NYCMER 2020: A Virtual Conference Experience

May 14, 2020

This past week I participated in the annual New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference. I previously wrote about past experiences with the NYCMER conference in which I discussed not only the content presented and discussed but also about the locations each conference took place. It was different this year since we are in the middle of a pandemic, and the conference was moved to a virtual platform. The conference was free to attend with the option to donate money to receive NYCMER merchandise based on the tier level chosen. One of the ways NYCMER was able to transition as quickly as possible to move the conference to the virtual platform was, they found a computer platform that was specifically designed to host virtual conferences. NYCMER and the conference committee used Hopin, the first all-in-one live online events platform made for any size where attendees can learn, interact, and connect with people from anywhere in the world, to host this year’s conference.

When I first registered for the conference, I was not entirely sure how the conference is going to be held in the digital platform. I watched a ten-minute introduction video to the Hopin computer app, and was impressed with how much we would be able to do; to summarize the video, 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. Since we were exploring a new way of interacting with one another, it was not going to go smoothly. Every now and then there were some technical difficulties, but we all moved passed them. On the morning of the conference, I used my personalized link to log on and joined the rest of my colleagues.

I attended the Keynote session, and this year’s Keynote Speaker was Chloe Bass who is an artist and public practitioner, and the author of the book Art as Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art. Bass’s speech was a very inspiring and on point to what we are going through during this pandemic. One of the takeaways from her speech that I especially found to be important is to think about our staying away from others as “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” since we can still communicate with one another without being physically in the same space; also she pointed out that “social distancing” implies that we should not be communicate with and be kind to one another. Then we went into our sessions in the Sessions section of Hopin.

As usual it was hard to decide which session I wanted to attend but I remembered that as a NYCMER member I would have access to resources from each session, and this year NYCMER members will also have access to all of the session recordings. In the end, I decided on sessions that not only interested me but ones I thought my professional skills will need improvement on. The sessions I chose were: Using Theatrical Techniques to Engage Your Audiences, History Engages Science: Connecting history and STEM programming, Addressing Absence: Telling the Stories of Underrepresented Groups, and Beyond the Walls: Museum Educational Programs in the Digital Space.

In the Using Theatrical Techniques to Engage Your Audiences session, participants including myself learned some best practices from professionals who use these techniques at their museums to encourage more effective engagement with their audiences. The speakers in this session were Erin Salthouse (Access Educator at the Intrepid, Sea, Air, and Space Museum), Elysia Segal (Lead Teaching Artist at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum), Julia Butterfield (a Program Associate at Historic Hudson Valley), and Maggie Weber (Director of Education of The Old Stone House of Brooklyn). They broke down the session into three sections describing what is a theater in museums, museum theatre performances, and third person living history. Museum Theatre is a live interpretive presentation with performers who engage visitors by portraying characters and conveying a story or dramatic narrative; when developing a program, they stated that it is important to keep in mind the age of your audience, the topic, style, format, and accessible. Third person living history means that the staff does not pretend to be characters from history, or anyone documented as living at the site. Also, they described process drama which allows students to be in the roles to learn empathy as well as being empowered by the decision-making process. In addition to the previously listed, they pointed out how theatrical skills can help every educator especially by using skills every museum educator can use: tone, volume, body language, et. cetera.

In the History Engages Science: Connecting history and STEM programming session, it was aimed to inspire connections and new ideas. The session speakers were Samantha Hartford (Miller/Historian in the NJ Morris County Park Commission) and Erich Morgan Huhn (Education Assistant at Historica Speedwell in Morristown, NJ). They broke down the way we approach both history and STEM, then took a look at ways these fields can overlap in effective programming and even collaborate to build something new. Both of them shared examples from their respective organizations that used both history and STEM to educate school, homeschool, scout, senior, and adult groups. Also, the conclusions they made were that incorporating STEM in programs allows museums to explore beyond the site, STEM connections are always appreciated but rarely sought at a historic site, and that living history, demonstrations, hands-on, and other types of education programs can sneak STEM in.

In the Addressing Absence: Telling the Stories of Underrepresented Groups sessions, participants including myself learned how educators at the Whaling Museum and Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor and the South Street Seaport Museum addressed these absences by developing new programs that told the stories of women and African-Americans through new programs. The speakers were Brenna McCormick-Thompson (Museum Educator at the Whaling Museum and Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor, NY) and Rebecca Manski (an independent educator currently based at the South Street Seaport Museum and Social Justice Tours). Both speakers talked about how they worked to refocus the narrative to include women more in the whaling industry narrative and African Americans more in the South Street waterfront narrative. McCormick-Thompson, for example, explained that by not telling women’s stories we lose the idea of what the economy was like in the whaling community since they were the ones who stayed behind to run their husbands businesses and fill their roles in advisory boards while they were out on the sea.

