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

#MuseumEdChat: NCoC and Museum Leaders

October 15, 2020

In preparation for the workshop next week, NCoC and Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath, the MuseumEdChat Twitter conversation focused tonight’s discussion on what role museums could play as 2020 comes to a close post-election. The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) dedicate their work to strengthen civic life in America by connecting people together through a nationwide network of partners involved in a cutting-edge civic health initiative, their cross-sector conferences and engagement with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations interested in utilizing civic engagement principles and practices to enhance their work. With this partnership, museum leaders and thinkers are virtually gathering together to support museum staff and imagine the roles museums, as trusted civic institutions, can play in whatever 2020 has left in store.

The Twitter discussion explored four areas of museum work with the theme of community in each question. For those who are not familiar with #MuseumEdChat, discussion hosts and participants used the Q1/A1 format and the #MuseumEdChat hashtag in replies in order to be seen by all participating in the discussion.

Because Twitter at the time of this post was not letting me, and as I suspect other participants, post our responses to the questions I am posting my answers to this blog post. Here are the following questions and answers for tonight’s discussion:

Q1. Operations: What should concern museums regarding their operations and serving their community after the election? Is your museum discussing this at all? #MuseumEdChat

I think it is important to figure out the decisions that would be best for each individual museum on how they will operate and serving the community since each museum is different and the communities they serve have their own needs to attend to. Museums should be discussing with one another what could be the best approaches for within the museum and community, and the individual museum will use what was discussed to figure out what approach works best for their own institution.

Q2. Messaging: What ideas, messages, publicity, etc. could museums share with the community that would be valuable right now *and* post-election? #MuseumEdChat

I tested posting to Twitter by attempting to send this answer as a response: A2 I think museums can share resources that would best educate the public about what the issues we are voting on and set up programs & statements on what the next steps would be for museums and how they’ll continue to work on serving the community now & post-election. #MuseumEdChat

Q3. Programs: What kinds of programs would you like to see #museums do for the community post-election? (Again, think about those scenarios…)

I would like to see museums plan programs for the community that focus on mental health to help people in the community deal with how the pandemic and the election has impacted them these past months.

Q4. Staff care: How could museums help staff practice self-care and provide for them given the potential election outcomes and the role of the #museum post-election? #MuseumEdChat

Museum leaders should dedicate some time in the day for staff to practice self-care whether each staff member wants to practice by themselves or practice self-care together. There should be focus on letting staff figure out how to care for themselves as well as their families to prepare for the impact the election results will have on what is happening in their own lives.

I plan on attending this workshop coming up on October 21st from 3pm-5pm EST to better educate myself and participate in the discussion on how museums can best serve the community post-election.

The following links are where you can participate in the discussion and to learn more about National Conference on Citizenship:

NCoC x Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath

National Conference on Citizenship

Back to School During a Pandemic

September 17, 2020

Last week many students have begun to go back to school on virtual platforms or a hybrid of in person and virtual schools as we continue to face this pandemic. Museums are preparing to help parents, guardians, teachers, and students once again by working to maintain as well as build relationships with our communities to understand the emotional needs, and providing resources to assist in their education plans. In a previous blog post What Kind of Learning Are We Doing?, I pointed out that

We continue to figure out each day how to proceed teaching and learning while we are facing this pandemic. It is most likely hard at first to figure out a new routine for education especially for parents and guardians who are suddenly have to deal with finding ways to educate their children; for students who have to adjust to not being able to interact with their peers and teachers as they are used to; and for educators who have to figure out quickly how to transition their lessons into an online format.

This is still true as the new school year begins. The families I know have to figure out ways to continue their children’s education at home, at school, or a hybrid of both remote and onsite schooling. Each family faces their own challenges in finding out ways to engage children in their lessons. Museums should continue to work to keep the needs of their communities in mind as they continue to offer remote experiences for its visitors.

There are many examples museums have for education programs that vary on subjects covered and community support. Below I have included a list of resources that share what some museums are doing to help educators at home and at school in assisting with educating their students.

Announcement: Starting next week, I will be participating in this year’s AASLH Annual Meeting which has been moved to online due to the pandemic.

Links:

What Kind of Learning Are We Doing? The State of our Education during the Pandemic

USA Today: These online learning tips will help parents prepare for a successful school year, even if it is virtual.

