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

Originally posted on Medium. November 17, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

Writing about Museum Education

Originally posted on Medium website on October 19, 2016

As I continue my career in museum education by having many adventures in the field, I realized someday I want to be able to look back on all of the work I accomplished and be able to share these experiences with other educators. This was when I thought about writing this blog series. When I started to create this blog, the first words I see are “Tell your story.” I kept thinking about how to start this first blog entry, and when I saw those words I thought about how to begin this story. In order to tell my story of when I first found my passion for museum education, I will start from the beginning.

When I was a child, my mother encouraged my sisters and I to visit museum during family vacations. One of the family vacations was a trip to Plimoth Plantation with my nana, mom, and my two sisters. During that trip, all of us were in the meetinghouse and suddenly my mom and nana saw me go up to the pulpit to pretend to be a minister. My mom told me years later that I encouraged people coming into the meetinghouse to come sit down on the benches and a bunch of people sat down as I continued my pretend lecture; I even came up to people to give them communion and shake their hands. This is one of those kids say and do the most interesting things, and not only that it was also the moment that I truly enjoyed learning about history. My family made a number of trips over the years, and I enjoyed visiting museums and sites such as Monticello, Battle of Gettysburg battleground, Colonial Williamsburg the most. Education for me has always been my favorite part of life, and while at times it was challenging for me field trips especially to museums have given me a way to understand the lessons I learned in the classroom.

In school I was a student with learning differences that according to my I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan) made speech, reading, and math a series of challenges I overcame as I continued my education. I thank my teachers every day for their commitments they made to fill my head with knowledge and their efforts to provide my classmates and I educational experiences outside the classroom. Even when I entered Western New England College (now University) in Springfield, Massachusetts and joined the Historical Society I enjoyed planning Historical Society trips to places such as Salem and Old Sturbridge Village. While I was in college, I looked back on my experiences and realized that I wanted to have a career in the museum field. Every day I was thankful for all of those field trips and family vacations I went on. Each of those trips gave me wonderful experiences I will always cherish.

While I was in graduate school at Central Connecticut State University, I began my museum career at the Old State House in Hartford as an intern in the education department during the summer. Then I worked as a Museum Teacher at the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington as I continued graduate school. Towards the end of my graduate program, I began working as a Museum Interpreter at Connecticut Landmarks’ historic house museums, Butler-McCook House and Isham-Terry House, where I gave tours to both school and the public. After I graduated with my degree in Public History in 2013, I also began to work at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society as a Museum Educator. Then I transitioned to New York to work as a Museum Educator with the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. I also have been working as a Parish Historian for the church I grew up going to and volunteer at various museums on Long Island. All of these experiences I plan to talk about as I continue to write in this blog.

This story will continue not only with a discussion about my experiences in greater detail but I also will discuss recent topics in the field as well as recent books and journal articles I read. I also will write about conferences and workshops I attended. What I hope to accomplish with this blog is to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field. I will end this entry with one of my favorite quotes on education:

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
― Albert Einstein