Virtual Museum Impressions: Salvador Dali’s Dali Theatre Museum

June 10, 2021

Over the past year, I made a number of virtual visits to museums and because I enjoyed seeing how museums outside of the United States set up their virtual spaces, I wanted to make more trips to them. I chose to visit the Salvador Dali Museums in Spain not only because I found out one of my followers works there but I also appreciate visiting art museums and wanted to learn more about Salvador Dali. Dali, who was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, is a Surrealist artist whose repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography. He created the Dali Foundation which is responsible for managing the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. I decided to visit the Theatre-Museum first and in this post, I will share some highlights from my virtual experience. I know that I would not be able to see everything all at once so I will be revisiting this museum a number of times after my initial trip.

I virtually visited the Dali Theatre Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali/Teatro-Museo Dali) located in Figueres, Spain towards the end of May. According to their website, the Dali Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974. In the beginning of the 1960s, the mayor of Figueres at the time, Ramon Guardiola, asked Dali to donate a work for the Museu de l l’Empordà; in response, Dali not only donated a work, but he donated an entire museum. Dali wished to have this project located at the former Municipal Theatre of Figures that was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Today, the museum has approximately 1,500 pieces on display which allow visitors to see Dali’s artistic journey through the broad spectrum of his works from his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism, his passion for science, to the works of the last part of his life. I shared some highlights from my virtual visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum.

Main Entrance

One of the interesting things I learned in my visit is the museum not only holds Salvador Dali’s works but also another artist’s works, his friend Antoni Pitxot (1934-2015). Salvador Dali himself appointed Pitxot to be the director of the Dali Theatre-Museum which he held until his death. Dali set aside space for Pitxot’s works on the second floor of the museum as a permanent exhibition. In addition to the Pitxot exhibit, it also holds one piece that was not created by Salvador Dali. When I entered the museum, there was a collage fan that according to the caption was designed by French model and actress Amanda Lear under Dali’s guidance. I liked that the museum encourages visitors to design their own collages. The caption read: Why not try making your own collage at home. It doesn’t have to be on a fan!

Fan Collage in the Dali Theatre-Museum

         As I continued to walk through the museum, I noticed a car in the middle of the courtyard, so I decided to take a closer look of the space and the car. It was a Cadillac, known as the Rainy Taxi, that was placed inside of the museum by a crane before the building was completed. The museum included a challenge I enjoyed participating in within the virtual space for visitors to go inside the car. According to the captions, in order to get inside the car to discover what is in it one would have to click onto the spot next to the door and see if it opens then once it does try to go inside; once the challenge is completed, one is encouraged to share pictures, tag the museum, and use the hashtag #CadillacDaliChallenge on Instagram. I did the challenge and my Instagram post with more pictures from the challenge can be found in the list below.

Courtyard
Rainy Taxi

Then I continued to the Cupola to see more of the impressive architecture and the large painting that is the first piece that drew my eye within the space. Salvador Dali painted this oil painting called “Labyrinth” which was created for the ballet of the same name based on the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The ballet was first performed in 1941 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I was not only impressed with the size of the painting, but I was also impressed with the imagery Dali captured. Within the painting, there is a giant person that has a tree on its chest with an entryway underneath it seems to lead to the labyrinth which is not seen completely but tall trees and cliffs are seen; surrounding all of it is a body of water. The imagery made me wonder what could be beyond the entrance, and what is there that I could not see. I thought the painting really represented the surrealism he was known for, and when I think of settings for ballet, I do not immediately think of surrealist art which is why I was surprised it was a part of a ballet. Dali also designed the sets and costumes for the ballet in addition to creating this painting.

What I also learned and caught me by surprise was not only Dali created this museum, but he is also buried inside of his museum. I noticed a white slab in the middle of the floor, and it was until I revisited the Cupola that I learned underneath it lies Salvador Dali’s tomb. In his last wishes, he wanted to be buried inside of his museum and his wishes were met after he died on January 23, 1989. As far as I can remember, I do not believe I have visited a museum before in which an artist or even a museum founder is buried within the museum. It seems to me that Dali’s last wishes show his dedication to his museum, his art, and the community he was born into by becoming a physical part of a place visitors can view his works. I decided to find more information about the tomb.  While I was looking, I came across a post from a few years ago when his remains were exhumed as part of a request by Pilar Abel Martínez to take a DNA sample as part of the legal proceedings to prove she is Dali’s daughter; I included a link to this post in the list below.

