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

#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

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 to Handle Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites

Added to Medium, February 15, 2018

This week I received Museum Education Roundtable’s March edition of Journal of Museum Education and the theme of this edition is “Interpreting Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites”. When I received the Journal in the field, it made me think about the experiences I have had in professional development and in the museum field with dealing with tough subject matter. It is important for all museum professionals, whether or not they directly work with narratives about traumatic events, understand how to interpret trauma, memory, and lived experience for the visitors.

The March edition of Journal of Museum Education have a few articles that delved into this subject matter.

For instance, Lauren Zalut’s, guest editor of this edition, “Interpreting Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites” introduces the subject of handling topics of trauma, memory, and lived experience. Zalut stated that,

Our field typically tells stories of trauma and complex issues through museum educators, tour guides, or docents who are generations or decades removed from the topic or event. This approach utilizes historical empathy, defined as developing “…understanding for how people from the past thought, felt, made decisions, acted, and faced consequences within a specific historical and social context.” Research reveals that this approach humanizes historic figures, but is applied inconsistently by educators.

We have the skills to convey the significance of these stories, however we need to commit to what consistent approach is needed.

Not many museums and organizations have a narrative that includes traumatic issues. There are museums such as U.S. Holocaust Museum and the National 9/11 Museum that discuss emotional and traumatic situations on a regular basis. Meanwhile, there are museums and organizations that share a part of its overall narrative dealing with traumatic, emotional, or lived experience.

One of my first experiences with interpreting trauma, memory, and lived experience was when I was working at the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut. The Stanley-Whitman House is a living history center and museum that teaches through its collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington.

At the Stanley-Whitman House, I taught school programs that also discussed Native Americans and African Americans who lived in the early American Farmington. One of the students did ask if the house owners had slaves, and while at the time I was not entirely sure what the answer was I delicately explained that there were slaves in Farmington during the 17th century but slavery in the New England area was no longer accepted by the 1800s.

While I was in graduate school, I decided to work with the Stanley-Whitman House on a project that addressed slavery in Connecticut. I had a couple of classmates and colleagues join me in the team to work on this project for a Curatorship class requirement. We researched former slaves who worked and lived in Connecticut before the 1790 Census to present the research results about what slavery was like for slaves in Farmington to colleagues who attended the In Plain Sight symposium presentations and discussion.

Since working on this project and the symposium, there have been more developments on discussing slavery in Connecticut. One of my teammates collaborated with the Stanley-Whitman House to create a database on the information about slaves in Farmington. Also, more recently a new exhibit is opening this Saturday (February 17th) called “Slavery, Resistance & Freedom in Connecticut”; one of the students from the Public History program I graduated from at Central Connecticut State University researched, wrote, and designed the exhibit.

By being able to discuss slavery in Connecticut more, we are able to address what life had been like for enslaved individuals and draw more attention to their lived experiences.

I believe that with what the Stanley-Whitman House is doing now we are working towards helping visitors understand these lived experiences. Zalut pointed out the importance of encouraging visitors to ask questions and how museum educators have the skills to assist visitors in understanding and learning from the past:

Asking questions and spending time reflecting are critical parts of transforming the work of museum educators. If our field is genuine about its will to make space for visitors to process emotionally complex topics, spark social change, and learn from the past to make a more equitable present and future then museum educators are the ones to make it happen. We can create job opportunities for disenfranchised populations and draw in new audiences, but this work is resource intensive, and requires major internal work – both personally and institutionally. If taken on with great care, collaboration and gratitude, creating platforms for marginalized voices and narratives will be transformative for you, your visitors, your co-workers, your museum, and the field at large.

We have to dedicate our time and efforts as museum educators to create places marginalized voices and narratives can be heard and understood. Emphasis on spaces is especially important for visitors to feel they can go through the process of understanding untold stories.

Mark Katrikh’s “Creating Safe(r) Spaces for Visitors and Staff in Museum Programs” discusses visitors’ expectations of their museum experience. Visitors do not necessarily come to museums to have an emotional response, and it can be hard for them to be accustomed to this response especially when they are not prepared for it. Our responsibilities as museum educators include guiding visitors by helping them process their emotions with engaging dialogue between the museum educators and visitors. Katrikh discussed the Museum of Tolerance’s approach to having safe and responsible conversations through a framework for understanding and managing key issues when easing challenging conversations. Their framework points out there are many needs and interests participants have involved in conversations, and museum educators are responsible for approaching them with compassion, mindfulness, and skilled responses.