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/09/01/my-primary-school-is-at-the-museumduring-the-pandemic/

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/09/02/never-waste-the-walls-what-pk-12-schools-can-learn-from-museum-design/

https://sites.google.com/view/museum-distance-learning/home

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/remote-teaching-resources

https://cthumanities.org/bring-connecticut-history-to-life-in-your-classroom-with-teach-it-from-connecticut-humanities/

https://edsitement.neh.gov/teachers-guides/digital-humanities-and-online-education

Virtual Offerings:

https://www.mountvernon.org/education/distance-learning-programs/

https://marktwainhouse.org/teachers-students/

https://chs.org/history-to-go/

https://chs.org/education/online-learning/

Museum of Science, Boston: https://www.mos.org/explore/mos-at-home

https://www.explorableplaces.com/places/the-paul-revere-house

Plimoth Patuxet (formerly Plimoth Plantation): https://plimoth.org/learn-1 ; https://plimoth.org/plimoth-online

Old Sturbridge Village: https://www.osv.org/virtual-village/

https://www.nytransitmuseum.org/learn/schoolgroup/

https://www.morrisjumel.org/learning-from-home

https://www.morrisjumel.org/virtual-education-survey-2

https://madmuseum.org/online

https://www.nyhistory.org/education

https://www.tenement.org/visit/virtual-school-programs/

https://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/digital-content

https://nassaumuseum.org/museum-from-home/#remote-learning

Nelson-Atkins Museum: https://nelson-atkins.org/nelson-atkins-at-home/learn-at-home/

The Field Museum: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/educators/learning-resources/learning-home

The Durham Museum: https://durhammuseum.org/education/digital-learning/at-school/

Reflections on Museum Education Since COVID Arrived in the United States Part 1

August 20, 2020

It has been at least six months since the United States was on lockdown due to the pandemic, and there has been a lot of changes that have occurred especially within the museum field. Usually I would write a reflection about the museum field in the past year in December however I decided to share my reflections on museum education to describe what I have seen that is happening in the field. Throughout the months I have been writing about how the museum field responded to the pandemic. For instance, I wrote “Museums Offering Virtual Experiences during the Pandemic” which focused on how more museums are developing virtual programs and engaging with communities in the virtual realm.

There were other posts that also described how museums handled the news of the pandemic and professional development programs that are moved online. In “What Kind of Learning Are We Doing? The State of our Education during the Pandemic”, I shared information I learned in an AASLH program about how museums should also help the communities cope with the drastic changes the pandemic has brought not just focus on providing education programs. I also attended a number of professional development programs that were moved to the online platform such as the New York Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference. I included a few links to the posts and relevant pages of blog posts in the list below. As the pandemic continues, it is important to also take a moment to reflect and practice self-care before continuing to do any work before being quarantined and overworking burns us out.

Another inspiration for this blog post was Joan Baldwin’s post on Leadership Matters called “The Museum Crisis: Does Reflection Help?” Baldwin’s post described the importance of pausing and reflecting on one’s work in leadership and museums. She pointed out that

A reflective practice allows us to avoid making the same mistakes again and again. It asks us to acknowledge where we went off course, imagine a second chance and aspire to a better outcome. Okay, so why does any of that matter when, if there is a resurgence of COVID, your museum may close? Organizationally, it may not matter. But if you’re lucky enough to serve a museum or heritage organization that is open and weathering the COVID/post-George Floyd storm, then reflection, both personal and organizational, will help you emerge from the same old place, doing the same old thing, just well enough.

When the pandemic reached the United States, the Three Village Historical Society closed its physical location and continued its operations from each person’s homes. The Education Committee, myself included, met with one another through Zoom to plan the next steps in running education programs. In each meeting we had, we planned virtual programs that were both inspired by existing programs that we usually implement in person and by programs we have learned about that we adapted to teach Three Village history. As we face the upcoming fall season, it is important that we also reflect on how we will proceed to help schools as they make decisions on re-opening their doors at the capacity they chose to start the new school year.

During these months, I was asked to present at an online forum for the Museums Galleries Scotland called “Moving Forward with Learning and Engagement: re-connecting, adapting and collaboration during and post lock-down” to share the perspective of Looking Back, Moving Forward in Museum Education and participate in the group discussion answering questions such as How can we sustain and build on the connections we have made during lock down?

I am grateful for each experience I have had especially during these hard times, and while it is hard to stay motivated in the pandemic there is a way to help ourselves with mental health and general wellbeing. Reflection could help in addition to many self-care practices.

Link:

How are Museums Dealing with the Coronavirus?

Museums Offering Virtual Experiences during the Pandemic

COVID-19 Blog Posts

Professional Development

The Museum Crisis: Does Reflection Help?:

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2020/08/10/the-museum-crisis-does-reflection-help/

Museum Educator: A Vital Role in the Museum-Community Partnership

July 23, 2020

While all museum roles within the building are important in their own functions to keep the museum running, museum educators are especially significant now as we figure out life and learning in this next normal. I have been reading for months through social media my museum field colleagues’ posts on layoffs, furloughs, and not being able to continue job hunting due to the pandemic; many of those posts were from museum educators who find themselves furloughed, laid off, or their job hunting became harder or completely stopped. Also, the Tenement Museum Union announced on Twitter that 76 employees were laid off, including all of their part-time educators. It is sad to see so many museum educators are being let go when they are needed especially during this time for more engaging programs. Museums should find ways to survive through the pandemic, but I do not believe that letting museum educators go is the solution.