Salvador Dali’s Labyrinth and his tomb

        The next room I went into is called the Mae West Room, which is a three-dimensional representation of American actress Mae West’s face converted into a living room space. I did not realize when I first went into the room that it was a face until the further I was in the room the more I recognized the living room furniture as parts of the face; then I saw the whole face when I was looking down from a small set of stairs in the room. According to the museum, this representation was based on a work he made in 1934 which was a gouache on newspaper collage called “Mae West’s Faced Used as an Apartment”; the gouache on newspaper collage is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mae West Room
Mae West Face

One of the last places I visited within the museum was within Loggia where I saw the dark room with a display of Babaouo, a film project Dali worked on in the early 1930s. He wrote a screenplay for the film in 1932 and he built in the museum a wooden box with seven panes of glass he painted in the interior, placed one behind the other and was lit from the back. I thought it was interesting that the characters in Babaouo were also in another film project called Destino which was a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. They began the short film project in 1946 after Dali signed a contract with Disney on January 14th; Dali installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. While it was a 6-to-8-minute short film, only 15 seconds was completed at the time. Destino was completed in 2003 on the basis of Dali’s original sketches.

Babaouo

        I hope to visit this museum in person one day and learn more about Salvador Dali and his works. If you have visited this museum before, virtually and/or in-person, please share your experiences in the comments. I will be visiting this museum again and I will also be planning my visits to the other museums the Dali Foundation manages. To see more pictures from the visit, check out the website’s Instagram: lbmfmuseumeducation.

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:

Dali Museums

Virtual Dali Theatre-Museum

Rainy Taxi Installation Story

The exhumation of Salvador Dali’s remains

Dali Theatre Museum: Destino

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

Announcement: Upcoming Book Project I Am Working On

April 23, 2021

When I started my Buy Me A Coffee page, my plan was to use the support for the blog and website to publish a book that would be relevant for the museum field.

           Today, I am announcing the book project that I have been researching and beginning the process of writing for. The book I am writing is on the coronavirus and the museum field. My goals for writing this book are to

  • preserve the history of the coronavirus pandemic from the perspective of the museum field,
  • describe the history of the previous pandemic over 100 years before this pandemic and how the actions taken in the past are relevant to what we have experienced starting at least since March 2020, and
  • discover how we all will move forward with the lessons we have learned.

It is a relevant book because the pandemic has made a significant impact on all around the world especially museum workers who engage with the public both within the community and inside the museum walls. A book like this one is beneficial for museum professionals, museum lovers, and individuals interested in history especially history of modern medicine.

           To write a book like this one, it is important to compile numerous resources such as relevant books, articles, and posts that will support the goals the writer set for their book. I have compiled a lengthy list of resources I am reviewing, and I will continue to compile and review resources before I finalize the official list of resources to be utilized for writing the book.

To help support this project and learn the benefits of supporting it, check out the Buy Me a Coffee Page I created here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/buy-me-a-coffee-page/

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/

Virtual Museum Impressions: Charles Dickens Museum

April 15, 2021

Most recently I decided to take another virtual trip outside of the United States to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England. Charles Dickens, who was the author of books such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and the novella A Christmas Carol, moved into this house at 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837. They raised the first three of their ten children within this house, and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby inside this house, and where he first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

        The Dickens’ home became a museum in which hosts events and exhibitions, a garden café and shop, an international center for research on Charles Dickens, and a MA program on Charles Dickens research through the University of Buckingham. Inside the house itself, there are five floors with objects that were owned by the Dickens family. Off of the entryway there is a gift shop where it leads to the café, the Water Closet (bathroom), and the special exhibition room.

         As I went through the virtual tour, I was surprised by the layout of the house since it was different from other historic house museums I previously visited both virtually and in person. For instance, the servants quarters where they cook the meals were below the first floor where the dining room was, and the servants’ sleeping quarters were on the top floor. The Charles Dickens Museum considered the main floor with the dining room and parlor to be the second floor while where the servants cooked and stored food and wine is the first floor, at least according to the virtual experience.

