about how we need to make sure we take care of ourselves. For instance, Seema Rao wrote a blog post called “Productivity: In Defense of Breaks” which is all about the importance of taking breaks to be productive. However, it is a challenge to do so when there is so much to do and not much time to get the self-care time we need to prevent ourselves from burning out too quickly. Many museum professionals end up working on multiple projects simultaneously to the point that they are too tired to be productive, and they work longer hours to attempt to complete projects. Since the wages are low, museum professionals are more likely to work longer hours to attempt to pay for expenses. We need to incorporate self-care into how we run our museums by finding a way to increase wages and bring in more staff assistance while we keep our museums running.

Measuring employee value is a challenging situation to discuss and figure out because it can easily be undervalued when finding ways to save museum expenses to keep a museum running. Holland discusses measuring employee value as a factor that drove museum wages down by pointing out how the corporate world measures employee value:

One area where the museum sector appears to differ from the corporate world is the difficulty of measuring the value of any given employee to the organization. In business, a company can estimate with sometimes remarkable accuracy the return on investment (ROI) of hiring an employee, and quarterly earnings reports can validate those estimates. But most museums are not for-profit entities. They don’t have shareholders to please, or CEOs with their pay directly linked to the performance of the company by stock options.

If our museums insist on measuring our staff’s value, there has to be different standards and/or a different system that reflects our impact on the museum. While thinking corporately will to an extent help bring in money for museums, we also need to think like museums and give museum staff the value that they have earned and deserved.

Another set of situations that Holland has also listed as factors are limited advancement opportunity and understanding internal equity. There are not many opportunities for museum professionals to climb the ladder in their careers despite the fact that their positions in the field are essential for running the museum. Museum professionals, according to Holland, who manage to stick around long enough are likely to advance somewhat by becoming designated managers of other co-workers. There are museum professionals that have some advancement not clearly defined since there may be a title change and/or additional responsibilities added to the responsibilities they were originally hired for, and therefore priorities are mixed.

The fifth factor Holland mentioned, understanding internal equity, detailed that trying to fairly pay staff equal wages could also be driving museum wages down. Museums attempt to avoid conflict between staff members by giving all staff members equal wages. However, as Holland has stated:

Internal equity is a valid concern, but our understanding of equity might be incomplete if we’re basing it solely on salary. Broader economic trajectories over time can have enormous impact on whether or not a salary is truly sufficient. Nowhere has this impact been stronger than in housing costs. A staff member who bought their house for $40,000 in 1988 might be able to get by today on $34,000/year. But someone hired today in the same city where a house now costs $500,000 and a one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,600/month will not, unless they bring a pile of home equity with them (hint- this isn’t a thing for pretty much anyone under 30, and many well beyond that age). If the new hire is younger and has typical student loan debt, they’ll be even worse off. These two employees may have the same salary, but their economic realities are not even close to comparable. Perhaps a better definition of internal equity would be based on “effective income”, defined as how much money each of our two comparable staff members has remaining each month after their housing costs are paid.

This is a common concern within our museum community. I myself have worked with co-workers that are all different in age and circumstances. They all stress the situations they are in, and when we think about fairness as giving equal wages then we are not really being fair to all circumstances in which we are in to help support ourselves and our financial responsibilities. We need to figure out how to make wages more effective for all of our staff.

Other factors Holland discussed are spousal income subsidy and many applicants for few jobs. Both of these factors, as well as the previous factors, are familiar to me and I always have to keep this in mind when I think about my future. In a previous blog post on how to balance work and family, I mentioned that I am getting married and maintaining the balance is essential especially for me and other museum professionals. When I read the statement “With a steady supply of people who would love to work in a museum don’t have to worry so much about their earnings, museums may not have much incentive to raise salaries”, both Holland and myself have thought about the extent museums depend on hiring individuals with spouses and supplemental income. Like every individual museum professional has varying financial circumstances, married couples have varying financial circumstances that may very well need to depend on both salaries to fulfill their responsibilities.