I do not claim that there is one solution or method to keeping the museum afloat in this unprecedented time since all museums are facing varying circumstances that effect their ability to function onsite and/or virtually. A recent survey shared by the American Alliance of Museums revealed unsettling information about the state of museums:

One-third (33%) of respondents were not confident they would be able to survive 16 months without additional financial relief, and 16 percent felt their organization was at significant risk of permanent closure. The vast majority (87%) of museums have only 12 months or less of financial operating reserves remaining, with 56% having less than six months left to cover operations. Forty-four percent had furloughed or laid off some portion of their staff, and 41 percent anticipated reopening with reduced staff.

It is a reality that many museums are facing in the United States, and a huge loss for the communities that rely on the resources museums offer. Numerous considerations need to be addressed but we should not consider letting go staff members as the number one option on keeping museums financially supported. When we let go of the majority of our museum educators, we face a number of consequences.

Over the years I have been writing about museum education, I expressed the importance of the museum educators’ role in not only the museum but in the communities they serve as well. In the “Museum Education Challenges: Why We Need Museum Educators” post, for instance, I have discussed the demand for digital content for museum programming and how museums need to adapt to increasingly changing needs of the community:

Like schoolteachers in the classroom, museum educators were forced to learn to adapt quickly to teaching lessons that are normally taught in person now online in varying platforms including Zoom, Google, and YouTube. Even though most museum educators have already begun teaching on the online platform before the pandemic, not all museums had utilized teaching programs online. Providing education programs is a continuous process for museum educators and losing personnel in the education department would be a disservice to our museums, communities, and our nations.

If we do not have enough museum educators to meet the demands of the schools, camps, scouts, home schools, et. cetera looking for help with virtual lessons and resources, our museums would not be able to claim that they are part of the community they serve. Another example of a blog post I wrote to discuss the importance of museum education in the museum and community is the one called “How Education Theory is Used in Museums”. In this post, I wrote about how museums develop programs based on not only museum association standards but also on the state and national standards for education:

By developing an education policy in museums, it will help guide the education department in when drafting programs that will hopefully be accessible to its audiences, fulfill its mission, and appeal to teachers looking for outside the classroom opportunities.

If we lose the majority of our educators, we will create a disconnect between museums and educational institutions including but not limited to public schools, private schools, and home school groups. While it is possible that the majority of museums may not consider letting go of higher-level museum education professionals, we cannot make the assumption that all museums will not let go of their education managers or directors. As education standards change, and as school districts change how their school years will be executed, museums need to keep up with the changes and maintain contacts with other educators to prevent themselves from falling behind as well as being able to develop education programming relevant to the school groups that come to visit both in person and online.

In other words, each of the previous blog posts I mentioned both within this post and in the resource section below point out that letting go of museum educators is disconnecting ourselves from the communities we claim to be a part of and serve. I came across a post called “Caution: Laying Off Museum Educators May Burn Bridges to the Communities Museums Serve” in which an evaluator shares their perspective of the importance of museum educators especially within the K-12 community. Some of the points they made were:

The teachers highly value the respect and support they receive from museum educators.  The work of K-12 educators is hard and can go unnoticed.  But of all the museum educators I know, they consider K-12 educators essential to the well-being of our students and communities.  As such, museum educators’ frame their work as bolstering the self-regard and confidence of K-12 educators.

Sometimes the students point out something they see to the museum educator, but other times the conversation is completely un-museum related—they just seem to seek adult engagement and interest.  These individual museum educators are important to them.  This was underscored to me when I administered assessments to students in the program.  Students, knowing they were doing something related to the museum program, immediately asked me where are their museum educators (Adam, Ah-Young, Alicia, Barbara, Lindsey, Sarah, Suzannah)? They were notably disappointed to see me instead of their friends at the museum.

The kinds of relationships I have observed as an evaluator clearly demonstrates to me that museum educators are essential to a museum’s missions.  Museum educators are often the name and face of the museum to the community.  If these names and faces go away, I worry museum will have burned bridges into their communities.

As a museum educator myself, I especially agree with the observation that museum educators create connections with the students they teach within the programs. I remember a number of instances throughout my career in the museum education field when some kids are working on projects and decided to create another project so they can give me a present as a way to thank me, and I remember how the kids would be comfortable sharing stories with me (museum and non-museum related). When visiting museums, children especially have the opportunity to connect with the world they live in and with the real-world concepts, artifacts, and documents to fully grasp the lessons they learn in the classroom. Museum educators help children and other audiences bridge the gap between the classroom and the world around us.

 Like many museum professionals right now, I do not have the solution that would solve all problems museums are facing in the pandemic. The best we can do for now is to figure out the main priority to help museums survive, and getting rid of museum educators is not the priority we should have.

