A Public Historian Explores History Camp

May 6, 2021

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.

Links:

History Camp

About History Camp

Upcoming Events

History Camp America 2021

America’s Summer Roadtrip

History Camp Discussions: Emerson W. Baker’s A Storm of Witchcraft: Salem Trials and the American Experience

History Camp Discussions: Linda Jeffers Coombs on The Wampanoag and the Arrival of the Pilgrims

History Camp Newsletter Sign Up

Museum Impressions and Virtual Revisit: Old Sturbridge Village

March 11, 2021

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.

Asa Knight Store
Asa Knight Store: China and Ceramics

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.

District School
Pottery Shop & Kiln

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.

Sawmill
Freeman Farm

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.

The Printing Office
The Fenno House

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.

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts. https://buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog

Links:

Old Sturbridge Village: Virtual Village

3D Tours

3D Tours Resources

Virtual Museum Experiences: Impressions of Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education

August 1, 2019

This week Museum Education Roundtable released the forty-fourth volume, number three edition of their journal, Journal of Museum Education, online. In case you are not familiar with the journal, the Journal of Museum Education is a peer-reviewed journal released by the Museum Education Roundtable four times a year that explores and reports on theory, training, and practice in the museum education field. Each journal is divided into at least four sections, and in the latest edition they are: Editorial; Articles; Tools, Frameworks and Case Studies; and Book Review. In this edition of the Journal, there are four articles focused on virtual reality, five pieces in the Tools, Frameworks and Case Studies, and a book review of the book Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact by Randi Korn.

On Museum Education Roundtable’s website, they released links to the articles from this edition Virtual Visits: Museums Beaming in Live focusing on using virtual reality for museum experiences. I believe that utilizing virtual reality in museum education is a helpful tool for visitor experiences, and while it does not replace the in-person experience, but it especially is a benefit for individuals who are not able to for various reasons be in the physical space. I have limited experience with virtual reality, but I continuously seek professional development opportunities to advance my skills as a museum educator; which is why I took advantage of reading these articles.

At the Long Island Explorium, a children’s science museum, I have worked with virtual reality programs for educational and entertainment purposes. Each visitor had the opportunity to wear a virtual reality headset and participate in a couple of programs that came with the Microsoft virtual reality system. One of the programs allowed visitors to tour through the solar system wearing the headset and using the handsets participants can click on each star, planet, etc. to learn more about everything about solar systems. The second program gives participants two ancient ruins and their modern landscapes to tour through to learn the history of each civilization; participants can tour through either Peru or Rome. What was different about this program from the solar system program is participants can move around a little bit as if they were really standing in the locations. The Microsoft system we used connected to the PC and Smartboard which allowed individuals who were not wearing the headset to view what the person wearing it sees.

Since I was guiding visitors and showed the rest of the museum staff how to use the virtual reality, I have gained some experience using it and recognize the value of virtual reality in museums. Both programs provide an educational opportunity for visitors to explore space and civilizations where they are most likely have not been before. When I read the latest edition of Journal of Museum Education, I shared the sentiment the Editor-in-Chief, Cynthia Robinson, shared in the journal

“Although virtual access does not provide some of the authenticity of a physical encounter, it is no less meaningful than reading a history book to learn about and imagine the past, or viewing a filmed documentary of a place we would otherwise not visit.”

By including virtual reality in museums, museum professionals can provide another medium they will utilize for programs and exhibits to reach out to visitors. My experience with virtual reality showed me the potential of its use in a children’s science museum and based on the programs I worked with I have no doubt it could work with varying types of museums.

Individuals can take advantage of virtually visiting museums and participating in museum programs that are far from home, or places that are not entirely handicapped accessible. According to one of the articles, “Virtual Visits: Museums Beaming in Live”, Allyson Mitchell stated

“Museum educators already interpret the collections and content of their institutions through educational programming to meet the needs of family, school age, adult, senior, and community audiences. IVL [Interactive Virtual Learning] programs provide a similar real-time connection to a museum professional who facilitates personalized learning experiences that actively engage groups visiting virtually to forge deeper connection to cultural institutions and lifelong learning.”

IVL programs provide live interactive broadcasts that offer visitors at a distance real-time connection to a museum professional and resources. I had my first experience with an IVL program during a professional development program. During last year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference, I participated in a session called Virtual Field Trips: Traveling Through Time and Space to Connect Museums and Audiences in which session speakers discussed the benefits and challenges of running and planning virtual field trips. Also, they performed a demonstration what a virtual field trip is like using Skype by giving us a brief demonstration of what it would be like to be in space without wearing a space suit. As I continued to read the Journal of Museum Education, I realize the continued potential of virtual reality use in museums not only in programs but with museum collections.

