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/

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

Added to Medium, March 8, 2018

On Monday, March 5, 2018, I have had my first professional development program that I have presented for the field. The program was the Long Island Museum Association Roundtable, hosted by Preservation Long Island, called “Lessons from the Workplace: Women in the Museum”. I presented at this program with Anne Ackerson, who co-founded Gender Equity in Museums Movement in 2016. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot from the process of arranging it to presenting the program.

This process began last year when I met with a then board member of the Long Island Museum Association (LIMA) at a previous Roundtable program to propose an idea for a future Roundtable program. Since I then recently joined Gender Equity in Museums Movement, I thought it would be a good idea to bring awareness of gender equity to my colleagues on Long Island. For the next few months, I discussed the idea with various LIMA board members and presidents and figure out when the roundtable should be scheduled.

After proposing this idea, I kept in contact with the then LIMA board member until he retired from the museum field. I continued the conversation with the remaining board members. A date was finally set for March 5th, 2018.

While having discussions with the LIMA board members, I informed the rest of the GEMM coalition that LIMA is interested in having a program about gender equity. Since I have not been involved with GEMM for very long and that it was the first presentation I have had since graduate school, I asked during one of the GEMM meetings if anyone is interested in coming down to Long Island to help with the presentation. Anne Ackerson volunteered to help with the presentation by collaborating together on the presentation and driving down to Long Island to co-present with me.

She and I determined that it would be best to edit an existing PowerPoint presentation so we would not necessarily need to re-invented the wheel. GEMM committee members have volunteered in the past to present at similar programs to promote the coalition and discuss gender equity issues.

Anne and I continued planning the roundtable meeting by talking with LIMA board members about logistics. For promotional materials, we were asked to send information about ourselves, the program, and about GEMM. Both of us emailed our biographies and the summary of the program we will present the day of the presentation.

Because I am also a LIMA member, I received the email newsletter that promoted our program. The LIMA board decided that the program will be presented at the organization Preservation Long Island in Cold Spring Harbor; located in the Methodist Episcopal Church, Preservation Long Island is a not-for-profit organization committed to working with Long Islanders to protect, preserve, and celebrate our cultural heritage through advocacy, education, and the stewardship of historic sites and collections. According to the email newsletter, our program would begin with check in and coffee at nine in the morning. Then our program would begin at nine-thirty, and would last until twelve thirty.

Since we had a PowerPoint presentation that typically are for shorter programs, Anne and I decided we would figure out how to fill the rest of the time. We decided it would be a good idea to see if there are museum professionals on Long Island who are willing to participate in a panel to answer questions from us and the audience. If we were not able to have panelists, we would fill the time with time dedicated to questions and answers from the audience and small group discussions.

Small group discussions would allow audience members to divide into small groups to answer questions we provided on handouts so after they discussed the answers to the questions they will write the answers down. A few of the questions that were on the sheet include:

“What does your board do to advance gender equity within your museum? What can or should it do?”
“How does your museum eliminate gender bias in board or volunteer recruitment, and in hiring staff?”
“How would a statement of organizational values be useful in addressing equity in your museum?”

After the small group discussions were finished, we would collect at least one handout from each group so that the responses will be used for future publications from the coalition on gender equity issues.

We were able to have museum professionals participate in the panel, and because of this we also decided to break down time dedicated to the presentation, panel, and small group discussions so we would be able to keep track of the time for the program.

Anne arranged to have panelists from organizations on Long Island to join the roundtable and participate in the discussion on gender equity. On the day of the program, we were able to have four female museum and former museum professionals to participate in the panel.

The first participant was Sarah Abruzzi who is an accomplished executive and fundraising professional with 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. She served as Director of two museums and worked in all aspects of museum operations including education, collections management, volunteer coordination, fundraising, communications, and government relations. Now Abruzzi serves as Director of Major Gifts and Special Projects at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

Then the next participant was Barbara Applegate who is the director of the Steinberg Museum of Art at Long Island University where she developed and presented exhibitions, many of them were made in collaboration with other institutions, and oversaw the development of special websites based on the Museum’s collection. Recently, she oversaw construction for the museum at a new campus location.

Marianne Howard, the Grant Writer for Mercy Haven in Islip Terrace, is another panel participant. Howard was previously the executive director for the Smithtown Historical Society, and she has held leadership positions among both museums and social services agencies in both New York City and on Long Island. She now works for Mercy Haven in Islip Terrace which is a non-profit organization which provides temporary and permanent housing and supportive services to those in need across Long Island.

Last but not least, Tracy Pfaff participated in the program as one of the four panelists. She became the Director of the Northport Historical Society in 2016, and before that she worked in a for-profit fine arts gallery, and she has interned at museums in Peru and Wyoming. Pfaff is the incoming co-president of LIMA with Theresa Skvarla. Once we were able to determine who would be able to participate in the panel, Anne and I discussed the schedule for the day as well as what should be divided among the two of us.

We decided to have the PowerPoint presentation at the beginning of the program which would last about fifteen to twenty minutes. Our presentation in the beginning was our welcome to the program as well as an overview of gender equity issues. The presentation has fourteen slides, and we made the decision to split the slides between the both of us.

Then the panel discussion would last for about forty minutes. Each of the panelists had opportunities to select questions they would like to address, and therefore not every panelist has to respond to every question. Nine questions were developed but we kept in mind that we may not be able to get to all of the questions. A couple of examples of questions that were addressed to the panelists are:

“Share an example of gender bias or inequity that affected your career and what you did about it.”
“What would you like to see our professional associations do to address gender bias? Is there a role for funders to advance the conversation?”
“In looking across the museum sector, where do you see the greatest positive movement to address gender inequity (i.e., collections, workforce and hiring, exhibits, etc.)”

Anne and I also decided to divide the questions between us so each of us would be able to ask questions to the panelists. We also allocated time for audience members to ask the panelists questions related to gender equity and the museum field.

Then we allocated time for a break so audience members can spend their time doing such as checking email, and get more coffee and pastries. During our conversations, we also decided to include a role playing activity after break and before the small group discussions.

Role playing activities would allow volunteers from the audience to play roles we give each pair and they will act out a scenario related to gender equity. We would allow up to five minutes of role playing then open it up to the audience to see how the situation could be handled differently or what their impressions were about the scenario. Also, we decided to have four different scenarios prepared for the program but we will start with two scenarios then see how much time is available.

