Pride Month and the Museum Field: Museums Interpret and Share LGBTIQ+ History

June 17, 2021

We should remember why we celebrate Pride Month and museums especially have the responsibility for educating the public about LGBTIQ+ history that has long been neglected to be told. June is LGBTIQ+ Pride Month which honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan as it was the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Stonewall Inn was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City back in 1969, and until 1966 it was illegal to serve alcohol to a gay person in New York State. Throughout the United States, police raids on gay bars and spaces during this time. The purpose of Pride Month as a commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

        In more recent years we celebrate by having pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTIQ+ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Pride Month last year and this year has been different due to the pandemic. Last year, the museum field honored Pride Month on the virtual platform.  Hilary-Morgan Watt (the Digital Engagement Manager for the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) and Emily Haight (the Social Media Manager at the New-York Historical Society) wrote a short post for the American Alliance of Museums’ blog to advertise the #MuseumPrideParade on Twitter encouraging museums and museum professionals to share items in their museums’ collections relevant to LGBTIQ+ history. According to the authors, the campaign they created at the time of their post was the third global campaign organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the New-York Historical Society during the pandemic, following #MuseumBouquet and #MuseumSunshine. Watt and Haight pointed out that:

We decided Pride was the right opportunity for a third campaign, to help museums   celebrate in place of the exhibits, film screenings, programs, and parade-marching many would normally be participating in. How do you participate? It’s simple—showcase images from Pride marches and other LGBTQIA+ protests throughout history, or other objects and stories from LGBTQ history, using the #MuseumPrideParade hashtag, and choose another institution to tag as your virtual marching partner.

For example: We’re sharing [object] for the #MuseumPrideParade and marching with [@institution].

The Museum Pride Parade took place last year on June 10th at 11am on Twitter.

        While we are still going through this pandemic, we still honor Pride Month and each museum does so in varying ways depending on if they are planning to have events and programs in person, virtually, or hybrid. I included links to various events and programs museums are doing for Pride Month in the list below to show what is happening. Also, I included a couple of links from last year’s Pride Month in the list.

        A lot of the programs and events especially in museums aim to educate participants in LGBTIQ+ history. It is important for museum professionals to remember that LGBTIQ+ history is not just in one month. There are museums that not only incorporate LGBTIQ+ history into their programs but also do outreach in the LGBTIQ+ community, and I saw some examples of this in the December 2020 edition of the Journal of Museum Education called Queering the Museum. One of the articles was Benjamin Rowles’ “LGBTIQ+-Themed Education at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna-Guided Tours with a Drag Queen” in which he pointed out the museum he began working for in 2016 holds countless European Old Master paintings and some of them can be interpreted to reference queer themes, yet there was a lack of LGBTIQ+ outreach. Rowles decided that since in addition to working in a museum he also works as a drag queen, he will combine both to provide guided tours as a drag queen; his article shared the experience of the offered guided tours that lasted for a few years.

        Another example of an article in this edition of the Journal of Museum Education was “Intuition and Vulnerability: A Queer Approach to Museum Education” written by Eli Burke, the Education Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson. Burke’s article explored intuition and vulnerability through an intergenerational arts program called Stay Gold that is specifically for the LGBTIQA+ community and its relationship to museum education. The main point of the article is that it seeks to examine how queerness is connected to both intuition and vulnerability, and how the Stay Gold program impacts the lives of LGBTIQA+ participants through that lens.

       Danielle Bennett, who has previously worked on LGBTQIA+-related projects at Amy Kaufman Cultural Planning and the New York Historical Society, also contributed an article for the Journal of Museum Education called “Lessons from Glen Burnie: Queering a Historic House Museum”. She made a case in the article for including queer narratives in historic house museums since including queer history in public history settings is important in its own right and as a way to invigorate museum interpretations and appeal to wider audiences.