In the article “Defining Interactive Virtual Learning in Museum Education: A Shared Perspective”, Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski & Lynda O’Leary discussed how all cultural institutions can benefit from a top-notch virtual learning program in terms of outreach, diversity, and promotion of collection. According to Gaylord-Opalewski and O’Leary, there are multiple benefits of using

“The world of IVL is commonly viewed as an addendum to an onsite experience with cultural institutions such as zoos, museums, libraries, science centers, and the like. Through dedicated virtual educators trained to interpret collections using synchronous technology, IVL programs serve not just as an addendum to onsite experiences, but rather as a conduit for greater outreach and promotion to audiences that may never have the opportunity to visit the collections of a museum in person – due to budget, physical limitations, or distance.”

While the program I used at the Long Island Explorium was used as one of the additions used onsite, I believe in the potential to reach out to many current and potential visitors who do not always have access to museums in person. Museum professionals have always investigated ways we can draw more visitors to our museums and sites, and as technology continues to develop we continue to figure out different ways we can reach out to people to share resources and collections.

Discussion Questions: Have you used virtual reality, whether it was in a museum or not? What is your reaction to virtual reality? Do you think virtual reality could be useful in museums? Why or why not?

Resources:

www.museumedu.org/jme/jme-44-3-virtual-visits-museums-beaming-in-live/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/05/24/social-media-journalists-at-conferences-my-experience-as-one-at-nycmer-2018/

Historic House Keeping: A Hands-On Professional Development Experience

July 18, 2019

On previous blog posts, I shared my experiences in participating in professional development programs including conferences and seminars. I participated in another program that would not only help me refresh my skills as a public historian and museum professional but could also help several museum professionals who are responsible for collections. Also, by sharing my experience in professional development programs it will also help individuals understand the challenges museum professionals face to maintain our collections for the public to enjoy and appreciate.

This past Monday I participated in a Historic House Keeping all-day seminar provided by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network in New York. Greater Hudson Heritage Network serves the museum and history communities as a catalyst to advance professional standards and practices, build the capacity of organizations to meet their missions, and create a network of effective and professional stewards of regional history and culture now and in the future. It serves member cultural organizations, their staffs, their boards, and their communities in New York State and beyond, offering consultations and assistance, a resource network, and professional development opportunities to advance the work of historians, historic house museums, heritage centers, historic sites, archives, and libraries. The workshop I participated in was one of the examples of programs Greater Hudson Heritage Network offers.

Before I took this workshop, my previous experience with historic housekeeping was at the Connecticut Landmarks historic houses in Hartford. At the houses, I assisted in cleaning the floors, carpets, and the collections within the house including but not limited to furniture and toys. I also unpacked and set up holiday decorations that were in the collections to use during the holiday season. For summer tours, I helped set up the family trunk used for their summer trips to Niantic and laid out their wool bathing suits on the bed they once wore when they swam in the summertime. I decided to take this workshop to both refresh my memory of historic housekeeping but to learn more about techniques that I should utilize when I take on my next historic housekeeping project.

Historic House Keeping took place at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport on Long Island. The Vanderbilt Museum, located in Suffolk County, includes the Eagle Nest Mansion once owned by William K. Vanderbilt II. He established a trust fund to finance the operation of the museum and deeded it to Suffolk County, New York, upon his death in 1944. Suffolk County opened the museum to the public in 1950.

During the full-day workshop, I learned the proper, hands-on methodology of collections care by working directly with collections which equipped myself and other attendees with the knowledge and skill sets necessary for cleaning, handling, and storing collections, along with the tools to teach our volunteer base these critical skills. Participants received a lite breakfast, networking luncheon, resource packet, and cleaning toolkit. The day began with introductions to Before we began our sessions, we had an opportunity to participate in an hour-long tour of the Mansion.

We learned a lot about the history of the Eagle’s Nest Mansion and the history of the Vanderbilt family. Each room we visited within the Mansion gave us a glimpse at the life of William K. Vanderbilt II through the estate that memorializes his legacy. Once we completed the tour, we were separated into three groups to start the first session before our lunch break. After the lunch break, we went to our next two sessions in our groups. While we did listen to their tips and had the opportunity to ask them questions, we were able to move and handle table settings, pack textiles, clean the carpet and objects, and clean silver based on the tips we were given. When we completed the three sessions, the three groups came back together to work together on a couple of storage and cleaning sessions. Also, we learned about various archival boxes that are recommended for various types of collections.