Once the role playing and small group discussions are completed, we would wrap up the program by asking the audience to share a little bit of what their groups discussed and thanked them for coming out to hear our presentation and participate in our discussion.

A few days before the program, Anne and I spoke on the phone to finalize details for the day. We both agreed that it is important that we should be flexible and play by ear how we should proceed with the program to make sure the program is on schedule and to make sure our panelists and audience members are comfortable.

On the day of, I arrived early to take a look at the space we would be presenting in. Anne and I decided to take a few chairs from the first row to allow the panelists to sit there during the panel discussion and allow them to move to the back during the PowerPoint presentation. Also, we set up the PowerPoint presentation and mingled with museum professionals who have arrived for the program.

There were about between twenty and thirty museum professionals who arrived for the program which is more than Anne and I were expecting. We were very happy with the turn out, and we were also happy that many of them engaged with us, the panelists, and with each other about gender equity. Many questions, comments, and concerns were brought to us and we were able to answer to as many of them as possible. The discussion among the small groups was especially lively and we were able to collect many worksheets so we are able to use these answers for future publications.

There were some technical difficulties such as the microphone feed occasionally turned on and the lighting of the presentation made it a little hard to see the PowerPoint. I knew that we cannot always plan for everything, but we were flexible enough to continue on with the program. For instance, instead of using the last slide to share the small groups discussion we turned off the computer since we already had the questions on the handouts we gave audience members.

Overall, we had a very positive response from the program participants. We received many thanks from individuals we spoke with throughout the program. Also, I received congratulations from my colleagues and former colleagues I knew who attended the program. We also had many of them sign up to receive more information about GEMM, and we sent them the March newsletter we just sent out to other GEMM followers.

I learned a lot from this experience, and I am very proud to have arranged the program, been in the process, and in the program.

A special shout out to Anne Ackerson who has been so helpful during the process, and I thank you again Anne for everything leading up to and during the program.

What has your experiences been like presenting in professional development programs? Is there any advice you would give other professionals who start planning their own professional development programs?

How to Handle Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites

Added to Medium, February 15, 2018

This week I received Museum Education Roundtable’s March edition of Journal of Museum Education and the theme of this edition is “Interpreting Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites”. When I received the Journal in the field, it made me think about the experiences I have had in professional development and in the museum field with dealing with tough subject matter. It is important for all museum professionals, whether or not they directly work with narratives about traumatic events, understand how to interpret trauma, memory, and lived experience for the visitors.

The March edition of Journal of Museum Education have a few articles that delved into this subject matter.

For instance, Lauren Zalut’s, guest editor of this edition, “Interpreting Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites” introduces the subject of handling topics of trauma, memory, and lived experience. Zalut stated that,

Our field typically tells stories of trauma and complex issues through museum educators, tour guides, or docents who are generations or decades removed from the topic or event. This approach utilizes historical empathy, defined as developing “…understanding for how people from the past thought, felt, made decisions, acted, and faced consequences within a specific historical and social context.” Research reveals that this approach humanizes historic figures, but is applied inconsistently by educators.

We have the skills to convey the significance of these stories, however we need to commit to what consistent approach is needed.

Not many museums and organizations have a narrative that includes traumatic issues. There are museums such as U.S. Holocaust Museum and the National 9/11 Museum that discuss emotional and traumatic situations on a regular basis. Meanwhile, there are museums and organizations that share a part of its overall narrative dealing with traumatic, emotional, or lived experience.

One of my first experiences with interpreting trauma, memory, and lived experience was when I was working at the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut. The Stanley-Whitman House is a living history center and museum that teaches through its collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington.

At the Stanley-Whitman House, I taught school programs that also discussed Native Americans and African Americans who lived in the early American Farmington. One of the students did ask if the house owners had slaves, and while at the time I was not entirely sure what the answer was I delicately explained that there were slaves in Farmington during the 17th century but slavery in the New England area was no longer accepted by the 1800s.

While I was in graduate school, I decided to work with the Stanley-Whitman House on a project that addressed slavery in Connecticut. I had a couple of classmates and colleagues join me in the team to work on this project for a Curatorship class requirement. We researched former slaves who worked and lived in Connecticut before the 1790 Census to present the research results about what slavery was like for slaves in Farmington to colleagues who attended the In Plain Sight symposium presentations and discussion.

Since working on this project and the symposium, there have been more developments on discussing slavery in Connecticut. One of my teammates collaborated with the Stanley-Whitman House to create a database on the information about slaves in Farmington. Also, more recently a new exhibit is opening this Saturday (February 17th) called “Slavery, Resistance & Freedom in Connecticut”; one of the students from the Public History program I graduated from at Central Connecticut State University researched, wrote, and designed the exhibit.

By being able to discuss slavery in Connecticut more, we are able to address what life had been like for enslaved individuals and draw more attention to their lived experiences.

I believe that with what the Stanley-Whitman House is doing now we are working towards helping visitors understand these lived experiences. Zalut pointed out the importance of encouraging visitors to ask questions and how museum educators have the skills to assist visitors in understanding and learning from the past:

Asking questions and spending time reflecting are critical parts of transforming the work of museum educators. If our field is genuine about its will to make space for visitors to process emotionally complex topics, spark social change, and learn from the past to make a more equitable present and future then museum educators are the ones to make it happen. We can create job opportunities for disenfranchised populations and draw in new audiences, but this work is resource intensive, and requires major internal work – both personally and institutionally. If taken on with great care, collaboration and gratitude, creating platforms for marginalized voices and narratives will be transformative for you, your visitors, your co-workers, your museum, and the field at large.

We have to dedicate our time and efforts as museum educators to create places marginalized voices and narratives can be heard and understood. Emphasis on spaces is especially important for visitors to feel they can go through the process of understanding untold stories.

Mark Katrikh’s “Creating Safe(r) Spaces for Visitors and Staff in Museum Programs” discusses visitors’ expectations of their museum experience. Visitors do not necessarily come to museums to have an emotional response, and it can be hard for them to be accustomed to this response especially when they are not prepared for it. Our responsibilities as museum educators include guiding visitors by helping them process their emotions with engaging dialogue between the museum educators and visitors. Katrikh discussed the Museum of Tolerance’s approach to having safe and responsible conversations through a framework for understanding and managing key issues when easing challenging conversations. Their framework points out there are many needs and interests participants have involved in conversations, and museum educators are responsible for approaching them with compassion, mindfulness, and skilled responses.