I have also seen too often is having so many applicants apply for few jobs. As a museum professional who has applied to many times in the field, it felt discouraging for me when there are few jobs available and yet I have gained so much knowledge of the field that would be helpful for museums. While I have figured out a way or two to help me stay in the field I am passionate about, many museum professionals have to leave the field to figure out another way to fulfill financial obligations. Museums should acknowledge museum professionals who bring in the skills and knowledge they need to fulfill their organizations’ missions.

Many of these factors and ways we need to make the changes we should essentially do depend on the influences from the top. If we are able to talk with our government representatives to make changes and support our museums, we should do so and these changes will lead to museum professionals having equitable wages going forward in the museum field.

Have you read Holland’s post on Alliance Labs? What did you think of Holland’s “7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down”? Are there other factors we need to acknowledge and discuss?

Resources:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/7-factors-that-drive-museum-wages-down/
https://medium.com/@artlust/productivity-in-defense-of-breaks-a2e29bd7886

Creating an Environment-Friendly World with Museums

Added to Medium, November 16, 2017

Our society is continuing to becoming more aware of what we can do to preserve our environment, and museums are great resources for this preservation. I have come across many articles, blog posts, and other resources discussing the environment and sustainability. We can use these resources as we move forward in our preservation and sustainability efforts. There are many examples that I will mention in this blog post but they are not limited to these resources.

Most recently, for example, the American Alliance of Museums released the most recent edition of Museums magazine that flash forwards to the year 2040 to show a version of what the future we can envision for museums and our world. I also came across an article online about the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh designed a storm water filtration system that got sustainability advocates’ attention. Another article I came across was from the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice written by Catherine Dumouchel and Douglas Worts which introduces and discusses in detail about Canadian Working Group on Museums and Sustainable Communities (WGMSC) – a group that operated between 2000 and 2007. There were also a workshop and a webinar I participated in, both hosted by Sarah Sutton (Sustainable Museums) about Environmental Sustainability in Museums through New England Museum Association (NEMA).

This is not a new subject but it is worth discussing because every living thing has one planet to live on, and we need to do what we can to preserve our world. The number of resources we see are a testament to our museum field’s acknowledgement to how significant our world’s preservation is. I appreciate seeing so many museum professionals talking about this topic.

By reading about what other museum professionals have to say about this topic, we can learn so much and make our institutions more environmentally friendly as a result.

The latest edition of AAM’s Museums, Museums 2040, for instance includes articles about the environment and sustainability. Overall this special edition of this magazine shows readers what 2040 could look like based on information we have and what we are doing right now to protect our future. According to Elizabeth Merritt, of the Center for the Future of Museums, she challenged authors of the articles to describe what museums could have done between 2017 and this idea of 2040 to achieve the success museums have in this version of 2040. The articles, including “The Next Sustainability Frontier” and “Maintaining Green while Sustaining Collections”, take on this challenge to give us a fascinating version of 2040.

In “The Next Sustainability Frontier”, it discusses museums’ progress towards sustainability in 2040. The article revealed what has been done in the past and what is being done in this present to create sustainable solutions for our museums and environments. This author stated in the article,

“Most major cities have reached or are approaching carbon neutral status, having benefitted from museums’ significant contributions to urban planning. Our research into historical and cultural alternatives, our commitment to public outreach for engagement and compliance, and our infrastructure adaptations and innovations have established museums as leaders in the drive toward sustainability. We have accomplished this by integrating our buildings and open spaces, knowledge, programming, and creativity into climate response teams in major urban areas, helping to improve the lives of millions.” (12)

The previous example shares the idea of what the writing style was like to take on that challenge Merritt proposed for this special edition magazine. An example of how integration of buildings and open spaces discussed in the article was Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay which opened in 2012 and used 250 acres to help transform Singapore from a “garden city” to a “city in a garden”. The author stated that the Gardens by the Bay serves as a stunning example of applying climate positive solutions to the urban issues of both energy and habitat.

This example reminds me of the garden at Butler-McCook House & Garden in Hartford where I previously worked. Since the McCook family returned from their visits to Europe, they designed a garden inspired by the European gardens they witnessed. Today, it serves as a little oasis for Hartford residents and workers who sit in the garden to admire the beauty of the plants, both foreign and local. If we work towards this version of 2040, gardens like the one at Butler-McCook House can serve as part of the positive solutions to urban issues.

