Thank you to all who have responded to the previous poll! Here are the results from the two polls:
In the first poll, I wanted to learn from you what places have you been to in-person and/or virtually in the past few years to get an idea of where you all have been.
It seems that there are many of you who have visited museums the most followed by zoos and historic sites. In the second poll, I wanted to know what you would be most interested in reading about in a first poll supported blog post on this site.
Since Zoos and Historic Sites tied in the polls, I will release another poll for the tie breaker to see which one will I write about first. Stay tuned!
I decided to attend this year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) virtual conference which took place on Monday, May 17th. This was their second conference on the virtual platform, and not only did I want to engage with colleagues in the field and learn from sessions on the museum education field, but I also wanted to see how the second virtual conference compares to the first virtual conference. The theme this year was Reflect, Reinterpret, Represent: What’s your Re__? and the sessions encouraged participants to reflect on the lessons we learned and reinterpret the fundamentals of both museum and informal education while we move forward towards a renewed and more representative museum field. Once again, the NYCMER conference was held on the Hopin app, and like I said in last year’s post: participants would be able to do what we usually did during the conference, including attending the keynote session, sessions, poster sessions, Peer Group meetings, and networking, but from home. Instead of releasing my thoughts last week, I wanted to focus on gathering them and my notes to give a concise account of my experiences during the conference.
As usual, I found it hard to decide which sessions to attend during the virtual conference, but I will be getting recordings and resources from the conference as a NYCMER member. Throughout the day, I tweeted my thoughts on Twitter while engaging in the sessions I attended. I gathered some of the tweets I wrote during the day and background information on the sessions to share with all of you. I collected the rest of my tweets and placed them in an Excel spreadsheet, and it is found within the resource section. In addition to tweeting my experience, I made note of the interactions I had with colleagues online in comparison to last year.
Networking with colleagues was a challenge last year since the time was short and it was hard to have conversations when they suddenly cut off; the networking feature was continuously updated throughout the conference so more time was added conversations. This year the networking feature has a maximum of five minutes to interact with one another, and we are able to extend the time spent in five-minute increments as long as both parties click on the extend button. I like what they did this year in the networking experience because I got to have longer conversations if time permitted; in one conversation I was able to help answer an emerging museum professional’s many great questions about the museum field.
While waiting for the keynote session to begin, participants were encouraged to visit the mentimeter site to answer the conference’s theme question: What’s your Re__? We were encouraged to add our words to the word cloud that will be shared at the end of the conference. My “Re__” words I added to the word cloud were: Refresh, Renew, Reflect, and Remember. I chose these words since they apply to both the museum field overall and my career in the field. It is good to refresh and renew our practices in the museum field, reflect on the progress we have made and what we still need to do, and remember the lessons we learned especially during the past year.
The keynote speaker this year was Dr. Porchia Moore, who is the Assistant Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Florida, champion of the Critical Race Theory, co-director of the Incluseum, and co-creator of the Visitors of Color project. Dr. Moore emphasized during the keynote that we need to use the time we are in now to create new educational practices. Within her presentation, Dr. Moore shared what her “Re__” words were in museum education. She chose recall, reimagine, and also remember then explained her reasons behind the words:
Recall: Why am I doing this work?
Reimagine: think critically about what the new space should look like
Remember: inspired by the term Rememory and the book Beloved by Toni Morrison. Dr. Moore spoke about the collective memory and how even if something you remember does not physically exist it still exists within the mind. As a field, we need to re-write our values to form a collective body
I attended the session Redesigning in-person programs, and the speakers were Raymond Rogers, Ciara Scully, and Tiffany Yeung from the New York State Parks. Rogers, Scully, and Yeung shared information on what they needed to consider when redesigning in-person programs and what we should apply to our own programs. The following sections are what we need to consider in our program redesigns:
-know what your agency’s guidelines are
-know what to expect from participants beforehand
-what needs can we meet?
-language clear and descriptive?
-How is it advertised?
-who is it designed for?
-anyone excluded from program? Why?
-what language are we using? Gender neutral? Inclusive?
-does it include multiple perspectives?
-main goal of this program?
-how are we engaging people with the content?
They encouraged us to brainstorm things to keep in mind when we redesign our in-person programs.
The next session I attended was Reimagining Equity and Inclusion within Docent Programs, and the speakers were Christina Marinelli (Senior Museum Instructor/Adult Learning Coordinator at the Brooklyn Museum) and Maria C. Pio (Co-Director; Director of Education and Administration at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, CUNY). In this session, all participants were encouraged to start discussions in separate sections to discuss policies, shared commitments, & values and training strategies. During the first section on policies, some points that were discussed included concerns on being too political and the need to make them feel safe, how to navigate DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, Inclusion), and docents that are also donors. When we went back from our groups, we learned about what the second group discussed. In the second section, we brainstormed answers for types of trainings that were particularly helpful or problematic including setting clear roles and responsibilities.