I enjoyed the full-day workshop not only because it was a great way to network with museum and history professionals, but we worked with session professionals on hands-on projects. We were able to practice our skills so we would know what to do when we are faced with these situations. At the end of the program, we were given cleaning kits of our own that included materials we used during our sessions and information we can refer to later during our own historic housekeeping. The main purpose of each session we participated in was how to prolong the collection items for preservation and for people to learn more about the past. If we do not practice these steps in preserving our collections, we will lose all of the physical connections to the past more quickly through decay. By participating in this workshop, I feel that I am better prepared for cleaning and preserving historic houses.

Discussion Questions: What techniques do you use in historic housekeeping? As a visitor of historic houses, what are your impressions of how the collections are displayed?

To learn more about the places I referenced and Greater Hudson Heritage Network, check out the links below.

Resources:

http://www.greaterhudson.org/

https://www.vanderbiltmuseum.org/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/04/25/museum-memories-connecticut-landmarks-historic-houses-in-hartford/

Museums I Would Like To Visit

Added to Medium, December 13, 2018

I have been asked a number of times throughout my life so far what museums I have been to and which ones I would like to visit. I decided to answer their question with a list of museums I would like to visit with a brief description of the museum, mission, and why I would like to visit this museum. This list is in no particular order, and it could be museums in and outside of the United States. I am only limiting myself to eight museums even though my list of museums is much longer because the blog post would be too long. Here are some of the museums I would like to visit in the future:

1. Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia, PA: It explores the dramatic, surprising story of the American Revolution through its collection of Revolutionary-era weapons, personal items, documents, and works of art. I want to visit the Museum of the American Revolution not only because one of the histories I am most passionate about is Early American history but the last time I visited Philadelphia I was a kid and would have loved to visit a museum like this one in addition to visiting the Liberty Bell. https://www.amrevmuseum.org/

2. Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco, CA: The Museum is about the life story of Walt Disney, the man who raised animation to an art, tirelessly pursued innovation, and created a distinctly American legacy that transformed the entertainment world. It features contemporary, interactive galleries with state-of-the-art exhibits narrated in Walt’s own voice alongside early drawings, cartoons, films, music, a spectacular model of Disneyland, and a lot more. Since I am one of many who have grown up watching Disney films, both animated and live action, and have had a fascination for the history of the Disney family after watching a couple of Walt Disney movies and documentaries, I would like to visit the museum in person. https://www.waltdisney.org/

3. Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA: It a public learning laboratory exploring the world through science, art, and human perception. Their mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide. A few of my colleagues at the Long Island Explorium talked about how impressive their exhibits and interactive experiences are, and would like to see this for myself. https://www.exploratorium.edu/

4. Barnum Museum, Bridgeport, CT: The Museum is a leading authority on P.T. Barnum’s life and work, and it contains more than 60,000 artifacts relating to Barnum, Bridgeport, and 19th century America. I went to the circus once as a child, and I thought that the history of the circus was interesting. Also, when I was an intern at Connecticut’s Old State House I learned that P.T. Barnum once served the state inside the Old State House. After talking with a museum colleague who I met online who works at the Barnum Museum and learning about the restoration plan of the Museum from the Director, Kathleen Maher’s, presentation at the NEMA conference, I would like to visit the museum and learn more about P.T. Barnum and his influence on American culture. https://barnum-museum.org/

5. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.: This museum is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts, and advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement, and social change. It is a fascinating museum and I have not been to many museums that focus solely on women and the accomplishments made by women. As a woman myself, I think it is especially important to learn more about what these women have accomplished and how their accomplishments impacted the nation. https://nmwa.org/

6. The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands: In cooperation with Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, the museum was established inside the house where Anne Frank went into hiding and its’ mission is to increase awareness of Anne’s life story all over the world. Since I learned about Anne Frank and her life while I was in school, I wanted to visit in person to not only learn more about the lives of those who hid in the house but I also think it is important to put into perspective what it would be like to be hidden in a small space by stepping into that space. https://www.annefrank.org/en/museum/

7. The Louvre, Paris, France: Since 1793, the Louvre was intended to be a universal museum in terms of the wealth of the collections (which there are thousands of art and artifacts) and its diversity of its visitors. While it is the most visited museum in the world, I have always wanted to travel to France since I started to learn French when I was in middle school and see the vast history and art that the Louvre has collected in its long history as a museum. https://www.louvre.fr/en/

8. Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, Italy: This is the largest Franciscan church in the world, and the construction of the current church that replaced an older one began in May 1294. I have relatives who live in northern Italy and in addition to visiting them I would like to see the Basilica for its architectural significance as well as its art and monuments including Michelangelo’s and Galileo’s tombs. http://www.santacroceopera.it/en/default.aspx

What are some of the museums you are interested in visiting?