The second article, “Maintaining Green while Sustaining Collections”, is a case study about California Science Museum in Santa Rosa figuring out how to cultivate living walls while protecting the museum’s diverse collection of objects. According to the article, the California Science Museum was able to be green and sustain the collections in three steps:

“First, staff reviewed humidity readings to determine the most affected zones. They replaced sensitive objects in those areas with reproductions, allowing the museum to preserve the original objects and display them in other ways. Second, they shortened the object rotation cycle for galleries outside the most affected zones.
Third, they created a visible “open” storage area with stringent temperature and humidity control, where they could display objects at minimal cost and staff time, without interpretive context.” (15)

When we work to balance being green and sustaining the museums’ collections, we can improve our practices to preserve our collections while making our environment a better place to live.

I love how this special edition pushes us forward in time, and how we interpret how our future could look as a global society and as a museum field. I thought about the questions Merritt posed in the letter she wrote at the end of the edition: “Do I think this could happen?” “Do I want this to happen?” and “Does this have to wait until 2040, or can I make it happen now?” And I believe we should not wait. Museums have so much potential to help our communities improve our environments, and we already are working towards a better future.

In addition to this special edition of Museums magazine, I also came across this post about storm water flow at the North Carolina Museum of Art. According to the article, they stated that the parking lots at the museum in West Raleigh, help storm water flow into a designed system of grass and soil that slows the water and filters pollutants before the water flows into a stream on the property and eventually into the Neuse River. Water is an important resource we have on this planet, and it can be taken for granted. By doing something similar at other museums, we can help maintain our water supply and create a better environment.

Other examples that discuss museums’ dedication to creating a better environment include ones I found on the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice’s website. The first example is called “Museums & Sustainable Communities – Six Things Our Working Group Learned”; it introduces the organization, Canadian Working Group on Museums and Sustainable Communities. It went into the backstory of the organization that addressed the question: How could museums help to create a coherent culture of sustainability (including environmental learning as well as social and economic equity), which touched Canadians of all ages, ethnicities, geographic settings and socioeconomic backgrounds? The purposes of this organization include:

To provide opportunities for capacity-building in the museum community, regarding the role of museums in the development of sustainable communities;
To develop resources and tools for use by museums for planning, implementing and evaluating initiatives related to the development of sustainable communities; and
To develop and maintain networks within and outside the museum community that encourage museums to take action in contributing to the development of sustainable communities.

This article continues to provide additional information that can inspire museums to work towards a better environment in our world.

The second example I found on the website called “A Shade of Green: Ten Practical Steps for Museums” written by Joshua Lichty, who the article stated is an experienced Project & Event Coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the museums and cultural industry and is involved with the Ontario Museum Association. It offers advice museums can follow to make their museums greener including light your museum with LED lighting solutions; remove all plastic bags from your gift shop; recycle and compost at your museum; purchase only recycled and sustainable paper products; and run an annual eco-inspired program (exhibit, lectures, school program, etc.). By being able to learn practical advice, it will help museums not only be environment friendly but also use its status as an educational resource to educate visitors on making their homes environmentally friendly.

Good news is museum professionals are still talking about creating a cleaner, greener environment and we need to continue this discussion not only within our field but with our visitors and community members.

Announcement: Since next week is Thanksgiving, I will not be posting on the blog to focus on celebrating the holiday with family and loved ones.

*Announcement: Guess what?! I’m on Patreon! With your help, I can expand my blog & website to do even cooler things. https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward *

To those who are celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving!

Resources:
http://www.aam-us.org/resources/center-for-the-future-of-museums/museum-2040
http://www.wral.com/museum-s-stormwater-system-gets-high-marks-from-sustainability-advocates/16931706/?platform=hootsuite
https://coalitionofmuseumsforclimatejustice.wordpress.com/2017/10/30/museums-sustainable-communities-six-things-our-working-group-learned/
https://coalitionofmuseumsforclimatejustice.wordpress.com/2017/10/25/a-shade-of-green-ten-practical-steps-for-museums/
https://nemanet.org/conference-events/

 

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

Added to Medium, September 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Can We Learn From the DreamSpace Project?

Added to Medium, August 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do We Educate Our Students About Charlottesville?

Added to Medium, August 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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