For my third session, I decided to attend New York Responds: Creating a Crowd-Sourced Exhibition and Responsive Programming for a City in Crisis. The speakers were Maeve Montalvo (Director, Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center, Museum of the City of New York), Hannah Diamond (Education Manager for Professional Learning, Museum of the City of New York), Jelissa Caldwell (Museum Educator, Museum of the City of New York), Joanna Steinberg (Curator of Education Programs, Museum of the City of New York), and Amanda Johnson (Artist, Museum of the City of New York). All of the speakers discussed how this exhibit came to fruition, and a link to information about the exhibit New York Responds: The First Six Months is included in the list below. The exhibit is now available online.
Then there was the Expo in which there are shorter sessions that introduced various topics and speakers introduce the research or projects they were working on to conference attendees. For this year’s conference, NYCMER shared a YouTube playlist as an introduction to this year’s Expo (I included a link of the playlist in the list below). When I attended the Expo, I attended the one called Squash the Museum. Danaleah Schoenfuss and Sonya Ochshorn discussed the current workplace structure that are still in place in many museums, and presented a range of alternative structures such as flat management, worker co-ops, and delayering processes both as a thought experiment but also as steps for creating lasting change.
The fourth and final session I attended was called Making Institutional Change. Braden Paynter (Director, Methodology and Practice at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) and Tramia Jackson (Senior Coordinator, Science Research Mentoring Consortium at the American Museum of Natural History). This session shared two frameworks to help participants, the first to analyze challenges and the second to create strategic processes for change. Drawing on the experience of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and the Science Research Mentoring Consortium participants won’t have all of the answers, but they will have better questions to begin revealing them. The goal of the session was to provide basic tools for our own institutional change. When working on making institutional change, it is important to remember to:
-What is your why?
-Where are your concerns in your institution?
-find allies and build partnerships
Grow collective and individual knowledge
-continue to build your knowledge about the issue
Small acts of change
-within your purview and your allies, begin applying knowledge and making small changes
Paynter and Jackson also pointed out that it is important to take breaks and celebrate your accomplishments. I really enjoyed this year’s NYCMER virtual conference, and stay tuned for more resources as I continue to participate in NYCMER events.
This past month we all have dedicated our time and efforts to honor women’s history. Women’s history month is especially significant for me since I am a cis woman who appreciates the focus on women’s significant contributions throughout history. However, we all need to not only acknowledge women’s history does not occur one month out of the year, but we should be honoring all women-women of color, transwomen, indigenous women-who have made an impact and are often ignored when discussing women’s history. Over the years, we celebrate women’s history month by sharing achievements women have accomplished from the past to more recent years.
Museums also take part in celebrating women’s history month by developing, promoting, and implementing exhibits and programs focused on women’s history. For instance, the Museum of the American Revolution hosted a virtual Zoom presentation called “Remember the Ladies”: The World Premiere of a New Choral Work by Dr. Melissa Dunphy that is presented with their exhibit When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807. The experience is a live broadcast from the Museum for the choral world premiere of Dunphy’s “Remember the Ladies,” which sets excerpts from the letter for a cappella mixed chorus, performed by the 40-voice community choir, PhilHarmonia. The Wisconsin Historical Society has a free online panel discussion on exploring how women’s stories and experiences can be told in new ways.
Wisconsin Historical Society’s online panel discussion Sharing Women’s History: Exploring New Stories and Formats for Engaging Audiences discussed examples of innovative programming and best practices for interpreting complex stories that will aim to engage new audiences. A couple examples include DyckmanDISCOVERED at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, which investigates the stories of enslaved people belonging to the Dyckman family and the community that is now called Inwood in New York City, as well as virtual programs and poetry festivals at The Emily Dickinson Museum. Some of the panelists include Mary van Balgooy, Vice President of Engaging Places, LLC, and Director at the Society of Woman Geographers; Meredith S. Horsford, Executive Director at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum; and Brooke Steinhauser, Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Their discussion also included the added challenges of and possibilities for engaging new audiences through virtual engagement.
The Old North Church has a Digital Speaker Series, and it is called Revolutionary Women, Live! Presented by Old North Church Historic Site and the Freedom Trail Foundation, it was an hour-long program with two historians engaging participants in learning about the unique ways women of Boston influenced and shaped the world around them throughout the centuries. They focused on some women including Anne Hutchinson, Phillis Wheatley, and Melnea Cass. Anne Hutchinson was a spiritual preacher in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century and Melnea Cass was one of Boston’s most beloved and effective advocates for African Americans in Boston. At the end of the program, there was an interactive question and answer session to help participants delve deeper into women’s history.