Summer Memories, and How to Prepare for the Upcoming School Year

Added to Medium, August 24, 2018

Most of the summer for museum educators is dedicated to organizing the school programs for the upcoming school year. Since we also focus on practicing self-care, museum educators also focus their summers on spending time enjoying the summer vacation. With schools starting soon, a lot of our minds especially museum educators reflect on what has been accomplished during the summer and finalize programs for the upcoming school year.

This week’s main topic on #MuseumEdChat’s Twitter discussion was a recap of our summers. Participants were asked to share where we went during the summer (from far away places to a couple of blocks away), books, articles, and what skills we learned outside of the field that we can adopt into our practice as museum educators. Also, we were encouraged to share photographs from our summer experiences. The memories I have shared with #MuseumEdChat are:

I took part in planning and executing Culper Spy Tour in collaboration with the @fairfieldmuseum and I planned and executed a test summer program for the Three Village Historical Society #MuseumEdChat

@Museumptnrs
Q2: Read any good books (or articles or magazines or blogposts or listened to podcasts)? Tell us! They can be #museum or work related, or not… we all need to escape now and then… #MuseumEdChat
A2 I am currently reading The Forgotten Founding Father by Joshua Kendall about Noah Webster (shout out to @NoahWebHouse where I used to work!) and I am reading the current edition of the Journal of Museum Education #MuseumEdChat

@Museumptnrs
Q3. OK, there has to be a good story – whether it’s a #museum story or not… tell us – in 180 characters or less (or a string of replied tweets)! #MuseumEdChat
A3 I don’t know if you mean recent stories or not but the pictures of seagulls I posted reminded me of when I was a kid visiting my grandparents on the Cape my cousins, sisters, and I were feeding seagulls then suddenly a swarm of them chased us across the beach. #MuseumEdChat

Plus I also shared that I went to Robert Moses Beach in Babylon, New York with my fiancé and friends then went to one of our friends’ houses for a game night. I also shared a few photographs of seagulls from that day that reminded me of my childhood. It was a lively conversation that showed so many museum professionals enjoying their summers in and out of the field.

Now we think about what we need to do to prepare for the upcoming school year. Museum educators prepare for school visits by, and not limited to, sharing what the museums have to offer to school teachers and their students and prepare materials to have enough for each program. By advertising school programs ahead of time, teachers are made aware of what they can offer to their students to aide the lessons learned within the classroom. Museum educators also review evaluations from the previous school year to figure out how to improve the quality of their education programming to meet the standards and expectations of the visiting schools.

An upcoming resource from the New England Museum Association offers information to help museum educators prepare for this school year. According to their website, this month’s Lunch with NEMA webinar, Small Goals are Better than No Goals: An Hour for Museum Educators to Plan for Evaluation and Reflection Before the Madness Begins,

During this session, you’ll set realistic evaluation goals for the upcoming year—whether you simply want to find ways to be more reflective about your personal practice or you want to develop an evaluation plan for your entire department.

I plan to use this resource to assist myself and my teams to see how we can develop our educational programming and utilize our evaluations in the most effective way possible.

What is your plans for the upcoming year? How are your educators and/or education departments preparing for this school year?

Resource: https://nemanet.org/conference-events/lunch-nema/museum-educators/

Planning a Summer Program: My Experience Creating a Summer Camp Program

Added to Medium, August 2, 2018

On August 1st, I executed and implemented a test summer program for the Three Village Historical Society. I spent months with the rest of the Education Committee coming up with ideas for activities and coming up with a list of materials needed for the program. During those months, I developed the invoice, lesson plan, and evaluation forms for the program. While planning this program, I thought a lot about summer programming and the significance of keeping activity going in the museum during the summer.

 
Last year I discussed in a previous blog post about previous experiences with summer programs in museums. I included a link to the blog post “Summertime: Keeping Audiences Coming to Museums” below which provided details about my experience at Connecticut’s Old State House, Connecticut Landmarks, Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, and the Long Island Museum. I stated my plans with the Three Village Historical Society:
I also began working with Three Village Historical Society on education programs. Collaborating with the Director of Education and the Historian, I will work on school and kids summer programs. I look for inspiration from past programs Three Village Historical Society has taught, my own experiences, and the lessons I learned from professional development programs. Summer programs and the staff who develop them I have learned from my experiences provide opportunities for visitors to return for more programming. It is important to have it well advertised so more people will be able to know about these programs through outlets such as social media, newspaper ads, flyers, mailings, and/or a mixture of any of the previous methods. Also, it is important to develop a way to evaluate the programs to see what works and what needs to be improved on.
A few months ago, the plan I mentioned in last year’s blog post was put into action. As we planned and implemented the program, we found that there are things we could improve upon for future programs.