Also, both speakers split the participants into three separate groups (by providing links to two separate session spaces to split over 100 people into smaller groups by birthday month) to discuss the following questions: How can things change in society when we reintroduce these stories? What are the things stopping us? How can we effectively engage audiences? By discussing these questions, we begin to think about how we can create more inclusive programs and be able to share ideas to take steps towards creating new programming in our own museums and sites.

Between sessions in the morning and afternoon, we had opportunities to participate in networking, poster sessions, and peer group meetings. The Hopin conference platform has a networking section that allowed us to click on a connect button that selects a participating individual at random to connect with others at the conference. However, the challenge was to keep within a certain time limit that first began with a two-minute limit then it continued to increase after a number of participants told conference organizers that they kept getting cut off mid-sentence.  The poster sessions were numerous case studies that discussed various topics in museum education, and we were invited to hop around in the Expo section of Hopin to listen to each one. Also, the peer group meetings this year were split into two booths: one was a video overview of the Peer Groups and the other was NYCMER Secretary & Peer Group Liaison, Sierra Van Ryck deGroot will be on hand to answer questions. After the break, we went to the last sessions of the day.

I chose to attend the Beyond the Walls: Museum Educational Programs in the Digital Space session that explored whether and how the physical “third space” of the museum can shift online from the perspective of the Bronx Museum, which is a small museum with very little digital presence until March. The speakers were Nell Klugman (Education Programs Manager at the Bronx Museum of the Arts) and Patrick Rowe (Director of Education at the Bronx Museum of the Arts). Klugman and Rowe described what their programs were like before the pandemic and converting to the virtual platform. After describing their programs that involved teens in interviewing artists, designing graphics for posters, and participating in art programs on anti-gun violence campaign, the speakers revealed how they adapted existing programs to the online platform and keep teens involved in the existing programs they were previously involved in before the pandemic. Also, they led an interactive discussion of how best to share resources, reach communities, and achieve goals during the COVID-19 pandemic and the future beyond it. Once the last sessions ended, we went back to the Stage section of the Hopin platform for concluding thoughts and thanking everyone involved in setting up this year’s NYCMER conference.

While I missed being able to meet with colleagues in person, I liked that we were still able to have the conference in the virtual platform. Also, the number of individuals who have signed up for the conference had doubled compared to the previous year; normally about 250 people attend the conference in New York City and this year over 500 people have registered for the conference (with more on a waiting list). There were more individuals outside of the New York area who have attended the conference. They came from places including but not limited to Texas, Arizona, San Francesco, California, Chicago, Illinois, et. cetera. Also, there were individuals from England and Canada attending the conference, according to the president and vice president of NYCMER. Even though I would like to attend NYCMER in person once again, if it is decided to do another virtual conference, I would be happy to attend to connect with more museum professionals.

Links:

Hopin Demo

Hopin

https://nycmer.org/2020-conference/

2020 NYCMER Conference Program

NYCMER 2019

NYCMER 2018

Remembering 9/11: 18 years later

September 11, 2019

Normally I would be posting a blog post on Thursdays but today I decided to write a short post in addition to my Thursday post because I had a number of thoughts as I remember the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I read various articles today about remembering those attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the people who have lost their lives on that day. I saw comparison pictures of the New York City skyline and area the day of the attacks and what they look like today. It is hard sometimes to think that it had been so long ago, and yet it felt like it had been a short time ago at the same time. Eighteen years later, I can still vividly remember where I was when I learned about the news and saw the attacks on the television. When the attacks happened, I was in middle school in my hometown of Franklin, Massachusetts and I was in class as I learned about what was happening in New York City. Even though we were in the middle of a history lesson, my teacher turned the television on so my classmates and I can learn about what is going on as it happened. I remember talking about what happened with my mother and sisters after school on the ride home, and later watching the news coverage.

Now that I live on Long Island, New York, I see more of how New Yorkers felt on that day and how they remember. I am also happy about how many people are able to help those in need on that day and even now as 4,000 New York volunteers board the Intrepid to pack a million non-perishable meals for New York families and 100,000 non-perishable meals for victims of Hurricane Dorian (according to an article I read on amny.com released the day before). These actions remind me of how our country, even as it faces so much over the past few years, can still come together to remember and help others. I am happy that we still commemorate this day to remind us of not only what happened and those who have lost their lives on that day but those men and women in the police and fire departments, and volunteers, who worked hard to save lives. I will never forget!