Three Village Historical Society has a lecture series that has been on the Zoom virtual platform over the past year, and this month the virtual lecture was The Founding Mothers of the United States. Guest lecturer author Selene Castrovilla discussed her book she wrote about founding mothers, both well-known and others that were previously not part of the narrative in our history. From the program’s description, the lecture will address that:
Many women helped shape a free and independent United States of America. These smart, brave women were ambassadors, fostering peace between Native Americans and Europeans. They risked their lives by writing, printing, and distributing information about the fight for independence. They supported their husbands during battle and even donned disguises to join the army.
Throughout the presentation, Castrovilla shared content from her book about the founding mothers in the United States. In addition to discussing the well-known founding mothers, she shared information about founding mothers whose stories are not told as much as founding mothers such as Martha Washington. For instance, there were a group of women in North Carolina who had their own protests against the unfair taxes on tea and clothing.
On October 25, 1774, about a year after the Boston Tea Party, 51 women in Edenton, North Carolina drafted and signed a declaration that they will boycott British tea and clothing until the products were no longer taxed by England. The protest became known as the Edenton Tea Party. Another example of women Castrovilla discussed about was Phillis Wheatley who was an enslaved poet.
Wheatley was born in West Africa around 1753 and was abducted by slave traders and was forced onto a ship to America when she was seven years old. She was enslaved in Boston, Massachusetts, her owner noticed how smart she was and decided to educate her which was rare since most slaves suffered under harsh conditions and were not allowed to learn to read and write. Wheatley began to write poems when she was thirteen, and her first published poem appeared in a Boston newspaper on December 21, 1767. In 1773, she sailed with her owner’s son to England where a book of her poetry was published. She was given her freedom shortly after her book was published and her return to Boston. While she wrote a poem celebrating George Washington’s selection as army commander, she also believed the issue of slavery prevented the colonists from the true heroism they could have achieved during the American Revolution. Castrovilla also shared the story of Nanyehi/Nancy Ward who was an Indigenous woman born in Chota, the Cherokee capital, which is now part of Tennessee, in 1738.
Nanyehi fought alongside her husband in a battle between the Cherokee and another Native Nation, the Muscogee Creeks. When her husband was killed during the battle, Nanyehi picked up his rifle and led the battle where she earned the title Ghigau, or “Beloved Woman”, for her bravery. She later became a leader of the Women’s Council of Clan Representatives where she excelled as negotiator and ambassador. While they were in war, Nanyehi tried to achieve peace between Indigenous people in North America and the settlers. When the Revolutionary War began, the Cherokee fought alongside the British to prevent losing more Cherokee land to the settlers, and Nanyehi warned the settlers of Cherokee attacks since she did not want increased hostilities between her nation and the settlers.
If interested in learning more about Castrovilla and her works, she has a website that promotes most of her books. To learn more about the TVHS lecture series and purchase her book, I included links in the list below.
Castrovilla’s book reminded me of Cokie Roberts’ book Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, except the major difference between these two books is her book is geared towards young adult audiences while Roberts’ book focuses on addressing women’s history on academia audiences. I appreciate, as a public historian with an interest in Early American history, that there are programs that discuss women’s contribution and involvement in before and during the American Revolution. Also, I appreciate indigenous women’s stories are being more included in these programming options since I not only enjoy learning more history, but it is also a lot more that I am learning now about indigenous people than what was being taught when I was attending school as a child. We need to continue to do more to acknowledge and understand indigenous history as well as remember that we are on land first occupied by indigenous people.
The previously listed examples of how museums honor and celebrate women’s history month are only a small sample of what I noticed and does not represent what all museums are doing. I have included more links to examples museums have honored and celebrated women’s history month and resources they have available on women’s history. If there are any that I have not listed, please tell me about them and if possible, share a link.
Since we have begun distributing the coronavirus vaccine, we have a new president in the Oval Office, and many changes were made for all of us to adapt to ever changing conditions, I think the question that has been on a lot of our minds is: Now what?
We are not out of the woods yet, and we need to do our part in controlling the pandemic. In the museum field, museum professionals are working on creating experiences for either the virtual platform or limited capacity in-person.
They understand that the plans we originally had for museums have drastically changed course due to the pandemic, and like everyone else we are figuring out how we could keep our places running. Museums around the world are figuring out their next steps if they are not permanently closed. I went through a good number of resources to research what museum associations are sharing with the museum field for keeping the museums running as the pandemic continues and vaccinations are being distributed.