Also, in the same article Bennett dispels concerns about “outing” historical actors and describe some language and ways of thinking about historical sexuality to assist educators in their interpretation. Then it shifts into the case study of Glen Burnie, a historic house museum that completely revised its interpretation to center the house’s last residents and its preservationists, a gay male couple; Glen Burnie’s interpretive shift leverages the efforts of both men to create public and private domestic experiences that create an immersive new house tour experience and can be used to create a critique of the portrayal of gender roles and heteronormativity at many historic house museums. More articles can be found in the fourth edition of the 45th volume in the Journal of Museum Education, and I included a link to current and past editions.

How are you honoring Pride Month this year?

I’m on Buy Me a Coffee. If you like my work, you can buy me a coffee and share your thoughts.  More information about additional benefits for supporting my work can be found here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

Links:

Library of Congress: Pride Month

Library of Congress: Stonewall Uprising

Journal of Museum Education

AAM Pride goes Virtual

Pride at the Smithsonian

World Pride at The Met

Western Museums Association Pride Month Sources

Celebrate Pride

New York City Pride

Pride Month 2021

Events in 2020

8 LGBTQ Objects to Celebrate Pride 2020

NYCMER 2021 Virtual Conference Reaction: The Second Virtual Experience with NYCMER

May 27, 2021

I decided to attend this year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) virtual conference which took place on Monday, May 17th. This was their second conference on the virtual platform, and not only did I want to engage with colleagues in the field and learn from sessions on the museum education field, but I also wanted to see how the second virtual conference compares to the first virtual conference. The theme this year was Reflect, Reinterpret, Represent: What’s your Re__? and the sessions encouraged participants to reflect on the lessons we learned and reinterpret the fundamentals of both museum and informal education while we move forward towards a renewed and more representative museum field. Once again, the NYCMER conference was held on the Hopin app, and like I said in last year’s post: participants would be able to do what we usually did during the conference, including attending the keynote session, sessions, poster sessions, Peer Group meetings, and networking, but from home. Instead of releasing my thoughts last week, I wanted to focus on gathering them and my notes to give a concise account of my experiences during the conference.

       As usual, I found it hard to decide which sessions to attend during the virtual conference, but I will be getting recordings and resources from the conference as a NYCMER member. Throughout the day, I tweeted my thoughts on Twitter while engaging in the sessions I attended. I gathered some of the tweets I wrote during the day and background information on the sessions to share with all of you. I collected the rest of my tweets and placed them in an Excel spreadsheet, and it is found within the resource section.  In addition to tweeting my experience, I made note of the interactions I had with colleagues online in comparison to last year.

Networking with colleagues was a challenge last year since the time was short and it was hard to have conversations when they suddenly cut off; the networking feature was continuously updated throughout the conference so more time was added conversations. This year the networking feature has a maximum of five minutes to interact with one another, and we are able to extend the time spent in five-minute increments as long as both parties click on the extend button. I like what they did this year in the networking experience because I got to have longer conversations if time permitted; in one conversation I was able to help answer an emerging museum professional’s many great questions about the museum field.

While waiting for the keynote session to begin, participants were encouraged to visit the mentimeter site to answer the conference’s theme question: What’s your Re__? We were encouraged to add our words to the word cloud that will be shared at the end of the conference. My “Re__” words I added to the word cloud were: Refresh, Renew, Reflect, and Remember. I chose these words since they apply to both the museum field overall and my career in the field. It is good to refresh and renew our practices in the museum field, reflect on the progress we have made and what we still need to do, and remember the lessons we learned especially during the past year.

The keynote speaker this year was Dr. Porchia Moore, who is the Assistant Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Florida, champion of the Critical Race Theory, co-director of the Incluseum, and co-creator of the Visitors of Color project. Dr. Moore emphasized during the keynote that we need to use the time we are in now to create new educational practices. Within her presentation, Dr. Moore shared what her “Re__” words were in museum education. She chose recall, reimagine, and also remember then explained her reasons behind the words:

  • Recall: Why am I doing this work?
  • Reimagine: think critically about what the new space should look like
  • Remember: inspired by the term Rememory and the book Beloved by Toni Morrison. Dr. Moore spoke about the collective memory and how even if something you remember does not physically exist it still exists within the mind. As a field, we need to re-write our values to form a collective body

I attended the session Redesigning in-person programs, and the speakers were Raymond Rogers, Ciara Scully, and Tiffany Yeung from the New York State Parks. Rogers, Scully, and Yeung shared information on what they needed to consider when redesigning in-person programs and what we should apply to our own programs. The following sections are what we need to consider in our program redesigns:

  • Safety

-know what your agency’s guidelines are

-know what to expect from participants beforehand

  • Accessibility

-what needs can we meet?

