I recently read the book Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K-12 Audiences: How to Connect with Teachers and Engage Students which is a series of articles edited by Tara Young offering comprehensive insight at best practices in working with K-12 audiences including teachers and students. I appreciate that there is a number of different perspectives in the field to contribute to this book so readers can learn from museum professionals who work in more than one type of museum. The book is divided into four parts to help organize the articles based on topics: Setting the Stage, Building Blocks, Questions and New Paradigms, and Solutions and Innovative Models. Each part has six or seven chapters written by various writers in the museum education field.
The Setting the Stage section focuses on establishing and financing K-12 programs as well as on how to engage with students. In the Building Blocks section, the chapters discuss the core elements of successful programming including mission alignment, educator recruitment and training, working with teacher advisory boards, and anti-racist teaching practices.
Questions and New Paradigms has case studies in which museum education practitioners reconsider established approaches to museums’ work with schools and engage in iterative processes to update and improve them. It is important to see case studies especially within books since we need to see examples of practical practices not just discussing theory in museum education. The fourth section, Solutions and Innovative Models, provides examples of programs that were reimagined for the current status of museum/school collaborations.
This book covers a wide range of topics in museum education including but are not limited to the field trip past and present, financial realities of the education department in museums, integrating engineering and empathy in the preschool/kindergarten classroom, creating effective teacher advisory boards, building a new model for staffing school programs, sustainable training for museum education staff, mastering field trip logistics, virtual learning, and teaching slavery at historic sites and lessons learned. It is an important book for both emerging and experienced museum professionals who need to have a better understanding of museum education practices. I plan to continue to refer to this book in my career and to utilize it for the book project I began last year.
I chose to take a closer look at a website that focuses on professional development for museum professionals. Museum Learning Hub is a website I follow to help me develop skills as a museum professional. According to their website, it is a nationwide initiative organized by the six U.S. regional museum associations and is dedicated to providing free, self-paced training resources for small museums made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant for Museums Award. I appreciate that they are able to provide these resources for free since most small museums do not have a professional development budget for their employees; therefore, providing more accessible resources can help museum professionals especially those who work in small museums develop their skills to perform their tasks in their museums. The Hub is created as part of the Digital Empowerment for Small Museums Project, which focuses on providing capacity-building programs and resources in the areas of digital media and technology for small museums.
I like how it is easy to navigate through the website to access webinars and additional resources. The toolkits, that are included in each module, provide more details from individual sessions and resources to help museum professionals learn more about a specific topic covered in the session. The website also includes forums and Ask an Expert forum in which users can click on the forum name to see the discussions, get advice, share ideas and resources, and get technical support from student technology fellows. Some of the topics that are covered in their webinars include but are not limited to digital accessibility and inclusion, live streaming, managing digitization projects, virtual exhibitions, podcasts, video production, and audiences and analytics for museums. They release webinars each week live on their website and have past recordings and transcripts available to catch up on topics discussed in previous weeks.
To learn more about the website and to participate in webinars, check out the link below.
I found out a little while ago that a new museum is coming to New York City next year called the Museum of Broadway. Broadway World made an announcement stating the Museum of Broadway will open in the summer of 2022. It surprised me that there has not been a museum focused on the history of Broadway before now. During the past few years I have lived in New York, I attended some Broadway shows in these historic theaters and had wondered about the history of the theater as well as the history of Broadway in general. I am glad to hear that there will be a new museum dedicated to Broadway’s history. I have loved both history and musicals for as long as I can remember, and I would be interested to see what they do with the history of Broadway.
According to Broadway World, the interactive and immersive experience the Museum of Broadway, founded by entrepreneur and four-time Tony Award nominated producer Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti (founder of the award-winning experiential agency Rubik Marketing), offers guests a unique look at the rich history of Broadway, a sneak peek behind-the-scenes, and a change to personally engage with the “Game-Changing” shows that redefined Broadway forever. They also provided a brief description of what the experience would be like when it is open to the public. In their article, they stated that
At the heart of the experience, guests will travel through a visual history of Broadway from its birth to the present day highlighting theater’s pioneers, landmark moments of social change, and many of the most beloved plays and musicals of all time. Key points along the timeline will focus on the pivotal shows that transformed the landscape of Broadway, through immersive installations designed by leading contemporary visual artists and acclaimed Broadway designers. Fans will also go backstage to get a taste of “The Making of a Broadway Show,” with a special exhibit honoring the community of brilliantly talented professionals – both onstage and off – who bring Broadway plays and musicals to life every night.