The American Alliance of Museums released a post on their site called “Should my museum require staff and visitors to wear face masks when we reopen?” to share resources museums could utilize to enforce CDC guidelines. Each piece of information that is shared is not intended as legal, employment/human resources, or health and safety advice but rather they are based on the best available resources at the time the post was published. There are sections used to classify available information museums should seriously consider when re-opening the physical sites. When figuring out how your museum will enforce regulations as the pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, these are the types of information you need to take into consideration:
Legality and the Americans with Disabilities Act for employees and for visitors
Training on proper use of masks
Equity and racial implications
Availability of masks
Tensions over masks, enforcement of policies, and employee training *Information is also available to help figure out how to enforce policies and who will enforce them.
Once your museum has developed a plan and know how to enforce the policies, it will ease how your museum will move forward throughout the pandemic.
The Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released a follow up report on the continued impact of COVID-19 on the museum sector, and I have included links below if you would like to read more about it. According to their announcement, NEMO pointed out that:
Suitable support is needed for museums to build on their digital momentum. Almost all museums offer online activities, but an overwhelming majority admit that they actually need assistance and guidance in their digital transition.
NEMO recommends that museums stay open during these challenging times to offer people a place for rest and emotional recovery. There have been no reported cases of museums being infection hotspots. On the contrary, most museums are very well-equipped to allow for a Covid-19-safe experience for both visitors and employees.
NEMO included a link to their follow up report pdf within their post. Their report follows the initial survey, report, and recommendations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums during the first lockdown. According to their follow-up report, this survey was answered by 600 museums from 48 countries between October 30, 2020 and November 29, 2020, and the majority of the answers came from Europe. They sought to investigate the different themes that emerged in the first survey they released and were discussed within the museum community; the themes were: consequences of income (and other) losses, the increased importance of digital museum offers, and adapted operations and preparedness during and for crises.
I appreciate that their report had a disclaimer that stated while the results are not guaranteed as representative of current circumstances, it offers a view into the perceived consequences and challenges faced by museums as well as their efforts to overcome them and serve their communities during a pandemic. It is important to address that while there is important information to provide an idea of how museums should move forward it is important to remember that things are not always guaranteed and predictable; new strands of the coronavirus were discovered since the report was released.
The report went into detail about the issues museums face in this pandemic, survey results, and the recommendations that NEMO addresses to stakeholders at all levels. Each issue is split into three sections: Income Losses and Consequences, Development of Digital Services, and Adapted Operations and Crisis Preparedness. In terms of bringing visitor numbers back to normal, the report stated that:
Museums were asked when they estimated visitor numbers could return to their pre-COVID-19 levels. The majority (45%) of 283 responding museums do not estimate a full recovery of visitor numbers until the months between March and September 2021. 15% are prepared to wait until the spring or summer of 2022 before they will welcome the same visitor numbers as before the pandemic.
In addition to looking through these reports, I decided to look at resources outside of the museum field to see what museum professionals could utilize in their own practices for the museums they work for.
I found in my research tips for a successful remote or hybrid curriculum adoption from Amplify, which is an education company that partners with educators to create meaningful learning experiences in schools, whether it is helping to create a professional development plan, working shoulder to shoulder in the classroom, or providing real-time support in a chat window on a teacher’s laptop. Also known as DECIDE, the tips are:
TIP 1 Design the process.
When something unpredictable happens, in the process or in the educational environment, your plan will function as a framework you can adjust as you move forward.
TIP 2 Experience the programs.
You know you need to evaluate each program, but consider exactly how your committee will do that, and how disagreements will be resolved.
TIP 3 Convene a dream team.
The right team can make a complex adoption easier. Group dynamics are important, but think about how you will solicit individual feedback as well.
TIP 4 Investigate short-term and long-term needs.
Discuss with the committee how well your current instructional philosophy aligns with your short-term and long-term goals.
TIP 5 Develop the right rubric.
Using a rubric not only helps you measure what matters, but also ensures that your entire team measures the same things in the same way.
TIP 6 Establish consensus among your stakeholders.
How you make your final decision is a process unto itself. Determine in advance how you will resolve disagreements together.
These tips could be used for education programs in museums since we are figuring out how to engage with student groups like many educators outside of the museum field. Museum educators need to develop an effective curriculum so they can help other educators supplement their own curricula, and this is true before the pandemic and it is just as true now. Our programs need a framework to fall back on when things do not go to plan, an effective evaluation plan and team to know what is working and what needs to change, and to know the short-term and long-term needs of the program to be able to find out what the students took away from it.
By no means this is a conclusive list of things museums need to do moving forward within the pandemic. I encourage you all to take a closer look at not only the sources I introduced in this post but to also look at museum associations in your area for additional resources.
Since I was a kid, I loved the film “The Princess Bride”, the fantasy film starring actors such as Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. The first time I watched this movie was when I was at a friend’s birthday party. I remember watching it so many times over the years since then. There were days that when I was not feeling well, I watched this movie. Most of the time, I watched this movie when I wanted a good laugh. My friends and I used to reenact scenes from the movie, and quote this movie on a number of occasions.
“Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?
Fezzik: If there are, we all be dead.
Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it.
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?
I also bought the book the film was based on, and read that book many times including the sequel that was in my copy of the book. Plus, I loved watching the behind-the-scenes stories of filming this movie.
For Valentine’s Day, the Historians at the Movies Twitter conversation took a closer look at this film on DisneyPlus to talk about history and what time period the film portrays. When I heard about this, I was really excited, and I decided to write a post about this discussion.
It has been a while since I covered a Historian At the Movies, and if you want to read about the first experience I had, check out the link below after you read this one.
My husband and I participated in watching The Princess Bride and Historians at the Movies on Valentine’s Day. The memories came flooding back as we watched the film, and once again I had an awesome time tweeting with all of the participants. All of us had a lot of thoughts throughout the movie, and there was a lot of commentary on Twitter. For instance, the following are samples from the Historians at the Movies conversation:
We also answered questions to open discussions while we were making commentaries on the film. The first one was an introduction to what we liked most about the film, what our Valentine’s Day dinners are, et. cetera. I was going to answer each question, but I did not have the answer off the top of my head and there were thoughts I wanted to express about the movie itself. To answer the rest of the questions, it is hard for me to imagine any other actors in the roles and I have not thought about who would be good in the roles if I were to cast the roles today; my husband and I had Indian cuisine from our local Indian restaurant we ate at home.
I also appreciated the discussion about what the time period this movie would be set in. In the tweet, I stated that based on the clothing I could see the film being set between the 15th and 16th century. Also, in response to other individuals’ tweets that point out it could not be past post-Renaissance I stated:
While my expertise is not in historical clothing, I thought it was consistent enough to not be jarring and they help distinguish between the story scenes and the scenes between the grandfather and grandson.
If you are interested in joining the discussions with Historians at the Movies, follow their website, Facebook page, and the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #HATM.
What do you think of The Princess Bride? What time period do you think this film is set in? Are there moments from the film that are memorable to you? If you have not seen it, what movies are you nostalgic about?
It is that time of year again to talk about the importance of Giving Tuesday and generosity as we prepare for the holiday season. Giving Tuesday is a global movement that started in 2012 to encourage people to do good especially during the holiday season. It inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. Last year, according to their website, individuals in the United States raised $511,000,000. While the Giving Tuesday event occurred on December 1st this year, it is not the only time individuals can donate to museums and non-profit organizations. It is a reminder to be inspired and inspire to do good Museums and non-profit organizations prepare each year for Giving Tuesday to connect with the communities they are a part of, including through emails and newsletters, and encourage community members to donate to their causes if they are able.
There are many Giving Tuesday campaigns that museums and non-profit organizations utilize to bring awareness to their causes. Some of them include but are not limited to:
Three Village Historical Society, which works within the community to explore local history through education about the history of the people who have lived in the Three Village area from earliest habitation to the present, sent emails out to members, volunteers, et. cetera the Giving Tuesday campaign. Within the email, they were selling the new book A Celebration of House Tours Past to commemorate the 40 years of the Candlelight House Tour that would have occurred this year and were originally going to have a limited-space dinner to replace this year’s tour but had to cancel due to updated regulations in response to the pandemic. The Candlelight House Tour typically accounts for a large portion of the funding that sustains TVHS for the year to come. The email also stated:
All of us at the Three Village Historical Society are doing everything we can to give back as we continue to adjust to the world around us. We are excited to offer new virtual programming in the coming year to help you engage in online education, and learn something new about our local history!
That’s why we’re asking for your continued support this #GivingTuesday. If you are able, please consider making a donation today. We’ve set an ambitious goal of 50 online donations and new or renewed memberships. You can become one of our generous supporters with a donation of any amount or with a new membership beginning at just $40 annually.
In addition to the donation and membership, there is also an Online Holiday Market. Originally going to be outdoors, the Holiday Market have items that include but are not limited to vintage framed photos, ornaments, books, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tote bags.
I received an email from Reimaginewhich is a non-profit organization sparking community-driven festivals and conversations that explore death and celebrate life. Reimagine shared a letter from one of their collaborators, she wrote about how much Reimagine meant to her when she lost both of her parents, to show how the support they receive helps them build a community that gives needed space for grappling with loss.
Facing History and Ourselves is a global organization with a network of 300,000 teachers, in every type of middle grade and secondary level school setting, that uses the lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate. Through the partnership with educators around the world, they are able to reach millions of students in thousands of classrooms every year. Within their Giving Tuesday email campaign, Facing History and Ourselves expressed their gratefulness for this year’s Thanksgiving for the teachers’ creativity, compassion, and resilience as well as the contributions members made to make the work with teachers and students possible. Also, they expressed that while the holiday season will be challenging for all of us they found hope in the teachers being able to use their resources and being able to help teachers transition to remote learning when the pandemic hit.