Resources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/22/894049653/one-third-of-u-s-museums-may-not-survive-the-year-survey-finds

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/07/22/a-snapshot-of-us-museums-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/

https://www.aam-us.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020_National-Survey-of-COVID19-Impact-on-US-Museums.pdf

https://hyperallergic.com/578201/tenement-museum-education-staff-layoffs/

Caution: Laying Off Museum Educators May Burn Bridges to the Communities Museums Serve

Museum Education Challenges: Why We Need Museum Educators

How Education Theory is Used in Museums

Education Programming: How Important Flexibility is in School Programs

The Importance of Education Management in Museums

Museum Education Challenges: Why We Need Museum Educators

May 21, 2020

While museums figure out plans to reopen their doors, museums should consider making sure our education missions remain intact by taking care of their museum educators. Museums have been moving towards becoming more accessible, inclusive, and diverse by focusing on engaging visitors and engaging with the community. Museum professionals are concerned about keeping out museums functioning financially, and we should not lay off or let go of educators and other front-line museum workers (museum professionals who directly interact with the public). In the past week, I shared previous blog posts I wrote on how important museum educators are to supporting museums’ education missions and engagement with their communities.

As a museum educator myself I sympathize with my colleagues in the museum education field while figuring out how to work and find work during this pandemic. Museum educators are the first ones to be let go when something goes wrong in the museum financially. In this day in age especially it does not make any sense to do so when museums are education sources for the community. Now that we are going through a pandemic, museum educators are needed to help visitors continue to use museum resources from a safe distance while the museums are closed, and we have the ability to be flexible when unexpected things happen. In the post “Education Programming: How Important Flexibility is in School Programs”, I pointed out examples of flexibility they face while implementing school programs:

Each museum educator understands very well that timing is important to be sure to effectively give an educational and a memorable experience. It is important to figure out how to be flexible when challenges arise. School buses, for various reasons, arriving late to the museum. School groups needing to leave early from the program. Teachers not sharing pre-visit materials to help students understand the experience they would be participating in before the visit.

Museum educators now are either considering or planning education programs to be implemented on the internet. Like schoolteachers in the classroom, museum educators were forced to learn to adapt quickly to teaching lessons that are normally taught in person now online in varying platforms including Zoom, Google, and YouTube. Even though most museum educators have already begun teaching on the online platform before the pandemic, not all museums had utilized teaching programs online. Providing education programs is a continuous process for museum educators and losing personnel in the education department would be a disservice to our museums, communities, and our nations.

This past month I came across posts from Brian Hogarth and Jason Porter on museum education and the current crisis. Brian Hogarth, Director of the Leadership in Museum Education at Bank Street College in New York, wrote the post “Code Red for Museum Education Profession” which described concerns the museum education profession has faced before and during the coronavirus pandemic. Jason Porter, the Director of Education and Programs at MoPOP (the Museum of Pop Culture) in Seattle, wrote “Making the Case for Museum Education in the Midst of a Crisis” in which he discussed the importance of museum education and his experiences during the pandemic. Hogarth pointed out that while museums made some progress in terms of diversity and inclusivity, they have not made progress in retaining museum educators in the field:

Museums had been making serious efforts to diversify the field and make it more equitable and inclusive. But at the same time, there has been an inflation of degree requirements and required experience levels, even for entry level and junior positions. In addition, as a “caring” profession, like nursing and teaching, the museum education field is largely made up of women. Cuts to these jobs will exacerbate the feeling that what is perceived to be women’s work is undervalued and underpaid, especially in the nonprofit/cultural sector.

This was a small profession to begin with. An even tighter job market for museum educators will be filled by people with additional resources at their disposal, those in positions with higher salaries, or who have partners with more secure jobs that can cover gaps or drops in income.

Not everyone in the museum education field has additional resources to fall back on and increasing requirements for the positions will continue to alienate individuals from entering and contributing to the museum education field. Another excellent point that Hogarth made was: Without new measures to restore and sustain the field, the current situation will deter many talented and interested people from seriously considering the profession as a valid career choice now and in the foreseeable future. I will also add that it will and already has deterred current museum education professionals from staying in the profession if new measures are not introduced to maintain talented individuals in the museums. Jason Porter continued the museum education discussion in his post.

In my blog post “The Importance of Education Management in Museums”, I pointed out that Education management is a continuous task museum professionals are aware of, and when we are able to form a solid foundation for the museum education management system museums can successfully fulfill their educational missions. Porter shared his experience as the head of the education department of his own museum while describing the current problems managers are facing in museum education during the crisis. He stated in “Making the Case for Museum Education in the Midst of a Crisis” that:

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, managers and directors of interpretation or education and programming have been left with fewer staff members (or dwindling numbers), holding out hope that soon we will return to normal in time to execute the programs we planned for the fall, and facing a future in which digital engagement — long the “extra” component of our interpretive work —  is now the primary way in which we’ll connect with our visitors and communities.