 
One of the first steps that were taken was to find a camp that is willing to participate in our test summer program. The Three Village Historical Society decided to ask Campus Camps in Oakdale to participate in the demonstration, and they accepted our invitation. I was put in charge of not only being the main person to maintain contact with Campus Camps but I was also put in charge of leading the activities. Both parties came to an agreement on the cost and number of participants for the program, and we determined that the program should last about two hours. Since this summer program is a test run, we decided to charge the regular rate for school programs but decided to revisit the summer program rates in the future.

 
During the initial process, I developed a couple of documents to put our agreements into writing and to allow program participants provide feedback for us to keep or make changes going forward. After we made the agreements for the amount of campers and rates, I drew up an invoice based on the historical society’s invoice set up for school programs and sent it to the director of Campus Camps. Then I created two different versions of evaluation forms for campers and counselors, and the rest of the Education Committee’s reviewed the forms so we would be able to determine what we want to take away from the evaluations so we should ask the right questions that will help us improve the program.

 
In the counselors’ evaluations, the first couple of questions asked them to provide a rating for their experience with the program and the educational value of the program. The third question asked the counselors to rate the staff and explain how the staff could be more effective while leaving the fourth question to have the counselors elaborate on their previous ratings. The last question asked the counselors to provide any suggestions or recommendations for improving the summer program.

 
In the campers’ evaluations, we asked them to describe what their favorite part of the visit was, what they were surprised about, and what they would like to learn more about. At the end of the sheet, they were also given an option to draw a picture or write a story about their favorite part of the trip. The evaluation forms were given to the counselors at the end of the program.

 
Once we had the evaluation forms developed, we were ready to develop the lesson plan to use as a guideline. The Education Committee met on a weekly basis to discuss ideas for activities focused on the Culper Spy Ring, and we came to a consensus on how this test program will be run. I took the notes I wrote down from our brainstorming and planning process to develop the lesson plan.

 
We decided to have the campers walk through the Culper Spy Exhibit and once they have walked through the campers will gather in the room to listen to the introduction. In the introduction, we would explain what the Culper Spy Ring is as well as who the spies were: Benjamin Tallmadge (who was in charge of the espionage ring), Robert Townsend, Abraham Woodhull, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, and Anna Smith Strong. During this introduction, a brief explanation of what the campers would expect from the program is given. We have three stations to divide the campers into to participate in writing messages using invisible ink, creating clues to guess which Culper Spy they portray called Who Am I?, and solving codes. Each station has an opportunity to create their own presentations to share with the rest of the participating campers to see what they learned and discovered at the end of the program. The campers picked the names of stations out of a basket to help move the process along.

 
In the Invisible Ink station, campers would first practice writing with quill pens and lemon juice. While their first sample dried, campers would make predictions of whether milk, baking soda and water mixture, or lemon juice would work better for use as invisible ink. After making their predictions, the campers wrote messages using each method. As those messages dried, since I was in charge of this station, I would discuss invisible ink or sympathetic stain with the campers and demonstrate how pH pens worked on revealing messages. The campers then prepared poster boards for their presentations, and used an iron to reveal their hidden messages. Each camper had varying results since some found that baking soda worked better while others found lemon juice worked better. What each camper agreed was the heat worked better to reveal the hidden messages than the pH pens for the majority of the invisible ink methods.

 
In the Who Am I? station, the leader would explain why the Three Village Historical Society wanted a permanent display to be made so campers can contribute to the exhibit. The campers can choose from six characters who were involved in the Culper Spy Ring, pick and try on costumes, and pick related props for their characters. Once they picked their characters, they have an opportunity to practice out their clues and act as their characters.

 
In the Coding station, the leader would explain what coding is to the campers and then show a poster of a primary source document, Tallmadge’s Code. The campers received a copy of one of the original letters written by Abraham Woodhull and a dictionary code of Tallmadge’s Code to decode letter. Also, the leader would show campers other samples of types of codes and the campers would choose one to decode. Then the campers chose a code to write their own message with to have other campers attempt to decode.
We used the past couple of days earlier in the week to prepare for the program. The Director of Education and myself went in to the Three Village Historical Society to set up the costumes and props, the invisible ink section, and the coding sections. Then we left the rest of the preparation for the morning of the program.

 
On the day of the program, we tested our flexibility skills when we executed and implemented the program. As the campers came in, the campers were older than we initially believed they would be so we made last minute adjustments to each of the stations, and we added a trip to the nearby cemetery at the Presbyterian Church so the campers could visit Abraham Woodhull’s grave. Overall, the campers as well as the counselors seemed to enjoy the visit, and we had a blast working with the group. The Education Committee will meet again to compare notes and see what we can do to develop the summer program further as we look to the future.