It sounds like it would be a fun experience as well as an educational one. As a museum educational professional, I do wonder what their educational side of their museum operations would be like. When I visited their website, there was no mention of what they plan for school programs. I could see the programs focused on history and music including looking at the historical context of musicals.
I look forward to finding out more as it gets closer to opening day. What do you think of this new museum?
It has been 20 years since the attack on the World Trade Center, and I am still wrapping my head around that fact because I remember where I was when it happened and learning about the many lives that were lost that day. I wrote about my experience in a separate previous post that can be found below. To figure out how to commemorate the 20th anniversary, I did some research to pull together a list of what museums are doing and what they are encouraging visitors to do to plan their own commemoration. The following is the list from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and the Museum of the City of New York:
9/11 Memorial & Museum
Tribute in Light
Tribute in Light is a commemorative public art installation that was first presented six months after 9/11 and then every year thereafter, from dusk to dawn, on the night of September 11. Over the years, it has become an iconic symbol that both honors those killed and celebrates the unbreakable spirit of New York.
2. 20th Anniversary Commemoration
In the annual commemoration ceremony, family members of 9/11 victims will gather on the Memorial plaza to read aloud the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
3. The Never Forget Fund
The Never Forget Fund was set up to support the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s efforts to ensure future generations never forget the lessons of 9/11.Twenty years after the attacks that changed our world forever, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum serves as a reminder that in the face of adversity and unfathomable loss of life, our capacity for hope and potential for resilience will see us through.
4. 9/11 Memorial & Museum Anniversary in the School Webinar
Teachers and other educators have the opportunity to incorporate the lessons about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center by participating in an early access to the webinar, and having students watch the webinar and interact with the museum educators through a live chat on a virtual platform to learn about the attacks. Pre- and Post-Webinar activities are available to download. Learn more by clicking on the page here: https://www.911memorial.org/learn/students-and-teachers/anniversary-schools-webinar
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum have also compiled a list of ways one can plan their own observance. Below are the elements the Museum suggests considering when planning a 9/11 anniversary observance, and more details are available on their website.
Observe Moments of Silence
Observe a moment of silence on September 11 at any or all of the times marking key moments on 9/11. Every year, the moments below are observed as part of the official 9/11 anniversary commemoration ceremony held at the World Trade Center for victims’ families.
2. Community Commemoration Assets
To help fulfill its mission never to forget, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is happy to provide media assets for your September 11 commemoration ceremony or event. Whether organizing a remembrance ceremony for your town, your workplace, or your community, you can complete the form below to receive access to archival or present-day Memorial photographs.
3. Toll Bells
Toll bells on September 11 at 8:46 a.m. or at each of the times the attacks occurred that morning.
4. Read the Names of the Victims Aloud
The names of the men, women, and children killed as a result of the 9/11 attacks have been read aloud at the official 9/11 anniversary commemoration in New York City every year. This list of names inscribed on the 9/11 Memorial includes all those killed in the 9/11 attacks and the six individuals killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
5. Lower Flags in Remembrance
Lower flags to half-staff on the anniversary of 9/11. Flags may be lowered at 8:46 a.m. to mark the moment when Flight 11 struck the North Tower.
More information is available on the 20th anniversary page of the Museum’s website.
Museum of the City of New York
Twenty Years Later: Remembering 9/11 Through Documentary Film
Earlier this month I attended History Camp America, which was their first national History Camp virtual conference. It is produced by The Pursuit of History, a non-profit organization that engages adults in conversation about history and connects them with historic sites in their communities, and across the country through innovative in-person and online programming. There were more than 45 sessions that included but were not limited to presentations, historic site tours, history walks, culinary history demonstrations, trivia, and yoga. According to their website, this conference is designed to be a casual conference for adults, teenagers and children that are students, teachers, professors, authors, bloggers, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors and board members, genealogists, and everyone else, regardless of profession or degree, who is interested in and wants to learn more about history.