As museum educators, we do acknowledge that we always have the responsibility to engage with the visitors in a way that will allow them to take away with them the lessons our past have to offer. We are all responsible for figuring out what to do with these lessons to make our world a better place for us in the future. According to Katrikh,

At museums whose focus is discussing and presenting trauma, emotional responses are the norm. Visitors unprepared for such a personal experience can react in a multitude of ways along the spectrum that includes confusion, denial, inappropriate comments or questions, and anger. Anticipating such reactions, museums have a responsibility to build into their programming opportunities to promote dialogue, to process emotions and ultimately to allow visitors to reach a place of equilibrium.

We maintain balance within our museums, and by creating opportunities for visitors to process their emotions and reach a balance they would be able to take that lesson museum educators gave them to create a better community.

To be able to fulfill our responsibilities as museum educators, we should start with our training so we are prepared for the challenging conversations. Noah Rauch’s “A Balancing Act: Interpreting Tragedy at the 9/11 Memorial Museum” discussed the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s docent program and the challenges it presented. When the program was launched, it raised many questions including those on how to balance and convey strongly held, often traumatic, and sometimes conflicting experiences with a newly constructed institutional narrative. Since then the museum negotiated on specific issues and dealt with ongoing questions and challenges.

The more we work together, the more we learn and understand how our museums deal with fact-checking progresses, the more we are able to feel responsibility of our expertise in the events and life experiences. When we include more of our staff and volunteers in the training process, we would be able to connect to our missions and effectively help our visitors understand the narrative they learn.

When I participated in last year’s New York City Museum Education Roundtable’s (NYCMER) conference, I attended a session presented by the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum called The Challenges of Confronting Difficult Content. Rauch’s article reminded me of this session because both dealt with the challenges. While Rauch discussed mainly the docent perspective of the dealing with the subject matter, this NYCMER session discussed the school programs they developed and explained how their lessons approached difficult content.

In my blog post about the conference, Reflections on the NYCMER 2017 Conference, I revealed that I thought this session was interesting because these programs provided a way for students from third grade to seniors to express their thoughts on the events through art and discussion. The takeaways from the session are to address the common question: How to translate difficult content in ways that allow all visitors to correct with sensitive subject matter? And the second takeaway was as a differentiated and inclusive practice, strategy transcends content by incorporating storytelling and historical contents and current resonances/present day connections.

It is important to understand both perspectives of museum professionals and visitors so we can work on strengthening the relationship between the two. When we do, both museum staff and visitors will have the understanding and space to confront difficult content and learn the lessons they have to offer.

How has your museum or organization dealt with educating difficult content? What challenges have you faced when interpreting trauma, memory, and lived experience?

Resources:
Mark Katrikh (2018) Creating Safe(r) Spaces for Visitors and Staff in Museum Programs, Journal of Museum Education, 43:1, 7-15
Noah Rauch (2018) A Balancing Act: Interpreting Tragedy at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Journal of Museum Education, 43:1, 16-21
Lauren Zalut (2018) Interpreting Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites, Journal of Museum Education, 43:1, 4-6
If interested in exhibit opening I mentioned, register for the Stanley-Whitman House’s exhibit opening here: http://www.stanleywhitman.org/Calendar.Details.asp?ID=743&Cat=Visit

 

A Closer Look into Museum Volunteers and Volunteer Programs

Added to Medium, January 25, 2018

Museum workers are valuable to museums, especially those who volunteer their time to help the museums run. During my experience as a museum educator, I have worked with volunteers as well as participated in professional development programs about volunteers and volunteer programs.

As I am in the middle of helping rewrite the Three Village Historical Society’s docent manual, I thought about my previous experiences and professional development I participated in. In one of my previous blog posts, “Professional Development Programs: Managing Your Museum’s Online Reputation and Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs”, I wrote about my previous experiences working with volunteers and working as a volunteer in my early career. A couple of my most recent experiences working with volunteers were previously managing volunteers for school programs at the Long Island Museum, and writing down records of sailing tour hours at the Long Island Maritime Museum.

At the Long Island Museum, I oversaw scheduling volunteers to assist with larger school programs based on their availability and discussed with them what the students got from the lessons. Then at the Long Island Maritime Museum, I volunteered for a school tour, collected admission for a Boat Burning event, Past Perfect data entry and preserving books by scanning pages, and working at the visitor services desk. Based on my perspective, I can understand what volunteers need to complete their goals as well as making sure their work accomplishes work museums’ need to accomplish their mission.

To make sure we understand what we should expect from our volunteer programs, it is important to learn from colleagues through professional development programs and written information such as books and articles.

One of the professional development programs I attended was the American Alliance of Museums’ EdComVersation. The EdComVersation I attended was called “Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs” with several presenters giving case studies of how volunteer programs are run at different museums or organizations. Each case study provide advice on how we can run our volunteer programs and make sure we utilize volunteers’ time to everyone’s advantage. Museums should evaluate the volunteers and the volunteer programs since evaluations can help give volunteers information they need to do better work and can help museums nab problems early (problems with program or problem volunteers). Also, by evaluating volunteers and volunteer programs it conveys appreciation and reinforce value of volunteers; motivates volunteers to do both their personal best and give positive impact on the museums; and it allows museum to improve volunteer program.

Another resource that is good to learn about managing volunteer programs and working with volunteers is a book Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: A Handbook for Volunteer Management by Kristy Van Hoven and Loni Wellman. In their book, Van Hoven and Wellman discussed what museum volunteers are and the importance of museum volunteers especially today. Van Hoven and Wellman gave solid advice on volunteer recruitment, communication, and retention strategies. They answered various questions about volunteers including: What are new volunteers looking for? How can you develop a successful relationship with potential volunteers? How can your museum support a robust and active volunteer program? How do you reward volunteers and keep them for the long term? How can you meet volunteers’ needs and still benefit from their work?