It is harder to maintain a functioning education department when the number of museum educators in the department continuously fluctuates, and we need to figure out how we need to face this new reality. All museum education professionals faced the impact of cancelling, postponing, and rescheduling programs they anticipated in implementing for schools, scouts, adult groups, senior groups, homeschools, and many more members in the community. As a result of so many changes happening all at once, including but not limited to changing programs and working from home, museum educators have become even less secure about the roles they will be able to fulfill and leaders need to recognize the need to maintain a healthy work relationship while we are staying at home. Porter recognized the need for stronger connections between leadership and staff:

All around in the museum field, we’re witnessing the kind of leadership decisions that reflect hastily considered responses and panic instead of vision and progressive thinking, leaders following the prevailing winds instead of charting new courses. I believe that educators and interpreters will be key to the survival of our institutions (and current and future sources of revenue). Of course, I also acknowledge that my institution has found a way to afford to respond in this way and that not every organization is privileged to have the option of retaining all staff members. But if you have the forum (and the time) to make a compelling case for why educators, teaching artists, interpreters, and evaluators will be essential to your work whether visitors can walk into your galleries or only have access to you through Zoom and Youtube, I say you should do it. It may help to show your leadership the way forward.

It is important to take advantage during this unprecedented time, if possible, to use leadership roles to prove educators are essential for museums. If we recognize that museum educators are essential, then we will be able to figure out the next steps in improving the museum education field.

Links:

Code Red for Museum Education Profession

Making the Case for Museum Education in the Midst of a Crisis

Education Programming: How Important Flexibility is in School Programs

The Importance of Education Management in Museums

Curiosity about History: What Does this Mean for Museum Educators?

February 27, 2020

Earlier this month, the American Alliance of Museums released a blog post called “Curiosity About History is Growing Across Generations, a New Survey Finds” by Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns. The blog post revealed survey results from a survey conducted by Connor Prairie, Indiana’s first Smithsonian affiliate museum which is an outdoor museum that inspires curiosity and fosters learning by providing engaging and individualized experiences for everyone. They wanted to find out what individuals thought about history and museums since the general initial impressions of museums is each one focuses on one discipline (i.e. history, art, science) or one type (i.e. children’s, zoological, and nature). Also, they found that similar surveys have not been conducted in decades which was why they decided to conduct their own national survey. After examining the results, they emphasized how museums have the potential for so much more than a house for collections and museums will continue to evolve with the changing society. Once I read the blog, I kept thinking about what the survey results mean for museum educators teaching programs in history and decided to share a few examples from the blog post to illustrate how museum educators can utilize the results for their practices.

Museum educators in history museums, historical societies, and historic house museums in recent years have been learning to incorporate other disciplines to provide well-rounded experiences for the audiences they teach. In my experience as a museum educator, I developed my skills in teaching not only history but also art and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). All museum educators, including myself, could benefit from finding out from their audiences how to best create memorable and educational experiences. This survey is an example of what we can take away about how we can harness the increasing interest in history. In the post, Burns pointed out museums role in helping individuals connect with history:

The survey found that, second only to gatherings with their families, Americans most often mentioned visits to museums and historic sites as the situation that makes them feel most in touch with history. When asked which sources they most trusted for knowledge of the past, Americans put museums and historic sites first, ahead of grandparents, eyewitnesses, college professors, history books, movies, television programs, and high school history teachers. The survey demonstrated that America’s history museums have broad appeal and respect, while also having a real personal impact on Americans. People connect with the past when they visit museums and historic sites, and award these institutions a credibility that is greater even than an eyewitness’s account or a grandparent’s memory.

I have seen visitors who came to the museums I worked for tell me about what book, television show, movie, etc. that inspired them to visit this museum and asked questions confirming whether or not the information they learned in other mediums was accurate. For instance, at the Three Village Historical Society, which works within the community to explore local history through education, I spoke with visitors who came to see the Historical Society’s exhibit about the Culper Spy Ring (who collected intelligence during the Revolutionary War for General George Washington) because of the AMC television show Turn about the Culper Spy Ring. A lot of questions I received were how accurate the show was to what happened during the Revolutionary War and how the Culper Spy Ring operated. Museum professionals should make sure that their research is up to date when anything new is discovered so the narrative presented in programs and exhibits are accurate especially since our institutions are seen as credible sources of information.

The survey also pointed out that history museums are the number one most trustworthy source of information in America. Therefore, museum professionals, especially museum educators, have been doing something right for survey participants to state history museums are the most trustworthy source of information.

Burns continued to share results from the survey and some of the findings including why history is valuable to us personally, to our communities, and to our future. According to the survey,

96 percent of Americans believe it is important to look at our history to inform our future.