Like previous virtual conferences, they were hosted on platforms designed to run their conferences; History Camp used the event automation Pheedloop which made organizing conferences, meetings, and trade shows easy with event management software that powers everything from mobile apps, registration, touch-free check-in, and live streaming, to floor plans, sponsors, badge printing, and networking since 2015. I decided to attend History Camp this year after I discovered their website because I wanted to learn what a conference that is not hosted by a museum association would be like to experience. I also wanted to participate in something that appeals to my interested in history and that is different from professional development programs I have attended in the past. It is also important for history and museum professionals in the field to see how people are currently studying history and how they are interpreting history since the history and museum field are discussing the 250th commemoration of American Independence and a part of the discussion about the commemoration is to work on helping the people learn how to do history, in other words how to do their own historical research of the communities they live in. The following are a sample of sessions I attended during History Camp America.
One of the sessions I attended was Saunkskwa, Sachem, Minister: native kinship and settler church kinship in 17th and 18th-century New England led by Lori Rogers-Stokes, an independent scholar of 17th-century New England and the author of Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1683-1649: Heroic Souls (published by Palgrave Macmillan). Rogers-Stokes shared her work in process research by discussing the political records and Congregational church records from 17th-century Massachusetts. Her presentation focused on sharing the similarities and differences she found on how the Algonquin people and English colonists defined and valued kinship; she revealed that, according to her research, the puritan church defined kinship in a similar way to indigenous kinship which led her to believe there was a potential connection that could have been a fruitful common ground for cooperation and respect but was unfortunately lost. I thought the content was interesting and I chose to attend this session because I wanted to expand my knowledge on indigenous history; while the session focused on comparing the Algonquin people and English colonists views on kinship, it is an introduction to the Algonquin culture and history. I look forward to hearing about her completed work on this research.
Once that session was complete, I moved on to a short spotlight session introducing The Daily Bellringer created by Jared Bruening. The Daily Bellringer provides short video overviews of U.S. History topics, and they are designed to be used for grades 5-12 as warm-ups, reviews, or introductions to content. I will go more in depth about The Daily Bellringer in a future post. This was not the only spotlight that occurred during History Camp America.
Another session I attended was “Thrown into the pits”: how were the bodies of the nineteen hanged Salem “witches” really treated? and the speaker was Marilynne K. Roach, author of The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, and Six Women of Salem. She is a member of the Gallows Hill Group that verified the location of the hangings, a discovery Archaeology magazine hailed as one of 2016’s top ten discoveries in the world. Roach discussed her experience taking a closer look at the court records that may disprove assumptions of what happened to the bodies of those hung during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. I thought this was an important session to attend not only because of my interest in Salem’s history but this is an example of why historical research is significant. Popular accounts starting with 19th century historian Charles Upham’s statement that the deceased were “undoubtedly all thrown into pits dug among the rocks” were usually based in available resources or lack thereof, and when records are discovered the interpretation begins to change to reflect what the primary sources state about moments in history such as the Salem Witch Trials.
During lunch, there was a demonstration and a short session that focus on the history of food. In this demonstration, Chef Justin Cherry cooked a recipe for crab cake in Dressed Crab – An Early American Favorite and participants had access to the recipe so they could follow along making their own crab cake. Chef Justin Cherry is the Chef/Owner of Half Crown Bakehouse which is a mobile 18th-century clay oven that specializes in colonial foodways. The recipe he used during the demonstration came from a manuscript written by Anne Chase in 1811; Anne Chase was the daughter of Samuel Chase, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I thought it was interesting since not only participants learn more about history, but they can also prepare their own crab cakes as they watch. To my memory, I have not participated in a demonstration like this one before.
In the next demonstration, Sarah Lohman shared photographs and discussed the history of soda fountains in Soda Fountain Favorites. Sarah Lohman is a culinary historian and the author of the bestselling book Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, and she focuses on the history of food as a way to access the stories of diverse Americans. She focused her presentation on food history in New York and provided recipes of the classic sodas she talked about so participants can make them at home. Lohman shared stories behind some of the favorite fountain drinks including the egg cream and the popularity of seltzer, Dr. Brown’s Soda (specifically Cel-Ray), the Lime Rickey, and the Purple Cow. During the session, I recalled the first time I tried an egg cream when I first visited my then boyfriend (now husband) on Long Island.