As museum educators, we do acknowledge that we always have the responsibility to engage with the visitors in a way that will allow them to take away with them the lessons our past have to offer. We are all responsible for figuring out what to do with these lessons to make our world a better place for us in the future. According to Katrikh,

At museums whose focus is discussing and presenting trauma, emotional responses are the norm. Visitors unprepared for such a personal experience can react in a multitude of ways along the spectrum that includes confusion, denial, inappropriate comments or questions, and anger. Anticipating such reactions, museums have a responsibility to build into their programming opportunities to promote dialogue, to process emotions and ultimately to allow visitors to reach a place of equilibrium.

We maintain balance within our museums, and by creating opportunities for visitors to process their emotions and reach a balance they would be able to take that lesson museum educators gave them to create a better community.

To be able to fulfill our responsibilities as museum educators, we should start with our training so we are prepared for the challenging conversations. Noah Rauch’s “A Balancing Act: Interpreting Tragedy at the 9/11 Memorial Museum” discussed the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s docent program and the challenges it presented. When the program was launched, it raised many questions including those on how to balance and convey strongly held, often traumatic, and sometimes conflicting experiences with a newly constructed institutional narrative. Since then the museum negotiated on specific issues and dealt with ongoing questions and challenges.

The more we work together, the more we learn and understand how our museums deal with fact-checking progresses, the more we are able to feel responsibility of our expertise in the events and life experiences. When we include more of our staff and volunteers in the training process, we would be able to connect to our missions and effectively help our visitors understand the narrative they learn.

When I participated in last year’s New York City Museum Education Roundtable’s (NYCMER) conference, I attended a session presented by the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum called The Challenges of Confronting Difficult Content. Rauch’s article reminded me of this session because both dealt with the challenges. While Rauch discussed mainly the docent perspective of the dealing with the subject matter, this NYCMER session discussed the school programs they developed and explained how their lessons approached difficult content.

In my blog post about the conference, Reflections on the NYCMER 2017 Conference, I revealed that I thought this session was interesting because 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.

It is important to understand both perspectives of museum professionals and visitors so we can work on strengthening the relationship between the two. When we do, both museum staff and visitors will have the understanding and space to confront difficult content and learn the lessons they have to offer.

How has your museum or organization dealt with educating difficult content? What challenges have you faced when interpreting trauma, memory, and lived experience?

Resources:
Mark Katrikh (2018) Creating Safe(r) Spaces for Visitors and Staff in Museum Programs, Journal of Museum Education, 43:1, 7-15
Noah Rauch (2018) A Balancing Act: Interpreting Tragedy at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Journal of Museum Education, 43:1, 16-21
Lauren Zalut (2018) Interpreting Trauma, Memory, and Lived Experience in Museums and Historic Sites, Journal of Museum Education, 43:1, 4-6
If interested in exhibit opening I mentioned, register for the Stanley-Whitman House’s exhibit opening here: http://www.stanleywhitman.org/Calendar.Details.asp?ID=743&Cat=Visit

 

How Can I Grow in the Museum Education Field

Originally on Medium, November 30, 2017

Museum education has been a passion of mine for a long time, and I continue to find opportunities to develop my career. One of the most important lessons I have learned in my career is to connect with other museum professionals since we learn best about the field when we talk with others who understand the field. After Thanksgiving weekend, I attended a professional development program on museum education career. The program I attended was New York City Museum Education Roundtable’s (NYCMER) Career Growth in Museum Education located at the Brooklyn Historical Society. I was inspired by the NYCMER Career Growth in Museum Education program to think more about my museum education career and how I could move forward in my career.

I reflected on how my museum education career has been going since coming to Long Island, and while it was not easy I learned so much so far from this experience. After I began the next phase of my career on Long Island, I learned that I needed to know more about the administration side of the museum realm in addition to doing well as a museum educator. Since then, I was able to learn more through experience on the job and professional development. It is especially not easy to move forward in the field when there is so much that needs to be improved on to help me and my colleagues stay in the field; I seize opportunities when I can and find ways to utilize my skills to be a better museum professional. We need to find a middle ground in our field that will help us fulfill our personal needs in addition to our professional needs. These were the thoughts I reflected on as I participated in the NYCMER program.

