Museums I Visited While I Was in College: Springfield Museums

Added on August, 8, 2019

One of my previous blog posts had my memories of visiting the Salem Witch Museum as Historical Society Club Treasurer in college, and to learn more about the experience check out the link here after reading this post. Another museum I visited during college was Springfield Museums which was not far from where I went to college in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Springfield Museums is in downtown Springfield and provides access to five museums under one admission. According to their website, the Museums inspire exploration of our connections to art, history and science through outstanding collections, exhibitions and programs. The mission was apparent during my visits to the Springfield Museums. My first visit was during another Historical Society trip, and the museums I remember visiting were the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts and the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History.

The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum is an art museum which holds the eclectic collections of George Walter Vincent Smith (1832-1923) and his wife, Belle Townsley Smith (1845-1928) in an Italian palazzo-style building established in 1896. Their collections include but not limited to examples of Japanese lacquer, arms and armor, ceramics and bronzes; and one of the largest collections of Chinese cloisonné outside of Asia. Also, the collection contains significant American 19th-century paintings (especially landscape and genre), Italian 19th-century watercolors, a fine assembly of Greek and Roman antiquities, a rare plaster cast collection, objects created for 19th-century International Expositions and examples of lace and early textiles.

The Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1933 and located in an Art Deco style building. It includes a comprehensive collection of American, Asian and European paintings, prints, watercolors and sculpture and representative examples of drawing, furniture, metalwork, textiles, glass and ceramics. Inside the museum, it houses a comprehensive collection of European Art (French, Dutch, and Italian) and the Currier & Ives (active 1834-1907) Collection is the largest holdings of lithographs in the nation.

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History is known for its local history research facility. Also, the museum is known for its comprehensive program of changing exhibitions, its diverse educational offerings, and the wide-ranging collections that illuminates the history of the Connecticut River Valley.

I visited the museums not only as part of a Historical Society trip but for classes as requirements for my studies at college. I took a culture course on France and French Caribbean, and one of our assignments included a visit as a class to the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts to see and discuss the French art collection. Another course I took was an art course in which I visited the art museums to use resources available to complete assignments.

At each visit to Springfield Museums, I visited the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. The Garden celebrates Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, in the city in which he was born and raised. After Dr. Seuss’ death, his wife, Audrey, authorized the museums to create the memorial which features bronze sculptures of his characters. At the time of my visits, it was the only connection to Dr. Seuss that the museums had in its campus. When I was still a college student, they were still working on establishing a museum dedicated to his life and work.

Now there is a museum called The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum that is devoted to Dr. Seuss. According to the website, it features family friendly, interactive exhibits that explores his Springfield roots and provides opportunities to experiment with new sounds and vocabulary, play rhyming games, and invent stories. The museum also features a recreated studio and living room of Geisel’s, and never been publicly displayed art, family photographs, and letters.

Since there is so much to see, I did not see everything in the museum system. For instance, I have not seen exhibits in the Springfield Science Museum. It houses permanent collections of Natural Science, Anthropology and Physical Science. The Science Museum also includes Seymour Planetarium which consists of the historic Korkosz Starball, the oldest operating star-projector in the United States. I recommend if one can do so to visit the Springfield Museums and see the vast collections; be sure to dedicate a lot of time to see as much as possible.

Resources:

https://springfieldmuseums.org/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/10/04/patron-request-museum-impressions-salem-witch-museum/

What Museums Mean to Me: My Relationship with Museums when I was a College Student

Originally posted on Medium. November 17, 2016.

In my first blog post, I wrote about how my love for museums has begun as a child and I will share how this love has continued since then. Recently I read the latest edition of Journal of Museum Education in which the articles focused on the relationship between museums and universities, and how that relationship can be improved. In an article written by the guest editors Beth Maloney and Matt D. Hill, they briefly discussed the articles in the journal and expressed hope that this journal will be able to be used as a source for successful collaborations. As I read this edition, I thought about my own experiences in museums as a college student, and I believe there is potential in creating more successful collaborations with colleges and universities. My career in museums began when I was in college; I was involved in Western New England College’s (now University) Historical Society as both a member and treasurer. Also, I went on a couple of trips to museums for one of my courses. Of course, I gained more experiences in museums as a graduate student at Central Connecticut State University.