-language clear and descriptive?

-seating available?

-ADA compliant?

-How is it advertised?

  • Inclusion

-who is it designed for?

-anyone excluded from program? Why?

-what language are we using? Gender neutral? Inclusive?

-does it include multiple perspectives?

  • Dialogue

-main goal of this program?

-how are we engaging people with the content?

They encouraged us to brainstorm things to keep in mind when we redesign our in-person programs.

The next session I attended was Reimagining Equity and Inclusion within Docent Programs, and the speakers were Christina Marinelli (Senior Museum Instructor/Adult Learning Coordinator at the Brooklyn Museum) and Maria C. Pio (Co-Director; Director of Education and Administration at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, CUNY). In this session, all participants were encouraged to start discussions in separate sections to discuss policies, shared commitments, & values and training strategies. During the first section on policies, some points that were discussed included concerns on being too political and the need to make them feel safe, how to navigate DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, Inclusion), and docents that are also donors. When we went back from our groups, we learned about what the second group discussed. In the second section, we brainstormed answers for types of trainings that were particularly helpful or problematic including setting clear roles and responsibilities.

      For my third session, I decided to attend New York Responds: Creating a Crowd-Sourced Exhibition and Responsive Programming for a City in Crisis. The speakers were Maeve Montalvo (Director, Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center, Museum of the City of New York), Hannah Diamond (Education Manager for Professional Learning, Museum of the City of New York), Jelissa Caldwell (Museum Educator, Museum of the City of New York), Joanna Steinberg (Curator of Education Programs, Museum of the City of New York), and Amanda Johnson (Artist, Museum of the City of New York). All of the speakers discussed how this exhibit came to fruition, and a link to information about the exhibit New York Responds: The First Six Months is included in the list below. The exhibit is now available online.

Then there was the Expo in which there are shorter sessions that introduced various topics and speakers introduce the research or projects they were working on to conference attendees. For this year’s conference, NYCMER shared a YouTube playlist as an introduction to this year’s Expo (I included a link of the playlist in the list below). When I attended the Expo, I attended the one called Squash the Museum. Danaleah Schoenfuss and Sonya Ochshorn discussed the current workplace structure that are still in place in many museums, and presented a range of alternative structures such as flat management, worker co-ops, and delayering processes both as a thought experiment but also as steps for creating lasting change.

The fourth and final session I attended was called Making Institutional Change. Braden Paynter (Director, Methodology and Practice at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) and Tramia Jackson (Senior Coordinator, Science Research Mentoring Consortium at the American Museum of Natural History). This session shared two frameworks to help participants, the first to analyze challenges and the second to create strategic processes for change. Drawing on the experience of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and the Science Research Mentoring Consortium participants won’t have all of the answers, but they will have better questions to begin revealing them. The goal of the session was to provide basic tools for our own institutional change. When working on making institutional change, it is important to remember to:

  1. Gather knowledge

-What is your why?

-Where are your concerns in your institution?

  • Identify people

-find allies and build partnerships

  • Grow collective and individual knowledge

-continue to build your knowledge about the issue

  • Small acts of change

-within your purview and your allies, begin applying knowledge and making small changes

Paynter and Jackson also pointed out that it is important to take breaks and celebrate your accomplishments. I really enjoyed this year’s NYCMER virtual conference, and stay tuned for more resources as I continue to participate in NYCMER events.