91 percent of Americans agree that it is important that people learn about history to build a strong foundation for the future.

42 percent of Americans now have a higher level of curiosity in history as compared to this time to last year.

Millennials showed the highest level of increased curiosity, at 55 percent, compared to 42 percent of Gen Xers and 28 percent of baby boomers.

These results show increasing interest in and curiosity about history within generations in America, and it is important to also appeal to the younger generations who seem to be the most interested in learning about history especially since a large number of individuals see history as a way to inform the future. Also, other results from the survey revealed that Americans believe in history museums can stress the importance of protecting the environment and develop critical thinking skills. Museum educators should learn about the communities their museums serve, and with survey results like this one we are able to evolve with the communities we are a part of.

Links:

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/02/03/curiosity-about-history-is-growing-across-generations-a-new-survey-finds/

https://www.connerprairie.org/

https://www.connerprairie.org/new-survey-nine-in-10-americans-say-our-past-should-inform-our-future-curiosity-in-history-expands-across-generations-with-millennials-leading-the-way/

Building Skills in Museum Education through Online Courses

February 6, 2020

One of the ways all professionals, especially museum education professionals, should take advantage of professional development opportunities is taking courses that will develop skills we use in our professions. Sometimes it is more convenient to take online courses that allow museum professionals to schedule their coursework around their available time. Online courses provide opportunities to connect with other individuals when one is not able to get that experience in a regular course. There are many options to explore for online courses especially for museum education courses.

The most recent example of options I came across is from MuseumDev, which offers 4-week courses for museum professionals taught by subject experts with specialized skills and practical experience. MuseumDev courses are offered to those who are currently employed in a museum and want to broaden their skill set, on the job market for museum positions and want to gain a competitive advantage, considering a career in museums or a museum studies degree and want to investigate the field more, and in allied professions and think these courses would benefit their career (such as collectors, dealers, artists, educators, and technologists). These pass/fail courses expect students to spend about 16 hours on coursework, and they are taught asynchronously which means students can complete assignments as well as participate in discussions on their own time.

One of the classes MuseumDev offers is on inquiry-based and museum education which offers a collaborative atmosphere to explore key ideas through discussions, small group work, and independent research such as theories of learning, motivation and flow experiences, and the role of questions and information. When students take this course, they will hopefully gain confidence in contemporary museum education practice, build practical skills in teaching with objects, improve group facilitation skills, and become familiar with trends and issues impacting the field.

Also, the American Association for State and Local History offers online courses that usually last between four and six weeks. The courses offer each students a change to engage deeply with subject material over an extended period of time, all at their own pace. During each course, students can keep track with regular chats and other interactions with the accessible faculty, and discuss the course material with classmates in online forums. I took a course from AASLH on Museum Education and Outreach which is about how we can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums. The program looks at the larger umbrella of programming at sites and explores the large concept of who our audiences are, how best to connect with them, and what is needed to develop various methods.

In the Museum Education and Outreach course, the assignments are made weekly to allow for regular feedback and dialogue. While work can be done at one’s own pace, meeting deadlines is encouraged to maximize the experience. Throughout the course students develop a toolkit of strategies, policies, and documents ready for immediate implementation. When I took this course, I developed my own toolkit that I hope to be able to adapt for future projects and fully enjoyed interacting with colleagues from around the country as well as learning from them about other things that will help with museum education programming.

I am also familiar with Museum Study which according to their website build courses with three goals in mind: quality of material covered, engagement of the teacher, and interaction among students. Each course consists of lessons developed by the instructor, readings to supplement your knowledge and address your particular situation, and activities to reinforce understanding and generate discussion about the challenges we face in our institutions. Museum Study also hosts AASLH courses and their Steps program to aid students in fulfilling institutional goals.

Another example of online classes comes from Museum Classes, which is a pioneering training site from the Northern States Conservation Center. I noticed that the course list has varied topics on museums including but not limited to collections care, collections management, security, interpretation, care of paintings, and education in museums. The NSCC not only offers classes but they also have a certification program with some focuses on Museum Administration & Management, Museum Facilities Management, Exhibit Practices & Public Programs, Certificates in Museum Studies, and Collections Management & Care. There are two levels for each certificate program, and the Certificates in Museum Studies program is considered to be a level one program which provides students a basic understanding of many different facets of museums; the rest of the programs are level two programs that provides in-depth knowledge of one area in museums. According to their website, the requirements for the certificate program is to complete ten full courses and two short courses, attend one statewide, regional or national multi-day museum conference, complete a final project (which can be in the form of an exhibition, a paper, a conference presentation, or other format approved by NSCC), and attend a final chat session with instructors online to answer specific questions that test knowledge of the museum topics studied.

Since there are so many options for online courses, it is important to do the research on courses and see what is right for your needs. I included a list of links of courses I referenced in this post as well as additional ones I came across.