Their book also provided sample documents for managing volunteer programs. It has a sample of a volunteer job description and a volunteer application. There are also samples of volunteer interview questionnaire, volunteer evaluation forms, recognition letters, and certificate of recognition. I have also found another resource that is helpful with museum volunteer programs.

The resource I found is a technical bulletin called Building a successful museum volunteer services program written by Robbin Davis who is a Volunteer and Marketing Manager at the Oklahoma Museum of History. According to Davis, the questions that volunteers think about when considering volunteering at a museum are: how do they fit into the picture, how can they be useful and how much time will it take? Can they give tours? Can they work with artifacts? Can they interact with the public? Are there social activities? Does it cost?

Davis also went into specific details about how to build volunteer programs. For instance, Robbin discussed incorporating the mission statement in the volunteer program. In the bulletin, it stated that

A mission specific to the Volunteer program should frame the program within the context of the overall museum mission. Make sure it is attainable and a staff decision. If the volunteer program is already established, let the volunteers help create the mission or “freshen” up an existing one.

By incorporating the museum’s mission, potential volunteers will be able to see how they would be able to contribute to the museum and what the museum stands for.

The technical bulletin also discussed the importance of having a volunteer reference manual, marketing materials to promote the volunteer program, and forms for volunteers to fill out. Also, it stated that there are important questions that need to be asked as a volunteer program is being developed such as

Who does your museum serve? What is the volunteer history of the museum? Have there been volunteers before? How were they utilized? What kind of program was it? Was it effective? Why? Why not?

When museum staff figure out the answers to the previously stated questions, they will be able to have an effective and successful volunteer program that will generate dedicated volunteers to help museums fulfill their missions.

Museum volunteers are significant in helping museums function. Volunteers have skills that can be useful in various aspects within the museums’ departments. By focusing on establishing a successful volunteer program, museums are able to not only provide opportunities for positive experiences for volunteers but they will be able to promote your organizations.

What is your relationship with your volunteers like? What ways does your organization recognize its volunteers?

Resources:
Van Hoven, Kristy and Loni Wellman, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums: A Handbook for Volunteer Management, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
“Professional Development Programs: Managing Your Museum’s Online Reputation and Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs”
Building a successful museum volunteer services program

Museum Education’s Canon: A Focus on Museum Education in Historic House Museums and Science Museums

Added to Medium, October 5, 2017

The September edition of Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education attempts to answer the question it presents throughout the Journal : “Does Museum Education Have A Canon?”

To answer this question, one has to keep in mind that it is not easy to come up with the definitive definition of museum education cannon. There are many different types of museums that exist in the field, and various things that they focus education programming on. All museums have this in common: museum education departments have the challenge of figuring out the right balance of taking into consideration visitor wants and their highlighted objects and/or exhibits when planning their programs.

Journal of Museum Education “Does Museum Education Have A Canon?” has a number of articles discussing the main topic. For instance, Hannah Landsmann’s “Who’s Speaking?” describes the development and implementation of a program at the Jewish Museum in Vienna called “Enfach so? So Enfach” or “It’s that easy? Yes!” students are asked to photograph works that interest them, either because they like the works or because they do not; the program allows students to be the arbiters of what is a central and important object for discussion, shifting the valuation of objects to the visitor-oriented action.

Merete Sanderhoff’s “The Canon, the Web, and the Long Tail” discussed about releasing images of artworks into the public domain that creates a new possibility for the public to challenge the canon or create their own based on access to previously inaccessible images. This means that what people find both interesting and useful is defined not through art educators nor curators but through their own engagement with the works.

Carolyn Halpin-Healy’s “Well-Chosen Objects Support Well-Being for People with Dementia and Their Care Partners” discussed a series of programs called the Arts & Minds programs which aim to promote the well-being for people with dementia and their care partners. Ultimately, the choice of artworks for both contemplation and dialogue is contingent on intersecting criteria that also take into account symptoms of dementia, accessibility, participant interests and the inherent qualities of the art.

As seen in the previous examples the main focus of this edition was on art history canon, but the guest editors did point out that the questions posted in the Journal extend to other museums as well as art museums.

My experience in the museum education field provides some examples that answer the Journal’s question. I have some experience in the art history field but my main experiences have been in historic house museums and a children’s science museum.

An example of working with art history in addition to 19th century history is my work at the Long Island Museum. Like what was discussed in Halpin-Healy’s article, the Long Island Museum has a program that focuses on engaging individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other mental capacities called In the Moment program. Each program encourages discussion which inspire participants to remember their past memories. The programs are adjusted based on the what is on exhibit and what the groups are interested in. For instance, a group may be interested in visiting the museum’s Carriage Museum to learn about the parts of the carriage by feeling the parts and discussing what they see, and they use the things that inspire them to discuss about their own personal past.

While I was at historic house museums in Connecticut, each of the historic house museums find the balance between the focus on objects and appealing to visitors. There are many historic house museums in this country, and each one has to figure out how to adapt to visitors needs using the objects in its collections. For instance, Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, the Butler-McCook House in Hartford, and Noah Webster House in West Harford have unique narratives that tell a piece of Connecticut history.

Each location has objects displayed in their rooms that illustrate what life is like in the past. The discussions in group tours and school programs encourage visitors to not only engage with but to also make connections with the exhibits and activities that will make the experience personal. A lot of ways that are used in history house museums, especially the ones I worked in, used period costumes to help visitors step back in time to understand history on a more personal level.

Stanley-Whitman House, a living history center and museum that teaches through the collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington, programs focuses on colonial history using objects in the rooms. Each museum teacher wears period costumes while using items such as cookware to describe what individuals in the 18th century ate especially in Farmington.

Butler-McCook House is the only 18th century house standing on Main Street in Hartford, and is a time capsule that preserves Hartford’s history and the family’s history. While the house primarily focuses on the McCook family during the late 19th century and their artistic and intellectual interests, the school programs are adapted to the needs of the visiting groups. Public group tours and school groups that walk through the house are encourage to discuss their personal experiences of hanging out at home and they learn more about the McCook family lifestyle at home which would create personal connections to the history presented in the home. Visitors understand the similarities and differences of what home life is like between themselves and the McCook family.

Noah Webster House engages citizens by preserving and sharing history, promoting literacy and advocating greater cultural understanding. School programs focus on both 18th century American history and the history of Noah Webster who created the first American dictionary by using objects to immerse themselves in what life was like in 18th century West Hartford (or West Division as it was called then).