        Also, at the time of writing this post I noticed that in almost each room there were only two links to explain the room and one object (sometimes there is a link to learn more about the object). One object in the Entrance Hall is the large, 8-day chiming clock that is still in good working order once was displayed in the hallway of Charles Dickens’ home Gad Hill Place in the 1860s. The link led to the collections page for the clock that includes a picture of the clock with information such as its object number, when it is created, and an object note that shared a letter Dickens wrote to the clockmaker who made the clock, Sir John Bennett of Cheapside, London, regarding problems with the clock following a cleaning. I would have loved to learn more about other objects in the Entrance Hall such as the objects in the glass case and the letters in the frames displayed on the walls.

       In the study, the highlighted object in the room is the desk and chair that was originally used in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. According to the information provided by the Dickens Museum’s collections, the desk and chair were acquired by Charles Dickens in 1859, and they remained in the Dickens family after he died in 1870. Both of them were on loan to various heritage institutions, including the Charles Dickens Museum, from 1967 to 1987. They were eventually purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in 2015 with support from the National Monuments Trust and the Dickens Fellowship after years of being on loan at various places over the years. Dickens would have written portions of his novels, such as Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, on this desk.

      Not only in the interactive tour I was able to explore the house but I was also able to visit inside the gift shop and café, the small garden outside of the café, the exhibition room, and a couple of additional floors that included a meeting room where it seemed like one could do research in.

      I really appreciate that this interactive tour is available online, and I hope to visit there in person someday. I especially would like to see it in person so I could learn more about other items that the interactive tour did not share their history and their relevance to Charles Dickens’ life and/or works. To check out the Charles Dickens Museum, I posted links, including the interactive tour, below.

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:

Desk and Chair

Mahogany Clock and Shelf

Interactive Tour

About the Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens Museum Online Collection

Charles Dickens Museum Collections Database

Services Examination: Cisco

April 1, 2021

During this past year, there were a lot of webinars produced for professional development programs especially in the museum field. This is not the first time webinars have been developed and utilized but participation in them increased during this global health crisis. Since I write about the services museums could learn about and see how they could help them, I thought I would write about another one called Cisco. Also known as Cisco Systems, Inc., Cisco is an American multinational technology conglomerate headquartered in San Jose, California that develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment and other high-technology services and products.

I chose to focus more on one of their services not only because they are so many, but I thought I should focus on ones that can be helpful for education programs in museums and classrooms since one of my focuses for this blog is on education. One of the services they offer include webinar set ups called Webex.

Webex has the following features: calling, messaging, meetings, and connecting in Webex. With the Calling in Webex feature, users can enable it to get enterprise-calling features on features on desktop and mobile devices. In the Messaging in Webex feature, individuals are able to use text messaging with built-in enhanced features, such as custom presence status and custom filters, for one-on-one and group messaging. In the Meetings in Webex feature, users are able to meet securely with integrated video, audio, and content sharing on any device; it also has features such as noise removal and speech enhancement, live transcripts, and translations with Webex Assistant, to automate meeting tasks and enhance relationships. Then in the Connecting with Webex feature, users that utilize Webex realize they are able integrate with third-party apps right your existing workflows to streamline the workday. The benefits of using Webex are:

  1. Built-in security: Strong encryption, compliance, and control inside and outside of your organization.
  2. Easily deploy and manage: Intuitive, with easy provisioning, control, and management of your Webex services.
  3. Made to fit: From classroom to boardroom, to the front line, Webex is customized for your environment and workstyles.
  4. Powered by Webex: Built on the industry-trusted global Webex platform.

Cisco also promotes services that would help educators provide hybrid learning opportunities for their students.

They provide a number of hybrid learning solutions they offer to help increase student and faculty engagement, educate anywhere at any time, and provide flexible learning experiences. The hybrid learning solutions they offer are hybrid learning spaces, secure distance learning, and faculty professional development. According to the site, Cisco’s hybrid learning spaces offers to expand teaching and learning and across physical and virtual environments; they went into detail on pages for hybrid learning solutions, Cisco Webex, Webex Education Connector, and Cisco Webex Board.