While we were in Brooklyn for the program, participants listened to presentations on what is inspiring museum workers to leave the field and had the opportunity to contribute in small group discussions.

Claudia Ocello, who co-authored the blog post I referenced in one of my previous blog posts called “Leaving the Museum Field”, discussed some of the results Ocello, Sarah Erdman, Dawn Salerno, and Marieke Van Damme found in the survey. Ocello began her presentation with the question: Why are great museum workers leaving the field?

She shared information that was included in the blog post including results from the survey that addressed the question: what could museums do to get you to stay? According to the results, 51 percent of those who participated in the survey said better pay would encourage them to stay while more support (i.e. more staff, budget, and projects) and advancement opportunities tied at 23 percent. Other responses survey participants stated to answer the question included having paid internship opportunities (one percent) and benefits (13 percent). These are very important responses because there are not many opportunities for museum professionals to be able to support themselves during this poor period in our economy.

During the presentation, Ocello pointed out that our field is not alone in wanting to change our current financial situation. She revealed that she found in a national survey on the ladder website that 71 percent of people in our country are actively looking for another job. While we are not able to have immediate results, there are things we need to do and work on now.

Ocello stated that we need to as individuals and what museums as institutions need to do to maintain a healthy work environment. As individuals, we need to take care of ourselves, be realistic, and give ourselves credit for the work we do. This is really good advice since we do have a hard time remembering that. I especially sometimes forget about this advice. I get involved in so much that a lot of times I wonder how exactly I am going through my day and getting things done.

Our institutions should also encourage its museum professionals to take advantage of professional development opportunities and mentorships for all levels in the field. We can learn so much from these opportunities not just for the museum professionals’ benefit but can also help museums get inspired to revitalize programs, exhibits, and well-being of the collections. It is also important for museums to look critically at benefits, pay, and work/life balance as well as committing to diverse hiring. Museums need to find a way to keep their professionals in a healthy work environment that will assist them in their well-being since if we keep overworking with less support from our institutions it will be harder to encourage us to stay working in the museum field. Also, museums should reflect on the fact we live in diverse communities and our institutions should be able to represent our communities by bringing in more diverse museum professionals onto our staff and board.

After the presentation, we participated in a small exercise to see what position title is based on the bullet points in the job descriptions. We were also given the opportunity to meet with one or more of the group facilitators to talk more about career growth and sought advice. I had the opportunity to participate in a group discussion facilitated by Daniel Zeiger who is the Assistant Director for Children and Family Learning at the American Museum of Natural History. While we asked questions and shared our experiences Zeiger told us about how he ended up in his position, and gave us some advice on career growth.

Some of the advice we heard include being able to understand museum operations such as finances and strategic planning. Another bit of advice is to seize for opportunities. Since taking on more responsibilities at the Maritime Explorium including financial operations, I thought it was great advice because by working on museum operations in addition to on education I became more aware of how my work as an educator contributes to the larger operation of the museum. Also, by being able to have a number of additional skills more opportunities will open for us to show ourselves and our museums what we are capable of. We should be able to learn from each other and help each other move our field, as well as our personal wellbeing, forward.

What do you do to help your career grow? What professional development programs do you participate in? How do you feel about your own career growth?
*Announcement: Guess what?! I’m on Patreon! With your help, I can expand my blog & website to do even cooler things. https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward *

Resources:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/leaving-the-museum-field/
https://www.theladders.com/p/25789/majority-unhappy-at-work

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)?

EdComversations and Journal of Museum Education: Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion

Originally posted on Medium, March 16, 2017.

I recently read Museum Education Roundtable’s publication Journal of Museum Education, and the topic is Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion. Today I participated in this week’s EdComversation on this edition of the Journal of Museum Education. The moderator was Sheri Levinsky-Raskin who is the Assistant Vice President, Education & Evaluation at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The panelists were Lanae Spruce who is the Manager of Social Media & Digital Engagement at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Anna Forgerson Hindley who is the Supervisory Early Childhood Education Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; and Amanda Thompson Rundahl who is the Director of Learning and Engagement at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the vice president at the Museum Education Roundtable. I will discuss what I have read in the Journal and then I will discuss additional findings conversed in this month’s EdComversation.

