Halloween in the Museums 2020

October 23, 2020

I decided to write a bonus post to share some examples of activities museums are doing for Halloween during this pandemic. While Halloween will look different this year, there are ways to still celebrate while being safe. Museums, whether the experience is virtual or in person, are a great example of resources on what to do this Halloween season. Each one on the list I have complied below includes a link with more information about each of these museums and events. Also, each listing that has in-person gatherings include safety guidelines to protect one another while participating in the events.

The following list includes:

Children’s Museum of New Hampshire: They have both Halloween kits for pick up and a virtual experience combining the fun of Halloween and science.

New York State Museum: New York State Museum’s Halloween Spooktacular is a series of free virtual experiences featuring storytelling, craft demos, science, and a close-up look at the Museum’s costume collections.

Litchfield Historical Society: There is an event called Scarecrows in the Meadow in which families can socially distant walk through displays of scarecrows while enjoying games and self-guided crafts. The event is ongoing until October 31st.

Queens County Farm Museum: There are a number of events occurring at this museum including Halloween on the Farm which is family friendly includes admission to the Amazing Maize Maze, hayrides, kids crafts at the Con Edison Ecology booth and trick-or-treating with the farm animals.

Norwalk Historical Society: This virtual event is a fundraiser that is selling tickets, $10 per household, for the movie Haunting at Mill Hill. Once the tickets are purchased, the movie link will be sent to the email used to purchase the tickets.

New York Botanical Garden: The Great Pumpkin Path, October 3 – November 1, 2020, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Festival: If you are in the area, there is a harvest festival at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. October 24-25, 2020.

Green-Wood Cemetery: The cemetery is celebrating Día de Los Muertos starting on October 23rd, and a community altar will be installed in the Historic Chapel.

This is not a complete list. I hope this list will be a starting point for anyone looking for something to do this Halloween. If you know of other museums doing virtual and/or in-person events for Halloween, please share in the comments.

I have also included a link to the post I wrote last year which includes the history of Halloween here: The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate

What are your plans for Halloween this year?

The Future of Museums After COVID-19: Creating Plans for Re-opening

May 7, 2020

While we do not know for certain when the pandemic will pass, museums are preparing to figure out their plans once they decide to re-open their doors. Recent professional development programs that are now being released about how museums can re-open and what they need to consider when they decide to open. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), for instance, has released its first AASLH Conversations series on planning on re-opening called Planning for Reopening. More resources became available for museum professionals to utilize in their own museums such as information from the American Alliance of Museums, Colleen Dilenschneider, Cuseum, and blogs. One of the most important takeaways from these sources is while we do not have all of the answers from this unprecedented event examining what your current state is of your staff, board, volunteers, museum, and community is  significant when considering re-opening the doors.

I recently attended the AASLH Conversations: Planning for Reopening webinar that was moderated by Lauren O’Brien (the AASLH Emerging History Professional Committee Member) and was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. The speakers during the webinar were Martha Dixon Akins who is the Deputy Director of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and Trina Nelson Thomas who is the Director of Stark Art & History Venues (the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation). Some of the questions that were answered during the conversation were: Does opening up ASAP send the wrong message? How are you maintaining relationships especially with volunteers? What can we do to make the best of this situation? Also, they pointed out that there are things to consider when thinking about re-opening including

  1. Make sure to have enough supplies to keep things clean and for safety
  2. Planning and logistics
  3. Communication between staff, board, community
  4. Collaborations: involve all members of your team of your team

The next re-opening webinar in the series is called “You are Not Alone: Reopening Small to Mid-Sized Institutions” will take place on Friday, May 15th, and it will cover what should small to mid-sized cultural institutions consider to assure patrons your team is doing all it can to make it safe to return to your place of business.

Another webinar that recently took place was called Preparing to Reopen – Strategy, Planning & Process on the Road to Reopening Museums held by Cuseum. Brendan Ciecko (CEO and Founder at Cuseum), Mark Sabb (Senior Director of Innovation, Marketing & Engagement at the Museum of African Diaspora), Holly Shen (Deputy Director at the San Jose Museum of Art),  and Ellen Busch (Director of Historic Sites Operations at the Texas Historical Commission) had a discussion through the strategy, operations, process, and planning involved in reopening  museum successfully. Also, the speakers explored strategic planning, design thinking, and innovative approaches to welcoming audiences back. In addition to the webinar, Cuseum released a blog post that included tips and strategies for reopening museums after the COVID-19 closures. The tips and strategies they released were:

  1. Work with all levels of government to facilitate a smooth transition
  2. Take measures to ensure the safety of your staff and visitors
  3. Implement a phased or gradual transition, and develop contingency plans
  4. Continue to offer digital experiences
  5. Keep a clear line of communication open with your staff and members

I especially agree with making sure that museums continue to offer digital experiences because while museums are making plans to reopen it will be less likely that they will open at pre-COVID-19 conditions. Therefore, by providing digital experiences we continue to provide options for those who are not able to visit in person due to building capacity limitations or being most vulnerable for getting the coronavirus.