Science museums also have to address museum education canon in their programming. At the children’s science museum I work in, Maritime Explorium, we encourage students and visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on activities and projects. that promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) learning. Each week has a different main focus that encourages children to experiment, have fun, and learn the connections of these activities to the understanding of STEAM. For instance, one of the focuses was the science of harvest that focused on apples.

In this focus, apples are used to create star prints on paper using paints. Also, kids experiment with the browning process of apples. Kids use different liquids such as lemon and lime juice to see how well they can prevent apple slices from turning brown, and therefore make the apples last longer. By using apples, kids not only have fun with apples but also understand how the preservation process can be used to make fruits last longer.

Based on my experiences, I would say that museum education does have a canon. Museum education canon focuses on making educational experiences not only engaging for visitors of all ages but make a lasting impression that encourages return visits.

How would you answer this question: does museum education have a canon? What examples have you seen in museums that prove museum education does (or does not) have a canon?

What I Love the Most About Being a Museum Educator

Also posted on Medium, August 10, 2017.

As the school year approaches, I reflect on my experiences as a museum educator from previous museums in addition to the museum I am working with now. My career in museum education so far has been a rewarding field not only because I am surrounded my interesting material but I have the opportunity to translate that knowledge to audiences of wide age ranges. I have been recently asked by one of the parents I was talking with at the Maritime Explorium the following question: What do you love the most about being a museum educator?

When I told her my answer, I kept thinking about my experiences so far as a museum educator and thought I would share some of them here.

All of my experiences have included everything I love about being a museum educator including:
1. Interacting with kids: I love hearing from them about what they learned as well as what they can teach me. When I talk with them, I can see in their expressions how much they enjoy what they are hearing and doing. Also, I love that I have the opportunity to reach out to various age groups rather than only one age group.

2. Bringing their lessons to life: I enjoy being able to show them how the lessons they learned in the classroom can be applied outside the classroom. One of my favorite ways is being able to dress in costume to portray an individual from a time period to show how this person lived back then.

And

3. Leaving an impression: I also feel that if I hear kids say “I want to come back here again” or “I don’t wanna go” I know that I have done a great job showing them how fun and informative visiting the museums can be.

To explain the examples of what I love about being a museum educator, I would start with my most recent experiences then share some details from my previous experiences.

At the Maritime Explorium, I assisted in teaching a couple of library workshops at the local library for young kids and for third grade students. Young kids learned about archeology by digging through small sandboxes finding treasure. The second workshop was learning about how bridges are built and how they are supported. I love seeing the look on the kids’ faces when they learned something new and when they are enjoying the time they spent on these projects.

I also teach different activities during Maritime Explorium’s public hours. One of the summer activities I taught was making balloons into various items and making balloon rockets. While I was teaching these activities, I also was showing one girl how to work on other projects including how to turn a light bulb on only using a battery. After teaching her the activities and projects through the constructivist approach, she decided to go back to the balloon station to make stress balls using balloons and rice from the rice boats. To thank me, she gave one of them to me as a thank you for helping her. This was one of my top moments that made me love what I do as a museum educator.

I look back on each of my experiences, and I think about how many students I have had a similar impact I have had at Maritime Explorium.

My love for being a museum educator began during my summer internship at Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford. I had the internship while I was at graduate school in Central Connecticut State University. I was able to get an internship at the Old State House after I interviewed Rebecca Tabor-Conover, Public Programs Coordinator, for my Introduction to Public History course.

On my first day of my internship, I assisted with a group of 140 elementary school students from kindergarten to second grade. One of the activities I worked with the students on was the I Spy program. In I Spy, the kids created and designed their own spy glass using paper towel tubes and designed them using whatever materials they could use such as markers, color construction paper, and stickers. Once they were completed, the kids walked around the Old State House and used their spy glasses to “spy” what they see in the museum.

I enjoyed seeing the look on their faces when they saw so many things they have never seen before and not expected to see in the museum. For instance, there was a recreated Museum of Curiosities inside one of the rooms on the second floor of the Old State House that featured a two-headed calf. Then they also pointed out various things they noticed including the tall original Lady Justice statue which used to sit on top of the Old State House.

While I was in graduate school, I became a museum teacher at the Stanley-Whitman House. I taught school programs between kindergarten and fifth grade, and these programs taught them about 18th century American history as well as Farmington history. What I enjoyed the most was seeing the students’ faces, especially the kindergarten students, when they arrive at the museum as well as while they explored the house with me. As a museum teacher, I dressed in costume to portray an 18th century woman that will explain through object-based and inquiry-based methods.

I also joined Connecticut Landmarks’ Hartford properties, Butler-McCook House and Isham-Terry House, to provide public tours and teach public programming. One of my favorite memories of working with kids was during First Night Hartford programs. The most recent one I had worked on included a craft activity in which kids made samurai helmets using gift wrapping paper and string to wear during the New Year’s Eve parade in downtown Hartford. I also enjoyed seeing the look on their faces when they saw the real samurai helmets that are in the Butler-McCook House’s collections; they thought it was so cool to see those helmets, and it is one of the unique features of the Butler-McCook House.

After I graduated from graduate school, I joined the Noah Webster House as a museum educator teaching students about West Hartford history, Noah Webster, and 18th century American history. Like while I was at the Stanley-Whitman House, I also dressed in costume to bring history to life. Depending on the program, I either simply dressed in costume and taught students through object based as well as inquiry-based methods, or I portrayed a woman who lived in West Hartford (or West Division as it was known back then) during the 18th century named Deborah Moore Kellogg who took control of her property after her husband died in a farming accident. When the program called for students to pretend to be individuals from 18th century West Division, I portrayed Deborah Moore Kellogg while we worked on chores such as cooking recipes in the kitchen and carding wool. I demonstrated cooking over a hearth, and the students love not only preparing the recipes but they also love watching me put the pots and pans over the fire to cook the recipes.

Once I moved on to the Long Island Museum, I occasionally dressed in costume to demonstrate life on 19th century Long Island. I wore a costume to dress as a schoolmarm, a teacher who taught lessons including reading, writing, and arithmetic in one-room schoolhouses. Every time I demonstrated lessons for the students, they were very excited about not only for writing the lessons on slate boards (small chalk boards) but also for 19th century games children back then played.