Last week I started to talk about this month’s Journal and how each edition lays out each article and case study written for that month. I decided to continue the discussion about this month’s Journal this week since I am participating in this program that is a main about this month’s Journal.

In this edition, the editorial by Cynthia Robinson, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Museum Education, discussed how the new National African American Museum of History and Culture is a powerful and timely symbol of hope. Also, Robinson discussed how the large draw of visitors to the new museum testifies the need for such a museum. She pointed out also that talking about race, race relations, and racism has always been difficult for many people, and the education department’s ability to open and sustain conversations across races is a critically important contribution to our society. She introduces the articles by acknowledging the hard work that went into writing the articles, and by explaining how these authors experiences provide information for other museums to adapt the ideas and approaches in their own programming.

For instance, Anna Forgerson Hindley (Early Childhood Education Coordinator, National Museum of African American History and Culture) and Julie Olsen Edwards’(co-author of Anti-bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, NAEYC, 2010) article “Early Childhood Racial Identity-The Potential Powerful Role for Museum Programming” examined how the National African American museum of History and Culture approach conversations on race with young children and their families as well as teachers through a couple of programs. One was an Early Childhood Education Initiative program with young children and their families, and another was a series of Let’s Talk! Dialogue on Race workshops for teachers; both programs were developed based on research on the current understanding of the development of race identity and race between birth and age eight. The education specialists use the museum’s collection and content as concrete starting point to discuss abstract concepts (i.e. race and identity), and create staff development programs that also include focus on young children and the approaches to supporting self-care to enable long-term effectiveness in addressing the emotions charged and combative issues of race and racism.

Today’s American Alliance of Museums webinar, Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion, included discussions about two articles in the Journal. The two articles, given to participants before the program began, were “Race Isn’t Just a ‘Black Thing’-The Role that Museum Professionals Can Play in Inclusive Planning and Programming” and “Social Media for Social Justice”. “Race Isn’t Just a ‘Black Thing’” was written by guest editors Esther J. Washington (Director of Education, National Museum of African American History and Culture) and Anna Forgerson Hindley (Early Childhood Education Coordinator, National Museum of African American History and Culture and one of today’s panelists).

Washington and Hindley explained in their article that while the museum was planned for ten years the staff had sensed that this rich historical and cultural content, the educational programming developed around this content, and the museum structure itself, with its prominent placement on the National Mall, would quell a desire for a long-awaited inclusiveness. They gave details about what the ten-year process of creating the museum was like, and brief information about each article in this month’s Journal. Also, Washington and Hindley expressed their hopes the examples we provide inspire brave conversations across all museums and cultural institutions. They pointed out that the issues of race will be with us for a time to come and these are subtle and nuanced and often difficult to broach; but with some effort, museums can, do and should play an important role in inclusion and by doing so, the field will be made better.

“Social Media for Social Justice” was written by Lanae Spruce (Digital Engagement Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; another one of today’s panelists) and Kaitlyn Leaf (Digital Learning Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture). Spruce and Leaf explained that the museum is tasked with stimulating a national dialogue on race and helping to foster a spirit of reconciliation and healing, and it directly impacts social media practice and how we engage with digital audiences since it helps them reach new audiences, highlight relevant museum collections, create participatory experiences, and confront issues of race and social justice. Also, they discuss a way that describes this museum’s use of collections, programming, and storytelling to uplift marginalized voices in the digital sphere.

In addition to discussing the articles, the panelists answered various questions posted by Sheri Levinsky-Raskin and participants in the program. For instance, the panelists shared their responses to how should museums be catalysts of social change. Hindley discussed that it is disturbing that part of the American culture is to forget what had happened in our past. She also pointed out that African American history is American history. I agree with this statement because we are a country filled of people with various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We should celebrate this fact, and we should be able to include all aspects of our nation’s history.