Below I have included articles I have read today and the 9/11 Memorial Museum website for more information:

https://www.amny.com/news/intrepid-9-11-volunteer-1.36140377

todayincthistory.com/2019/09/11/september-11-9-11-terrorist-attacks-hit-close-to-home/

https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/handwritten-note-september-11-2001

gvshp.org/blog/2019/09/11/remembering-the-world-trade-center-and-its-aftermath-of-its-destruction/

abcnews.go.com/US/us-marks-18th-anniversary-911-terrorist-attacks/story?id=65530195&cid=social_twitter_abcn

https://news.yahoo.com/911-then-and-now-18-years-later-182946226.html

https://www.911memorial.org/

Museum Impressions: New York Historical Society

July 11, 2019

Each post I write describes what I saw at the museum and what I learned after my initial visit. I decided to share my experience visiting the New-York Historical Society in honor of their new exhibit that opened last week, Revolutionary Summer. Another reason I wrote about this museum is my husband and I visited New-York Historical during our honeymoon back in March. We wanted to see as much of the New-York Historical Society as we possibly could before we went to dinner and a show later. As a historian, I was in awe of how much was displayed in each exhibition and I admire their efforts to engage its visitors with the collections.

According to their website, the New-York Historical Society was established in 1804 as New York’s first museums. Its founders who lived through the American Revolution and the British occupation of New York believed New York’s citizens needed to take action to preserve eyewitness evidence of their own historical moments; they also believed if the evidence was left in the hands of private individuals then the collections would have the inevitable fate of obscurity. Today the New-York Historical Society offers visitors on-site and online a massive collection of art, objects, artifacts, documents, and an ongoing collecting program to facilitate a broad grasp of history’s enduring importance and its usefulness in finding explanations, causes, and insights. I noticed their efforts during the visit as I explored through the exhibits. My husband and I went to exhibits on the four floors of the New-York Historical Society.

One of the first exhibits my husband and I visited was the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps which featured one hundred illuminated Tiffany lamps from their collections. Each Tiffany lamp in the exhibit was displayed within a dark space mainly lit by the Tiffany lamps. I loved looking at each unique designs and patterns, and I also thought the exhibit was thought provoking by showing visitors the differences between a Tiffany lamp and a knock off. The display had two lamps that looked like each other and in the drawers below them there are pieces of lamps and descriptions that explain the differences between the Tiffany lamp and the knock off.

Another exhibit we visited was the Objects Tell Stories exhibit located in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. The exhibit featured treasures from their permanent collection which tell the story of New York and American history. Within the Center, there are themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics including slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11. A lot of the displays had touchscreens and interactive kiosks to allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects. I was impressed by how much they were able to fit into the space. If my husband and I were able to spend more time, I could easily spend at least a whole day in the New-York Historical Society.

When we visited the gift shop, I spoke with the staff and after I told them my background as a public historian they showed me the gift shop bags that had various questions on the outside of the bag for visitors and gift shop customers to ponder and answer. The bag also included a link to the answers that they can check. If you can visit the New-York Historical Society, I recommend going in a little earlier to fully explore the museum. As for me, I look forward to the next time I visit the Historical Society.

Resources:

https://www.nyhistory.org/

#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

Museum Impressions: Fraunces Tavern Museum

Added April 11, 2019

            During my honeymoon, my husband and I visited a number of places in New York City. On the first day, we visited the Fraunces Tavern Museum which is both a museum and a still functioning tavern. The museum’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the American Revolutionary era through public education. To fulfill the mission, the Fraunces Tavern Museum uses public programs and the staff interprets and preserves the collections as well as landmark buildings. Ever since I heard about the museum while working at the Three Village Historical Society, I thought it would be a good idea if my husband and I to take advantage of the opportunity while we were in New York City. Overall, we both enjoyed the experience and there was so much to see we easily spent a few hours at each exhibit. Since there was so much to see, I decided to share only a few highlights from the visit.

When we walked into the museum, I immediately noticed that there is a room that was recreated to look like the time period. After deciding that we were going to eat at the tavern after our visit to the museum, we went upstairs where the museum is located and were greeted on the second floor. We watched a fifteen minute introduction video about the history of Fraunces Tavern and had a self-guided tour throughout the exhibits. We decided to go up to the next floor first before we saw the other exhibits on the second floor where we checked in.

