#NYCMER2019: the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow of Museum Education

May 16, 2019

It is that time of year again to talk about the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Conference. On Monday, May 13, 2019, the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) held a conference for museum and museum education professionals, and this year was special because this is the 40th anniversary of NYCMER. In honor of its anniversary, the theme of the conference was “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” and was located again at the Teachers College at Columbia University. Like last year, I posted throughout the conference as a social media journalist to cover the sessions I went to.

On the morning of the conference, I went in to New York City with my husband as he was going in to work. By the time I arrived, I checked in and got ready to sit in the keynote session. The keynote session was when NYCMER related announcements and the conference’s theme was introduced and discussed through the keynote speaker. This year’s keynote speaker was Christy Coleman who serves as the CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Virginia. She discussed how she helped orchestrate the merger of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar with the Museum of the Confederacy to create the American Civil War Museum. Also, she talked about how the staff and board of the American Civil War Museum work to fulfill its’ new mission to include more than one narrative of the American Civil War experience including talking more about the Native Americans, immigrant groups, and Mexicans who were often overlooked when educating school children about the Civil War.

Lindsey Steward-Goldberg @Steward2Lindsey

  May 13

I’m officially at #NYCMER2019 ! Any #MuseumEdChat at the conference this year? I’ll see you around #NYCMERsmj

Lindsey Steward-Goldberg ‏@Steward2Lindsey

  May 13

 We don’t talk about Native Americans, immigrant groups, Mexicans (African Americans escaped to Mexico to be free). There is so much that not many people knew about the Civil War. #NYCMER2019 #NYCMERsmj

After the keynote session, the first morning session I attended was called Empathy Mapping: Teachers on a School Field Trip. Empathy mapping, according to the session description from the conference pamphlet, is the process of diagramming qualitative user data in order to create a visual representation of the user’s needs and pain points. We participated in an empathy mapping exercise to promote user driven change and to improve how educators facilitate school field trips at our institutions. By learning the results from the empathy mapping created by the research team at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum and participating in the exercise, we would employ the methods we learned to improve our school field trips.

Lindsey Steward-Goldberg @Steward2Lindsey

  May 13

  Instructions for our empathy mapping exercise. How to create an empathy map? #NYCMER2019 #NYCMERsmj

The second session I attended was called What We Say and How We Say It: Audio and Verbal Description that Consider Social and Historical Context. In this session, session speakers Justin Allen (New York City-based writer, performer, and art worker) and Kayla Hamilton (visually impaired artist, producer, and educator) helped us learn to answer questions like the following: How might verbal description and audio description present opportunities for discussing the ways artworks and performances address race, gender, and disability? Who or what are we describing, how are we describing, and why? We also participated in an activity where we were given a copy of an oil painting called Baby by Emma Amos and a worksheet to break down key information about the painting and the artist then write down our own description. On my worksheet, I started my description by describing the specific shapes as I would see them from left to right, then describes shapes that looked like a pair of legs, and the person (woman) in the painting; I connected it to the social and historical context by making an assumption that the painting might be a self-portrait and went into detail about the artist’s background.

During the lunch break, I attended the poster sessions which shared various projects and programs that museum educators have facilitated to help move museum education forward and it took place in an informal marketplace setting. For instance, I spoke with a presenter who talked about an arts program that collaborated with other organizations to help educate students about gun issues. Also, in honor of the 40th anniversary, I purchased a tote bag with the NYCMER logo and 40th anniversary embroidered on the tote. After having lunch, I attended the first afternoon session called Big Issues for Young Mind: Teaching climate, race, and other difficult topics. The session was described according to the conference pamphlet as:

As museum educators, we often are tasked with addressing “big issues” with our students. These are complex problems where it is essential to understand the past and present in order to think creatively about the future. In this session, we will use examples from two of these issues– race and climate change– to discuss how we can empower students of all ages to tackle issues we ourselves can find challenging. This session will provide tools to address some of the most difficult topics our institutions cover, as well as how to use the past and present to instill hope about the future.

During the session, we learned about how session presenters Clare Blackwell (School Partnerships Coordinator at Wave Hill) and Es-Pranza Humphrey (Teen Programs Associate at the New York Historical Society) educate school groups about the difficult topics. We also gathered into groups and were given scenarios to discuss among ourselves, then eventually with the rest of the participants, how we would handle the situation if we were faced with them in our practice at our institutions.

Lindsey Steward-Goldberg  @Steward2Lindsey

  May 13

 Possible reasons why race is a difficult topic to talk about. #NYCMER2019 #NYCMERsmj

The last session I attended was called Technology in Museums: when it works, and when it doesn’t. In the session description, it stated that

Right now we are feeling tons of pressure to add ‘technology’ into everything we do. When does that make sense? When does introducing technology actually take away from our objective? How can we figure this out before pouring thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours into a ‘new’ technology product? This session will dive deep into these questions in a roundtable format. Presenters will highlight a few examples of their own tech/museum collaborations (including major fails) and a format for thinking through a technology decision. Then we will break into groups to workshop current technology questions you are facing.

While we were waiting for the session to start, we were encouraged to write down a technology that we are proud of and a technology we wished to not use either for personal or professional use. Once we heard the example of technology that made booking, scheduling, and managing registrations for school programs easier from the speakers Meg Davis (founder of Explorable Places, an online platform that facilitates field trip discovery and registration), Melissa Branfman (Museum Director at Wyckoff House Museum), and Danielle Hilkin (Director of Education & Outreach at the Wyckoff House Museum), we broke into groups to discuss current technology questions faced in our museums and figure out what we could do to facilitate our use of the current technology and how to improve the experience of using technology in our spaces.

At the end of the sessions I attended the Concluding Reception located in the Learning Theater inside the Teachers College. There was a raffle in which I won two VIP passes to the Intrepid Museum. As usual, I enjoyed the conference and I wished I was able to attend more of the sessions because it was hard to only chose the four sessions. Also, I think it would be great to have some more representation of museum professionals that are not in the education field since museum educators often collaborate with them especially curators and collections managers. I once again thank NYCMER for a wonderful and informative conference.

