Museum Memories: Long Island Part 1

November 12, 2020

In the past, I previously wrote about the memories I had about my experiences in the museum field so far. To read the previous blog posts, check out the links below. Each experience taught me a lot and the lessons I learned help me move my career forward. My career has led me to move from working in Connecticut to working on Long Island, New York. Since I am still currently on Long Island with my husband and my career is still active, I am splitting this post into multiple posts to share each experience and lessons I have learned in each one. The following is a sample of the memories I have of working at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York.

At the Long Island Museum, I continued my career as Museum Educator and the role I had was both in educating school groups, camps, and individuals with Alzheimer’s and in education administration. I utilized object-based and inquiry-based methods to educate Pre-K-5 students, families, senior citizens about 19th century Long Island history and art on museum campus buildings such as the Carriage Museum, 19th Century Schoolhouse, and Art Museum. Inside the Schoolhouse, I dressed as a schoolteacher for two different types of school programs: one that is focused on learning what school was like through acting as schoolchildren in the 19th century as part of an overall program called Long Island Long Ago, and one that is focused on learning through discussions and demonstrations of the 19th century school day on Long Island from the 21st century perspective.

I also taught programs for various audiences. For instance, I prepared for and taught a program called In the Moment engaging individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the exhibit space. The program allows participants to engage with the exhibit by encouraging them to share memories as they touch replicas of items in the exhibit, listen to music relevant to the exhibit, and answer questions that are about what they are feeling and listening to. They also received cards with pictures from the exhibits they could bring back with them as a reminder of their visit they can share with their loved ones. Each program is different in each exhibit, and when there was a new exhibit a program needs to be developed. In an exhibit Long Island in the 60s, I was assigned to download music that were relevant to the exhibit and print out pictures to create the cards. Also, at the end of the program we set up snacks and drinks for participants and caregivers to enjoy before leaving the Museum.

On the administrative side of my role, I was in charge of the volunteer program for larger school programs. I created the schedule for volunteers participating in most education programs based on availability, and distribute them to volunteers, add to online Master Calendar (Google Calendar), and in art room where we meet for programs. The majority of the volunteers were retired so they were able to volunteer during the day when the school programs were scheduled. Some of the volunteers participated in the Long Island division of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (R.S.V.P.), and are using their experience at the Museum to record their hours on sheets that I sign off on and I send them in the mail at the end of the month to the person in charge of volunteer hours at R.S.V.P.

In addition to running the volunteer program for school programs, I also worked on a number of administrative tasks with the rest of the education department to keep it running at the Museum. I coordinated the assembly and distribution of brochures for school, children’s, and public programs. In addition to assembling the brochures, creating address labels and post marking the brochures, I also worked on maintaining an updated list of teachers and other personnel for school brochure mailings by researching school lists in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. Also, I answered phone calls from teachers interested in school programs and organizations interested in group tours, and booked school programs and group tours using the Microsoft Office Suite to record the necessary information such as contact information and type of program; then once the information is gathered, I would update the Master Google Calendar to let the rest of the Museum staff know what is going on for that date. Depending on the program, I would also schedule volunteers to educate the school group and I would schedule a volunteer to lead a group tour depending on their availability.

I also assisted in logistics for school programs especially for programs with volunteers led stations. I was one of the educators that kept an eye on the school buses arriving to the Museum to make sure that they were arriving in the right parking lot for where the program was taking place. Also, I met with the teachers to check the school groups in and collect order forms and money for gift shop items they picked out before their arrival; I made sure that the gift shop items arrived to the administration office so they can be delivered to the kids at the end of the program. Once the kids were given the introduction in the program, the kids were split up into different groups and I would be one of the educators to make sure that each station ends on time for the switch. In addition, I also ordered and kept track of the school programs supplies inventory.

Every time I look back on this experience, I am always amazed by how much I did with the Museum while I was there. I also learned more about the administrative side of running the education department, and what it was like to work on projects in a larger museum than I was used to in historic house museums. The experience also inspired me to continue to learn about the administrative side of museum education. I will continue to share memories from my Long Island experiences in future blog posts.

In the meantime, next week I will be sharing my experience at the New England Museum Association’s virtual conference.