The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) shared their Giving Tuesday campaign through the members’ Weekly Dispatch email newsletter. They ask readers to think about doing good with AASLH through the Annual Fund, and shared that the donations power new professional development programs, efforts to improve diversity and inclusiveness, and help promote the relevance of history.
Preservation Long Island sent a thank you letter to express that they are thankful for the continued support through their virtual programming. There were also included links to make donations and becoming a member if one is able to do so.
Each of the above examples pointed out that if you are able to make a donation to please make a consideration to donate, and that you do not need to wait until Giving Tuesday to extend generosity.
In the past four years since starting this blog then ultimately the website, I wrote and released 200 blog posts. Thank you everyone who has read, shared, and commented on the blogs from when I first posted a blog to the most recent blog posts. To celebrate this milestone, I decided to do something really special for the blog and website. The blog and website will be expanded to offer everyone more opportunities to bridge between individuals and the museum and public history field through various projects that strive to be more accessible offsite.
Some of the various projects I am planning include books to become a part of the narrative within both fields. I will be making an announcement soon about an upcoming book project on the museum field I am starting work on.
In order for these projects to come to fruition, I ask you all to make a donation of as little or as much as you can on the donation page. I believe that every little bit helps, and that it is especially hard nowadays make large donations. This is why I created a page on Buy Me a Coffee, and you can access it on the donations page. Buy Me a Coffee is a more simple and fun way to support projects like this one, and you do not need to create an account to contribute. You can donate as little or as much as you could. On this page, I am also offering consulting to provide advice on content creation as well as advice on any upcoming projects related to museums, history, and public history.
If you are not able to make a donation, you can also share this post and donation page. Also, I will share updates in the blog on how the projects are coming along to share with you what each donation is working towards; so, stay tuned.
Thank you in advance! Your support is greatly appreciated.
Since I earned my Master’s degree in Public History, I continue to review sources and read about current developments in Public History. According to my graduate program at Central Connecticut State University, public historians are front-line interpreters bringing historical knowledge to a broad public audience beyond the traditional academic classroom. Public historians expand research skills and content knowledge of traditionally trained historians to incorporate new sources of historical evidence such as oral history and material culture in varied institutions such as museums, government agencies, and heritage destination sites. I recently came across the Backstory website which posted a blog post written by Diana Williams about recognizing various mediums public history is shared.
Backstory, according to their website, is a weekly podcast that uses current events in America to take a deep dive into the past, and each episode provides listeners with different perspectives on a specific theme or subject by giving listeners all sides to the story and then more. For the first time, Backstory is acknowledging the works of public history with a prize. There are numerous public history projects that deserve to be acknowledged and it is wonderful several of them are being nominated for the prize. I did not know that other than museum associations there are recognition of excellence in public history projects, and it makes me happy to learn there is a way our work in public history that is recognized outside of academia.
I am also impressed that there was so much work that went into researching public history project. In the Williams’ blog post, she pointed out that
BackStory lead researcher Monica Blair created the list, thinking broadly about historical mediums, both physical and digital. In addition to online reviews, she looked up reviews in academic journals like “The Public Historian” and general newspapers like “The Washington Post.” For books, she turned to “The New York Times” Non-Fiction Bestsellers List and for podcasts, she used Apple Podcasts charts. Each nominee fell under a broadly conceived definition of American history.
I can imagine that there are so many projects that are out there but have not been acknowledged or noticed. After reading through the blog, there is a lengthy list for each category for the Backstory prize.
A list of categories and nominees is given to show which ones were nominated for this prize. The categories were films, documentaries, podcasts, plays, books, and exhibits and monuments both physical and digital. In the films category, there were 16 nominations which include The Post, Darkest Hour, First Man, Battle of the Sexes, and American Animals. In the documentaries category, there were 21 nominations and they include Rachel Carson: The Woman Who Launched the Modern Environmental Movement, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities, and Birth of a Movement. In the podcasts category, there were 23 nominations including Ben Franklin’s World, Omohundro Institute, The New York City Public Library Podcasts, American History Tellers, Wondery, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Witness, BBC. In the play category, there were seven nominations including American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Come From Away, and Days of Rage.
In the book category, there were nine nominations which include The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England by Douglas L. Winiarski, Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America by Steven J. Ross, and These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore. In the exhibits and monuments both physical and digital category, there were 31 nominations including The National Memorial for Peace and Justice — Equal Justice Initiative, Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow — New York Historical Society Museum and Library, Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I — Library of Congress, Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II — National Museum of American History, and City of Hope: Resurrection City & the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign — National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Each of these categories, except for the book category, have links to each of the nominations listed to show and describe the projects. The blog post also gave a brief description of the decision process for selecting a project for the BackStory prize.