What courses, whether or not they are museum related, have you taken or are considered taking?

Links:

https://museumdev.com/

https://museumclasses.org/

Northern States Conservation Center: https://www.collectioncare.org/

https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/classes

https://www.coursera.org/courses?query=museum

http://www.museumstudy.com/courses/

https://www.edx.org/school/smithsonianx

The History of Museum Educators, Part Two: Children’s Museums

December 12, 2019

Last week I wrote about my reaction to part of this edition of the Journal of Museum Education, a publication by Museum Education Roundtable. I continued to read the Journal and after I finished reading the Journal, I thought I would give my thoughts on the rest of it. As I mentioned last week, the articles made me think about my previous experiences. This week while I read the rest of the Journal, I thought about my experiences in children’s museum. While these articles reminded me of my experiences, I always find more to learn in the Journal of Museum Education.

The most recent edition of the Journal of Museum Education, for instance, had a couple of articles focused on children’s museums. In the article “Museums for Somebody: Children’s Museum Professionals and the American Association of Museums (1907-1922)”, Jessie Swigger discussed the origins of children’s museums and the contributions of museum professionals in these children’s museums. Swigger discussed the first three children’s museums in the world opened in Brooklyn, New York (1899), Boston, Massachusetts (1913), and Detroit, Michigan (1917). She examined contributions of children’s museum professionals and museum education through presentations at the American Association of Museums (now known as the American Alliance of Museums) given by the curators of the first three children’s museums: Anna Billings Gallup’s (Brooklyn), Delia I. Griffin (Boston), and Gertrude A. Gillmore (Detroit). The review of papers delivered to their colleagues demonstrated how their pioneering educational approaches, including encouraging visitors to interact with objects and creating opportunities for children to become empowered and invested museum visitors, continue to shape the field. Also, the article pointed out the value of including children’s museum professionals in conversations on museum education. Another article about children’s museums revealed another example of the value of children’s museum professionals contributions to conversations on museum education.

In the article “What Caregivers Observe about Their Children’s Learning During a Visit to the Children’s Museum” by Jessica J. Luke, Eileen D. Tomczuk, Susan Foutz, Nicole Rivera, Lisa Brahms, Kari Nelson, Barbara Hahn, Melissa Swank & Kimberly McKenney, they pointed out that while significant research focused on caregiver-child interaction in children’s museums little is known about what caregivers might be observing or perceiving about their children’s learning. The article discussed a study conducted by the Children’s Museums Research Network to examine what caregivers observe about their children’s learning during a visit to the children’s museum. Data were collected through online questionnaires (N=223) and follow-up phone interviews (N=20) with caregivers recruited from eight children’s museums across the U.S. Results show that caregivers could identify numerous things they discovered about their child(ren) in the museum, including their interests, social skills, thinking/problem-solving skills, and emotional regulation. What contributed most to these discoveries was opportunities to watch their children play and interact with others, and to play with unique materials and activities that they don’t have access to at home. The signage and floor staff were seen as minimally important. These findings have implications for exhibit design and staff facilitation in children’s museums.

As a museum professional who has experience working in a children’s museum, I loved learning more about the history of children’s museums and what other children’s museum professionals have discovered about children’s learning in their research. The research reinforced what I learned about how children learned and interacted with museum exhibits. I learned in my experience in a children’s museum about the constructivist method which allowed children to get involved in the process of their own learning; what I learned in my experience is that the constructivist method cannot be relied on alone to educate children, and therefore a little bit of instruction is important to give children context to what they need to learn. In a couple of blog posts I have written, I wrote about children’s museums and my experience in a children’s museum.

The post “Maker Space: Museums Can Benefit from Having a Creative Space” is where I related what I learned in the children’s science museum Maritime Explorium and how I translate my experience from historic house museums into the newer experience. Another blog post I wrote was “Is Children’s Play Declining? What are Museums Doing to Encourage Playtime” in which I wrote about my reaction to an article in the Huffington Post called “Children’s Play is Declining, But We Can Help Reclaim It.”

By reading these articles in publications such as the Journal of Museum Education, museum professionals and museum educators share their knowledge and learn from one another to help move the museum field forward.

Resources:

Jessica J. Luke, Eileen D. Tomczuk, Susan Foutz, Nicole Rivera, Lisa Brahms, Kari Nelson, Barbara Hahn, Melissa Swank & Kimberly McKenney (2019) What Caregivers Observe about Their Children’s Learning During a Visit to the Children’s Museum, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 427-438, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1672136

Jessie Swigger (2019) Museums for Somebody: Children’s Museum Professionals and the American Association of Museums (1907–1922), Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 345-353, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1663685

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/23/maker-space-museums-can-benefit-from-having-a-creative-space/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/07/20/is-childrens-play-declining-what-are-museums-doing-to-encourage-playtime/

The History of Museum Educators: Why the Role Is Important Today

December 5, 2019

I recently received my copy of the Journal of Museum Education, a publication from Museum Education Roundtable, in the mail and I began to read this edition. This last edition for the year is about the history of museum educators. Once I heard about this edition, I decided to read it and give my thoughts about the history of museum educators as well as the significance of museum educators today. I started reading a few articles, and I plan to give my thoughts on the rest of the Journal once I finished reading it. Each article provided some more insight into the field I am a part of and made me think about my previous experiences as a museum educator in relation to what is discussed in the Journal.