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) not only update their COVID-19 resources page on a regular basis, like AASLH, but they also released blog posts such as one from Scott Stulen (the CEO and President of Philbrook Museum of Art) and Elizabeth Merritt (Vice President, Strategic Foresight & Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums at AAM). Stulen wrote a post called “The museum we closed will not be the museum we reopen” in which he illustrated examples of what measures the Philbrook Museum are taking when considering re-opening. For instance, he pointed out that he and his staff worked together to plan their next steps using initiatives they developed:

Together we created a framework for response under the #PhiltheGaps umbrella. This includes four key initiatives:

  1. Contributing 10 percent of all membership dollars to the Tulsa Area COVID-19 Response Fund organized by the Tulsa Area United Way and Tulsa Community Foundation.
  2. Seeding a large “Victory Garden” whose produce we’ll donate in partnership with area food banks.
  3. Launching an emergency response online marketplace to help local artists sell their work and keep 100 percent of the proceeds.
  4. Producing a content surge that includes artist interviews, podcasts, live performances, and more on our social media pages.

The initiatives they developed focused on interacting with and assisting their community to help everyone who has been affected by COVID-19. Merritt released a blog post called How to Get Ready to Open the Doors in which she shared some thoughts on how museums may prepare their staff and exhibits for reopening.

Merritt addressed specific information she and her colleagues shared within the COVID-19 resource webpage. She focused on three important things museums need to address and keep in mind: reopening starts with a museum’s own people: staff and volunteers, when the doors open, what’s inside?, and how long will it take to queue up these changes? The first thing she shared in the post was why we should start focusing on staff and volunteers in the re-opening plans. According to the post, she stated

Museums will have to adjust their staffing to suit current circumstances. Some museums have supported their staff through closures, but those that have furloughed or laid off staff members will have to rehire before they can open their doors. Regardless, not all staff may be able to return to work right away, as they may be coping with lack of childcare, health issues, or concerns about their own vulnerability or that of family members. Commuting may be complicated by the challenges of finding safe, reliable public transportation. Volunteers—who typically outnumber museums’ paid staff—are often older individuals, and therefore at higher risk for severe cases of COVID-19. Many may decide (or you may decide for them) that it is prudent to delay their return, and paid staff may need to cover some of the work they usually do.

We will not be able to consider opening our doors without figuring out how we will get staff and volunteers to keep the museum running on the new restrictions and regulations for a cleaner and safer environment. I also came across blog posts from other professionals in and out of the museum field that are relevant to re-opening considerations.

On Medium, there is a blog post written by Jon Voss who is the Senior Strategist and Director of US Operations at ShiftDesign.org called Redesigning Libraries, Archives & Museums Post-COVID-19. Shift Design Inc is a 501c3 non-profit corporation that is also a registered charity in England and Wales as Shift; according to their website: We take a collective approach to tackling society’s social problems. We use design thinking to help social organisations maximise their impact. Voss shared information in the blog post that was based on the work Shift over the past decade in community memory and cultural heritage. The five ideas he shared were:

  1. Prioritize investment in small organizations embedded in local communities
  2. Adapt digital to the needs and culture of specific communities
  3. Create smaller, more authentic opportunities for connection
  4. Engage with equity and access in mind
  5. Leverage assets to combine cultural memory centers with community needs like affordable housing

Voss’ blog post is another example of reinforcing the idea that we should make sure to continue to connect with our communities and help our communities keep running. A couple of other examples of posts that focused on communities is Colleen Dilenschneider’s Intent to Visit by Household Income: What it Means For Reopening and Meeting Visitor Needs: What Will Make People Feel Safe by Age & Income (DATA). Both of these posts focus on what it will take for visitors want and need from museums in order to feel safe to visit in the aftermath of the coronavirus.

There are numerous resources that have not been elaborated on in this post, but I have included the ones I have come across in the list below. We should continue this conversation among our staff and colleagues to figure out what we could implement in our own institutions.

Resource List:

“The museum we closed will not be the museum we reopen”

Reopening the Museum by Front of House in Museums

Redesigning Libraries, Archives & Museums Post-COVID-19

How to Get Ready to Open the Doors

Intent to Visit by Household Income: What it Means For Reopening

Meeting Visitor Needs: What Will Make People Feel Safe by Age & Income (DATA)

Tips & Strategies for Reopening Museums after COVID-19 Closures

Preparing to Reopen Overview

Membership Mondays – Planning for Reopening after Coronavirus

Preparing to reopen

 

Planning Education Programs: The Significance of School Program Registrations

Added to Medium, October 12, 2017

One of the important parts of planning education programming in museums is the school group registrations. Early in my career, I had limited knowledge of the registration process since I was still learning more about the education part of my role. I always understood the significance of managing registrations for school programming, and continue to learn more about the registration process as I move forward in my career. We determine how many materials are needed for school programs, how many staff or volunteers are needed for each program, and when the space is needed for school programs by using the number of registrations we have in the school year. Before the discussion of registration is addressed, there are also many steps education departments in museums take when booking programs for the year.