Cisco shares detailed information about what they offer on their virtual platforms. I recommend taking a closer look for yourselves to see what may be appropriate for your educational interactive experiences in virtual and hybrid classrooms as well as museums. To find out more about Cisco, check out the links below.

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:

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/index.html

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collaboration/webex-call-message-meet.html

Create Hybrid Learning Environments

Cisco portfolio for education: What can we help you solve today?

Webex for Education

Cisco Webex Education Connector

Cisco Webex Board

Sneak Peak of Member Post: Let’s Revisit Butler-McCook House Genealogical Research: Then and Now

March 30, 2021

When I was working at Connecticut Landmarks’ Butler-McCook House in Hartford, Connecticut, I contributed to an online literary journal, Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovery. Founded in the spring of 2013, its mission is to publish creative works inspired by objects and images of material culture contained in museums and elsewhere. One of my former co-workers at the time was a creator on the Journal at the time, and she asked me if I could write about the research I was doing about the Butler family and McCook family genealogy. As part of my responsibilities as an educator and an interpreter at the Butler-McCook House, I needed to review the information each staff member was given to learn and incorporate more into our educating experience. I remember that what inspired me to start this project was looking at the poster board of the Butler-McCook family tree Frances McCook (the last member of the family who lived in the house) worked on and was not completed. I decided to take a look and learn about the ancestors.

It has been a while since I wrote the original post, and I decided to revisit the project and post after all this time because it is one of my earliest projects that also focuses on women’s history. I thought it would be appropriate since this month, as I am writing this post, is Women’s History Month. Another reason I wanted to revisit this project is to share how I previously approached this the research and what I learned.

While I was working at the Butler-McCook House, one of the things I really appreciated was the women’s involvement in preserving not only their family history, but Hartford history as well. Frances McCook, who was part of the fourth generation of the family who lived in the house, had a passion for history and her efforts to preserving Hartford history is admirable.

Here are the links to learn more about the Butler-McCook House, Connecticut Landmarks, and the original post I wrote for Poor Yorick Journal back in 2016:

Butler-McCook House Genealogical Research: Then and Now on Poor Yorick

Connecticut Landmarks

Butler-McCook House

If you are interested in reading more about this experience, please consider becoming a member of this website through my Buy Me a Coffee page. As a member of this website, for only $4 a month, you will be able to:

  • Access new blog posts before they are posted on my website
  • Be one of the first to find out updates on ongoing projects for the blog and website
  • Participate in group discussions on my Discord server, Looking Back Moving Forward in Museum Education‘s server
  • Access members only content where I revisit past projects I have created in my museum career, and share what I would do differently if I were creating them today
  • Send in requests on what you would like to see on the blog
    • Is there a question about the museum education field, public history, blogging, et. cetera you would like me to answer? I will create a post to answer your questions.
    • Do you want my thoughts on a book or film based or not based in history? Let me know.
    • Anything else on your mind? You can send me your requests.

You can check out my Buy Me a Coffee page here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog

A Public Historian’s Perspective on Women’s History Month

March 25, 2021

This past month we all have dedicated our time and efforts to honor women’s history. Women’s history month is especially significant for me since I am a cis woman who appreciates the focus on women’s significant contributions throughout history. However, we all need to not only acknowledge women’s history does not occur one month out of the year, but we should be honoring all women-women of color, transwomen, indigenous women-who have made an impact and are often ignored when discussing women’s history. Over the years, we celebrate women’s history month by sharing achievements women have accomplished from the past to more recent years.

Museums also take part in celebrating women’s history month by developing, promoting, and implementing exhibits and programs focused on women’s history. For instance, the Museum of the American Revolution hosted a virtual Zoom presentation called “Remember the Ladies”: The World Premiere of a New Choral Work by Dr. Melissa Dunphy that is presented with their exhibit When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807. The experience is a live broadcast from the Museum for the choral world premiere of Dunphy’s “Remember the Ladies,” which sets excerpts from the letter for a cappella mixed chorus, performed by the 40-voice community choir, PhilHarmonia. The Wisconsin Historical Society has a free online panel discussion on exploring how women’s stories and experiences can be told in new ways.