To learn more about NYCMER, visit the website: http://www.nycmer.org

How Education Theory is Used in Museums

May 2, 2019

During my experience in museums, I have taught many school programs and learned a number of methods to educate students. Each experience taught me more about educating students within a museum and classroom management. My first experience in educating school programs began with my internship at Connecticut’s Old State House in which there were about 150 students between kindergarten and fifth grade. Because there was a diverse range of age groups on that day, I was introduced to the idea that there are different approaches for each age. When I worked at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, I was introduced to the idea of pre- and post-visit outreach programs where museum educators go to the schools to introduce and follow up with students before and after their visit to the Noah Webster House. Each of my experiences in history museums and historic house museums introduced me to object-based and inquiry-based teaching methods.

Object and inquiry based methods are used to help students connect with the past with observations and asking questions. These methods helped me understand and utilize the constructivist method, or constructivism, which I learned more about during my experiences at the Long Island Explorium, the children’s science museum. According to the Exploratorium in San Francesco that uses this method, constructivism refers to the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves as they learn and the outcome is twofold: educators have to focus on the learner in thinking about learning and there is no knowledge independent of the meaning attributed to experience. This can be applied to museums especially during family programs in which learning is seen as a social activity. During my time at the Explorium, I have seen adults and children work together at each exhibit to help their children foster their own problem-solving skills. I also gained knowledge in education methods outside of my museum experiences.

Professional development programs have also helped me learn about the ways to educate students within a museum. Late last year for example I took an online course through American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) on Museum Education and Outreach, and one of the focuses was education program planning, management, and evaluation. To move forward in learning about planning, managing, and evaluating programs, I used the knowledge I gained on audience characteristics, interests, and needs, observed some visitors in real time, and explored the role of interpretation in education and programs to build foundation for this lesson. My classmates and I were given resources to use as part of our lesson including the National Standards & Best Practices for U.S. Museums from the American Association of Museums (now American Alliance of Museums), and standards for audiences, interpretation and programs through AASLH. We also used The Museum Educator’s Manual by Anna Johnson, Kimberly A. Huber, Nancy Cutler, Melissa Bingmann, and Tim Grove for the majority of the course especially this lesson. One of our assignments was to answer questions about developing an education policy, participate in discussions about developing education policies for museums, and if our museums do not have one to begin a draft of an education policy. A response I had for the assignment was relevant to the Three Village Historical Society:

What we hope for an education policy is to address how educators, both staff and volunteers, should interpret the historical narrative of local history. We also hope all educational programming will show how local history fits into the national historical narrative to reach out to out-of-state audiences who come to tour the Historical Society.

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. With my experience in this course, I hope to not only exercise what I learned within the institutions I work for but I also hope to build on what I learned through more development opportunities.

Earlier tonight, I participated in #MuseumEdChat, a discussion group on Twitter, which was about best practices in education/pedagogy/theory. The discussions include answering a number of questions and each participant provides their input. One of the questions posed was:  What formal classroom practices do you currently use to help connect with students who visit for school trips? Based on my past experiences, I responded with: At the end of the session or end of the program, I would ask the group questions to see how much they picked up on what was taught during the program. I usually have bring home materials for them to take. I have read other participants’ responses and each one bring up valid points. For instance, one has pointed out that they try to make sure that the programs are structured similarly to what their district does. It is important because to attract schools to coming to the museums for school programs not only do the costs effect their decisions but knowing if the program will supplement what they are learning in the classroom would be appealing to the teachers considering booking field trips. It is also important that school programs should put emphasis on skills they will use throughout their lives such as communication and creative thinking skills.

Another question that was asked during the #MuseumEdChat was Classroom management can be hard in a museum because of excitement, different enviro, new teacher, etc. What tricks or tips do you use? I agree that classroom management can be hard because museum educators are most likely going to work with a particular group once and are not always going to have an opportunity to keep their knowledge developing unless if the museum education program has post visit in-school programs. When I deal with managing school groups, I think about how I witnessed the teachers manage their classes and I would take those skills with me to each experience. For instance, my response to the question was: I sometimes depend on chaperones and teachers to help with classroom management but I find that in the past they consider the trip as a vacation for them so I use tricks that I’ve learned from teachers when I do in-school trips such as “1, 2, 3 eyes on me”. While as a field we have been pushing towards getting teachers and chaperones more involved, we understand it is a challenge since the past approach to chaperoning is still engrained in the field trip mindset. Creating activities that encourage adult and student participation is a good start in the right direction for chaperone and teacher involvement.

The next example of the questions asked during the discussion was: When developing activities for school groups, do you find that you use more formal education theory/pedagogy? Why? What do you use? Do you feel you have to? I believe it depends on what type of groups and programs; for school programs, I use both museum association & formal education theories as guidelines, and for family/summer programs I am more lenient since they come to mostly enjoy themselves while learn something. When I plan programs, I use a combination of standards from museum associations and formal education theory. I do this when planning education programs because I think that it is helpful to use them to show schools that we keep their students’ education goals in mind when providing and it helps draw more attention to the programs if shown we are meeting standards. Using education standards from the district, state, and nation are important considerations teachers take into when deciding on whether or not they can take their students on field trips. Through experiences and professional development, I continue to learn how to educate in school programs and develop my knowledge to help move museum education forward.

Do you find some methods have worked with you better than others in field trips you participated in? As an educator, what education method has worked for you?

Resource:

https://www.exploratorium.edu/education/ifi/constructivist-learning

Museum Memories: Connecticut Landmarks Historic Houses in Hartford

April 25, 2019

In previous blog posts, I started a series of posts sharing memories of museums I have worked at. This week I am continuing this series to share my memories at Connecticut Landmarks where I started to work from towards the end of graduate school to when I moved to Long Island. Connecticut Landmarks, originally known as Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, is a state-wide network of eleven significant historic properties that span four centuries of New England history. It’s mission according to their website is to inspire interest and encourage learning about the American past by preserving selected historic properties, collections and stories and presenting programs that meaningfully engage the public and our communities. I worked as an educator and tour guide of two historic houses in Hartford, the Butler-McCook House & Garden and the Isham-Terry House.