After attending the sessions live, I decided to take advantage of the recorded sessions so I can revisit the sessions and listen to other sessions that I did not attend on the day of the conference. I included a pdf file of the itinerary History Camp released to provide an idea of topics that were discussed, tours given, and demonstrations performed. I will also elaborate in future posts about other sessions I attended and tours of historic sites I participated in.
We should remember why we celebrate Pride Month and museums especially have the responsibility for educating the public about LGBTIQ+ history that has long been neglected to be told. June is LGBTIQ+ Pride Month which honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan as it was the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Stonewall Inn was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City back in 1969, and until 1966 it was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person in New York State. Throughout the United States, police raids on gay bars and spaces during this time. The purpose of Pride Month as a commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.
In more recent years we celebrate by having pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTIQ+ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Pride Month last year and this year has been different due to the pandemic. Last year, the museum field honored Pride Month on the virtual platform. Hilary-Morgan Watt (the Digital Engagement Manager for the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) and Emily Haight (the Social Media Manager at the New-York Historical Society) wrote a short post for the American Alliance of Museums’ blog to advertise the #MuseumPrideParade on Twitter encouraging museums and museum professionals to share items in their museums’ collections relevant to LGBTIQ+ history. According to the authors, the campaign they created at the time of their post was the third global campaign organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the New-York Historical Society during the pandemic, following #MuseumBouquet and #MuseumSunshine. Watt and Haight pointed out that:
We decided Pride was the right opportunity for a third campaign, to help museums celebrate in place of the exhibits, film screenings, programs, and parade-marching many would normally be participating in. How do you participate? It’s simple—showcase images from Pride marches and other LGBTQIA+ protests throughout history, or other objects and stories from LGBTQ history, using the #MuseumPrideParade hashtag, and choose another institution to tag as your virtual marching partner.
For example: We’re sharing [object] for the #MuseumPrideParade and marching with [@institution].
The Museum Pride Parade took place last year on June 10th at 11am on Twitter.
While we are still going through this pandemic, we still honor Pride Month and each museum does so in varying ways depending on if they are planning to have events and programs in person, virtually, or hybrid. I included links to various events and programs museums are doing for Pride Month in the list below to show what is happening. Also, I included a couple of links from last year’s Pride Month in the list.
A lot of the programs and events especially in museums aim to educate participants in LGBTIQ+ history. It is important for museum professionals to remember that LGBTIQ+ history is not just in one month. There are museums that not only incorporate LGBTIQ+ history into their programs but also do outreach in the LGBTIQ+ community, and I saw some examples of this in the December 2020 edition of the Journal of Museum Education called Queering the Museum. One of the articles was Benjamin Rowles’ “LGBTIQ+-Themed Education at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna-Guided Tours with a Drag Queen” in which he pointed out the museum he began working for in 2016 holds countless European Old Master paintings and some of them can be interpreted to reference queer themes, yet there was a lack of LGBTIQ+ outreach. Rowles decided that since in addition to working in a museum he also works as a drag queen, he will combine both to provide guided tours as a drag queen; his article shared the experience of the offered guided tours that lasted for a few years.
Another example of an article in this edition of the Journal of Museum Education was “Intuition and Vulnerability: A Queer Approach to Museum Education” written by Eli Burke, the Education Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson. Burke’s article explored intuition and vulnerability through an intergenerational arts program called Stay Gold that is specifically for the LGBTIQA+ community and its relationship to museum education. The main point of the article is that it seeks to examine how queerness is connected to both intuition and vulnerability, and how the Stay Gold program impacts the lives of LGBTIQA+ participants through that lens.
Danielle Bennett, who has previously worked on LGBTQIA+-related projects at Amy Kaufman Cultural Planning and the New York Historical Society, also contributed an article for the Journal of Museum Education called “Lessons from Glen Burnie: Queering a Historic House Museum”. She made a case in the article for including queer narratives in historic house museums since including queer history in public history settings is important in its own right and as a way to invigorate museum interpretations and appeal to wider audiences.