Wisconsin Historical Society’s online panel discussion Sharing Women’s History: Exploring New Stories and Formats for Engaging Audiences discussed examples of innovative programming and best practices for interpreting complex stories that will aim to engage new audiences. A couple examples include DyckmanDISCOVERED at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, which investigates the stories of enslaved people belonging to the Dyckman family and the community that is now called Inwood in New York City, as well as virtual programs and poetry festivals at The Emily Dickinson Museum. Some of the panelists include Mary van Balgooy, Vice President of Engaging Places, LLC, and Director at the Society of Woman Geographers; Meredith S. Horsford, Executive Director at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum; and Brooke Steinhauser, Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Their discussion also included the added challenges of and possibilities for engaging new audiences through virtual engagement.

The Old North Church has a Digital Speaker Series, and it is called Revolutionary Women, Live! Presented by Old North Church Historic Site and the Freedom Trail Foundation, it was an hour-long program with two historians engaging participants in learning about the unique ways women of Boston influenced and shaped the world around them throughout the centuries. They focused on some women including Anne Hutchinson, Phillis Wheatley, and Melnea Cass. Anne Hutchinson was a spiritual preacher in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century and Melnea Cass was one of Boston’s most beloved and effective advocates for African Americans in Boston. At the end of the program, there was an interactive question and answer session to help participants delve deeper into women’s history.

Three Village Historical Society has a lecture series that has been on the Zoom virtual platform over the past year, and this month the virtual lecture was The Founding Mothers of the United States. Guest lecturer author Selene Castrovilla discussed her book she wrote about founding mothers, both well-known and others that were previously not part of the narrative in our history. From the program’s description, the lecture will address that:

Many women helped shape a free and independent United States of America. These smart, brave women were ambassadors, fostering peace between Native Americans and Europeans. They risked their lives by writing, printing, and distributing information about the fight for independence. They supported their husbands during battle and even donned disguises to join the army.

Throughout the presentation, Castrovilla shared content from her book about the founding mothers in the United States. In addition to discussing the well-known founding mothers, she shared information about founding mothers whose stories are not told as much as founding mothers such as Martha Washington. For instance, there were a group of women in North Carolina who had their own protests against the unfair taxes on tea and clothing.

On October 25, 1774, about a year after the Boston Tea Party, 51 women in Edenton, North Carolina drafted and signed a declaration that they will boycott British tea and clothing until the products were no longer taxed by England. The protest became known as the Edenton Tea Party. Another example of women Castrovilla discussed about was Phillis Wheatley who was an enslaved poet.

Wheatley was born in West Africa around 1753 and was abducted by slave traders and was forced onto a ship to America when she was seven years old. She was enslaved in Boston, Massachusetts, her owner noticed how smart she was and decided to educate her which was rare since most slaves suffered under harsh conditions and were not allowed to learn to read and write. Wheatley began to write poems when she was thirteen, and her first published poem appeared in a Boston newspaper on December 21, 1767. In 1773, she sailed with her owner’s son to England where a book of her poetry was published. She was given her freedom shortly after her book was published and her return to Boston. While she wrote a poem celebrating George Washington’s selection as army commander, she also believed the issue of slavery prevented the colonists from the true heroism they could have achieved during the American Revolution. Castrovilla also shared the story of Nanyehi/Nancy Ward who was an Indigenous woman born in Chota, the Cherokee capital, which is now part of Tennessee, in 1738.

Nanyehi fought alongside her husband in a battle between the Cherokee and another Native Nation, the Muscogee Creeks. When her husband was killed during the battle, Nanyehi picked up his rifle and led the battle where she earned the title Ghigau, or “Beloved Woman”, for her bravery. She later became a leader of the Women’s Council of Clan Representatives where she excelled as negotiator and ambassador. While they were in war, Nanyehi tried to achieve peace between Indigenous people in North America and the settlers. When the Revolutionary War began, the Cherokee fought alongside the British to prevent losing more Cherokee land to the settlers, and Nanyehi warned the settlers of Cherokee attacks since she did not want increased hostilities between her nation and the settlers.