The Butler-McCook House & Garden was home to four generations of a family who participated in, witnessed, and recorded the evolution of Main Street between the American Revolution and the mid-twentieth century. At this historic house, I sold admission, gave an introduction to the history of Hartford and the family who lived in the house, and provided a tour of the first and second floor of the house. There are a number of things I have enjoyed sharing about the house; for instance, there is a Bierstadt painting of an Italian village which reminded Reverend McCook and his wife of their honeymoon. Also, I loved sharing and listening to audio recordings of Frances McCook, one of Reverend McCook’s children, who shared memories of living in Hartford, in the house, and her family. Frances was the last living member of the McCook family who lived at the house, and she put in her will that the Antiquarian & Landmarks Society will own the house after her death. In the recordings, for instance, she talked about watching the snow come down with her siblings during the Blizzard of 1888.

In addition to sharing the information about the house with visitors, I also taught school programs, assisted with set up in gallery for monthly Cultural Cocktail Hour, and guided visitors through the garden during the Garden Gala. During my time at the Butler-McCook House, I was a part of the team that worked on revamping the tours by picking a theme of the house and researching the theme for a more engaging visitor experience. Each of us picked one theme to research on our own to present to the rest of the Connecticut Landmarks team, and I chose the Industrial Revolution and its impact on Hartford and the family.

The purpose of the theme I chose for a new tour was to show the Industrial Revolution had an impact on the city of Hartford especially on its residents including the Butlers and the McCooks. I chose five key objects that will support the theme and its purpose including Tall Case Clock which was made approximately 1750 by Benjamin Cheney, and this is an example of a locally made piece that was made before the Industrial Revolution to show the differences between craftsmanship and factory made items. Another example of a key object was the Mill Ledger C, 1818-1826 which was John Butler’s, one of the family’s ancestors’, ledger which recorded payments to men and women who labored in his paper mill; this revealed what the employees were paid for their labor in early industrial work. After selecting key objects, I chose key documents and photographs then created a tour outline highlighting the narrative relevant to the Industrial Revolution theme. While I worked at the Butler-McCook House, I also provided tours and worked programs for the Isham-Terry House.

Isham-Terry House, the lone survivor of a once vibrant Hartford neighborhood, is a time capsule of the genteel lifestyle of turn-of-the century Hartford once owned by the Isham family filled with objects of historical, artistic and family significance including antique furnishings, decorative arts, rare books, and the Terry clocks made famous by their great uncle Eli Terry. Like the Butler-McCook House, there are so many things that I found both interesting and enjoyed sharing with visitors. In this Italianate house, I loved pointing out the high ceilings not found in a lot of modern homes today and each room held numerous treasures that were well-preserved thanks to the two sisters  Julia and Charlotte Isham, who like Frances McCook left the house to the Antiquarian & Landmarks Society after they passed away. One of my favorite rooms was the library with so many books and an impressive fireplace; it once had the Isham’s pet bird that they once kept in their fridge after its death and the sisters decided one day to go to the cemetery to bury the bird with their family and have a picnic. Another room I admired was once a ladies’ sitting room that was converted into the sisters’ brother, Dr. Oliver Isham’s, doctor’s office, and once he died the sisters basically locked the door which meant it was for the most part preserved as it was while Dr. Isham was alive. While I was at Isham-Terry House, I not only gave tours of the house, I also assisted with holiday tours, and a lecture and tour for nursing students.

Both of these historic houses have unique stories to share and I recommend visiting these places if one has the opportunity to do so. These houses also are a part of my journey as a museum educator where I both learned a lot about the significance of local history and practiced what I have learned from graduate school in museum education, history, and historic preservation. Each experience I have had has taught me so much, and I hope to carry on the lessons I’ve learned through current and future endeavors.

Resources:

https://www.ctlandmarks.org/

https://www.ctlandmarks.org/butler-mccook

https://www.ctlandmarks.org/isham-terry

A New Year: What Needs to be Accomplished in the Museum Field

Added to Medium, January 10th, 2019

We are in the new year and this is the time of year when we figure out what and how we will accomplish our goals and resolutions. Museum professionals, especially myself, develop personal and professional goals. For museum professionals to accomplish the goals and resolutions, there are a number of considerations to be addressed and utilized specific with the goals and resolutions developed.

One of my goals for 2019, for example, are to gain and develop my skills as a leader in the museum education field. To accomplish this goal, I hope to take more courses and other professional development programs that will help myself move forward in my career. At the beginning of my career, I have developed skills as a museum educator. After a number of years in the field, I knew that in order to move forward I need to gain and develop new skills to challenge myself and make more impacts on the museums I work for and the field in general. Within the past few years, I focused more on professional development programs and courses, and sought opportunities that focus on administration, leadership, program development, and other related opportunities. I recently completed a course through the AASLH’s online program called Small Museum Pro!, and in the course Museum Education and Outreach I work through the basics of museum education, how to implement programming, training staff, and partnering with the community for outreach. For 2019, I will continue to seek similar professional development programs and opportunities to accomplish my career goals.

I have come across a number of blog posts I have come across reveal examples of what museum professionals should do to accomplish their goals. In a recent Leadership Matters blog post written by Joan Baldwin, she explained what museum professionals should contemplate to move readers’ careers forward. Baldwin pointed out in “It’s January: A Natural Time to Change-up Your Museum Career” that we are the ones in control of our careers, and it is up to us to make the changes we need to be happy in their career. According to Baldwin, there are a number of considerations both staff and leaders should consider for 2019:

So…if you work for an individual you suspect may have no clue about your day-to-day work life, much less your career, here are some things you may want to contemplate.

1. If you don’t already have a standing appointment with your boss, make one.

2. Outline your day, hour-to-hour, and quantify percentages so you (and your boss) can see how much of your time is spent on what.