As I continue my career in museum education, I hope to continue inspiring students to not only learn about the materials the museums have but also to return to the museum to continue to play and learn. I leave these questions for you all to ponder:

What do you enjoy the most about your career? Do you have favorite stories from your museums/organizations?

 

Reactions to Blog: “9 Ways To Supercharge Your Museum Volunteers”

Also posted on Medium, June 29, 2017.

I decided this week to talk about another one of the blog posts I have been reading this week. I found this blog on Medium, 9 Ways To Supercharge Your Museum Volunteers, written by Ashleigh Hibbins for Museum Hack. As I prepare to help with revamping the docent manual for the Three Village Historical Society, I review resources I have to use as guides for this project. Part of developing the volunteer program is working on the docent manual. When I read this post, it reinforced what I already learned from the webinar I attended in January and the book I have read, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums by Kristy Van Hoven and Loni Wellman. Museum Hack’s post provides additional resources that are very helpful for the readers, and there were many statements they made that reaffirmed not only the knowledge I have gained but the importance of maintaining a great relationship with volunteers.

In the past and currently, I have volunteered for various organizations that have different ways of running their volunteer programs. I have also run a volunteer program in the past where I was responsible for volunteers teaching larger school programs. By learning how they could be run through professional development and reading books, I gain knowledge on how I should be treated as a volunteer and learn how I can improve my skills when I run a volunteer program. There is always something to learn when revisiting a subject including volunteer management, and this post is no exception.

I liked that they included how important volunteers are to museums at the very beginning of the article. They stated “Who are the most excited and engaged people in your museum?… Your volunteers!” And this is very true because as a volunteer and a leader in the volunteer program I see so many passionate people who have been volunteering for many years. It is important therefore to make sure that passion is kindled and used to help complete projects for their museums. Also, the post pointed out the importance of keeping volunteers happy.

It is true that volunteers are our museums’ biggest fans and advocates since they are dedicating their time to help museums to continue to adapt and develop. What I have not thought about before that they pointed out was according to a U.S. survey two-thirds of volunteers also donate money to their place of volunteering (they used Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund Volunteerism and Charitable Giving in 2009 Executive Summary as a source). It makes sense because they work hard to keep the museums running and they are willing to do whatever is possible to keep them running including donations of time and sometimes money. The rest of the post gave the ways to supercharge volunteers, and then gave detailed explanations for each way.

Some of the ways they shared in the post include treat volunteer interviews like job interviews, don’t just smile and nod-volunteers have great ideas, volunteers are your secret recruiting weapon, and remind your volunteers how awesome they are. While these tips should seem obvious when considering volunteers, there are various points that need to be brought to our attention. For instance, when it was stated that readers should treat volunteer interviews like job interviews they pointed out that “don’t set someone up for failure by giving them a position they are unable to perform.” It is not only important to keep this in mind because no projects will be accomplished if volunteers cannot perform tasks but it will also affect their self-esteem and passion for the organization. Without that passion, we will not be able to retain the hard-working volunteers we need.

The post also pointed out how important it is to learn about volunteer programming from other museums in the community. In the post, it talked about being a nosy volunteer manager, or be continuously involved in making sure volunteers’ and museums’ needs are met, and then they stated “Also, be nosy with volunteer managers at other museums so you can pick up tips and tricks from them too.” I believe that it is important for volunteer managers should learn from other museums on how they run their volunteer programs not only because the programs can inspire their own way of running volunteer programs but museum professionals can come together to learn how to keep their museums relevant in the community through their volunteer programs.

What we should take away from this post is to be sure to keep our volunteers needs and happiness in mind when developing volunteer programs. I have also provided the link to the original post from Museum Hack for you all to read, and links to the resources they used in their post especially for anyone running volunteer programs.

Do you run volunteer programs? What do you think of Museum Hack’s contribution to the subject of museum volunteers? Have you followed similar advice Museum Hack discussed? What challenges have you faced when developing your volunteer program(s)? Share your reactions.

Resources used in Museum Hack article:
https://aamv.wildapricot.org/Standards-and-Best-Practices

Click to access Technical_Bulletin_45_-_Creating_a_Successful_Volunteer_Program.pdf


Click to access Volunteerism-Charitable-Giving-2009-Executive-Summary.pdf

View at Medium.com

How Creativity is Necessary in the Museum

Originally posted on Medium, June 8, 2017.

What is Creativity? Why is it so important to have creativity in our practice as museum professionals? Questions like these two are what we ponder every day to fulfill our museums’ missions and our career goals. Creativity allows us to be able to express ourselves and provides another outlook on the world around us. Museum professionals especially need to express their creative sides to help their organizations continue to grow and adapt to their changing communities. This is not a new topic but we can always learn something new when we express our creative side. I learn a lot when I allow to express my creative side whether it is drawing, writing, or making projects; and I use my experiences inside and outside of museums to inspire me to create something different and sometimes the same subject from a different perspective.

Since I was young, I made various drawings of many things including animals and landscapes. As I developed my interests in museums, I began drawing museums I have been to and museums I have worked with. For instance, I drew the Butler-McCook House in Hartford, the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut, Noah Webster House in West Hartford, and Connecticut Historical Society. I drew many of these drawings from my own memory, and one was drawn using a photograph as reference. Also, I used either pens or pencils to make my drawings (depending on which utensil was available at the time). I learned to use my creativity to assist in my museum experience, and I continue to use references from books and professional development programs discussing creativity.

Connecticut Historical Society, pen, drawn 2015

  Noah Webster House, pen, drawn 2015

Stanley-Whitman House, pen, drawn 2014

Butler-McCook House, pencil, drawn 2014

One of the resources I used and continue to use is Linda Norris’ and Rainey Tisdale’s Creativity in Museum Practice to help me get inspired. Norris and Tisdale express the importance of allowing creativity to inspire work in the museum no matter which department they work from. In their book, they state that they believe “the daily life of museum workers behind the scenes both needs and deserves more attention in order for museums to reach their full potential.” Norris and Tisdale shared colleagues’ stories from across the museum field of what creative practices have worked for themselves and their museums. Also, they shared their own tips on how to jumpstart one’s creative practice using no-cost or low-cost activities. Throughout the book, Norris and Tisdale discuss many ways museum professionals can find creativity in their daily tasks, and use whatever inspiration they find in the environment they are surrounded by. The style of this book is written as both a textbook and a workbook to help museum professionals spark their own creativity.