  If interested in learning more about Castrovilla and her works, she has a website that promotes most of her books. To learn more about the TVHS lecture series and purchase her book, I included links in the list below. 

Castrovilla’s book reminded me of Cokie Roberts’ book Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, except the major difference between these two books is her book is geared towards young adult audiences while Roberts’ book focuses on addressing women’s history on academia audiences. I appreciate, as a public historian with an interest in Early American history, that there are programs that discuss women’s contribution and involvement in before and during the American Revolution. Also, I appreciate indigenous women’s stories are being more included in these programming options since I not only enjoy learning more history, but it is also a lot more that I am learning now about indigenous people than what was being taught when I was attending school as a child. We need to continue to do more to acknowledge and understand indigenous history as well as remember that we are on land first occupied by indigenous people.

The previously listed examples of how museums honor and celebrate women’s history month are only a small sample of what I noticed and does not represent what all museums are doing. I have included more links to examples museums have honored and celebrated women’s history month and resources they have available on women’s history. If there are any that I have not listed, please tell me about them and if possible, share a link.

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Additional Resources:

Women’s History in the National Women’s History Museum

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail

Facing History and Ourselves: 6 Virtual Exhibitions and Teacher Resources for Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month website

Why March is National Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Alliance

Links:

Museum of the American Revolution’s When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story

Museum of the American Revolution’s When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, Virtual Exhibit

Wisconsin Historical Society

Dyckman Farmhouse Museum’s DyckmanDISCOVERED

Emily Dickinson Museum

Old North Church Events, Digital Speaker Series

Three Village Historical Society Lecture Series

Selene Castrovilla’s website

The Founding Mothers of the United States by Selene Castrovilla

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail: Melnea A. Cass

National Women’s History Museum: Anne Hutchinson

Facing Today: “Making Space for Women’s History”

Facing Today: “Teaching in the Light of Women’s History”

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.

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Links:

Old Sturbridge Village: Virtual Village

3D Tours

3D Tours Resources

Now What? How We Should Be Looking Back and Moving Forward in the Museum Field, 2021 and Beyond

February 25, 2021

     Since we have begun distributing the coronavirus vaccine, we have a new president in the Oval Office, and many changes were made for all of us to adapt to ever changing conditions, I think the question that has been on a lot of our minds is: Now what?

We are not out of the woods yet, and we need to do our part in controlling the pandemic. In the museum field, museum professionals are working on creating experiences for either the virtual platform or limited capacity in-person.

They understand that the plans we originally had for museums have drastically changed course due to the pandemic, and like everyone else we are figuring out how we could keep our places running. Museums around the world are figuring out their next steps if they are not permanently closed. I went through a good number of resources to research what museum associations are sharing with the museum field for keeping the museums running as the pandemic continues and vaccinations are being distributed.

         The American Alliance of Museums released a post on their site called “Should my museum require staff and visitors to wear face masks when we reopen?” to share resources museums could utilize to enforce CDC guidelines. Each piece of information that is shared is not intended as legal, employment/human resources, or health and safety advice but rather they are based on the best available resources at the time the post was published. There are sections used to classify available information museums should seriously consider when re-opening the physical sites. When figuring out how your museum will enforce regulations as the pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, these are the types of information you need to take into consideration:

  1. CDC guidance
  2. State/local laws
  3. Legality and the Americans with Disabilities Act for employees and for visitors
  4. Training on proper use of masks
  5. Accessibility
  6. Equity and racial implications
  7. Availability of masks
  8. Tensions over masks, enforcement of policies, and employee training *Information is also available to help figure out how to enforce policies and who will enforce them.
  9. Communication

Once your museum has developed a plan and know how to enforce the policies, it will ease how your museum will move forward throughout the pandemic.

The Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) released a follow up report on the continued impact of COVID-19 on the museum sector, and I have included links below if you would like to read more about it. According to their announcement, NEMO pointed out that:  

Suitable support is needed for museums to build on their digital momentum. Almost all museums offer online activities, but an overwhelming majority admit that they actually need assistance and guidance in their digital transition.

NEMO recommends that museums stay open during these challenging times to offer people a place for rest and emotional recovery. There have been no reported cases of museums being infection hotspots. On the contrary, most museums are very well-equipped to allow for a Covid-19-safe experience for both visitors and employees.