Another question that was brought to the panelists attention was how do we define inclusion and social justice. Spruce defined inclusion as making people a part of the institution and making sure people are comfortable in the space created. Hindley also stressed the importance of creating a collaborative space for visitors and staff to feel safe in and express different viewpoints and be respected. These points are significant in our museum field because without that comfort we cannot effectively participate in our communities. The more we look at our museums’ historic narratives and missions the more we will be able to find ways to connect with our visitors and create opportunities that will be inclusive for all visitors.

To answer the question on the definition of social justice, the panelists pointed out that museums need to make sure there is equity as well as come up with ideas to train staff and engage with all visitors. One important tip that Hindley shared was to take time on yourself and recognize pieces of your life that brought you to this point in life. I think that is a significant point because we need to recognize that we all have bias, and we need to learn more about ourselves before we can be able to learn about everyone else in our communities. Spruce also stated that it is also important to use partnerships with outside organizations as resources.

The tips on how to tell inclusive stories in institutions include be open to criticism as well as listen to what criticisms there are to adapt programming to be more inclusive. Another tip was to change speaking orders in meetings and set up meetings with diverse members. The most important tip I took away from the program was to listen. For instance, museums should participate in Museums Respond to Ferguson, Museum Workers Speak, read and do research, and look at social media feeds from other organizations that discuss inclusion and equity. After reading these articles, participating in programs such as the NYCMER program last week and AAM’s webinar this week, I hope to find ways to create ways to help the museum community be more inclusive in our society.

How is your institution finding ways to reach out to visitors that may have felt excluded? Did you read this month’s Journal of Museum Education? What was your reactions to the articles?

Writing about Museum Education: Using Professional Development to Our Advantage

Originally posted on Medium. October 26, 2016

I truly believe professional development is important for all career paths, especially in the museum education field. Professional development in the museum education field have many opportunities to help museum professionals develop their careers to make sure they are up to date with latest theories and skills. There are many ways any professional can develop their skills in their chosen careers. For instance, there are conferences, networking, courses, online and workshops professionals can develop their own skills and use those lessons to share with their organizations to continue to grow. These options allow every professional to gain insight in their own professions, and by sharing my experiences in participating in professional development I hope this would inspire both emerging professionals and seasoned professionals to take advantage of what our organizations can offer. As a museum educator, I participated in various professional development programs including conferences and workshops.

I attended annual New England Museum Association conferences held in various cities in the New England states. The ones I attended were at hotels in Newport, RI in 2013, Boston/Cambridge, MA in 2014, and Portland, ME in 2015. The first conference’s theme was called Who Cares? Why Museums Are Needed More Than Ever; this theme touched on exactly how museums can still be relevant today. The second conference’s theme was called Picture of Health: Museums, Wellness, & Healthy Communities which explained how museums can promote health and wellness. The third conference’s theme was called The Language of Museums which discussed communication within the museum, among the staff, and with museum visitors to best serve the surrounding community. Each conference lasted for three days, has various sessions related to each department in the museum field as well as to the overall conference, and some off-site sessions allowing participants to explore the area where the conference is held. The conferences start with Keynote Sessions lead by speakers related to the theme and discuss how the conference’s theme advances the museum field.

Also, the conferences provide various networking opportunities including opening events at local museum, and Professional Affinity Group Lunches; the Professional Affinity Group Lunches (or PAG Lunches) allow professionals to meet with other professionals in the field, such as museum educators, take a boxed lunch ordered ahead of time and participate in discussions as well as group activities. NEMA conferences also provide a couple of sessions for professionals who were attending the conference for the first time; there was a session on the introduction to the conference and newcomer’s reception for networking opportunities. When I attended the newcomer’s session and reception in 2013 as a graduate student, I was introduced to how the conferences were set up and the panelists gave me and other newcomers advice on how to choose sessions as well as how to take advantage of networking with colleagues. These newcomer’s sessions are very helpful because it made me feel comfortable about navigating through the conferences, and when I introduced a friend and colleague to the NEMA conference I made sure she went to these sessions. As I transitioned to the museum community in New York, I took advantage of attending conferences and events in New York City.