One of the items in the collection that caught my eye was a letter from Nathan Hale written to his brother Enoch Hale on August 20, 1776. For those not familiar with him, Nathan Hale was a soldier in the Connecticut militia, and after the Battle of Long Island when the colonists lost control of New York City and Long Island to the British Hale volunteered to spy for George Washington before he was caught and hung for being a spy. The experience Hale had as a spy inspired Washington to create a better spy system to better protect spies while carrying out missions to find out about the British’s actions during the Revolutionary War; it became known as the Culper Spy Ring which was based in Setauket.

After visiting the first exhibit where I saw the Nathan Hale letter, we moved on to the next exhibit in the next room. The room was mainly dedicated to the history of the Sons of the American Revolution in New York City. I also noticed there was some displays dedicated to the descendant of Benjamin Tallmadge who was responsible for giving messages to Washington from and was in charge of the Culper Spy Ring. Then I saw in a display case Benjamin Tallmadge’s memoir and he was the only witness at Washington’s Fraunces Tavern farewell address to write down an account of the event inside.

I was surprised to also see a room filled with various flags called A Flash of Color: Early American Flags and Standards that traces the steps of the American flag to what it is today, and has military standards from Early American history. There was also one of the examples of how visitors can interact with the exhibits called a Colonial Costume Photo Booth where kids can dress up in costume and pose with a flag. It is a fun and unique idea, and of course I had to play around with it too.  I did not dress in the costume but I did take a picture holding a flag.

Before we left the Museum, I observed one of the rooms that was recreated to represent the Federalist period called the Clinton Room.  It was named for New York State’s first American governor, George Clinton, who hosted a dinner party for General Washington at Fraunces Tavern to celebrate the evacuation of British troops from New York on November 25, 1783.

Once we finished the tour, and got a few souvenirs, we went to the Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern for a tavern-like experience for lunch.

There was so much to see, and I fully recommend visiting this museum when you have the opportunity. To learn more about the Fraunces Tavern Museum, visit their website in the resource section.

Resource:

http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/

Valentine’s Day Celebrations in Museums

Added to Medium, February 14, 2019

A lot of us had been celebrating Valentine’s Day today in varying ways, and museums have been as well! We as museum professionals recognize that there is potential for visitors to celebrate within our museums so we open our doors and have programs, activities, and many more planned relevant to the holiday. By offering programs and other initiatives, museums have the opportunity to attract more and frequent visitors to come inside its doors to explore what we offer to the community.

The Museum of the City of New York, for instance, had a variety of programs between February 11th and February 14th. There was a love-themed museum wide scavenger hunt that allowed visitors to search through the museum while interacting with the museum and other participants on social media. When they use the hashtag #MCNYVDay on their posts, visitors can be entered in to win a family-level membership. Another example is the Love Yourself Project 10,000 Campaign; according to the Museum’s website:

The Love Yourself Project uses a simple yet beautiful medium, the origami heart, to invite people to participate in the thought provoking experience of asking: “What do you love about yourself?” The campaign encourages people to inwardly explore and discover what they love about themselves. Through this awareness, the Love Yourself Project seeks to plant a small seed and spread the consciousness of self-love.

It is a wonderful reminder that we need to express self-love as well as love for other individuals. As museum professionals continue to remind themselves about the importance of self-care, it is a wonderful reminder for museum professionals as well to be able to love themselves and get the love and care needed.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan also offered a number of programs for families visiting the Museum. It offered a Stuffed Animal Repair Workshop in which kids can learn how to stitch, stuff, and repair their stuffed animals; they can also sew Valentine hearts onto them if the kids chose to do so. Children could also learn how to make 3D Valentine’s Day Cards using children’s pop-up book techniques.

At the Long Island Explorium, where I work with visitors of all ages, children had the opportunity during the weekend before Valentine’s Day to create messages in a bottle. They used recyclable water bottles and varying materials such as crayons, markers, yarn, ribbon, and stickers to design their bottle. Once they were done with their bottles, they wrote messages on pieces of paper and placed them into their bottles.

Museum Hack, which offers unconventional tours of museums in cities such as New York City, also offered a number of ways couples can celebrate Valentine’s Day. For instance, they offered a private Valentine’s tour for couples to explore a museum and in the city of their choice. The tours can be customized to a variety of interests including Game of Thrones and 19th century French Impressionism. Also, tours are designed to provide a “behind the scenes” look into museums and they include hidden stories about the art and artists, games and activities in the galleries and fun group photos.

Of course I did not list every museum out there that offered Valentine’s Day themed programming since there are so many out there.