The hosts of BackStory, Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman, as well as the Senior Producer David Stenhouse were joined by guest judges Chris Jackson (“Hamilton” on Broadway) and Margot Lee Shetterly (“Hidden Figures”) to review the nominees to determine the best project. There was a rigorous debate and ultimately decided and announced The National Memorial for Peace and Justice — Equal Justice Initiative was the winner. The National Memorial, which opened on April 26, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama, according to the website:
is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
With so many nominated for the prize, I can imagine that it was a long and challenging process to select one project. Especially in this day in age, The National Memorial is important for all to visit and pay respect, so we will never forget this sad period in our history. I recommend taking the time to review each nomination to learn about what public history projects are out there.
Time has definitely flown by so quickly. I remember as if it was only yesterday when I first started writing my blog on the Medium website. Now I am writing the 100th blog post on my own website. In the two years I have been writing the blog, I have heard from so many of you who have been reading and leaving comments about the posts. I am very thankful for all of you for reading and following my blog whether you started following two years, two months, two weeks, or two days ago. I read all of the responses that were made in various places where I shared each blog post: on my website, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, my Medium page, and my Facebook page. The following are examples of comments shared on each of the previously listed sites.
On the blog post Reaction: The Value of Small Museums, one of the comments from my website shared their perspective in working in a small museum:
I work at a small museum and I understand the comment. Better as in better paying or better as in more hours or better as in more professional. Many museums don’t pay or pay very little. I wouldn’t be offended by that comment. I am learning new skills and helping inspire and teach people something about the past they didn’t know. My work is important, people are often amazed at how knowledgeable I am and what they learned so I see both sides of the issue.
-The Time Treasurer
On the blog post Planning a Summer Program: My Experience Creating a Summer Camp Program, one of the comments on the website asked for further information about the summer program:
What a wonderful idea! Surely the [participants] were thrilled. How much of an age difference was there and why do you think this was the case. Will you state age range in future efforts or go with the flow? Fantastic energy and idea. Great article! Thank you.
Some comments also shared relevant sources to add to the discussion introduced in the blog posts. For example, on the blog post Patron Request: People’s Experiences during the Great Depression they shared their presentation on Medium from the Proceedings of the National Conference of Undergraduate Research 2012:
Other comments on Medium have written about how relevant the topics the blog posts were to individuals in and out of the museum field. There was one who wrote their comment about the Significant Resources in the Museum Field:
Lindsey Steward many of your suggestions also apply to historians. I haven’t engaged in the particular museum partnerships you have described, but blogs and public media have been a great method for me to learn and grow.
In particular I have found podcasting and the audio documentary field as a wonderful set of media to teach historians new skills to engage with an audience and to help people learn. I have found several tools useful in that, with blogs, organizations.
Other resources that have helped me grow as a historian and develop new skills are programming and digital humanities work. For instance forums and online courses are great sets of resources with formal and informal sets of instruction. These have been the biggest ways to help.
One last thing I’d share is undertaking projects. While many resources have been useful to help me learn about new ways to engage and think about my profession, but they have also shown me that the best way to learn is to model and try. Ive tried to experiment with lots of different tools and such, which have taught me immensely through experience.
Just a few thoughts to reply ☺
Thanks for the provoking post!
Another comment written about the blog post What Grants Mean for Museums, which I shared on LinkedIn, expressed gratitude for writing on this topic:
As a public historian trying to break into grant writing to help support museums and historic sites I found this very encouraging and helpful. Thank you.
On Twitter I noticed that there are individuals who retweet the posts I shared to followers and readers. Some have added their own comments to their retweets and shares. This is one of the tweets I saw after I shared my blog post “Leaving the Museum Field”: A Reaction to the Alliance Labs Blog:
“Leaving the Museum Field”: A Reaction to the Alliance Labs Blog - Museums will not change overnight, we have to keep having these conversations to evoke change. This is something that is really resonating with me atm #EvokeChange …https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/09/27/leaving-the-museum-field-a-reaction-to-the-alliance-labs-blog/ … via @Steward2Lindsey
I have also had a couple of conversations on Twitter related to the blog posts I shared. One of them had asked me if they could use some of the information from my post Maker Space: Museums Can Benefit from Having a Creative Space to use in their proposal to their local museum to consider opening a space for something similar to a maker space. Another conversation I had was about a book and book review I wrote for Katie Stringer’s Programming for People with Special Needs: A Guide for Museums and Historic Sites; they wished that they found the review sooner so they could use it for their capstone research but thought that having a personal connection to the topic like I have is helpful in creating educational programs for all capabilities.