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

Links:

NYCMER 2021 Virtual Conference Page

NYCMER 2021 Virtual Expo Playlist

Blog Post on NYCMER 2020

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Museum of the City of New York’s New York Responds: The First Six Months

NYCMER 2021 Tweets Spreadsheet

Sneak Peak of Member Post: Women’s History Lesson Plan, A Closer Look at My Capstone Project

April 22, 2021

       In 2013, I was getting ready to prepare for graduation from Central Connecticut State University’s Public History graduate program. In order to graduate from the program, I had to work on a capstone project which took the entire last semester to complete; I completed all of my required courses so I could dedicate my time to this capstone project.  Since I was working at the Stanley-Whitman House, a National Historic Landmark, as a museum educator while I was attending classes, I decided to develop a lesson plan designed to educate students about women’s history by focusing on the women who lived in the house. I also knew that I wanted to be a museum educator after I earned my masters degree, and designing a lesson plan would be the appropriate capstone project to complete. In case you are not familiar with the National Historic Landmark, the following information is background history of the museum and the families that lived there.

      Stanley-Whitman House is a museum and living history center that collects, preserves, and interprets the history and culture of 17th to 19th-Century Farmington, Connecticut. It has operated under the auspices of the Farmington Village Green and Library Association, which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization, since 1935. This house is a Post Medieval-style house with a center chimney flanked by a parlor and a hall with two chambers (bedrooms) above which provided both living and storage space. The colonists built their homes from wood, and used post and beam construction for the frame. The second floor extends beyond the first on the front façade, creating an overhang. While the original purpose of the overhang is unknown, it did provide more space in the upper chambers. The lean-to addition that extends across the width of the back of the house was added some time in the mid-18th-century, giving the house its distinctive saltbox shape.  According to their website, the records indicate that the house was constructed sometime between 1709 and 1720.

The above sample is from the membership post in which I discuss previous projects I worked on, the thought process behind them, and my thoughts on them years later. I discuss my the capstone project I worked on for the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut. I included a link below to learn more about this museum.

I developed a lesson plan that not only focuses on educating students about the women who lived in the house but also encourages students to learn more about the women in their communities. Also, I shared the process I went through to develop the lesson plan and what I would do if I were developing the lesson plan now.

If you are interested in reading this post, consider becoming a member of this website. More information on membership benefits and how to join is available on the website’s Buy Me a Coffee Page.

Link:

https://www.stanleywhitman.org/

Museum Impressions and Virtual Revisit: Old Sturbridge Village

March 11, 2021

When I was in college, I made my first visit to Old Sturbridge Village located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Old Sturbridge Village, which invites each visitor to find meaning, pleasure, relevance, and inspiration through the exploration of history, is the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast that depicts a rural New England town of the 1830s. There are more than 40 original buildings, including homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, working farm, three water-powered mills, and trade shops, which are situated on more than 200 scenic acres. The buildings were moved to the area between the late 1940s and early 1970s. Inside the Village, there are authentically costumed historians and farm animals to talk with and interact with on a regular visit or during various programs they offer.

As a member and treasurer of the historical society club, other members and I visited a number of times including during the Christmas by Candlelight program. I remember traveling to the Village while it was dark out to walk through, visit the buildings decorated in holiday decorations, and seeing the display of gingerbread houses for a gingerbread house contest. I also visited Old Sturbridge Village a few times after I graduated.

It has been a while since I last visited Old Sturbridge Village, and I decided to make another visit since I thought I would see how much has changed. This time it will be a virtual visit. Recently, Old Sturbridge Village designed and released the link to a virtual experience called 3D Tours as part of Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village. The Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village offers content created by the interpreters and farmers for Old Sturbridge Village’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Interpreters share fun facts, activities, recipes, and more, while the farmers shared updates with photos and videos of the animals. The Village also released more content within their 3D tours.

According to the website, 3D Tours are supported in part by a grant from the Webster Cultural Council, a local agency that is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. At the time I made this visit, the following buildings were available in the virtual tour: the Asa Knight Store, the District School, the Pottery Shop, the Freeman Farm, the Sawmill, the Printing Office, and the Fenno House. To learn more about these buildings, they include brief histories of the buildings that include when and where they were built, when they moved to Old Sturbridge Village, and what they were used for. Also, the tours allow virtual visitors to get up close to artifacts that are usually behind barriers such as the catalog in the Asa Knight Store and the pottery on the shelves of the Pottery Shop. There are pins throughout the tours to look closer or learn new information, and new videos with some of the Village’s knowledgeable costumed historians to bring the spaces to life.