Have you visited a museum during the Valentine’s season? Did you visit a museum on Valentine’s Day (this year or in the past)? What did you do in those museums for Valentine’s Day?

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Check these Out:

https://museumhack.com/valentines-day-ideas-museums/

https://www.mcny.org/valentinesday

https://westmuse.org/articles/sharing-love-museums-celebrate-valentines-day

https://cmom.org/tag/valentines-day/

Social Media Journalists at Conferences: My Experience As One At NYCMER 2018

Added to Medium, May 24, 2018

At each conference I have attended, and of course I am sure everyone reading this post felt this way as well, there are so many sessions I have wanted to attend but I could not be in more places at once. Twitter began to provide opportunities to share information from conferences on the social media platform. This year the NYCMER conference, React & Respond: The Next Steps, held at Teachers College at Columbia University this past Monday (May 21st) had social media journalists sharing their impressions about the conference and the highlights of each sessions. Rachel Ropeik, the Social Media Coordinator for NYCMER, asked myself and other NYCMER members to join her team of social media journalists.

NYCMER Social Media Journalists, Courtesy of Rachel Ropeik, Social Media Coordinator, NYCMER via Twitter

We were asked to cover the conference via Twitter by tweeting our impressions of and thoughts about the keynote session and the rest of the conference sessions. I attended the sessions, and then I tweeted some highlights of the sessions I chose to attend. All of the social media journalists, and other NYCMER conference participants following on Twitter, used the hashtags #NYCMERsmj and #NYCMER2018 to participate in conversations on the social media site. We also included photographs we took during the conference to give followers visuals of what we covered in the sessions we participated in. In this blog post, I included some of my tweets I shared during the conference for each session I participated in with brief descriptions.

This year’s NYCMER conference began with a keynote that discussed this year’s theme: React & Respond: The Next Steps. The keynote was moderated by Keonna Hendrick who is School Programs Manager at the Brooklyn Museum, cultural strategist, educator and author, nurturing equity through art and museum education. Hendrick posed questions to the keynote participants Gonzalo Casals and Annie Polland. Gonzalo Casals is the Director of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. His experience ranges from innovative cultural programming and authentic community engagement strategies to progressive cultural policy. Annie Polland is the Executive Director at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). Previously, Polland served as the Senior Vice President for Programs & Interpretation at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum where she was responsible for developing programs and content for over 250,000 annual visitors.

Lindsey Steward‏ @Steward2Lindsey 9:04 AM – 21 May 2018
Welcome to this year’s #NYCMER2018 I’m looking forward to learning more about today’s theme 🙂 What are your thoughts about this year’s theme? #NYCMERsmj

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 21 May 2018, 9:23am
I’m also glad that NYCMER is requiring salary information in job postings. It is important for us to show our support for equity and best practices in salary sharing and negotiations #NYCMER2018 #NYCMERsmj

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 21 May 2018, 9:49am
Allows people to upload pictures that tell their immigrant stories. What a great idea to be able to share and identify with people’s stories #NYCMERsmj #NYCMER2018

 

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 21 May 2018, 9:56am

Interesting thought: If you could create a poem or an inscription on the Statue of Liberty today, what would it say? #NYCMERsmj #NYCMER2018

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey
I think board of trustees should also participate in programs and conferences like @NYCMER This will also help staff and board work together especially on diversity. It is unfortunately not surprising when no one said they were from a museum board. #NYCMER2018 #NYCMERsmj
10:48 AM – 21 May 2018

The first session I attended was Virtual Field Trips: Traveling Through Time and Space to Connect Museums and Audiences. During this session, Frantz Lucien, an educator at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum who specializes in community outreach and engagement, and Charissa Ruth, a freelance educator whose resume includes the Intrepid Museum, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Cooper Hewitt Museum, discussed their experience with virtual field trips. Lucien and Ruth discussed the benefits and challenges of running and planning virtual field trips. They also performed a demonstration what a virtual field trip is like by giving us a brief demonstration of what it would be like to be in space without wearing a space suit.

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 11:29 PM – 21 May 2018
A test to see how Virtual Field Trips work via Skype #NYCMERsmj #NYCMER2018

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 1:13 PM – 21 May 2018
Lindsey Steward Retweeted Paul Orselli
Paul, I think there should be required professional development programs for museum leaders, directors and board of trustees, to talk about salary and the importance of having salary information included when searching for a job candidate. #NYCMERsmj #NYCMER2018
Paul Orselli @museum_exhibits
#NYCMER2018 Food for thought over lunch: How can we get ALL orgs to require salary ranges on job postings? #NYCMERsmj

During the lunch break, I attended poster sessions that shared various brief information related to this year’s theme. One of the most interesting poster sessions I attended is Neuroscience and Museum Education. Megan Kuensting from The Met’s School Programs team shared some highlights gleaned from her Master’s program in Neuroscience and Education at Columbia University Teacher’s College, including questions about the potential for inquiry-based education to reduce student stress.