Links:

Museum Memories: Connecticut’s Old State House

Museum Memories: Stanley-Whitman House

Museum Memories: Connecticut Landmarks Historic Houses in Hartford

Museum Memories: Noah Webster House

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/

Historic House Keeping: A Hands-On Professional Development Experience

July 18, 2019

On previous blog posts, I shared my experiences in participating in professional development programs including conferences and seminars. I participated in another program that would not only help me refresh my skills as a public historian and museum professional but could also help several museum professionals who are responsible for collections. Also, by sharing my experience in professional development programs it will also help individuals understand the challenges museum professionals face to maintain our collections for the public to enjoy and appreciate.

This past Monday I participated in a Historic House Keeping all-day seminar provided by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network in New York. Greater Hudson Heritage Network serves the museum and history communities as a catalyst to advance professional standards and practices, build the capacity of organizations to meet their missions, and create a network of effective and professional stewards of regional history and culture now and in the future. It serves member cultural organizations, their staffs, their boards, and their communities in New York State and beyond, offering consultations and assistance, a resource network, and professional development opportunities to advance the work of historians, historic house museums, heritage centers, historic sites, archives, and libraries. The workshop I participated in was one of the examples of programs Greater Hudson Heritage Network offers.

Before I took this workshop, my previous experience with historic housekeeping was at the Connecticut Landmarks historic houses in Hartford. At the houses, I assisted in cleaning the floors, carpets, and the collections within the house including but not limited to furniture and toys. I also unpacked and set up holiday decorations that were in the collections to use during the holiday season. For summer tours, I helped set up the family trunk used for their summer trips to Niantic and laid out their wool bathing suits on the bed they once wore when they swam in the summertime. I decided to take this workshop to both refresh my memory of historic housekeeping but to learn more about techniques that I should utilize when I take on my next historic housekeeping project.

Historic House Keeping took place at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport on Long Island. The Vanderbilt Museum, located in Suffolk County, includes the Eagle Nest Mansion once owned by William K. Vanderbilt II. He established a trust fund to finance the operation of the museum and deeded it to Suffolk County, New York, upon his death in 1944. Suffolk County opened the museum to the public in 1950.

During the full-day workshop, I learned the proper, hands-on methodology of collections care by working directly with collections which equipped myself and other attendees with the knowledge and skill sets necessary for cleaning, handling, and storing collections, along with the tools to teach our volunteer base these critical skills. Participants received a lite breakfast, networking luncheon, resource packet, and cleaning toolkit. The day began with introductions to Before we began our sessions, we had an opportunity to participate in an hour-long tour of the Mansion.

We learned a lot about the history of the Eagle’s Nest Mansion and the history of the Vanderbilt family. Each room we visited within the Mansion gave us a glimpse at the life of William K. Vanderbilt II through the estate that memorializes his legacy. Once we completed the tour, we were separated into three groups to start the first session before our lunch break. After the lunch break, we went to our next two sessions in our groups. While we did listen to their tips and had the opportunity to ask them questions, we were able to move and handle table settings, pack textiles, clean the carpet and objects, and clean silver based on the tips we were given. When we completed the three sessions, the three groups came back together to work together on a couple of storage and cleaning sessions. Also, we learned about various archival boxes that are recommended for various types of collections.

I enjoyed the full-day workshop not only because it was a great way to network with museum and history professionals, but we worked with session professionals on hands-on projects. We were able to practice our skills so we would know what to do when we are faced with these situations. At the end of the program, we were given cleaning kits of our own that included materials we used during our sessions and information we can refer to later during our own historic housekeeping. The main purpose of each session we participated in was how to prolong the collection items for preservation and for people to learn more about the past. If we do not practice these steps in preserving our collections, we will lose all of the physical connections to the past more quickly through decay. By participating in this workshop, I feel that I am better prepared for cleaning and preserving historic houses.

Discussion Questions: What techniques do you use in historic housekeeping? As a visitor of historic houses, what are your impressions of how the collections are displayed?

To learn more about the places I referenced and Greater Hudson Heritage Network, check out the links below.

Resources:

http://www.greaterhudson.org/

https://www.vanderbiltmuseum.org/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/04/25/museum-memories-connecticut-landmarks-historic-houses-in-hartford/

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/

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/

Why We Need to Be Prepared: Resources on Preparation for Natural Disasters for Museums

Added on Medium, September 7, 2017.

In the past couple of weeks, we were either preparing for and assisting others in preparing as well as helping people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017-September 2, 2017) and now Hurricane Irma. Since these natural disasters occurred, the museum community continues to support those museums that had been through these hurricanes by sharing resources on how museums can prepare for these storms like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in addition to offering whatever we could to help those museums and the communities surrounding them. I was one of the museum professionals who shared resources on how to prepare for natural disasters; in my last blog, I stated that I have gathered resources and posted them on my website for those who want to learn more.