3. Talk about prioritizing. Maybe you do a lot of nice things–maybe you’re the person who cleans out the volunteer break room or restocks the education space–and it’s nice, but you’re underutilized. You do it because others don’t, but it means you’re not doing things nearer and dear to your heart or your job description. And if you’re underutilized, you may be busy, but you’re likely not happy or challenged.

4. Evaluate whether you’re reactive or proactive. Talk with your boss about how that could or should change. Own your goals and push for them.

And if you’re a leader, think about:

1. How you communicate. Are tasks poorly executed because what staff heard was mushy and confusing? Do you ever ask “Did I explain that well enough?”

2. Listen to your staff. Watch for signs of distress. Is one job full of responsibility but no authority? Does everything have to be checked with a higher power–like you? Are other staff showing signs of boredom? Are deadlines met in five seconds?

3. Check-in often. Remember, check-ins don’t have to be formal. You can check-in in the hall or an office doorway, but they need to be meaningful. You need to have the time to focus and remember what your last conversation was about.

4. Set deadlines and keep them. Is there a sense they matter because it will take your staff about a nanosecond to realize if deadlines don’t matter to you, they don’t need to matter to them.

5. Know whether your staff is challenged or not. A recent study by Salary.com showed that more than 50-percent of employees were either not challenged or bored at work so ask yourself whether you really know what’s going on.

Both staff and leaders need to re-evaluate how they approach their responsibilities to take control of their work and open communication between both parties. This will hopefully help resolve issues and situations that create tensions within the workplace.

Another example I found is from Ed Rodley’s “Museum Challenges for 2019” on the Thinking About Museums website. Rodley collected tweets from Twitter responding to his question about what the biggest issues facing people making museum experiences in 2019. In his post, he revealed that

If I had to sum up the responses in a single statement, it would seem that you think the challenges museums face in 2019 are the following:

In a world where the global context includes existential threats like climate change and large scale social unrest, it can be a real struggle to fight the malaise and find balance, especially in a field that offers low pay for most, expects overwork to be the norm, and creates scarcity of time and resources. Exacerbating that, museum organizational culture is conservative and ill-suited to the needs and wants of audiences and employees in the current century.

We are our own worst enemies some times, and continually reinvent the wheel and perpetuate ways of doing our work that are destructive to staff and creativity. Methods and models exist in the world that could be inspirations for new ways of being a museum, but they’ll require vision and systems thinking.

I think the previous summary is accurate to what is currently happening in the museum field. We need to be able to address larger issues such as climate change but because we have so many issues going on within our own field the actions we take to addressing larger issues lead to slower processes in resolving issues. The question we all should be asking ourselves is: How are we going to address our own issues in the museum field to accomplish our goals? We need to open up communication among one another to address them and move forward to resolve them.

The Leadership Matters blog also shared their wishes for the museum field to resolve issues within the museum field. In the “It’s A New Year” blog, they shared their 2019 wish list:


o For the American Alliance of Museums [AAM] and the American Association of State & Local History [AASLH] to join forces to combat sexual harassment in the museum/heritage organization workplace.

o For museums, their boards and leadership to lead the non-profit world in closing the gender pay gap.

o For museum and heritage organization boards to commit to spending a minimum of two meetings a year on why they do what they do, what it means, and how to be better leaders.

o For museums, their boards and leadership to work toward eliminating tokenism, bias, and stereotyping throughout the hiring process.

o For AAM & AASLH to follow the lead of the American Library Association and pass a living wage resolution.

These items on the list are important for all museum professionals, museum associations, and museums to be talking about and taking action to make the changes we need to make to move museums forward in the 21st century. The items on Leadership Matters’ wish lists should be on every museum professionals’ wish list so we can accomplish our individual career goals. To accomplish what is on this wish list, again we need to open up communication, and we need to educate ourselves on the issues to change things within the museum field.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2019? How are you going to accomplish your goals?

Resources:

https://thinkingaboutmuseums.com/2019/01/07/museum-challenges-for-2019/

https://aaslh.org/programs/continuing-education/online-courses/

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2019/01/07/its-january-a-natural-time-to-change-up-your-museum-career/

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/its-a-new-year/

Books I Want to Read in 2019

Added to Medium, December 31, 2018

In honor of the new year, I am sharing a list of books I plan to read in the upcoming year. A while back I wrote a similar list for books I wanted to read in 2017, and I realized that I have not updated the list to currently reflect on what books I have come across and added to my list of books I plan on reading. These books are focused on museum education and history, both non-fiction and fiction. In the list, I will provide publishing information, descriptions, why I recommend these books, and links to see where you can get your own copy of the book.

1. 101 Museum Programs Under $100 by Lauren E. Hunley, Lanham: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Company, 2018. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538103043/101-Museum-Programs-Under-$100-Proven-Programs-that-Work-on-a-Shoestring-Budget

This book presents successful programs across the country that have been successfully presented in real museums across the country for under $100. Nearly 100 figures and photographs make this a stellar programming tool museums could use throughout the year.

Because I have worked and continue to work for small museums, this could be a useful book to help me get inspiration for education programs at the museum.

2. Designing for Empathy: Perspectives on the Museum Experience by Elif M. Gokcigdem, 2019 https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538118283/Designing-for-Empathy-Perspectives-on-the-Museum-Experience

Designing for Empathy is a volume of twenty-three essays contributed by multidisciplinary experts, collectively exploring the state of empathy for its design elements that might lead to positive behavior change and a paradigm shift towards unifying, compassionate worldviews and actions. It expands our understanding of empathy and its potential for fostering compassionate worldviews and actions through a multidisciplinary exploration in three parts: “The Object of Our Empathy” explores how we define and perceive the “Other,” “The Alchemy of Empathy” introduces thirteen design elements of empathy that might lead to transformative learning experiences, and “The Scope and the Spectrum of Empathy” highlights the importance of positioning empathy as a cross-industrial shared value for the benefit of people and the planet.

It is an important book for all museum professionals to help express the importance of empathy in our society. To improve my abilities as a museum professional, I would like to read this book to work on my abilities on how to inspire empathy and discussions about empathy within the museums I work for.