To effectively have a smoothly run educational department, an organized system has to be in place for every step in the process from conception of programs to the delivery of the programs. I especially learned more about the significance of each step while I was the Long Island Museum, and learned their process. Each museum have similar and different processes depending on the size of the museum and funding, however I am more familiar with the processes of the museums I have worked and currently work in so I am able to explain the process based on my experiences.

When museums plan for educational programs (public school, private school, homeschool, camps, etc.), education departments use educational standards teachers use for their own classrooms as well as materials available from their museums. Once the programs are planned, a marketing plan is organized and executed to be sure local schools and other schools within the region are familiar with programs museums can offer.

Collaborations between the education department and communications department is vital in delivering the museum’s options in educational programming. The layout of the programs not only has to be visually appealing but communicate accurate information about the programs. Once the final decisions are made, the brochures are distributed and other promotions are shared on the museum’s website and social media outlets.

As the calls start coming in for registrations, an organized system is very significant to keep track of school groups. Documents are filled out with information on what schools are interested in visiting, the name of the teacher signing up for the program(s) as well as contact information such as phone number and email, the approximate number of students participating, and the program(s) he or she is signing up for. Teachers and other leaders are most likely to register months in advance whenever they have the time to register so museum education departments need to keep this in mind when completing the registration process and sending out reminders.

Also, an arrangement for payments is made ahead of time so the education department knows how the school is paying for the deposit and/or program fees. Education departments a lot of times know beforehand which payment method schools prefer especially if the schools have signed up for programs in the past.

Once the information is written down and saved in a Word document, the information is indicated on the calendar so the entire museum staff knows what is expected. Education staff also make sure that reminders and special instructions (directions and expectations for the programs) are sent to the teacher, or whoever is the main contact for the registration process. When the day arrives, museum education staff arrange to run the check-in process as smoothly as possible to have the students participate in the allotted time for the program(s). It is also important to be as flexible as possible since things do happen that may prevent school groups from arriving on time so having an efficient check-in process is especially helpful in these cases. I have personally went through this process a number of times as a museum educator.

The process I am most familiar with is using the G Suite, also known as the Google Apps, and keeping track of the information on Microsoft Office documents. G Suite has a couple of items such as Gmail and Calendar for communication; Drive for storage; and Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Sites for collaboration. When I was at the Long Island Museum, I used the Google Calendar to not only make note of what dates schools are interested in coming but also learn about what is going on in other departments at the museum since it is shared by the whole museum staff. Once I received the required information, I made a notation on the Google Calendar to show the school, number of students and the grade level, and the program they are interested in. Also, I make sure all of the information is filled out in the form created on Microsoft Word including contact information of the main teacher who signed up for the program or programs.

Meanwhile at the Maritime Explorium, I continue to learn about how the G Suite is used among the rest of the staff. The G Suite is used for more that registrations for school programs and other programs such as birthday parties and workshops. It is used to send emails and keep track of instructions for programs such as set up and the constructivist lesson plan.

While learning and recalling the registration processes used, I did a little research on my own about other software available to assist in organizing reservations.

There is a company, Double Knot, which creates software that provides online solutions for various administrative tasks especially online management of events, programs, memberships, ticketing and admissions, facility reservations and online fundraising. Their focus is to make sure museums and other non-profit organizations spend more time on delivering their missions.

Double Knot has a field trips and mobile classroom reservations online booking software designed to create an availability calendar that reflects even the most complex schedules in addition to support for blackout periods and flexible scheduling by day, week or month. It also displays a searchable reservations calendar that lets individuals begin the booking process with a single click. The software provides a way for museums to accept both online and offline payments for programs. Also, this software provides a simpler school group check in process by scanning a single group ticket.

When teachers book with museums that use this software, each reservation can trigger an email to the education department staff so they can call to touch base, learn more about the group, and answer any questions. Then those who complete the reservation would receive an automatic confirmation with all of the information needed especially museum staff contact information and any special instructions for them to follow prior to the trip.

By figuring out the best way for one’s museum to run the registration process, the education departments will be able to effectively fulfil the educational component of their museums’ missions.

What software or process do you find works best for your museum or organization? Has there been significant changes in how the registration process is done when and if your organization switched?
Resources:
https://gsuite.google.com/
http://www.doubleknot.com