Norris, Linda and Rainey Tisdale, Creativity in Museum Practice, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2014.

One of the professional development programs I participated in was a NYCMER workshop in October called “Exhibition Designs for Educators” at El Museo del Barrio. This program was an example of how educators can learn to express their creativity to design exhibits and programs simultaneously. There was a challenge in which we were not told what the object was, and we were expected to create an exhibit with an unknown artifact (what appeared to be a cement block). The group I worked with received the prompt to create this exhibit as a warm and friendly environment; we brainstormed various ways we could create the exhibit using the prompt. For more information about this activity, check out the post “Writing about Museum Education: Using Professional Development to Our Advantage.” By brainstorming together as a group, we were able to express our collective creative experience that led to the concept we designed.

“Exhibition Designs for Educators” Activity, October 2016

Creativity is especially used in museum education programs to not only entertain its audiences but to educate them on the subject matter of the museums’ expertise including but not limited to art, history, and science.

There are many examples of when I used creativity as a museum education professional. For instance, while I was working in historic house museums in Connecticut, I taught and assisted participants in making crafts and cooking recipes for school and camp programs. One of the crafts I helped kids make were cornhusk dolls during the summer camp program at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society which not only was a fun activity but they also learned about what kinds of dolls kids during the eighteenth century played with and created themselves to find ways to entertain themselves. I have also helped fifth grade students make apple pies and Irish-style mashed potatoes at the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington. At Connecticut Landmarks Butler-McCook House, I helped kids create Samurai helmets out of gift wrap and yarn during the New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night Hartford. The Samurai helmet activity was inspired by the Samurai armor that the McCook family have in their old 18/19th century house; Reverend McCook and his daughter Frances traveled to many places on the way to and from China to visit another daughter Eliza, and one of the places they visited was Japan where he purchased the Samurai armor to bring back to Hartford.

One of the most recent examples include creating activities for kids to participate in during down time in school programs and during general tours at the Long Island Maritime Museum. I created activities such as cross word puzzles, word searches, matching games, and a scavenger hunt. To create these activities, I used information about the Long Island Maritime Museum and the maritime history it shares with its visitors. For instance, I created a crossword puzzle about one of the historic buildings on the museum’s property called the Rudolph Oyster House based on the information about the Oyster House and oyster business; the Rudolph Oyster House was built in 1908 by William Rudolph for his oyster company established in 1895, and it was used as an oyster culling and shucking house until 1947 and was acquired by the Long Island Maritime Museum in 1974.

Another example of activities I created was a breeches buoy search to teach participants the parts of the breeches buoy, an early contraption that pulled victims from shipwrecks, by writing down the names of the parts next to the corresponding letter (I included a word bank so they see the appropriate names). The next example of activities I created is a Name These Boats activity that challenges participants to use their memories of the boats stored in the museum’s Small Craft Building. I included a word bank to limit the possibilities, and participants would write down the name of the boat next to the photograph of a boat.

I also had the opportunity to observe a children’s program that the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson participated in. Children created sound-sandwiches for them to take home and play music on by blowing into them like harmonicas. The sound-sandwiches were made with tongue depressors, two pieces of straw, and rubber bands. To make them, one of the two tongue depressors needs a large rubber band wrapped around it from one tip to another; then the two tongue depressors and two small pieces of straw are tied together with smaller rubber bands at the ends. Sound-sandwiches can be adjusted until a humming or vibrating sound is heard. This was not only a fun activity for children to participate in but they also learned how to create sound by using the materials they were given.

Last weekend I created another exhibit for my childhood church to share the community’s summertime fun since the season would be around the corner soon and I wanted this exhibit to focus more on the parishioners as well as their interactions with the community around them. I included photographs from the Summer Festival the church participated in in 1975, and photographs from a Church picnic that took place by the beach in the 1960s. I also included bulletins that included announcements of activities planned for the summer, ways to get involved in the community, and current events to remind parishioners to be good Christians and learn more about the issues discussed as a result of events. I designed little suns to decorate the exhibit with to represent summer. This exhibit is an example of how creativity is especially useful during the exhibit design process.

Summertime Fun with Trinity exhibit, opened June 4, 2017

Tomorrow I am also participating in another professional development program about creativity, Creativity Incubator. It is a New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA)/ Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHHN) Partnership Program which encourages museum staff to test out experimental interpretive approaches through hands-on activities. I will travel to the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay, New York where it is being hosted. Creativity will continue to be a significant part of our work as museum professionals, and we need to find ways to inspire creativity in our work and inspire creativity with our visitors.

What ways have you found to inspire creativity work for you? Do you have a favorite moment where you accomplished a creative project, museum-related or not? Have you been inspired by something outside of the museum field that helped you complete a project?

 

UPDATE: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Originally posted on Medium, April 25, 2017. 

As promised, I am giving you all an update on the response to the exhibit I created and discussed about in the blog entry Looking Back, Moving Forward: How to Create an Exhibit on Limited Resources. I created an exhibit for Trinity Church in Wrentham displaying the Church’s over 150-year history with the Easter theme; the exhibit has photographs and objects related to the Easter season. Also, I included photographs of the exhibit in the blog post. You can find the original blog post here: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/looking-back-moving-forward-how-to-create-an-exhibit-on-limited-resources-f99d2f3e56f6. It was decided that the exhibit will be displayed throughout the Easter season.

After the exhibit was completed, parishioners who attended the Good Friday service could see the exhibit for the first time. The rector made an announcement during the service, and in the next couple of services, that I had created the exhibit and is available to be seen in the Parish Hall. Parishioners gathered around the exhibit to thoroughly read the exhibit labels as well as look at the pieces. They enjoyed learning about Trinity’s history and appreciated the efforts put into the exhibit. A few comments included it is evident that I had put a lot of time and effort into the exhibit.