3. Why Old Places Matter: How Historic Places Affect Our Identity and Well-Being by Thompson M. Mayes, 2018 https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538117682/Why-Old-Places-Matter-How-Historic-Places-Affect-Our-Identity-and-Well-Being

It is a book that explores the reasons that old places matter to people. Although people often feel very deeply about the old places of their lives, they don’t have the words to express why. This book brings these ideas together in evocative language and with illustrative images for a broad audience. The book could help people understand that the feeling many have for old places is supported by a wide variety of fields, and that the continued existence of these old places is good.

I adore historic houses and sites, and it is where I began my career as a museum professional. I want to see how Mayes presents their evidence on how historic places affect our identity and well-being. It is a book I would recommend for anyone to understand the significance of preserving old places.

4. Leading Museums Today: Theory and Practice by Martha Morris, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018. https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442275331/Leading-Museums-Today-Theory-and-Practice

In the book, we can learn about leadership theory in both for profit and nonprofit worlds and how to effectively master the role of both leader and follower. Literature from business and non-profit management as well as the insights of current thought leaders provide lessons for the reader. The book explores the reality of change in the workplace, the standards and best practices of businesses and museums, and innovative approaches to creating a nimble and responsive organization.

I hope to improve and develop my leadership skills, and as I am taking on more managerial responsibilities it is important that I improve my knowledge of best practices in businesses and museums.

5. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 20th anniversary edition, Beacon Press; 2nd Revised edition, 2015. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0807080535/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_7?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

Silencing the Past is an analysis of the silences in our historical narratives, of what is omitted and what is recorded, what is remembered and what is forgotten, and what these silences reveal about inequalities of power.

While I was earning my Bachelor’s degree in History, I read similar books that discuss silence and historical narratives. I would like to explore this edition and have a future discussion on the blog about historical narratives and how they are presented.

6. Creating Exhibits That Engage: A Manual for Museums and Historical Organizations by John Summers, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442279362/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_8?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

The book is a concise, useful guide to developing effective and memorable museum exhibits. The book is full of information, guidelines, tips, and concrete examples drawn from the author’s years of experience as a curator and exhibit developer in the United States and Canada.

I would like to read how Summer presents in the useful guide how effective and memorable museum exhibits can be developed. This could also help me when I develop exhibits for the museums I work for.

7. Introduction to Public History: Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences by Cherstin Lyon, Elizabeth Nix, and Rebecca K. Shrum, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442272228/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_7?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

This book is a brief foundational public history textbook for use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. It is organized around the questions and ethical dilemmas that drive public history in a variety of settings, from local community-based projects to international case studies.

I would like to read this to see how this compares to the Introduction to Public History textbook I used while I was earning my Masters degree in Public History.

8. Makeology: Makerspaces as Learning Environments, Edited by Kylie Peppler, Erica Halverson, and Yasmin B. Kafai, Routledge, 1st edition, 2016. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1138847771/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_1?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

Makeology introduces the emerging landscape of the Maker Movement and its connection to interest-driven learning. While the movement is fueled in part by new tools, technologies, and online communities available to today’s makers, its simultaneous emphasis on engaging the world through design and sharing with others harkens back to early educational predecessors including Froebel, Dewey, Montessori, and Papert. Makerspaces as Learning Environments (Volume 1) focuses on making in a variety of educational ecosystems, spanning nursery schools, K-12 environments, higher education, museums, and after-school spaces. Each chapter closes with a set of practical takeaways for educators, researchers, and parents.

Since my background is mainly in history, and if I continue to work within the science museum field, I would like to read more about Makerspaces and figure out how the information presented in the book can help my colleagues and myself see the potential our makerspace can have in our museums.

What books do you want to read in 2019? Do you have any recommendations for all of us to read?

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!!

Moving Forward in 2019 for Museum Education

Added to Medium, December 20, 2018

This past year has flown by so quickly and a lot has happened in both my career and in the museum field. For instance, I have written the 100th blog post, and I am thankful for everyone who has read and commented on the blog. With the rest of the Education Committee at the Three Village Historical Society, I completed the revamp of the docent manual and we are preparing for a docents’ appreciation luncheon to thank the docents and go over the new manual. Also, I completed an online course through the American Association for State and Local History on Museum Education and Outreach.

The course is part of the AASLH’s Small Museum Pro! Certificate program, a professional certificate program for history practitioners who work or would like to work, in small local museums. This course’s main theme is about how museum educators can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums. During the eight weeks for the course, myself and other participants worked through the basics of museum education, how to implement programming, training staff, and partnering with the community for outreach. By the end of the course, we were able to:

describe the characteristics and learning needs of various museum audiences

summarize what we know about learning in museums

assess the strengths and weaknesses of interpretive techniques and program approaches

utilize a system for planning, operating, and evaluating museum educational programs

access resources to assist you in future development of effective learning experiences

Some of the topics that we went over for each week include Interpretation Strengths, Weaknesses, and Best Practices, Education Program Planning, Management, and Evaluation, Community Partners and Funding, Leading Staff and Volunteers, and Action Plan for Future Programming at your Museum. After completing the course, I felt that taking this course not only helped strengthen the skills I have as a museum educator but I also gained new techniques and advice on how to proceed with developing and implementing educational programs. This course has provided a number of opportunities to discuss with other class participants ideas based on our experiences and give each other advice.

The museum field has also made some progress and I hope we continue to make progress in the next year. Museum professionals discussed the importance of self-care for all museum professionals especially for museum educators. As we come to the end of the year, a number of museum professionals are continuing the discussion about self-care. For instance, on the Leadership Matters blog, Joan Baldwin wrote in her post “Museum Women: Take Care of Yourselves” on what female museum professionals should think about moving forward into the new year. Baldwin listed five things to think about which are

1. You need to take care of yourself. You, your family, and your friends will all benefit from a happier, healthier you.

2. Put your health first. Somehow women don’t. It’s something embedded in our DNA that says, I can do this. My temperature is only 101. I haven’t pick one: (thrown up, cried, coughed up a lung) for at least an hour. No you can’t. Stay home. Ask for help. Take care of yourself.