While I was a college student at Western New England College, I was the treasurer of the Historical Society which is a club that encouraged visitations to various museums in the area and in neighboring states. I volunteered to be a treasurer for the Historical Society when no one else wanted to take over since the last treasurer left the organization and because I was also a treasurer for Western New England’s Campus Chorus so I already had the experience; I was then given the previous slips and forms to reorganize the organization’s budget, and since then I was re-elected as treasurer each year it was not until a few months before I graduated from college that someone was willing to take on the role. As a treasurer, I was responsible for organizing and maintaining the club’s budget for various materials such as pens and t-shirt as well as expenses including hotels, museum fees, and food for Historical Society trips. We planned trips to various museums including Springfield Museums, Old Sturbridge Village, The Pequot Museum, The Salem Witch Museum, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, The House of Seven Gables, and The Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. I also planned the trip to a couple of places in New York including Hyde Park and Martin van Buren’s home with the Historical Society. During the four years I was both a member and treasurer of the Historical Society, I went to various museums in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. This experience not only taught me about running an organization whether it was a college organization or behind the scenes look at how a museum is run but it also was a source of many wonderful college memories I look back fondly on.

I attended museums while I was taking courses at Western New England, but unfortunately there were not many opportunities for going to museums in many of my classes and I was a History major. Much of my History courses at the time were taken in the classroom with limited possibilities for exploring museums; my freshman seminar course gave an overview on possible career paths we could take as History majors and invited professionals (also WNE alumni) to discuss their work outside college, and a few of them were museum professionals. While my History courses had guest speakers come into the classroom, a few of my other courses could have a couple of visits to museums. In my art history course, I was able to visit the Springfield Museums to complete an assignment. My France and French Caribbean culture course also had class at the Springfield Museums where we visited art galleries featuring French artists and had discussions about the artists and their works. After I graduated from Western New England, I continued to visit museums and became more involved with museums.

While I was in the graduate program at Central Connecticut State University, I continued to visit museums and this time my visits were more focused on developing my career in the museum field. I started my museum experience by having an internship at Connecticut’s Old State House during the summer where I assisted with one of the last school programs of the school year where over a hundred students participated in various activities including an I Spy activity which kids designed their own spy glasses using paper towel rolls and walked around the Old State House playing I Spy. Also, I assisted with public programs including the Farmer’s Market, and Conversations at Noon (lunchtime lecture series with guest lecturers presenting in the Old State House gallery). I also created an Animal Scavenger Hunt as a summer activity for kids to find pictures of animals in the Education Center based on clues I wrote. In many courses I took while in graduate school, my classmates and I were encouraged to complete projects and we collaborated with museums and organizations to gain exposure for our collaborations. For instance, for my Museum Interpretation course we were split into small groups to write a proposal for an exhibit that will be featured at the Connecticut Historical Society; my group’s proposal we collaborated on writing, about the split between in and outside the kitchen and featured a few pieces from their collections in our presentation, was approved by the decision committee at CHS with some changes suggested. We then collaborated with University of Connecticut art students to design the exhibit. This exhibit became Cooking by the Book: Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart and it was opened from January 18 to April 13, 2013. During graduate school, we were also encouraged to attend conferences. I attended a few New England Museum Association conferences which were held in various cities in the area and have various opportunities to have sessions and ceremonies at museums. I continue to attend museums even as a museum professional to enjoy the exhibits and to continue developing my skills as a museum educator.

I am thankful for each of the opportunities that I gained and I hope that wherever I end up I will be able to take the lessons with me. We should be able to develop a better relationship with universities, and show them that we have resources they can use in teaching in the classroom and aid in their students’ career paths. Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving everyone!