Also, in the same article Bennett dispels concerns about “outing” historical actors and describe some language and ways of thinking about historical sexuality to assist educators in their interpretation. Then it shifts into the case study of Glen Burnie, a historic house museum that completely revised its interpretation to center the house’s last residents and its preservationists, a gay male couple; Glen Burnie’s interpretive shift leverages the efforts of both men to create public and private domestic experiences that create an immersive new house tour experience and can be used to create a critique of the portrayal of gender roles and heteronormativity at many historic house museums. More articles can be found in the fourth edition of the 45th volume in the Journal of Museum Education, and I included a link to current and past editions.
I recently came across History Camp while exploring museums virtually, and I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look. According to their website, History Camp is a casual conference generally for adults especially including but not limited to students, teachers, professors, authors, bloggers, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors, board members, genealogists, et. cetera regardless of profession or degree who is interested in and wants to learn more about history. The first History Camp was held on March 8, 2014 which presented 23 sessions and two panels, and welcomed 109 people to an IBM facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are some local volunteer committees that manage History Camps while others are managed by non-profit organizations. In 2019, the non-profit organization The Pursuit of History was started to foster the development of more History Camps across the country.
Other conferences in the past have been in person at various places including Boston, Colorado, Virginia, and Philadelphia. This year, however, their conference History Camp America will be a fully virtual History Camp participants can enjoy from anywhere in the world.
Since I have not experienced History Camp America yet, I am not able to, at the time I am writing this blog post, to state what the experience is like. History Camp America will take place this year on Saturday,July 10th. I have signed up for their newsletter so I will know when tickets will become available. If you would like to check it out for yourselves, I have included a link below where you can sign up for their newsletter. Based on the information provided so far, the biggest differences between conferences I have attended in the past and History Camp America is there are no places where services are being shared and sale pitches. Another difference that I noticed is in each conference I have attended there are themes, and the sessions are in general based on those themes; History Camp America put emphasis on making the conferences as broad as possible to attract many people to attend, and they believe that ultimately, it is the speakers and attendees that define the scope discussions are focused on. On their website, they stated that:
Since our first History Camp in 2014, history enthusiasts of all stripes have been enthralled by our casual conference format. This format encourages a wide variety of topics and participants learn about history and new research, engage with history in unique ways, share what they love about history, and challenge everyone to think about history in new ways.
Once the conference occurs, I will be able to share more about the experience of attending History Camp America.
During the pandemic, they launched two new History Camp events called History Camp Discussions and America’s Summer Roadtrip. History Camp Discussions are free online weekly discussions that are live every Thursday at 8pm Eastern, and are also available as recordings in their archives section for replays. One of the History Camp Discussions that caught my attention was the discussion with Emerson W. Baker on his book A Storm of Witchcraft: Salem Trials and the American Experience. Baker is a Professor of History and Interim Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. The hour-long program discussed Baker’s book by focusing the discussion on his investigation of the key players in the Salem witchcraft crisis and explains why this tragedy unfolded the way it did according to the research he did for his book.
Another History Camp Discussions that caught my attention was the discussion with Linda Jeffers Coombs on the topic of The Wampanoag and the Arrival of the Pilgrims. Coombs is an author and historian from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and program director of the Aquinnah Cultural Center. In the near hour-long program, she discussed the Wampanoag’s experience with the pilgrims’ arrival, and the effects of an epidemic that swept through and devastated the region just before the pilgrims arrived.
America’s Summer Roadtrip is a free online event that brought participants to 12 historic sites across the United States without leaving home and where many of their guides offer special access to areas other tours usually do not go. The twelve historic sites across the United States are located in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Carolina, and California.
To learn more, I have included links below on their website and the programs they offer.
When I started my Buy Me A Coffee page, my plan was to use the support for the blog and website to publish a book that would be relevant for the museum field.
Today, I am announcing the book project that I have been researching and beginning the process of writing for. The book I am writing is on the coronavirus and the museum field. My goals for writing this book are to
preserve the history of the coronavirus pandemic from the perspective of the museum field,
describe the history of the previous pandemic over 100 years before this pandemic and how the actions taken in the past are relevant to what we have experienced starting at least since March 2020, and
discover how we all will move forward with the lessons we have learned.
It is a relevant book because the pandemic has made a significant impact on all around the world especially museum workers who engage with the public both within the community and inside the museum walls. A book like this one is beneficial for museum professionals, museum lovers, and individuals interested in history especially history of modern medicine.