3. Give yourself some alone time. Even if it’s only a short walk in the middle of a work day, take time alone. Let your thoughts settle. Regroup.

4. My mother used to have a little note near her phone. This was the era of landlines so the phone never moved. The note said, “Say no.” I thought it was hysterical, but in retrospect, we all should have that note. It’s your internal monitor that says, I don’t have time, energy or the skillset to do that. (It also might say, I’m not going to enable you, you do it.) It’s a learned skill to say no nicely, and not to judge yourself for bowing out.

5. Make a tiny change. Promise yourself that in the coming year you will do something different that’s just for you. Don’t make it so grandiose that it feels impossible, make it doable. Try a new recipe once a month. Walk every day that it’s sunny. Read a poem before bed. Whatever floats your boat and is for you.

While these can be applied to all museum professionals, museum women especially need to think about this because according to reports listed in Baldwin’s post they are more likely to work harder and spend less time on taking care of themselves. There is also more discussion about low salaries and equity within the museum.

A number of museum associations are requiring museums who want to post available jobs to list salary information to create more equitable opportunities for job seekers in the museum field. Also, more people are talking about the consequences of giving museum workers low salaries as evident in Seema Rao’s post Giving Tuesdays and Low Salaries in Museums. I have also given my own thoughts about low salaries in the museum field in one of my previous posts reacting to Rao’s post. While having discussions about raising salaries and creating equitable workplaces is important, more action to make them a reality needs to continue to move the museum field forward and we should take more action each year.

Also, the American Alliance of Museums announced that last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The IMLS supports all types of museums in their work to educate students, preserve and digitize collections, and connect with their communities. Reauthorization of IMLS means that there is support for the agency’s programs and a renewed commitment to its funding. Advocacy for museums do not end as long as there is progress to be made in the museum field. As I think about the past year, my thoughts naturally turned to what I want to accomplish next year.

I hope to continue to develop my skills as a museum professional, and to gain more experience in the field to provide more influence on progress for museums. By progressing to a more managerial role, I would be able to effect change on a higher level. In addition to my professional life, I am looking forward to getting married this upcoming March and spending more time with family.

Happy Holidays to you all! Happy New Year!

Because next week is Christmas, I will not post a new blog post for that week but I will be back to share with you an updated list of books I want to read in 2019.

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you: What would you like to accomplish for the new year?

Resources:

https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/12/17/museum-women-take-care-of-yourselves/

Reaction: Giving Tuesday & Low Salaries in Museums

Added to Medium, December 6, 2018

Many museum professionals, as well as non-profit professionals, are familiar with Giving Tuesday. This takes place annually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to ask shoppers to consider donating money to non-profit organizations, and museums also participate in asking visitors to donate to help support museums. It is ironic that while museums participate in Giving Tuesday to convince people to give charity to these museums, museum executives and boards are not using the same mentality of charity to its hard-working staff. While I was celebrating Thanksgiving and working at the Long Island Explorium, I came across the blogpost “Giving Tuesday & Low Salaries in Museums” by Seema Rao, and I started to think about the current state of museum professionals’ salaries and working conditions. Articles and blog posts like this one prove that while we are bringing more awareness to the situation we have so far to go to make the changes we need to make for our museums. Another thing that these articles,blog posts, seminars, etc. about salaries and the museum workforce have in common is the salary is the most talked about topic in our field right now.

Our field needs to be doing more to make changes in how we pay our staff and the working conditions in the museum. As Rao pointed out, staff are aware of how low their salaries are:

Junior staff members see their peers making vastly more in other sectors. Colleagues are learning that peers in other parts of their organizations are making more for the same job, and they are unhappy. Mid-career professionals are looking around for other jobs that pay better.

Museum educators are definitely not happy with the current state of salaries in the field. It was one of the topics discussed in NYCMER’sprogram last year “Career Growth in Museum Education” in which we not only focused on  how to build and sustain careers in museum education but we talked about the survey results from the “Why are Great Museum Workers Leaving the Field?” survey conducted in September 2016. According to the results of the survey, which were also shared in the “Leaving the Museum Field” article on AAM’s website, the pay was too low was the number one reason respondents who answered why they left the field. 

I also wrote a reaction piece to the AAM article last year highlighting my thoughts about the conditions of the museum field. In that post, I said that 

I still believe museums can illuminate an individual’s educational experience, and by continuing in the museum field I hope to make an impact on the public. It is a challenge to accomplish this when there are things that prevent me from fulfilling this goal.

This statement is just as true now as it was then. Unfortunately, for many museum professionals including myself, the challenges preventing us from fulfilling our goals in our careers is continuing to present problems that make us want action to be taken to correct our field sooner. And we should be not only having more open discussions about salaries with one another and with our executives we need to see results to keep our passions for our work alive. 

We cannot make effective change without bringing awareness of this issue to the executives and museum boards who make the big decisions to run the museum. Rao has pointed out that

Museums replicate some elements of corporate America, giving their CEO’s higher salaries. But, they have chosen to ignore others. Lower level staff generally doesn’t have any perks that keep them there. Flex time, infinite vacation, and profit-sharing don’t generally exist in museums. Instead, museum staff members remain in place due to their drives and hopes. There is the dream that their penury will have a long-term payoff when they get to the top, or their martyrdom is worth being part of this amazing mission. For others, there is no job mobility. The majority of cities in America don’t have enough museums for professionals to move from museum job to museum job without moving. In other words, museum executives get the benefit of corporate salaries while leading a group of people who might feel trapped by their ideals.

By changing the way museums are run to make them resemble corporations, the staff are the ones that pay the price of greater hardship within their personal and professional lives. While we may be holding on to our passions for museums and to our hopes of having a long-term payoff for the hard work we put in, we cannot hold on forever. Eventually, if we have not done so already, will burn out and be trapped in a never-ending loop of the hardship while the higher ups will reap the rewards they see in their paths.