 
Have you planned a summer program in the past? What were your experiences like?
Resources:
Summertime: Keeping Audiences Coming to Museums: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-9v
Three Village Historical Society: http://www.threevillagehistoricalsociety.org/

What Grants Mean for Museums

Added to Medium, July 26, 2018

Museum professionals understand that grants are significant for funding museums to keep them exercising their practices such as running programs and caring for collections. Based on my experiences, grants are a tedious necessity since there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out to fund museums, and the information we need to fill out for grants is repetitive depending on how many times we need to apply to the same grant.

One of my responsibilities at the Long Island Explorium includes writing grant applications and proposals. I have worked with state grants and kit applications to keep the museum fulfilling its mission. With the Executive Director, I filled out paperwork to send to the state representative and the county legislator. Also, I filled out online applications for program kits such as the Earth Science Earth & Space Toolkit to be able to use at the museum. In the Earth Science Earth & Space Toolkit application, I would first write in the museum’s demographics as well as a brief explanation of how the museum will use the toolkit in a downloaded form then copy the information into the online application after making adjustments to reflect the current year.

While my main interest in the museum field is education, I see value in learning about grant application processes since we need a fund source that is at least somewhat consistent to keep museum education programs running. The problems we all come across in the field is limited availability of grants and being able to convince foundations, government agencies, and other funders of why we need these funds. It is a challenge to find funding for our museums but it is worth the time and effort to search and apply for these grants.

Foundations, organizations, government agencies, and other funding sources have websites that share resources on what grants are out there and how to apply for them. I came across a blog post on the American Alliance of Museum’s website written by Charlotte A. Montgomery who shared some of the websites about grants to help museum professionals get started on the grant search process. One of the websites in the post was for the Foundation Center (http://foundationcenter.org/) which connects people to the resources they need by using data, analysis, and training. Another grant website discussed in the blog post was Grants.gov which is a place to find and apply for federal grants, and it is highly advisable to make sure the organization is registered with the System for Award Management weeks before planning to submit a proposal. Once museum professionals find the grant or grants they want to apply for, they need to figure out what the grant process is like to accurately submit a proposal.

Sarah Sutton’s second edition of Is Your Museum Grant-Ready? revealed one of the first things to do before even thinking about applying for grants is to understand the grant funding system. According to Sutton, she pointed out that

If you need funds for programs or capital projects, then the best way to support the grants process is to understand it well enough to ask the right questions and provide the right kind of material and assistance.

When museum professionals are able to ask the right questions and provide the right kind of material as well as assistance, the whole grant process will be easier to understand for future grant applications. Also, museums would save a lot of time when figuring out how to apply for the grant. Without knowing how the process is performed, a lot of time is wasted as we continue to correct the errors are made.

I learned that it is important to go over each detail carefully while I was filling out grant paperwork for the Long Island Explorium. Since I have to make a number of copies to send to the state representative and county legislator, it was easy for me to make and discover errors. The good news was I was able to catch them before I sent the paperwork in the mail. If any errors were made in the process, we would not be able to know until a few months after submitting the paperwork; it would take a few months for them to go through the grant paperwork. Understanding the process is beneficial for myself as well as all museum professionals working on grant proposals. Since there are so many museums that apply to grants, each museum need to figure out how they can stand out from other applications.

As I was reviewing information about grants, I came across two blog posts on answers to grant proposals if non-profits were brutally honest. The writer pointed out that non-profits are trained to tell funders what we think they want to hear, and had collected various honest answers to questions posed by grant applications. If non-profits are able to be brutally honest, some of the answers are

  1. What is innovative about your program design? “Our program is entirely innovative. The design is unproven; the approach is untested; the outcomes are unknown. We also have a tried-and-true service delivery model with outstanding results and a solid evidence base to support it. But you funded that last year and your priority is to fund innovative projects. So we made this one up. Please send money.”
  2. How will you use the funds if you receive this grant? We honestly really need this grant to pay for rent and utilities and for wages so our staff can do important work and feed their families, but since you won’t allow your funds to be used for those things, we will say that your grant is paying for whatever you will actually fund, then get other funders or donors to give and then tell them that their money is paying for the stuff that they want to fund. We will ultimately waste hundreds of hours every year trying to figure out who is paying for what, hours that could be used to deliver services. Please send unrestricted money.
  3. What is the mission of your organization? Susan, can we talk? This is a renewal grant. It’s the third year you have supported us. You know what our mission is, along with our programs, outcomes, challenges, etc., because we’ve been in constant communication. Instead of writing an entire proposal again as if you’ve never heard of us, how about I just tell you what’s new since last year? That will save us both a lot of time. What’s new is that Jason got a standing desk that he made out of cardboard boxes and Gorilla tape because you and other funders want overhead to be low. He says hi. Also, demands for our services has doubled. Please send double the amount of money you normally send.
  4. What needs are you addressing? We are addressing the failure of our government and capitalism to provide for people who are suffering from systemic injustice caused by government and capitalism. Please send money or convince corporations and the rest of society to pay more taxes and take care of people better and put us nonprofit professionals out of business so that some of us can pursue our dreams of acting and/or wedding photography.

