Museum Memories: Long Island Part 1

November 12, 2020

In the past, I previously wrote about the memories I had about my experiences in the museum field so far. To read the previous blog posts, check out the links below. Each experience taught me a lot and the lessons I learned help me move my career forward. My career has led me to move from working in Connecticut to working on Long Island, New York. Since I am still currently on Long Island with my husband and my career is still active, I am splitting this post into multiple posts to share each experience and lessons I have learned in each one. The following is a sample of the memories I have of working at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York.

At the Long Island Museum, I continued my career as Museum Educator and the role I had was both in educating school groups, camps, and individuals with Alzheimer’s and in education administration. I utilized object-based and inquiry-based methods to educate Pre-K-5 students, families, senior citizens about 19th century Long Island history and art on museum campus buildings such as the Carriage Museum, 19th Century Schoolhouse, and Art Museum. Inside the Schoolhouse, I dressed as a schoolteacher for two different types of school programs: one that is focused on learning what school was like through acting as schoolchildren in the 19th century as part of an overall program called Long Island Long Ago, and one that is focused on learning through discussions and demonstrations of the 19th century school day on Long Island from the 21st century perspective.

I also taught programs for various audiences. For instance, I prepared for and taught a program called In the Moment engaging individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the exhibit space. The program allows participants to engage with the exhibit by encouraging them to share memories as they touch replicas of items in the exhibit, listen to music relevant to the exhibit, and answer questions that are about what they are feeling and listening to. They also received cards with pictures from the exhibits they could bring back with them as a reminder of their visit they can share with their loved ones. Each program is different in each exhibit, and when there was a new exhibit a program needs to be developed. In an exhibit Long Island in the 60s, I was assigned to download music that were relevant to the exhibit and print out pictures to create the cards. Also, at the end of the program we set up snacks and drinks for participants and caregivers to enjoy before leaving the Museum.

On the administrative side of my role, I was in charge of the volunteer program for larger school programs. I created the schedule for volunteers participating in most education programs based on availability, and distribute them to volunteers, add to online Master Calendar (Google Calendar), and in art room where we meet for programs. The majority of the volunteers were retired so they were able to volunteer during the day when the school programs were scheduled. Some of the volunteers participated in the Long Island division of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (R.S.V.P.), and are using their experience at the Museum to record their hours on sheets that I sign off on and I send them in the mail at the end of the month to the person in charge of volunteer hours at R.S.V.P.

In addition to running the volunteer program for school programs, I also worked on a number of administrative tasks with the rest of the education department to keep it running at the Museum. I coordinated the assembly and distribution of brochures for school, children’s, and public programs. In addition to assembling the brochures, creating address labels and post marking the brochures, I also worked on maintaining an updated list of teachers and other personnel for school brochure mailings by researching school lists in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Also, I answered phone calls from teachers interested in school programs and organizations interested in group tours, and booked school programs and group tours using the Microsoft Office Suite to record the necessary information such as contact information and type of program; then once the information is gathered, I would update the Master Google Calendar to let the rest of the Museum staff know what is going on for that date. Depending on the program, I would also schedule volunteers to educate the school group and I would schedule a volunteer to lead a group tour depending on their availability.

I also assisted in logistics for school programs especially for programs with volunteers led stations. I was one of the educators that kept an eye on the school buses arriving to the Museum to make sure that they were arriving in the right parking lot for where the program was taking place. Also, I met with the teachers to check the school groups in and collect order forms and money for gift shop items they picked out before their arrival; I made sure that the gift shop items arrived to the administration office so they can be delivered to the kids at the end of the program. Once the kids were given the introduction in the program, the kids were split up into different groups and I would be one of the educators to make sure that each station ends on time for the switch. In addition, I also ordered and kept track of the school programs supplies inventory.

Every time I look back on this experience, I am always amazed by how much I did with the Museum while I was there. I also learned more about the administrative side of running the education department, and what it was like to work on projects in a larger museum than I was used to in historic house museums. The experience also inspired me to continue to learn about the administrative side of museum education. I will continue to share memories from my Long Island experiences in future blog posts.

In the meantime, next week I will be sharing my experience at the New England Museum Association’s virtual conference.

Links:

Museum Memories: Connecticut’s Old State House

Museum Memories: Stanley-Whitman House

Museum Memories: Connecticut Landmarks Historic Houses in Hartford

Museum Memories: Noah Webster House

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/