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 21 May 2018, 1:37pm
Check out this fascinating information about Neuroscience and Museum Education! #NYCMER2018 #NYCMERsmj

The second session I attended was Beyond White Feminism: What Stands Between Museums and True Gender Equity: A Journal of Museum Education Facilitated Dialogue presented by Alicia Greene, the Community Engagement Program Developer for Boston Children’s Museum, and Margaret Middleton, the exhibit designer and museum consultant with over ten years’ experience in the museum field. In this session, we brainstormed topics about our concerns in the museum workplace in addition to discussing the upcoming edition of the Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education. An important take away from the session is that Museums still struggle to achieve gender equity in the workplace and the fight for representation in the galleries continues.

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey
This is to keep in mind when thinking about equity and resolving issues within the system put in place in museums. #NYCMER2018 #NYCMERsmj

The third session I attended was Making Room: Creating and Sustaining Effective and Inclusive Learning Environments presented by a former instructor and a current Museum Education Program Director at Bank Street College of Education, Cynthia Copeland and Cathleen Wiggins. This session was a participatory workshop which model interactive techniques and activities where participants explore scenarios and potential outcomes relevant to their communities.

Lindsey Steward @Steward2Lindsey 21 May 2018, 3:45pm
I love this quote! Everyone should feel like they are represented in the storytelling process. #NYCMER2018 #NYCMERsmj

I enjoyed this year’s NYCMER conference, and I thought it was a great idea to start having a team of social media journalists share information from the sessions. At first I was concerned that it would be a challenge to participate on Twitter and during the sessions at the same time. I decided to make a couple of tweets during the sessions then I tweet my reactions after the session ended. There was a lot of great reactions on the sessions at the NYCMER conference, and if you are interested in reading more tweets from the conference go to Twitter and look up #NYCMERsmj and #NYCMER2018.

How do you feel about having social media journalists during conferences? Does following conversations on Twitter make participation easier?

 

How Museum Can Gain Visitors’ Attention through Educational Programming: Homeschool and Other Non-Traditional Programming

Added to Medium, August 3, 2017

Museum educators prepare for the upcoming school year by not only preparing for school programs but also non-traditional education programs such as homeschool days and scout programs. As museum professionals, we recognize there are various groups interested in educational programming museums have to offer. Museums, however, need to continue to expand its offerings and spread the word to those groups to remain relevant for all visitors.
I have had some experience in education programs for non-traditional groups. It is without a doubt a different experience from school programs. At the same time, what all of these programs have in common were the ability to educate and engage students with the materials offered by museums.

Homeschool programming in museums vary depending on what museums offer to their visitors. For instance, my first experience educating homeschool groups was at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society. There was one homeschool group that came to Noah Webster House, and the students participated in an educational program that was adjusted to accommodate the small homeschool group in one of the pre-existing school programs.

I later experienced working with homeschool students in Long Island Museum’s Homeschool Day program. In May of 2016, there was a Homeschool Day planned in collaboration with the Smithtown Historical Society. Individuals participating in the program were able to visit both places in the same day or choose which place to visit for Homeschool Day. The families signed up with either organization, and they made the decision on whether to visit both places or one of the places. At the Long Island Museum, homeschool students and their families participated in a couple of interactive activities in addition to touring the Museum’s campus. They learned about parts of a 19th century stagecoach, experienced what it was like to attend school in a one-room schoolhouse during the 19th century, and visited the Samuel West’s blacksmith shop. Meanwhile at the Smithtown Historical Society, those who visited the place visited the historic structures and learned how to write with scratch pens (later version of the quill pen).

Many museums created programs that appeal to homeschool students and the majority of these programs helped homeschool students as well as their teachers network with each other. During my research on homeschool programming, I discovered a number of museums that have different programs that welcomed homeschool students and families to their museums. For instance, the New York Historical Society developed the Homeschool Academy which is designed to supplement their curriculum with engaging lessons in their classrooms, studios, and galleries. Also, the Museum of Play had programs geared towards homeschool students.