As a community of museums, we need to recognize that we should be able to be prepared for whatever storm or natural disaster that comes into our area. Many of the items in our collections are irreplaceable, and without the protection we need (insurance and preservation procedures) we could lose a part of our past that we may never be able to recover.

We have various organizations and resources that offer ways to help protect and preserve items on the national and state levels. The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York, for instance, is a collaboration between two long-running New York programs dedicated to service and support for archival and library research collections throughout the state, and is supported by the New York State Archives, New York State Library, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, and the New York State Education Department.

The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York offers various resources to assist museums and other organizations on preserving items in their collections. Back in June, I participated in a workshop called Disaster Response and Recovery: A Hands-On Intensive.

This workshop was an all-day program that allows participants to not only listen to advice from the experts affiliated with the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York but it also provided an opportunity to practice what we have learned through hands-on salvage activities. Participants were also given folders with additional information that can be referred to later on after the program has been completed. Inside the folders, there were pieces of information about the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York including what the organization is and the programs it offers especially educational workshops.

The folders also included additional information on disaster response and recovery. One of the pieces of information include guidelines for boxing wet books for freezing, and freezing and drying of book, paper, and photographic materials information and guidelines packet. Inside the folders, there were also additional information to supplement the presentation including information about the Incident Command System (the team that is gathered to respond and recover items after a disaster), and what we would need to recover specific type of items such as books, paper, CDs/DVDs, parchment/manuscripts, microfilms, black and white photographic prints, and textiles.

We were also given copies of the PowerPoint presentation to both refer to after the workshop and to take down additional notes on information they mentioned that were not brought up on the slides.

Also, it provided an agenda for the day’s workshop and information about the workshop speakers as well as a directory of museum professionals who attended the workshop.

In the morning, after a brief introduction, we were introduced to a few topics. The experts discussed the Incident Command System, Personal Safety, Site Assessment Techniques, Knowing When to Contact a Vendor, and Basic Salvage Techniques.

One of the first things the speakers pointed out that need to be done is to make human health and safety a priority. It is important to check in on the staff’s emotional and physical state since we should care about the individuals we work with to fulfil our organizations’ missions. Afterwards, the staff has to gather personal protective equipment (PPE) such as aprons, boots, gloves, goggles, and hard hats before approaching the situation.

The next steps in the recovery process are to assess the situation, prevent further damage, have a collections salvage, and return to as normal practice as possible. Each staff member should be assigned to different roles to record the damage, retrieve the items, and recover the items using appropriate techniques to best preserve the various types of items in the collections.

After a short break, we continued learning more about disaster response and recovery. We started to learn about the functional activity we would be participating in, and each part of the activity has a number of steps. For instance, we have to assess the site, assign roles, gather the supplies, and then set up the triage areas.

Once we assigned the roles to our team members, we proceeded to perform the salvage of items provided by the experts using the techniques we learned. After a lunch break, we continued the salvage but switched roles so each team member was able to practice what they have not done before the break.

In addition to this workshop, I also plan on gaining more resources from a webinar I found, hosted by the Texas Historical Organization, called Webinar: Responding to Hurricane Harvey. During this webinar, Rebecca Elder of the National Heritage Responders and Lori Foley of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force will host a discussion about emergency response. The discussion also includes opportunities to ask questions on emergency response, salvage, and recovery.

I recommend signing up for this webinar if your institution was affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. I also recommend signing up if you are curious about what resources are available for emergency responses.

During these times, we need to be there for each other and help support each other however we can. I decided to write about hurricanes and natural disaster recovery processes as a way to offer help to those who need resources on how to preserve their collections. My thoughts are with those still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the middle of Hurricane Irma.