One of the common comments stated that they were surprised with how many people have been in Trinity’s choir. The comment was referencing a photograph I chose to include in the exhibit. I included a picture of a boy choir that was taken outside in 1909. While it does not indicate when in 1909 the photograph was taken, it is supposed to epitomize a depiction of Trinity parishioners 46 years after Trinity Church’s first year as a parish.

This reaction to the exhibit tells me that they appreciate the exhibit and enjoy learning about their church’s history. It is also gives me further encouragement to create another exhibit to display Trinity Church’s collections.

Looking Back, Moving Forward: How to Create an Exhibit on Limited Resources

Originally posted on Medium, April 13, 2017. 

This week I am going to discuss something a little different than I usually do on this blog. I discuss on this blog many experiences I have had in the museum field and yet I have not discussed another aspect of my museum experiences. For more information about my previous experiences related to exhibit design and planning an exhibit, see this blog post: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/how-to-use-food-to-create-relevance-in-museums-810c7ad7c713 . To read about my other experiences in the museum field, look at my other previous blog posts here: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey . While I have talked about one of the exhibits I created in the past, I have not discussed my work with my childhood church. For the past couple of years, I have volunteered at Trinity Church in Wrentham as Parish Historian.

As Parish Historian, I oversee maintaining the collections and updating the collections list of Trinity’s Historical Collections. I became the Parish Historian not only because my educational background made me qualified to handle the position and project but I have always been interested in learning more about Trinity Church’s history since I attended services as a child. My family went to Trinity for many years while I was growing up. Whenever I saw old pictures of the church and the rectors, I asked many questions about how old the church is and who the individuals in the photograph were. Many years later I developed a deeper appreciation for Trinity Church’s history, and have continued to learn more about Trinity Church’s history through the collections. I was asked this year to develop an exhibit displaying the church’s collections.

Since Easter was coming up I decided to create an exhibit that showed Easter traditions at Trinity. The first step was to go through the Trinity Historical Collections to find items related to the Easter season including objects, books, and photographs. I wrote down a list of items in the collections related to the exhibit theme. From that list, I narrowed it down to about ten items since the space available is limited. Some of the items I chose were Lent and Easter cards, 19th and 20th century Books of Common Prayer, a hymnal from 1940, and I also included photographs from Palm Saturday Children’s Event. I decided on these items because over Trinity’s 150 history there have been many Easter services, and by including recent photographs they show that current parishioners are a part of Trinity’s long history and they are significant in Trinity’s future. To bring these items in the collections together, an exhibit narrative and labels need to be typed and edited.

Some of the items selected for the exhibit.

Also, I typed the exhibit narrative and exhibit labels to honor the Easter exhibit theme. In the exhibit, I described the importance of this exhibit:

Since celebrating our 150th anniversary, our parishioners continue to carry on the tradition of worship. As we remember and celebrate Jesus’s resurrection, Trinity looks back at our long history of celebrating his return. This exhibit shares items from Trinity’s archives that reflect on where our Easter traditions came from. By looking at these items, everyone will understand the story of Trinity’s celebration of Easter. We learn about how Trinity Church continues the Parish Community traditions during holy week and Easter.

After I wrote and edited the exhibit narrative, I wrote the exhibit labels for each of the items on display. To write the exhibit labels, I examined each item to figure out how old the item is, what is made of, what is in the photographs, and how it is related to the Easter theme. I used the information I gathered through observations and information provided with the collections to create the exhibit labels to share information with the visitor and parishioner. Here is an example of one of the labels I wrote for the exhibit:

Easter Card, 1954
Easter card was given to parishioners during Reverend T. Frederick Marshall’s ministry in 1954. Reverend Marshall served as rector at Trinity Church between 1947 and 1956. Inside the card is the schedule for Easter Day services with the Holy Communion at seven and eight in the morning, Choral Eucharist with Sermon at 10:45 a.m., Public Baptism at three in the afternoon, and a Children’s Service at four in the afternoon. This card also has an Easter Greeting from Reverend Marshall stating, “Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter”. The card also has a quote from the Prayer Book,
“And note, that every Parishioner shall communicate at the least three times in the year, of which Easter to be one.”
Printed by Mowbrays in England. Found among the Trinity Historical Records in 2015. [slightly altered after pasting it in Medium post and here on this webpage]

Once I edited and printed out the labels and narrative, I discussed with the current rector where the display will be placed to make sure parishioners will be able to see it. I knew before the discussion that the most likely room the exhibit can be seen is in the Parish Hall, which is a room where parishioners gather after services to socialize and drink coffee. I shared my thoughts on where the exhibit should be displayed; I pointed out two places that may work. The first option is close to the seating area and right across from the entrance into the church; it is the best option because the exhibit will be the first thing parishioners will see when leaving after the service for coffee hour. The second option was next to the entrance to the Parish Hall from the parking lot; while it may seem to be a good option since it offers similar exposure, the exhibit would be displayed underneath a bulletin board with various announcements potentially distracting, and it is too exposed to where parishioners get their coffee and treats. We agreed that the first option is the best place for the exhibit. The rector also offered to let me borrow one of her table cloths to drape over the table for the display and to add color to the exhibit.

When creating the exhibit I used limited resources available from the church. For instance, I used an extra Elmer glue cardboard board that I borrowed from the church’s choir room and scrap paper to make crosses, eggs, and birds that were used as decorations; also, I borrowed push pins to attach the labels, decorations, and artifacts in plastic slip covers. To create the crosses, eggs, and birds, I took green, pink, and blue pieces of paper then I traced them into the various shapes and cut them out to pin them on the board. I also pinned a couple of the pieces from the collections on the board by placing them in plastic sleeves and pinning the sleeves onto the board. Also, I displayed the exhibit labels by figuring out how the viewer will most likely be able to read it and to make it visually appealing.

Picture of exhibit board designed using limited resources.

Once I have completed this board, I laid out the rest of the items and exhibit labels with similar standards I used for the Elmer glue cardboard board on visibility and visual appeal. So far, I have had positive reactions to this exhibit and more individuals will be able to see this exhibit before and after services this Easter weekend and afterwards to allow more opportunities for people to see the exhibit. I will post an update the more I learn about people’s reactions to this exhibit.

The exhibit as a whole. Trinity Traditions: Easter Celebrations Throughout the Century.

How have you designed an exhibit on limited resources and limited budget? What challenges did you face when creating your exhibits?