A question was posed in the blog post that resonatedwith me: If we can’t even preserve our staff at a living wage, why should people trust us with their collections or money?

Since the purpose of many museums is to preserve its collections, we will not be able to do the work that we do if museums continue down this path of paying its staff low wages. What museum executives and boards seem to not realize, as Rao has beautifully stressed in her post, is the staff engage with the visitors on a regular basis and the visitors’ impressions of the museum also depend on how the staff treats them. Staff members may be able to conceal their unhappiness with their work conditions and low salaries, but there may be days that they are  unable to conceal it as well and this could easily effect how they interact with the visitors. 

If the executives and boards are not willing to properly compensate their staff with living wages and create a safe work environment, then how can they convince visitors to come into our doors?

For those who do not workin the museum field, please keep in mind what museum workers are going throughand be supportive to them. To learn more, please read the following sources:

https://www.medium.com/@artlust/giving-tuesday-low-salaries-in-museums-b4080566c81b

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/09/27/leaving-the-museum-field-a-reaction-to-the-alliance-labs-blog/

https://www.aam-us.org/2017/09/22/leaving-the-museum-field/

Museum Impressions, John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum

Added to Medium, November 29, 2018

In previous posts, I wrote about museums I have visited during my childhood. This time I have written about a museum I visited while I was in college and my cousin was visiting from Italy, and she wanted to see places and museums in the Boston and Cape Cod area during her visit.

Growing up I went to Hyannis with my sisters to visit our maternal grandparents in the town of Centerville. My sisters, my cousins, and I would spend time at our grandparents’ house playing dress up in our grandmother’s old clothing, visit the Penny Store to buy candy, and went to the beach to feed seagulls. At least one of the times we drove around Hyannis, we passed by the beach area where the Kennedys sailed their boat. It was not until I was in college that I knew of and was able to visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. I remember walking through the exhibits and seeing the legacy that Kennedy had left behind especially in Hyannis.

It has been a while since I havevisited the museum, and I decided to explore their website to see what theyhave been up to since I was there. A number of exhibits were placed in themuseum over the years and a couple of current exhibits are Robert F. Kennedy: Ripple of Hope and Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe. The Robert F. Kennedy: Ripple of Hope exhibit, that is assembled incollaboration with RFK Human Rights Foundation, highlights an impromptu speechhe gave before a large group of distraught onlookers the night Martin LutherKing, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968 just weeks after Kennedy announced hisbid for the presidency. The Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe exhibit features intimate,behind-the-scenes images of John F. Kennedy, his wife, Jacqueline, and theirchildren, Caroline and John, taken by Kennedy’s personal photographer. Inaddition to the exhibits, the Museum offers a number of educational programsespecially for children. 

The Museum’s education programs teach students from preschool through high school the value of civic engagement by beginning with President Kennedy’s legacy and then organize age-appropriate experiences, infused with critical thinking skills, a key tenet of civic engagement, into the lessons. In the preschool program, preschoolers from Cape Cod Child Development Program/Head Start have learned the importance of family and community. Early elementary students participated in lessons with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) theme. Fourth and fifth graders have learned to “use their voice” in their lessons to communicate with local, state, and national officials. Meanwhile, middle school students learn how the Constitution impacts the presidency, through both the election process and the president’s responsibilities. High school students participate in the Federal Budget Simulation, working in collaborative groups to organize and defend their funding of the fourteen discretionary accounts in the federal budget. There are other programs that are outside of the school programs offerings.

For instance, the Museum has the Art Curator Program and Camp Kennedy. TheArt Curator Program, with four participating high schools, allows students toshowcase their knowledge of President Kennedy’s legacy through art, with piecesthat they create and then showcase in an exhibition. Camp Kennedy, which isheld in the summer, is a one day camp open to students who will begin grades 2,3, and 4 designed to engage the youth of our country in exploring Kennedy’slegacy of leadership. The lessons in the camp help campers develop criticalthinking skills, civic engagement, and science, technology, engineering,mathematics and art (STEAM). John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum offers a variety ofpublic programs that are relevant to the mission and Kennedy’s legacy.

Museum programs at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum include lectures, screenings, book signings, receptions, live webcast viewings, family events and exhibit openings. A few examples of upcoming events include “JFK and the Cold War: Video Presentation of speaker Dr. Sergei Khrushchev” which is a screening and discussion of the Video Presentation of speaker Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, son of former soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, discussing JFK’s and Khrushchev’s relationship, and challenges of the cold war and their relevance to today. Another example is “Brian Murphy, Author of Adrift: Lecture and Book Signing” which is a lecture and book signing event with Washington Post Journalist and author Brian Murphy who will discuss about and sign copies of his new book Adrift: A True Story of Tragedy on the Icy Atlantic and the One Who Lived to Tell about It. The next example is “The Cahoons and the Kennedys: Discussion” which discusses the Cape Cod folk artists, Ralph and Martha Cahoon and the Kennedys’ interest in collecting their works. The Museum is also working on an expansion project to create more space in the museum for its programming.

The renovation project includes construction of a 50-seat state-of-the-art auditorium and media room with a 100 seat community room and configurable tables and chairs that will support Museum-wide programming. On their website, they ask for donations that will support the transformation of the Museum’s antiquated lower level, contemporary educational curricula, advanced media capabilities, and collection and artifact growth. By accomplishing the previously listed goals for the renovation, the Museum is working to create a modern venue where they can better serve the community and continue their work to inspire active and informed civic engagement thereby ensuring the JFK legacy, and the Museum, remain relevant and sustainable for generations to come. There has been a lot of changes since I last visited the museum, and I hope this museum continues to move forward in educating visitors about civic engagement and Kennedy’s legacy.

What are your impressions of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum?

John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum: https://jfkhyannismuseum.org/

How Museums Are Looking Back and Moving Forward

Added to Medium, October 25, 2018

As museums plan for the future, museum professionals are looking back at how much progress the museum field has come and how much we still need to accomplish as a field. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the field within the museum walls and within our communities. There are numerous examples of this push to move forward in the museum field. I have previously mentioned the changes museums are working towards continuing to be relevant in the community and the world in many posts in the past. I will mention a couple of recent examples I have come across that express this point.