The Museum of Play in Rochester, New York offer various opportunities and programs for homeschool students to engage with the interactive exhibit spaces. While homeschool students and their families can participate in the Museum’s homeschool activities and lessons aligned with state and national standards, they also have the option to register for school group lessons that can be adapted for homeschool students’ needs.

There are other places that participate in their own versions of Homeschool Day. For instance, the Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air, and Space has Homeschool Days that feature talks and discussions geared towards appropriate age ranges and abilities. Also, there are activities that include an educator-led tour of the Museum as well as a chance to explore various topics through our historic artifacts, photographs and demonstrations. Homeschool students and their families also have time to travel the museum on their own, and can participate in a self-guided scavenger hunt. In addition to the Homeschool Days, homeschool groups of 10 or more students are also invited to take part in the Museum’s K–12 school programs.

Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, New York also has Homeschool Days that include activities such as guided tours and scavenger hunts. Also, when they bring 25 or more students, homeschool families can explore the Museum’s galleries, see a Giant Screen film, and Planetarium Show in addition to attending museum classes. They are welcome to register for any of the museum classes; and the educator-led programs include active discussion, fun visuals, hands-on demonstrations and other related activities.

I also did some research on homeschool programs in Connecticut museums since the beginning of my career in museum education began in this state. One of the examples I found was the Children’s Museum in West Hartford where it has a program known as the Homeschool Series. The Series offers various days in February, March, April, and May which they are able to participate in programs related to science and nature. This museum offers programs that encourage families to engage in hands-on science instruction, inquiry-based learning activities, and cooperative learning opportunities.

The New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut has Homeschool Days that take place on second Mondays of every month between October and June. According to their site, each month features a different artistic element or medium, historical period, or special exhibit, using the galleries as the classroom. Homeschool students participate in inquiry-based learning and flex visual literacy skills with in-depth discussions of works of art, and sessions end with studio workshops that allow them to delve into the creative process.

Mystic Seaport also has Homeschool programs students and families can engage in during their visit. Their homeschool programs are a series of hands-on learning programs designed specifically for homeschoolers ages 4-13, adjusted for each age; each day of the program concentrated on one theme. Also, Mystic Seaport has Homecoming Community Sailing in which students practice boat handling and become familiar with the basics of water safety and wind.

Connecticut Historical Society has Homeschool Days, or events that give families the opportunity to enjoy engaging, educational workshops, tour our galleries, and connect with other homeschool families. There are short workshops on a variety of topics that are taught throughout the day; two Homeschool Days are scheduled at different parts of the year.

There are many museums and organizations that offer homeschool days and programming. While there are some differences, depending on what the museums’ offer, one of the things they have in common are how they offer interactive events that encourage participation in hands-on activities. These activities not only help homeschool students and families connect with each other but also assist with supplementing their education standards.

In addition to homeschool programs, there are other groups and programs that also encourage connecting with other people and engaging with the materials museums offer. Scout groups, for instance, are also drawn to visiting museums for their educational programs.

Boys and Girls Scout programs encourage them to be active members in their communities and part of these programs inspire them to earn badges that showed they accomplished a task and/or skill to move up a level in the program. Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and the Long Island Museum, for instance, have programs that are adjusted to meet the these organizations standards not only to allow participants to enjoy their visit but also earn the badges they needed for their programs.

Another example of other programming is family programs that connect them with other families and engage them with the hands-on activities. For instance, while I was at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, I worked during a program called Bookworm Adventures with storytelling as well as crafts and other hands-on activities. The particular theme I worked during was Dr. Seuss, and I assisted young children make green eggs of green eggs and ham using marshmallows and green covered chocolates. Meanwhile, the kids pinned a tail on the Cat in the Hat, played with toys, listened to Dr. Seuss’ stories, and made other crafts.

Museums have so many programs and resources to offer. By extending them to groups including homeschool students and scouts, we reach out to audiences that will have another place to interact with other people and take advantage of what we have to offer in educational programming.

What other museums or organizations have similar programs I discussed? Has your organization considered expanding programs like homeschool programs if it does not have a program already? If your organization has similar programming, please share the accomplishments and challenges your museum or organization accomplished.

To learn more about the programs I mentioned in this post, check these out:
http://www.nyhistory.org/education/homeschool
http://www.museumofplay.org/education/homeschool-students
https://www.intrepidmuseum.org/homeschool-days
http://www.cradleofaviation.org/education/homeschool.html
http://www.thechildrensmuseumct.org/programs/homeschool-programs/
http://www.nbmaa.org/classroom/11
https://www.mysticseaport.org/learn/k-12-programs/homeschool/
https://chs.org/education/home-school-day/

 

Reflections on the NYCMER 2017 Conference

Originally posted on Medium, May 25, 2017.