I attended my first New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference in May 2016. The NYCMER conference was located at the Morgan Library & Museum near Penn Station. While it was like the NEMA conferences I attended in the past, the differences include the focus was professional development for museum educators, and all on site sessions were at the museum not at a hotel. NYCMER conference started with a keynote session with many sessions related to the museum education field. The keynote session at the beginning of the conference featured speakers Steven Seidel, Faculty Director of the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Jennifer Ifill-Ryan, Associate Director, Education & Community Engagement at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Learning, introducing the overall importance of storytelling in the museum education field. Unlike the NEMA conferences which had some sessions related to museum education, all NYCMER sessions were more focused on subjects related to the museum education field. For instance, I attended a session that shared how to engage new audiences through playful experiences presented by staff from Museum Hack, a program designed to engage individuals with museums and to help museums develop their skills in creating interactive programs. Not only have I taken advantage of attending conferences, I also participated in a workshop in New York.

Last week I attended a workshop hosted by NYCMER and El Museo del Barrio called “Exhibition Designs for Educators”. The workshop event started with an activity on creating an exhibit related to one object; we were split into four different groups and were given a task to create an exhibit using prompts to interpret the object in four different ways. The challenge was we were not told what the object was, and we were expected to create an exhibit with an unknown artifact. What I can describe about the object is it looked like a cement block with a whole in it, and had nails sticking out of it. This group activity allowed us to discuss with each other ideas about how we can achieve our mission. My group’s prompt was to create an open exhibit that has a warm, inviting environment. We decided to create a model of our exhibit; our model had the object on a pedestal in the center of the exhibit with seats around it and wires between the seats. I asked the group what if we included inquiry-based questions to allow the visitors of our exhibit to be able to talk about the object, and we agreed in addition to inquiry-based questions on the wall we also included a box next to the pedestal with answers related to the object. To create that warm, inviting environment, we decided to use bright colors associated with comfort for the wall and seats then used a darker color for the floor to complement the object. After a few minutes, each group presented their exhibit ideas.

The rest of “Exhibition Design for Educators” workshop had three panelists discuss their involvement in exhibition and how it can be translated to education. NYCMER’s event mission was to make sure everyone attending will have a better understanding of the relationship between exhibition design and interpretation, and how educators can take advantage of their colleagues’ strategies in their own practice. These panelists explained their approaches to the practice of designing exhibits and their approaches to integrating interpretation. The first panelist was Ricardo Mulero who has been involved in exhibition projects include the National September 11 Memorial Museum and James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia; he discussed his experiences working on projects for these museums and revealed at the end the object we created exhibits for was a cast of Kodak Camera packaging foam (circa 1970s). The second panelist was Sofia Reeser Del Rio who is the Curatorial Programs Coordinator at El Museo del Barrio; she discussed her approach to exhibit design as a form of storytelling and used a seed as a simile for an exhibit. Like a seed, ideas need to be nurtured and supported by research, emotions, imagination, appropriate gallery space, and planning to become successful projects.

The last panelist was Paul Orselli, the President and Chief Instigator at Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc. (POW!) who discussed about creating prototypes or a tool to engage in co-creation outside museum, exhibit diplomacy (or how to try things quickly, answer simply, and let visitor answer you), and hybrid museum. Orselli also used Elvis Presley to explain exhibit prototyping by using each letter of his first name to discuss each step for prototyping; use everyday materials to make it easier, looseness in opportunities during development, have exhibits be vermicious or to worm around on different subjects, have iteration or in other words keep trying, and sharing ideas with visitors and other professionals. What I took away from this experience is being able to come up with ideas for integrating exhibit and education programs, and will hopefully use these discussions to assist in planning future programs. I believe I left the workshop with a better understanding of the relationship between exhibition design and interpretation.

These are only some of the emerging and seasoned professionals can develop their skills in museum education. Volunteering is another great way to get involved to not only help an organization but you can also continue to utilize and develop your skills. I volunteer as a Parish Historian for the church I grew up attending to keep track of the collections and figure out ways to utilize the collections; also, I volunteer for the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson and the Long Island Maritime Museum teaching school programs and working within the visitor services department. The previous experiences I shared with you all will hopefully show how much we can learn from professional development, and how important it is to take advantage of these events. I will leave you with the following questions to ponder on: What are ways you take advantage of professional development? Is there a session or workshop that inspired you? Have you presented at a conference before, and if you have what did you like most about your experiences?