To write a book like this one, it is important to compile numerous resources such as relevant books, articles, and posts that will support the goals the writer set for their book. I have compiled a lengthy list of resources I am reviewing, and I will continue to compile and review resources before I finalize the official list of resources to be utilized for writing the book.
During this past year, there were a lot of webinars produced for professional development programs especially in the museum field. This is not the first time webinars have been developed and utilized but participation in them increased during this global health crisis. Since I write about the services museums could learn about and see how they could help them, I thought I would write about another one called Cisco. Also known as Cisco Systems, Inc., Cisco is an American multinational technology conglomerate headquartered in San Jose, California that develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment and other high-technology services and products.
I chose to focus more on one of their services not only because they are so many, but I thought I should focus on ones that can be helpful for education programs in museums and classrooms since one of my focuses for this blog is on education. One of the services they offer include webinar set ups called Webex.
Webex has the following features: calling, messaging, meetings, and connecting in Webex. With the Calling in Webex feature, users can enable it to get enterprise-calling features on features on desktop and mobile devices. In the Messaging in Webex feature, individuals are able to use text messaging with built-in enhanced features, such as custom presence status and custom filters, for one-on-one and group messaging. In the Meetings in Webex feature, users are able to meet securely with integrated video, audio, and content sharing on any device; it also has features such as noise removal and speech enhancement, live transcripts, and translations with Webex Assistant, to automate meeting tasks and enhance relationships. Then in the Connecting with Webex feature, users that utilize Webex realize they are able integrate with third-party apps right your existing workflows to streamline the workday. The benefits of using Webex are:
Built-in security: Strong encryption, compliance, and control inside and outside of your organization.
Easily deploy and manage: Intuitive, with easy provisioning, control, and management of your Webex services.
Made to fit: From classroom to boardroom, to the front line, Webex is customized for your environment and workstyles.
Powered by Webex: Built on the industry-trusted global Webex platform.
Cisco also promotes services that would help educators provide hybrid learning opportunities for their students.
They provide a number of hybrid learning solutions they offer to help increase student and faculty engagement, educate anywhere at any time, and provide flexible learning experiences. The hybrid learning solutions they offer are hybrid learning spaces, secure distance learning, and faculty professional development. According to the site, Cisco’s hybrid learning spaces offers to expand teaching and learning and across physical and virtual environments; they went into detail on pages for hybrid learning solutions, Cisco Webex, Webex Education Connector, and Cisco Webex Board.
Cisco shares detailed information about what they offer on their virtual platforms. I recommend taking a closer look for yourselves to see what may be appropriate for your educational interactive experiences in virtual and hybrid classrooms as well as museums. To find out more about Cisco, check out the links below.
When I was in college, I made my first visit to Old Sturbridge Village located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Old Sturbridge Village, which invites each visitor to find meaning, pleasure, relevance, and inspiration through the exploration of history, is the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast that depicts a rural New England town of the 1830s. There are more than 40 original buildings, including homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, working farm, three water-powered mills, and trade shops, which are situated on more than 200 scenic acres. The buildings were moved to the area between the late 1940s and early 1970s. Inside the Village, there are authentically costumed historians and farm animals to talk with and interact with on a regular visit or during various programs they offer.
As a member and treasurer of the historical society club, other members and I visited a number of times including during the Christmas by Candlelight program. I remember traveling to the Village while it was dark out to walk through, visit the buildings decorated in holiday decorations, and seeing the display of gingerbread houses for a gingerbread house contest. I also visited Old Sturbridge Village a few times after I graduated.
It has been a while since I last visited Old Sturbridge Village, and I decided to make another visit since I thought I would see how much has changed. This time it will be a virtual visit. Recently, Old Sturbridge Village designed and released the link to a virtual experience called 3D Tours as part of Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village. The Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village offers content created by the interpreters and farmers for Old Sturbridge Village’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Interpreters share fun facts, activities, recipes, and more, while the farmers shared updates with photos and videos of the animals. The Village also released more content within their 3D tours.