On Monday, I went to New York City to participate in the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Conference located this year at the School of Visual Arts. This is my second NYCMER conference I have attended since coming to New York, and both times I enjoyed the learning experience each one offered. Last year I attended with a team and this year I attended on my own. This year’s theme was “Inclusivity: From Within and Beyond” which discusses inclusion and diversity in the museum education field in New York. As with each conference I have previously attended, it was very hard to pick which sessions to attend and I wish I would be able to multiple myself to attend each session offered. The total amount of sessions presented at NYCMER was about 27 sessions, and that does not include the poster session and peer group meet & greet over treats sessions. In this post, I will go into some depth of my experience the second time around providing the highlights of the day, and my experience participating in networking events.

In the morning, I traveled to the train station to take the train into New York City for the conference. Once I arrived at the School of Visual Arts, I checked in, received the schedule, wrote out my name tag, and attended the Keynote Session. The Keynote Session is a session that announces NYCMER business and introduces the conference’s theme. Also, the Keynote also included a discussion about this year’s conference theme with speakers Amy Bartow-Melia (the MacMillan Associate Director for Audience Engagement at the National Museum of American History), Laura Huerta Migus (the Executive Director at the Association of Children’s Museums), and moderator Esther Jeong (Global Tech Diversity Business Partner at Google). The discussion and speeches talked about building a diverse museum workforce where the realities of museology were discussed and the case study of the American History Museum on how the museum developed exhibits and programs that defined what it means to be an American. After the Keynote Session, I attended the first session in one of the School of Visual Arts buildings.

Rainy Train Ride into the City

My name tag from the NYCMER conference

The session I attended was called “Designing Professional Development Experiences which Increase Inclusive, Visitor-centered Teaching”. I enjoyed this session especially because it started with a brainstorming game for how we learn as learners; those include but not limited to retention, visual guides, experiential learning, auditory reflection, and team building. The presenters from the Guggenheim Museum presented examples of ways to create opportunities for educators to learn from their audience or community, and presenters from the Children’s Museum of the Arts based their professional developments on grant goals and the museum’s goals to identify internal best practices with consultants, design sustainable peer to peer learning structure, change practices and institutional approaches, identify tools that benefit all children and empower all staff. After that conference, I met with peers to go have lunch and we traveled the area to find out where to have lunch; we also stopped to admire puppies as we looked at places to eat.

Puppies I saw while looking for a place to eat for lunch

Once we had lunch, I went to the Poster Session which is where professionals give informal presentations on aspects in the museum education field. For instance, one of the posters I saw was for the Guerilla Haiku Movement which presents the argument that poetry can be used to engage new audiences. There is also an activity which challenges participants to create a haiku with 17 syllables about what we learned at the conference so far and our perspectives on museums. I had created one that had one less syllable which states: “Museums provide a learning environment for all learners.” All learners are, by definition, inclusive and it is important that every person who visits museums can learn what they have to offer.

Guerilla Haiku Movement Poster, Poster Session

Haiku I created during Poster Session

The third session I attended after seeing the posters and networking with colleagues was Resource Workshop: Designing Accessible Materials. This workshop was divided into a few sections where each presenter shared their experiences and handed out resources for participants’ references. Then the fourth and last session I attended was The Challenges of Confronting Difficult Content. In this session, the presenters from the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum discussed the school programs they developed and explained how their lessons approached difficult content. This session was interesting since these programs provided a way for students from third grade to seniors to express their thoughts on the events through art and discussion. The takeaways from the session are to address the common question: How to translate difficult content in ways that allow all visitors to correct with sensitive subject matter? And the second takeaway was as a differentiated and inclusive practice, strategy transcends content by incorporating storytelling and historical contents and current resonances/present day connections. Once the session ended, I attended the concluding reception at the Revel Restaurant.

The Revel Restaurant provided a place for NYCMER participants to network and unwind after a long day of attending sessions. The closing reception was a cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres event where I could meet more museum professionals. I enjoyed meeting everyone who I made valuable connections with both during the sessions and the concluding reception. The conference experience I have had in the past has always made me feel inspired and fulfilled in gaining knowledge and making meaningful connections, and this conference is no exception. I have enjoyed the NYCMER conference, both last year’s and this year’s, and I look forward to the next one.

What are your favorite parts of a conference or conferences you have attended? Is there a session that made you reflect on your own experiences as a museum professional (or professional of your chosen field)?