While I was experiencing the virtual tours, there were many observations I made at each place. The first building I visited was the Asa Knight Store where I was able to go behind the counters to see numerous items that the store sold on shelves, in drawers, and underneath the counter; there were a few pins that described the items in the store including information on textiles. When I visited Old Sturbridge Village in the past, I spent most of my time in the front of the store since there is so much to see and so little time to see it all in at each visit I made, and on this virtual trip I was able to spend more time in the store and learn more about the store. For example, I saw a china and ceramics crate that had plates inside it in a room where hats were being made and in the next room there are a number of items including Prussian Blue pigments they sold, and the pigments were used to make paint. The next place I went into was the District School.

Asa Knight Store
Asa Knight Store: China and Ceramics

I do not remember going inside the District School during the last time I visited Old Sturbridge Village, so I decided to check it out. The focus of the building was to share information and ask visitors about the classroom in the 1830s versus today. My visit reminded me of my experience teaching students about the one-room schoolhouses at Noah Webster House and the Long Island Museum. Inside the classroom, the staff provided information about the Blue Back Speller used by students to learn how to read and it was written by Noah Webster. I used a reproduction of the Blue Back Speller as a museum educator while teaching about schoolhouses to share with students who visited Noah Webster House. I then moved on to the Pottery Shop & Kiln. Inside the Pottery Shop, there is a video on making pottery the staff shared and I noticed a clay cellar among the numerous pottery and glazes.

District School
Pottery Shop & Kiln

Then I went to explore the Freeman Farm and the Sawmill. Inside the house of the Freeman Farm, there is a video that describes what farm life was like in the 1830s located in the kitchen; also, there was information about dinner, food preservation, farm animals, dairying and the buttery, garden, and the root cellar. While I was exploring, I tried to explore a little more of the grounds but was limited to only the house and around the house. I would have loved to see more of the other buildings on the farm including the barn. When I was at the Sawmill, I saw the video on the saw and how it works and was able to see it up close behind the barriers. They also included a Woodland Walk booklet pdf which had information about New England trees and there was also information in another pin about the New England Landscape.

Sawmill
Freeman Farm

The final two places I visited were the Printing Office and the Fenno House. In the Printing Office, I was able to go behind the barrier to see the printing press up close where there are pins revealing information on how the machine was operated and how they were trained to operate it. Also, a video is shared to explain what it is like to work in the printing office. Inside the Fenno House, half of the house is set up as a historic house and the other half has exhibits. On the first floor, there was the kitchen and an exhibit with the spinning wheel and loom describing how each of them were used to create fabrics for the home. On the second floor, there was a bed chamber on one side of the house and on the other side was an exhibit display of clothing and a few pieces of furniture.

The Printing Office
The Fenno House

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of re-visiting Old Sturbridge Village in a virtual capacity. I appreciate their efforts in encouraging visitors to ask themselves what is similar and different to their daily lives today versus the time periods each site introduces. I wonder if they are going to include more buildings in the virtual tour, and if they do, I will certainly return to experience these virtual tours. Also, I like that not only the staff introduced virtual tours but also developed resources to be utilized along with the tours.

The resources they provided are lesson plans, hands-on activities, and other links including their online collections. Old Sturbridge Village provided these resources to help other educators teach their students history, and it is one of many examples I have seen of museums sharing educational resources while we are all figuring out how to carry on while we are still going through the pandemic.  The lesson plans I have seen are designed for students in grade levels 3rd through 5th grade, and in addition to the lesson plans and pdfs they included a link to their Google classroom with fillable documents that educators can download and assign to their students. Plus, there are hands-on activities one can download to be used alongside the virtual tours including “Make Your Own Cardboard Loom” with the Fenno House tour, and the “Home Scavenger Hunt” with the Asa Knight Store tour.  

I recommend experiencing the virtual tours for yourselves if you want to spend time learning more about Old Sturbridge Village.

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

Links:

Old Sturbridge Village: Virtual Village

3D Tours

3D Tours Resources

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