According to the website, 3D Tours are supported in part by a grant from the Webster Cultural Council, a local agency that is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. At the time I made this visit, the following buildings were available in the virtual tour: the Asa Knight Store, the District School, the Pottery Shop, the Freeman Farm, the Sawmill, the Printing Office, and the Fenno House. To learn more about these buildings, they include brief histories of the buildings that include when and where they were built, when they moved to Old Sturbridge Village, and what they were used for. Also, the tours allow virtual visitors to get up close to artifacts that are usually behind barriers such as the catalog in the Asa Knight Store and the pottery on the shelves of the Pottery Shop. There are pins throughout the tours to look closer or learn new information, and new videos with some of the Village’s knowledgeable costumed historians to bring the spaces to life.
While I was experiencing the virtual tours, there were many observations I made at each place. The first building I visited was the Asa Knight Store where I was able to go behind the counters to see numerous items that the store sold on shelves, in drawers, and underneath the counter; there were a few pins that described the items in the store including information on textiles. When I visited Old Sturbridge Village in the past, I spent most of my time in the front of the store since there is so much to see and so little time to see it all in at each visit I made, and on this virtual trip I was able to spend more time in the store and learn more about the store. For example, I saw a china and ceramics crate that had plates inside it in a room where hats were being made and in the next room there are a number of items including Prussian Blue pigments they sold, and the pigments were used to make paint. The next place I went into was the District School.
I do not remember going inside the District School during the last time I visited Old Sturbridge Village, so I decided to check it out. The focus of the building was to share information and ask visitors about the classroom in the 1830s versus today. My visit reminded me of my experience teaching students about the one-room schoolhouses at Noah Webster House and the Long Island Museum. Inside the classroom, the staff provided information about the Blue Back Speller used by students to learn how to read and it was written by Noah Webster. I used a reproduction of the Blue Back Speller as a museum educator while teaching about schoolhouses to share with students who visited Noah Webster House. I then moved on to the Pottery Shop & Kiln. Inside the Pottery Shop, there is a video on making pottery the staff shared and I noticed a clay cellar among the numerous pottery and glazes.
Then I went to explore the Freeman Farm and the Sawmill. Inside the house of the Freeman Farm, there is a video that describes what farm life was like in the 1830s located in the kitchen; also, there was information about dinner, food preservation, farm animals, dairying and the buttery, garden, and the root cellar. While I was exploring, I tried to explore a little more of the grounds but was limited to only the house and around the house. I would have loved to see more of the other buildings on the farm including the barn. When I was at the Sawmill, I saw the video on the saw and how it works and was able to see it up close behind the barriers. They also included a Woodland Walk booklet pdf which had information about New England trees and there was also information in another pin about the New England Landscape.
The final two places I visited were the Printing Office and the Fenno House. In the Printing Office, I was able to go behind the barrier to see the printing press up close where there are pins revealing information on how the machine was operated and how they were trained to operate it. Also, a video is shared to explain what it is like to work in the printing office. Inside the Fenno House, half of the house is set up as a historic house and the other half has exhibits. On the first floor, there was the kitchen and an exhibit with the spinning wheel and loom describing how each of them were used to create fabrics for the home. On the second floor, there was a bed chamber on one side of the house and on the other side was an exhibit display of clothing and a few pieces of furniture.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of re-visiting Old Sturbridge Village in a virtual capacity. I appreciate their efforts in encouraging visitors to ask themselves what is similar and different to their daily lives today versus the time periods each site introduces. I wonder if they are going to include more buildings in the virtual tour, and if they do, I will certainly return to experience these virtual tours. Also, I like that not only the staff introduced virtual tours but also developed resources to be utilized along with the tours.
The resources they provided are lesson plans, hands-on activities, and other links including their online collections. Old Sturbridge Village provided these resources to help other educators teach their students history, and it is one of many examples I have seen of museums sharing educational resources while we are all figuring out how to carry on while we are still going through the pandemic. The lesson plans I have seen are designed for students in grade levels 3rd through 5th grade, and in addition to the lesson plans and pdfs they included a link to their Google classroom with fillable documents that educators can download and assign to their students. Plus, there are hands-on activities one can download to be used alongside the virtual tours including “Make Your Own Cardboard Loom” with the Fenno House tour, and the “Home Scavenger Hunt” with the Asa Knight Store tour.
I recommend experiencing the virtual tours for yourselves if you want to spend time learning more about Old Sturbridge Village.