Each of the comments I read gave me so much insight on what individuals thought about the blog post and their insights on the topic. While I was not able to include every single comment I read from the past couple of years, I am thankful to all of you for sharing your thoughts, expertise, suggestions, and appreciations. I started writing this blog to not only record my own experiences but to start conversations among individuals who are in and out of the museum field. This blog will continue to write about history, the museum field, and other topics suggested by all of you.
Thank you all for these past two years, and I look forward to many more in the future!
I also have an announcement: Next week I will be taking a break from writing a new blog posts because I will be preparing to visit family and celebrating my 30th birthday! I will continue to share previous blog posts so you will still have plenty to read.
As a way to celebrate both the one-year anniversary and my birthday tomorrow, I decided to reflect on the past year and share plans moving forward for the blog. It has been exactly a year today since I started my first blog entry on Medium, and so much has happened since then. When I began my blog, I talked about how I became the museum educator I am and what led me to start writing it. I stated in my blog,
This story will continue not only with a discussion about my experiences in greater detail but I also will discuss recent topics in the field as well as recent books and journal articles I read. I also will write about conferences and workshops I attended. What I hope to accomplish with this blog is to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field.
Now a year later, I kept my promise and discussed recent topics in the field including museum professionals leaving the field and what to do to make the field more appealing to stay in. Also, I discussed what I have been reading and discussed topics based on what I read in books, journals, blog posts, and articles. I briefly discussed my professional development experience in the blog.
Since I started the blog a year ago, I have met with many people who have expressed their thoughts, opinions, and insights on the ideas I shared. I shared my blog posts each week on social media outlets LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to reach out to people especially other museum professionals. Especially on LinkedIn, I read many comments, opinions, and insights to the topics I discussed. I am thankful for everyone who has read and responded to this blog since you all gave me insights on your perspectives on the museum field and continued the discussion on these topics. Also, I thank those who reached out to ask me questions and for my advice. When you respond to these blog posts, I am able to not only know what you thought about the current topic we are also able to learn from one another to keep moving our field forward. Because of this blog, I have also became even more involved in the field than before I started writing.
Ever since I began writing this blog there have been many developments including meeting new people, joining Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM), and creating a new website to promote the blog in addition to sharing resources I come across.
After writing about gender equity in the Lunch with NEMA program, I was asked if I would be interested in joining Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) which is dedicated to educating museum professionals about gender equity and assisting museum professionals in discussing gender equity among colleagues. In addition to this, I created a website that is used as my professional reference and where I promote my blog.
When I created my website, https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com, I hoped to promote not only my blog but to also promote my expertise by sharing resources I refer to and open communication with viewers to discuss topics on museums. I designed my website so visitors can see an abbreviated version of my resume, and if they are interested in learning specific experiences there is a contact page where they can ask me to send them a copy of my resume. Also, my website has various resources organized into various topics including education and interpretation, educational resources, books on museums and public history, and blogs I read. These are resources I share that show I keep up to date on current topics and trends in the field. While I update my website, I also check on the number of individuals who have accessed my website.
I have seen people who have visited my website come from not only within the United States but from many countries around the world. There were individuals from Iceland, Israel, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, Spain, Germany, Ireland, China, Bangladesh, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Switzerland, and Italy. When I saw the amount of people from different countries visiting my website, I saw the potential in continuing to make my website grow and reach out to more people.
I have learned a lot in this experience and I am thankful for each moment that led me to this point in my career.
Moving forward, I have additional ideas and projects I am continuing to work on. Since I realize there is international attention to this website as well, I will look out for resources that discuss international museum topics to add to my website.
While I have posted for the most part only once a week, I know that there is so much I want to write about so I want to write more than once on a regular basis. In order to do so, I want to make sure this blog and website can be financially supported to keep it running. I will launch my Patreon page to help support my website and blog.
Patreon, for those not familiar with the website, is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or patrons. It is popular among YouTube video makers, artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and other creators who post regularly online.
On my Patreon page I encourage all to make a contribution to help support the blog and website, and/or share my page with others. There are a number of rewards you can earn when you contribute which are: acknowledgement on my website, send information you come across to me on museums and history, and make requests for what I should write about for the blog. When you make higher contributions, in addition to the previously mentioned rewards we can arrange for an hour meeting, a two-hour meeting, or an unlimited meeting for either a meet and greet or seek consulting advice.
My goals are when I reach 50 patrons contributing I will post two blog entries per week instead of once per week. As more patrons contribute to my blog and website, I will increase the number of blog entries per week.
Thank you all for your continued support during the past year, and I hope you all continue to read as I continue to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field.
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
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.