I believe a lot of museum professionals from time to time have identified with these honest responses. Museum professionals are constantly attempting to brainstorm innovative ideas for programs to draw visitors in and show foundations providing grants we have something unique worth putting money towards.

Also, we do need to consider paying for rent, utilities, and salaries when trying to fund our museums but the problem can be summed up with this question: is there a grant that will pay for us to be in our building and do the work we do to support ourselves? An honest response previously listed suggests there isn’t. One of the issues we are talking about in this field is the lack of providing living wages for our staff and how we should be working towards better pay. As we work towards addressing and resolving what we need to fix, we should acknowledge how we need to receive more support from the government to help us fix the problems we are facing in the museum field. We are constantly working towards making sure the government provides funding for our organizations through our advocacy efforts, and since we continue to struggle to make sure they run smoothly with sufficient funds we need to continue to advocate for our museums.

We acknowledge the need for grants in our organizations, and without grants we would have a hard time keeping our museums running.

Have you worked on a grant or grants for your organization? What are your experiences with grants?

Resources:
http://nonprofitaf.com/2018/02/answers-on-grant-proposals-if-nonprofits-were-brutally-honest-with-funders/
http://nonprofitaf.com/2018/07/answers-on-grant-proposals-if-nonprofits-were-brutally-honest-part-2/
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442273108/Is-Your-Museum-Grant-Ready-Second-Edition
http://ww2.aam-us.org/about-us/grants-awards-and-competitions/grants-calendar
https://www.comnetwork.org/insights/
http://www.raise-funds.com/positioning-grant-writers-for-success/
https://www.aam-us.org/2015/02/02/your-museum-needs-money-now-what/
http://www.smallmuseum.org/smaresources
https://www.childrensmuseums.org/members/resources/grants-and-award-calendar

Patron Request: Does History Repeat Itself? A Discussion About This Concept

Added to Medium, June 14, 2018

One of the common thoughts that has been discussed numerous times over the years is “does history repeat itself”. We continue to ask ourselves this question as well as: What makes history repeat itself? Individuals in and outside of academia talked about the concept of history repeating itself especially when discussing current events that remind ourselves of the past. I was introduced to the concept itself while I was studying history in college. One of my history professors had stated, which I will never forget, that history does not repeat but rhymes. I think it is a good point because we are not repeating the exact same circumstances of the past but we are living through situations that definitely sound similar.

For instance, we do not go through every single day by going through the same movements and the same actions of Pearl Harbor in a time loop forever. We do, however, see similar patterns that are recognized from previous historic events as we face current events. When I was asked to write about this concept, I thought it would be a good topic to write about this week and to revisit the concept by doing research on what has been written about the topic. While I was doing my research, I found numerous information about the concept of history repeating itself.

The concept of history repeating itself is also known as historic recurrence. In addition to the concept of history rhyming, I also like the term “historic recurrence” because it acknowledges actions that have reappeared in different circumstances. G.W. Trompf’s The Idea of Historical Recurrence in Western Thought, from Antiquity to the Reformation, they discussed that historical recurrence has variously been applied to the overall history of the world (such as the rises and falls of empires), to repetitive patterns in the history of a given society, and to any two specific events which bear a striking similarity. A post called “Short Paragraph on the concept of history repeats itself” provided a brief discussion about historic recurrence. It stated that,

History is thus nothing, but man’s long struggle for survival, identity and values. The struggle has often been born more than a slight resemblance in methods used and the manner adopted in such period. Such repetition of historical fact-events, ideas and acts-sometimes makes us think that there was nothing coincidental, but a planned sequence leading towards a pre-destined goal.

These statements pointed out an important idea: history is a human experience. Humans make various decisions every day whether they are living now or have lived a thousand years ago. Even though all humans that have existed and currently live on this planet lived with different technological advances and life expectancy, each human develop similar habits, thought processes, and actions which leaves the next human to look back at past human experiences and see similar patterns.

Historic recurrence is not a new concept, rather the discussions about historic recurrence began in ancient times. According to Trompf, ancient western thinkers focused on cosmological rather than historic recurrence and they introduced western philosophers and historians who have discussed various concepts of historic recurrence including Polybius, the Greek historian and rhetorician Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Italian philosopher and historian Niccolò Machiavelli. A modern historian named Arnold J. Toynbee also discussed concepts of historic recurrence.