What resources have you came across for natural disaster recovery processes? How does (do) your organization(s) prepare for and recover from natural disasters?
Here are some resources I referred to in my blog and a link to resources I gathered on my website on natural disasters:
Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York: http://dhpsny.org/
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1686939294244406785 (webinar I referred to in the blog)
Northeast Document Conservation Center: https://www.nedcc.org/
and the NEDCC article: https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.8-emergency-salvage-of-moldy-books-and-paper
Virginia Association of Museums: http://www.vamuseums.org/page/DisasterResources
My website and the resource pages I gathered for visitors: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.wordpress.com/resources/articles-I-am-reading/

 

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/

 

Is Children’s Play Declining? What are Museums Doing to Encourage Playtime

Added on Medium, July 20, 2017

When I was on Twitter this week, I came across a tweet from Sage Museum Ed, the American Alliance of Museums’ Ford W. Bell Fellow for Museums & P-12 Ed. She tweeted an article that came to my attention from Huffington Post called “Children’s Play is Declining, But We Can Help Reclaim It”, written by Huffington Post contributor Merete L. Kropp who is a child development and family specialist. Kropp shared data that showed how play has been decreasing over the years. According to the data she shared, between 1981and 1992 there was a 25 percent decrease in children’s time spent playing even though experts in child development have stressed the importance of playing. Playtime has continually decreased over the past 25 years as the article claimed.

Kropp discussed the number of possibilities that contribute to the decline in play and how to encourage children to dedicate their time to play. A few of the examples she briefly discussed about the contributions to decline in play include overly structured schedules, too many extracurricular activities, decreased recess time in school, and increased time in front of a screen. While children find ways to play, they play in small amounts of time in between activities and waiting for their parents or guardians to spend time with them when the adults are occupied with other tasks such as meal prep time and talking on the phone. Then Kropp shared how children should be encouraged to have their playtime with a couple of points including scheduling unstructured time for children to be bored and entertain themselves, providing simple toys with multiple purposes that give opportunities for creativity and problem solving, and following children’s lead during playtime and allow them to negotiate and communicate on their own terms.

This article made me think about how museums have been providing many options for children to engage and play not only during school programs but also during the summer. Museums, especially in the museums I have worked for, can engage children in providing outlets for them to be creative and the desired time to express their creativity. Also, museums have the ability to provide time children can dedicate to, as Kropp pointed out, “participate in complex scientific discovery as they hypothesize, experiment and make generalizations about the world and how it works”.

Museums I work for currently and those that I have worked for have various activities and programs that allow children to express their curiosity as well as their creativity.

The Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, for instance, has various projects and activities that encourage children’s creativity and playtime. Inside the Explorium, there is a bailing boat, or a boat that removes water from the boat, filled with rice where kids can play inside the boat. Kids are encouraged to play with the rice by figuring out how many cups of rice could fill a bucket, how many spoonful of rice can fill a bucket, and which size funnel would the rice come out the fastest. They not only entertain themselves using the rice but they also learn about measuring in the playing process.

Children in the rice boat also have the time to use their imaginations, and create their own play world. With the rice boat, there are toys including sea creatures in addition to white pipes, funnels, buckets, shovels, plastic cups, bowls, and spoons. They use these toys and tools to create endless possibilities for the world and games they create. For instance, one girl pretended she owned her own restaurant and served various dishes using the rice as her creations. Another example of unique possibilities was when a girl today pretended she was able to create a roof using the white pipes.

Also today, a brother and a sister walked in and created two different ways of play. The brother took the pipes and created a maze that would send the rice through on the other end of the pipes. Meanwhile, his sister used the bowels of rice to feed four toy sea turtles and an octopus, and then used two buckets to create their homes (she buried each of the toys in the rice, and pretended to create rooms for these houses). The rice boat is not the only place in the Maritime Explorium where children can have the opportunity to be creative and play.

In addition to working on activities such as puzzles, Legos, drawings, and learning how to turn on a light bulb only using a battery, there is another activity children can create projects however they wanted with limited instructions. Located in the front center of the Maritime Explorium, especially during the summer, there is a project children can work on that changes each week to give them a chance to create something new to take home.

Some of the projects the kids worked on were bug houses, building with paper towel and toilet paper tubes, and seascapes. Bug houses are places where bugs are attracted to and use for shelter outside made out of twigs. Seascapes are dioramas of views of the sea, and were made with either cardboard, Styrofoam cup holders, or paper with the option of adding sand onto their projects; they also have the option of creating their favorite sea creatures to add to their seascapes. Each of these projects had additional tools and materials such as scissors, tape, glue sticks, paper, ribbons, markers, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks children can use to make their projects unique and creative.

There are endless possibilities, especially for their building with paper towel and toilet paper tubes projects, for children to make their projects their own unique projects. For instance, one of the girls participating in the building with tubes project, using the tools and materials available, created her own robot.