Professional development programming, especially conferences, have sessions that stress how museums can adapt to changes in communities and society. This year I am returning to attending the New England Museum Association conference since I was not able to attend previous conferences once I moved to Long Island. Next month, the NEMA conference will celebrate its 100th annual conference. This conference’s theme is Museums on the Move, and each session investigates how museums have evolved since the very first NEMA conference and how they are positioning themselves for success in the century ahead. One of the points that was addressed about this year’s conference that is very poignant was:

It’s our field’s chance to take stock - to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we are going, and to reset our GPS if necessary along the way.

We are still trying to figure out as a field what we need to improve our field and our relationship with the community around us. I am looking forward to participating in this year’s conference, and learning how the museums I am with and how all museums can move forward in adapting to changes in our institutions and in our society.

Another recent example is within tonight’s MuseumEdChat on Twitter about museums and specialty programs. We talked about the topic Evaluating the Effectiveness of Specialty Programs by looking at cultural heritage or history month programming, along with large anniversaries or milestone celebrations. The first question that was addressed is What “specialty” programs (i.e. Women’s History Month, Native American Heritage Month, etc.) are out there in museums and cultural institutions? There are varying answers to this question depending on what type of museum and what their focus is in programming.

The next question asked was: In your opinion, what makes a good specialty program? Of course there were varying opinions since these museum professionals work in museums that are different types. For instance, I mentioned science museums in my opinion:

A2 For science, I believe what would make a good specialty program is paying attention to what is happening in current events i.e. climate changes. #museumedchat

Another opinion I came across in the Twitter conversation was focused on history museums.

A2: For history…1- Asking how the subject applies to the present/future. 2- General commitment to finding stories about a group of people. #museumedchat

Since I also work in a historical society, I concur with this opinion since keeping history relevant is especially important for all programming and exhibits in history museums and historic sites. One of the final questions in this discussion was about the side effect of having specialty programs.

The question specifically asked was: What are the downsides and/or general pitfalls of specialty programs? One of the answers that stood out to me was:

A3- it is easy to get wrapped up in the same old programming with specialty program. I also think it can create misconceptions if not done correctly, especially if it’s about a cultural group. Lastly, it worries me that sometimes we limit to heroes and holidays…. #museumedchat

This stood out to me because I think this is a common concern for many museum educators especially since we have so much more to offer than what we commonly do for programming. I do not think that we can resolve this situation with one recommendation since each museum is different and has a different focus in education programming.

Online communities, like #MuseumEdChat, are great examples of how museum professionals are continuing the discussions of how museums should move forward with changes needed for museums to be relevant for today’s society and community.

What are your museums and organizations doing to continue the discussion of how your organization has changed and will continue change?

Summer Memories, and How to Prepare for the Upcoming School Year

Added to Medium, August 24, 2018

Most of the summer for museum educators is dedicated to organizing the school programs for the upcoming school year. Since we also focus on practicing self-care, museum educators also focus their summers on spending time enjoying the summer vacation. With schools starting soon, a lot of our minds especially museum educators reflect on what has been accomplished during the summer and finalize programs for the upcoming school year.

This week’s main topic on #MuseumEdChat’s Twitter discussion was a recap of our summers. Participants were asked to share where we went during the summer (from far away places to a couple of blocks away), books, articles, and what skills we learned outside of the field that we can adopt into our practice as museum educators. Also, we were encouraged to share photographs from our summer experiences. The memories I have shared with #MuseumEdChat are:

I took part in planning and executing Culper Spy Tour in collaboration with the @fairfieldmuseum and I planned and executed a test summer program for the Three Village Historical Society #MuseumEdChat

@Museumptnrs
Q2: Read any good books (or articles or magazines or blogposts or listened to podcasts)? Tell us! They can be #museum or work related, or not… we all need to escape now and then… #MuseumEdChat
A2 I am currently reading The Forgotten Founding Father by Joshua Kendall about Noah Webster (shout out to @NoahWebHouse where I used to work!) and I am reading the current edition of the Journal of Museum Education #MuseumEdChat

@Museumptnrs
Q3. OK, there has to be a good story – whether it’s a #museum story or not… tell us – in 180 characters or less (or a string of replied tweets)! #MuseumEdChat
A3 I don’t know if you mean recent stories or not but the pictures of seagulls I posted reminded me of when I was a kid visiting my grandparents on the Cape my cousins, sisters, and I were feeding seagulls then suddenly a swarm of them chased us across the beach. #MuseumEdChat

Plus I also shared that I went to Robert Moses Beach in Babylon, New York with my fiancé and friends then went to one of our friends’ houses for a game night. I also shared a few photographs of seagulls from that day that reminded me of my childhood. It was a lively conversation that showed so many museum professionals enjoying their summers in and out of the field.

Now we think about what we need to do to prepare for the upcoming school year. Museum educators prepare for school visits by, and not limited to, sharing what the museums have to offer to school teachers and their students and prepare materials to have enough for each program. By advertising school programs ahead of time, teachers are made aware of what they can offer to their students to aide the lessons learned within the classroom. Museum educators also review evaluations from the previous school year to figure out how to improve the quality of their education programming to meet the standards and expectations of the visiting schools.

An upcoming resource from the New England Museum Association offers information to help museum educators prepare for this school year. According to their website, this month’s Lunch with NEMA webinar, Small Goals are Better than No Goals: An Hour for Museum Educators to Plan for Evaluation and Reflection Before the Madness Begins,

During this session, you’ll set realistic evaluation goals for the upcoming year—whether you simply want to find ways to be more reflective about your personal practice or you want to develop an evaluation plan for your entire department.

I plan to use this resource to assist myself and my teams to see how we can develop our educational programming and utilize our evaluations in the most effective way possible.

What is your plans for the upcoming year? How are your educators and/or education departments preparing for this school year?

Resource: https://nemanet.org/conference-events/lunch-nema/museum-educators/