NEMO included a link to their follow up report pdf within their post. Their report follows the initial survey, report, and recommendations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums during the first lockdown. According to their follow-up report, this survey was answered by 600 museums from 48 countries between October 30, 2020 and November 29, 2020, and the majority of the answers came from Europe. They sought to investigate the different themes that emerged in the first survey they released and were discussed within the museum community; the themes were: consequences of income (and other) losses, the increased importance of digital museum offers, and adapted operations and preparedness during and for crises.

          I appreciate that their report had a disclaimer that stated while the results are not guaranteed as representative of current circumstances, it offers a view into the perceived consequences and challenges faced by museums as well as their efforts to overcome them and serve their communities during a pandemic. It is important to address that while there is important information to provide an idea of how museums should move forward it is important to remember that things are not always guaranteed and predictable; new strands of the coronavirus were discovered since the report was released.

The report went into detail about the issues museums face in this pandemic, survey results, and the recommendations that NEMO addresses to stakeholders at all levels. Each issue is split into three sections: Income Losses and Consequences, Development of Digital Services, and Adapted Operations and Crisis Preparedness. In terms of bringing visitor numbers back to normal, the report stated that:

Museums were asked when they estimated visitor numbers could return to their pre-COVID-19 levels. The majority (45%) of 283 responding museums do not estimate a full recovery of visitor numbers until the months between March and September 2021. 15% are prepared to wait until the spring or summer of 2022 before they will welcome the same visitor numbers as before the pandemic.

In addition to looking through these reports, I decided to look at resources outside of the museum field to see what museum professionals could utilize in their own practices for the museums they work for.

I found in my research tips for a successful remote or hybrid curriculum adoption from Amplify, which is an education company that partners with educators to create meaningful learning experiences in schools, whether it is helping to create a professional development plan, working shoulder to shoulder in the classroom, or providing real-time support in a chat window on a teacher’s laptop. Also known as DECIDE, the tips are:

TIP 1 Design the process.

When something unpredictable happens, in the process or in the educational environment, your plan will function as a framework you can adjust as you move forward.

TIP 2 Experience the programs.

You know you need to evaluate each program, but consider exactly how your committee will do that, and how disagreements will be resolved.

TIP 3 Convene a dream team.

The right team can make a complex adoption easier. Group dynamics are important, but think about how you will solicit individual feedback as well.

TIP 4 Investigate short-term and long-term needs.

Discuss with the committee how well your current instructional philosophy aligns with your short-term and long-term goals.

TIP 5 Develop the right rubric.

Using a rubric not only helps you measure what matters, but also ensures that your entire team measures the same things in the same way.

TIP 6 Establish consensus among your stakeholders.

How you make your final decision is a process unto itself. Determine in advance how you will resolve disagreements together.

These tips could be used for education programs in museums since we are figuring out how to engage with student groups like many educators outside of the museum field. Museum educators need to develop an effective curriculum so they can help other educators supplement their own curricula, and this is true before the pandemic and it is just as true now. Our programs need a framework to fall back on when things do not go to plan, an effective evaluation plan and team to know what is working and what needs to change, and to know the short-term and long-term needs of the program to be able to find out what the students took away from it.

By no means this is a conclusive list of things museums need to do moving forward within the pandemic. I encourage you all to take a closer look at not only the sources I introduced in this post but to also look at museum associations in your area for additional resources.

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:

https://www.aam-us.org/2021/01/30/should-my-museum-require-staff-and-visitors-to-wear-face-masks-when-we-reopen/

https://www.ne-mo.org/news/article/nemo/nemo-follow-up-report-on-the-continued-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-museum-sector.html

NEMO COVID-19 Follow Up Report

DECIDE: 6 tips for a successful remote or hybrid curriculum adoption

Amplify

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/12/22/a-pandemic-time-capsule-and-tools-for-2021/

https://www.aam-us.org/2020/11/25/for-post-pandemic-success-get-creative-with-distributed-museum-models/

Distance Learning with Intention and Purpose

Fostering Academic Discussion Online

Improving Accessibility for All Students

https://achievethecore.org/aligned/tag/remote-learning/