Scholars have come up with their own conclusions about historic recurrence within their works. Arnold J. Toynbee’s book Civilization on Trial has a chapter dedicated to historic recurrence called “Does History Repeat Itself?”, and provides an example of thoughts on historic recurrence. Toynbee stated in this chapter that

If human history repeats itself, it does so in accordance with the general rhythm of the universe; but the significance of this pattern of repetition lies in the scope that it gives for the work of creation to go forward. In this light, the repetitive element in history reveals itself as an instrument for freedom of creative action, not as an indication that God and man are the slaves of fate (38).

In other words, Toynbee believes history repeats itself based on humans having the capability of making their own decisions and have the choice to follow on their actions. Individuals also have the choice to make changes to move forward in society. Historic recurrence has been discussed in the past, and will continue to be discussed as long as humans continue to exhibit similar behaviors and make similar decisions.

What do you think of the concept of “history repeats itself”? Does it really repeat or rhyme? Do we have a choice in breaking these patterns? Why or why not?

People’s Experiences during the Great Depression

Added to Medium, May 31, 2018

For this week, I was asked to write about a topic in history that always interested this patron: people’s experience during the Great Depression. She is interested in this topic because she was told about her mother’s life when the Great Depression hit, and her mother told her that years later she did not realize the impact of the Great Depression until many years later when she talked about it with her friends. I also thought it is an interesting topic to discuss because I knew of the general information about what happened during the Great Depression, and learning more about the specific experiences of individuals within the United States would not only give us the human perspective of the event but it would also help us identify with the individuals as we continue to recover from the recession.

I took a closer look into learning about individuals’ experiences during the Great Depression through the material I came across.

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression which took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. According to PBS, on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, triggering the Great Depression, which was the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. A strong believer in rugged individualism, President Herbert Hoover did not think the federal government should offer relief to the poverty-stricken population. Focusing on a trickle-down economic program to help finance businesses and banks, Hoover met with resistance from business executives who preferred to lay off workers. Not many people living during that time understood how everyone was living since the big hit and the years since then.

In Washington state, for instance, more than a quarter of the population had lost their source of income, from unemployment or loss of a family breadwinner. According to research from the University of Washington, in response to the larger changes happening in the government

People in Washington and across the nation developed new household and work practices, navigated emerging social systems of welfare, explored different avenues of social protest, and reworked their understandings of their role in communities, in the nation, and in the world.

The changes during the Great Depression were absolutely felt by the individuals who lived in the state. An article written and posted through the University of Washington by Annie Morro provides a glimpse of what everyday life was like in the town of Bellingham after the Great Depression.

In the town of Bellingham, which had been a thriving coal-mining town in Washington’s Whatcom County, many men found their wages and hours cut, or lost their jobs completely. Meanwhile the wives and mothers throughout Whatcom County did their best to adjust to the hard times, and one way to do this was to change household routines such as cooking simple recipes like Quick Breads that used every day ingredients and left money typically spent on bread for their other needs.

Women were expected to be a positive force in the community and the supportive center of a family and community weathering hardships. It was anticipated that women would become active community members by attending PTA meetings, raising funds for charities, collecting clothing for the needy, saving at the market, raising a family, and providing encouragement for disheartened husbands all while keeping up a happy, normal appearance. Children in the Bellingham community absolutely felt the affects of the Great Depression.

They were raised to be competitive on the job market and active members of their community, which reflected the cooperative community’s values as well as the competitive nature of a very tight job market. Older children, teenagers and college students, felt the effects of the Great Depression through school budget cuts which made it harder for them to begin their own lives through the difficult times. The experiences of each individual in the United States seemed similar while at the same time more specific experiences were different from one another.

I learned of an experience from the patron whose mother lived in Massachusetts as a little girl during the Great Depression. This patron’s mother grew up on Cape Cod, and lived on vegetables grown in her family’s garden. As an adult, she learned about one of her friends, who lived closer to the Boston area, knew too well about the concept of “coresies”. Coresies was when someone yelled out coresies that person would be able to eat the core of the apple once the person who was eating the apple left the core. As I compared the experiences of individuals from Washington and the two women from Massachusetts, I noticed that each individual of varying ages had different perspectives of the Great Depression based on what society expected from them.

Families had to adapt in order to survive, and their misfortunes did not seem to end until the New Deal introduced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to help people turn their lives around. It took until the end of World War II for the nation to fully recover from the Great Depression.

What experiences have you learned about individuals who lived during the Great Depression? Are there similarities and differences that stood out the most to you?

Resources
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/dustbowl-great-depression/
http://depts.washington.edu/depress/everyday_life.shtml
https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression
https://www.britannica.com/event/Great-Depression
https://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/the-great-depression
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_cake
https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/8214/depression-cake-i/