Since the Maritime Explorium believes in the constructivist theory, museum educators like myself give few instructions on how they are made in order for children to not only do their projects by themselves but they develop their own problem solving skills and express their creative energies. As long as the building is open during public hours, the activities introduced at the Maritime Explorium provide opportunities for children to increase their playtime which coincidently are also encouraged in Kropp’s article.

Another example of a museum that I worked for and that also provide ways for kids to spend time playing is the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society in Connecticut. Noah Webster House offers a number of summer camp sessions to allow kids to not only learn more about 18th century America but they also have opportunities to express their creativity.

The summer camp at Noah Webster House in partnership with Westmoor Park, called Colonial Kids’ Adventures, I taught before coming to Long Island allowed children to learn, be creative, and play. Kids have time to learn about 18th century life by performing the tasks individuals living in the time period would have completed such as laundry and mixing recipes to be cooked over a hearth, as well as creating crafts related to the time period including corn husk dolls. They also have time during the day to go outside and play with 18th century toys including ball in cup, stilts, and hoops. I also not only supervised play with the toys but also games that the children decided to play.

When the summer camp children visited Westmoor Park, they participated in outdoor activities that not only allowed them to learn but to play as well. Children learn about outdoor chores on the farm by participating in activities that assist in taking care of the animals including cleaning out stalls. Also, they participated in nature walks throughout the park. Then they played games during lunch breaks and after craft activities. Throughout the program, the children work on their skits which allowed them to express their creativity.

The only rules the children had in creating their skits were they had to be set in the colonial period and reflect what they saw and or learned during the camp. Also, the children were divided into groups based on the assigned family names of people who lived during that period. I assisted them by answering questions they have such as what props and costumes they would need to use for their skits. They created their own dialogue in their stories, and one of the stories I remember was a day in the life of a family traveling through town, visiting neighbors, and eating together at the table. At the end of the program, they performed their skits for their friends and families. Summer camps were not the only way children could have playtime at Noah Webster House.

During public hours and programming, there is a space in the museum that allows children to express their imaginations and creativity. In the lean-to of the 18th century house, there is a space that has a small hearth, cookware, toy food, and silverware that allowed children to pretend to cook and role play stories they come up with. Also, in the rooms off of the lean-to, there is a buttery that stores pretend food the children can use for their playtime and there is another room with a Noah Webster farm set they can play with as well as a sandbox with treasures inside to allow children to find them as if they were archeologists. There are also programs that are geared toward young children that allow playtime and creativity.

Bookworm Adventures, for children between three and six years old and the theme for each program changes each time it is held, promote reading as well as playtime. During the Dr. Seuss themed program I taught, the kids not only listened to Dr. Seuss stories read out loud but they also played with toys, drew and colored pictures, and made crafts. I assisted kids make a sweet version of green eggs and ham using green covered chocolates and marshmallows.

Based on my experience in the museum education field and what I have read in Kropp’s article, I noticed that children not only have a number of things to do in the day but they do need to find more time to play. While the museums I worked for provide opportunities to play, sometimes they are restricted to how long the museums are open and when their adults need to go on to the next thing in their schedules whether it is for kids to attend places such as lessons and/or sports or their adults need to run errands. There are other times that the families also planned other activities to spend more time together. We need to learn to make sure that children can have more time on their own to play, imagine, create, and learn so that way they will be able to understand the communities and society around them more. Museums provide these outlets for children, and should be taken advantage of when the opportunities arise.

How do you feel about children’s playtime? Do you feel that playtime has increased or decreased in recent years? What programs do your museums or organizations offer to allow playtime or time to express their creativity?

To read the article I referenced to, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/childrens-play-is-declining-but-we-can-help-reclaim_us_5935c726e4b0c670a3ce6778?platform=hootsuite

Maker Space: Museums Can Benefit from Having a Creative Space

Also posted on Medium, June 22, 2017.

During my experience as a museum educator, I have taught history lessons at mainly historic sites. As I move forward in my career, I have started to learn more about STEM when I began working with the Maritime Explorium where they not only discuss maritime history but also include hands-on activities related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These hands-on activities are part of the Maritime Explorium’s Maker Space for children and adults can participate in with their children. For those not already aware, Maker Space is an example of the maker movement that, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), puts the emphasis on learning by doing that is informal, self-directed, iterative, and collaborative. Museums can benefit from having a space dedicated to hands-on learning because it not only encourages children to be active and entertained but it also provides them learning opportunities. In the museums I have worked for, there have been spaces created as a temporary maker space and as a permanent maker space. Also, the museums I have worked for provide lessons that incorporate STEM techniques with the history lessons taught to school programs.

The Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut has two rooms that are part of the addition later added to the historic house when it opened as a museum. One of the rooms is a multi-use room that is converted for various purposes such as gallery space, meetings, lectures and symposiums, school programs, and most relevant to this entry is a space for family fun programming. Family programs include a Thanksgiving program where kids and their family members learn to create holiday related crafts while participating in activities that educated them about the holiday and the history of Farmington.

In the second room at the Stanley-Whitman House, there is a recreated colonial kitchen that is used for public programs and for kids participating in school programs. During the school programs, the kids would learn how to follow recipes such as apple pies and Irish-style mashed potatoes. The kids learned these recipes by going step by step with each ingredient and place the measured ingredients in the bowl to be stirred together. After combining the ingredients, the kids would learn how the mixed ingredients were cooked over the hearth. By showing the kids how food is cooked over a hearth, they understand how long it takes to cook over the fire. Also, teaching the kids about cooking over a hearth not only shows what it was like to cook in the eighteenth century but it shows the chemical reaction of how the mixed ingredients create something new.

Noah Webster House also has rooms added to the historic house when it became a museum. The museum includes two rooms that re-creates what life was like in 18th century West Hartford; the first room is a small room that re-creates the one-room school house that kids attended some of the time, and the second room is a re-created colonial kitchen. In the one-room school house, students can reenact school in the eighteenth century by giving them similar lessons of reading, writing, and arithmetic and explaining the rules of what the schoolmaster/mistress expected in their one-room schoolhouse.

Inside the re-created colonial kitchen, students visiting the museum can learn how to cook inside a colonial kitchen by following the recipes, or receipts as they were called back then. Some of the recipes they created include flatjacks, vegetable stew, and Sunday Night wafers. Students follow each recipe by reading the ingredients and following the directions. Also, they learned about measuring using cups and spoons since measuring cups and spoons did not exist in the eighteenth century; the kids learned how to measure the ingredients without referring to the guidelines found on measuring cups today. Like at the Stanley-Whitman House, the lessons taught in Noah Webster House’s re-created colonial kitchen showed examples of chemical reactions to create food consumed during the eighteenth century and recreated for kids to try the food people in eighteenth century West Hartford (or West Division as it was known then). Today, I teach programs and activities that emphasized on STEM and constructivism at the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, New York.

Maritime Explorium has a space where children of various ages can interact with hands-on activities educating them on STEM lessons. For instance, there are a couple of stations where kids play and learn about balance. One example of an activity that taught balance was a small boat (strings are attached from the mast, located in the middle of the boat, to the boat) where kids can place different small items onto the boat. The second example of a balance activity is a small table with a large circle, and the object of the activity was to put blocks on the circle to make it balanced; this activity is also supposed to resemble a town since the circle had roads and grass painted on and the blocks represented town buildings. Other activities in Maritime Explorium focus on building, measuring, and sending messages with pullies; while some activities remained the same, there are activities that continually change to provide different experiences for children. These activities were conducted in the Maritime Explorium’s maker space which puts emphasis creating projects that encourages them to find multiple ways to make the same projects. The lessons were taught using constructivism, or constructivist theory.

Constructivism comes from the idea that people learning can construct knowledge for themselves. Maritime Explorium believes that by asking the kids questions about what they are working on, the kids can discover for themselves the importance of science and technology through the projects they worked on and understand there are several ways to get to the results they want to achieve the activities’ objectives. I look forward to learning more and more about different activities, and being able to translate what I have learned to the visitors.

I will continue to learn more about maker space by doing research on the subject. For instance, I began reading The Big Book of Maker Space Projects by Colleen Graves and Aaron Graves. Colleen Graves is a teacher librarian who earned many awards including the School Library Journal/Scholastic School Librarian of the Year Co-Finalist Award in 2014, and is an active speaker and presenter on makerspaces and the maker movement on a national level. Aaron Graves is a school librarian with 18 years of experience in education, and is also an active speaker on makerspaces, libraries, and research skills. This book was written as a handbook that not only gives guidelines for projects introduced in the book but it also encourages the reader to create their own projects. By using different resources and gaining more experience in the maker space, I will be able to continue to develop my skills as a museum educator.

Does your institution teach lessons using STEM? What are your experiences in teaching using STEM? Share your experiences teaching STEM.