There are a number of compelling articles and case studies that illustrate the role of museum educators as well as current trends that are influenced by the museum education community. The first article I read was “Where Does the History of Museum Education Begin?” written by the assistant editor Nathaniel Prottas. Since the beginning of my career as a museum educator, I have been curious about how museum education began and learned the complexity of museum education. After I read Prottas’ article, I realized that the origins of museum education are just as complex as museum education is today. He pointed out that Given the variety of museums that exist today, from science centers, to historic homes, to literary museums, a unified history of the field could never do our past justice. With multiple types of museums not just in North America but in Europe, Africa, and South America, we would not be able to pinpoint the exact origins of museum education. All museums have at least one thing in common: their missions are driven by education. When I continued to read the rest of the Journal, I began to learn even more about museum education background that fascinated me.

Another article I read, for instance, was “The Influence of Progressivism and the Works Progress Administration on Museum Education” written by Carissa DiCindio and Callan Steinmann. In this article, DiCindio and Steinmann described the Federal Arts Project (WPA-FAP) (1935-1943) of the Works Progress Administration which was a federally funded program designed through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to keep visual artists at work during the Great Depression. Many art programs took place through museums and exhibitions that were brought to Americans with both public programs and outreach. Their article pointed out that there is a continued legacy of community-driven, education-centered approaches in museums today such as outreach initiatives, studio programs, and responsive community programs that seek to bring visual arts experiences to the public. It is a perfect example of how previous museum programs and policies influence current practices in museum education, and why it is important to learn from these experiences to then move forward in fulfilling educational missions in museums.

The next article that captured my attention was “Gallery Games and Mash-ups: The Lessons of History for Activity-based Teaching” written by Elliot Kai-Kee. Kai-Kee took a closer look at the late 1960s and early 1970s and found dissatisfaction with standard approaches that resulted in numerous experimental programs using approaches emphasizing movements, the senses, and feeling. He described the programs, such as Arts Awareness at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Susan Sollins’ gallery games at the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington, DC, that left a legacy of experiential, activity-based teaching. His argument for current experimental programs for museum mashups and gallery games is to build solid programs and pedagogy on the foundation of improvisation and experimentation museum educators still need a theory of activities in the museum. I think we can always learn from previous examples when developing our own activity-based lessons. Previous lesson plans help museum educators see what has been done to educate intended audiences, and by inferring what worked and did not work we are able to improve the quality of our programs and expand our program offerings. It is important to keep up to date with education theories being utilized to maintain relevance in the school communities.

I especially thought a lot about my previous experiences when I read the article “Museums and School Group Chaperones: A New Future for an Old Role” by David B. Allison. Allison pointed out that chaperones play a key role in the experience students have in museums, and in most museums the parents and caregivers are underutilized and underappreciated. His article proposed a new approach to how chaperones might be catalysts for learning during museum visits. As a result, with the framing of a two-year grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services that resulted in a partnership with two school districts and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Museum learned that chaperones are essential to ensuring inquiry-driven education guides field trips. I appreciated Allison’s article and his emphasis on the importance of chaperones. As a museum educator, I have dealt with chaperones with varying participation in the programs. I shared my experiences in a previous blog post about chaperones and how we should include their involvement in program.

My experiences, outlined in the post “Museum Education Programs: The Challenges of Having Chaperones Be Effective Participants”, showed me that each chaperone had different expectations about what the chaperones’ roles should be. Some were involved with engaging the students by assisting and working with them, and other chaperones were standing to the side paying attention to their phones and not engaging with what is happening within the program. The article Allison wrote for the Journal proves that we are still working on figuring out how to engage chaperones with the programs.

As I continue to read this edition of this Journal, I hope to continue to takeaway more knowledge to adapt for my own practices in my career.

Resources:

Nathaniel Prottas (2019) Where Does the History of Museum Education Begin?, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 337-341, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1677020

Carissa DiCindio & Callan Steinmann (2019) The Influence of Progressivism and the Works Progress Administration on Museum Education, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 354-367, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1665399

http://www.museumedu.org/jme/jme-44-4-the-past-in-the-present-the-relevancy-of-the-history-of-museum-education-today/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/16/museum-education-programs-the-challenges-of-having-chaperones-be-effective-participants/