I chose to take a closer look at a website that focuses on professional development for museum professionals. Museum Learning Hub is a website I follow to help me develop skills as a museum professional. According to their website, it is a nationwide initiative organized by the six U.S. regional museum associations and is dedicated to providing free, self-paced training resources for small museums made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant for Museums Award. I appreciate that they are able to provide these resources for free since most small museums do not have a professional development budget for their employees; therefore, providing more accessible resources can help museum professionals especially those who work in small museums develop their skills to perform their tasks in their museums. The Hub is created as part of the Digital Empowerment for Small Museums Project, which focuses on providing capacity-building programs and resources in the areas of digital media and technology for small museums.
I like how it is easy to navigate through the website to access webinars and additional resources. The toolkits, that are included in each module, provide more details from individual sessions and resources to help museum professionals learn more about a specific topic covered in the session. The website also includes forums and Ask an Expert forum in which users can click on the forum name to see the discussions, get advice, share ideas and resources, and get technical support from student technology fellows. Some of the topics that are covered in their webinars include but are not limited to digital accessibility and inclusion, live streaming, managing digitization projects, virtual exhibitions, podcasts, video production, and audiences and analytics for museums. They release webinars each week live on their website and have past recordings and transcripts available to catch up on topics discussed in previous weeks.
To learn more about the website and to participate in webinars, check out the link below.
Earlier this month I attended History Camp America, which was their first national History Camp virtual conference. It is produced by The Pursuit of History, a non-profit organization that engages adults in conversation about history and connects them with historic sites in their communities, and across the country through innovative in-person and online programming. There were more than 45 sessions that included but were not limited to presentations, historic site tours, history walks, culinary history demonstrations, trivia, and yoga. According to their website, this conference is designed to be a casual conference for adults, teenagers and children that are students, teachers, professors, authors, bloggers, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors and board members, genealogists, and everyone else, regardless of profession or degree, who is interested in and wants to learn more about history.
Like previous virtual conferences, they were hosted on platforms designed to run their conferences; History Camp used the event automation Pheedloop which made organizing conferences, meetings, and trade shows easy with event management software that powers everything from mobile apps, registration, touch-free check-in, and live streaming, to floor plans, sponsors, badge printing, and networking since 2015. I decided to attend History Camp this year after I discovered their website because I wanted to learn what a conference that is not hosted by a museum association would be like to experience. I also wanted to participate in something that appeals to my interested in history and that is different from professional development programs I have attended in the past. It is also important for history and museum professionals in the field to see how people are currently studying history and how they are interpreting history since the history and museum field are discussing the 250th commemoration of American Independence and a part of the discussion about the commemoration is to work on helping the people learn how to do history, in other words how to do their own historical research of the communities they live in. The following are a sample of sessions I attended during History Camp America.
One of the sessions I attended was Saunkskwa, Sachem, Minister: native kinship and settler church kinship in 17th and 18th-century New England led by Lori Rogers-Stokes, an independent scholar of 17th-century New England and the author of Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1683-1649: Heroic Souls (published by Palgrave Macmillan). Rogers-Stokes shared her work in process research by discussing the political records and Congregational church records from 17th-century Massachusetts. Her presentation focused on sharing the similarities and differences she found on how the Algonquin people and English colonists defined and valued kinship; she revealed that, according to her research, the puritan church defined kinship in a similar way to indigenous kinship which led her to believe there was a potential connection that could have been a fruitful common ground for cooperation and respect but was unfortunately lost. I thought the content was interesting and I chose to attend this session because I wanted to expand my knowledge on indigenous history; while the session focused on comparing the Algonquin people and English colonists views on kinship, it is an introduction to the Algonquin culture and history. I look forward to hearing about her completed work on this research.
Once that session was complete, I moved on to a short spotlight session introducing The Daily Bellringer created by Jared Bruening. The Daily Bellringer provides short video overviews of U.S. History topics, and they are designed to be used for grades 5-12 as warm-ups, reviews, or introductions to content. I will go more in depth about The Daily Bellringer in a future post. This was not the only spotlight that occurred during History Camp America.
Another session I attended was “Thrown into the pits”: how were the bodies of the nineteen hanged Salem “witches” really treated? and the speaker was Marilynne K. Roach, author of The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, and Six Women of Salem. She is a member of the Gallows Hill Group that verified the location of the hangings, a discovery Archaeology magazine hailed as one of 2016’s top ten discoveries in the world. Roach discussed her experience taking a closer look at the court records that may disprove assumptions of what happened to the bodies of those hung during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. I thought this was an important session to attend not only because of my interest in Salem’s history but this is an example of why historical research is significant. Popular accounts starting with 19th century historian Charles Upham’s statement that the deceased were “undoubtedly all thrown into pits dug among the rocks” were usually based in available resources or lack thereof, and when records are discovered the interpretation begins to change to reflect what the primary sources state about moments in history such as the Salem Witch Trials.
During lunch, there was a demonstration and a short session that focus on the history of food. In this demonstration, Chef Justin Cherry cooked a recipe for crab cake in Dressed Crab – An Early American Favorite and participants had access to the recipe so they could follow along making their own crab cake. Chef Justin Cherry is the Chef/Owner of Half Crown Bakehouse which is a mobile 18th-century clay oven that specializes in colonial foodways. The recipe he used during the demonstration came from a manuscript written by Anne Chase in 1811; Anne Chase was the daughter of Samuel Chase, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I thought it was interesting since not only participants learn more about history, but they can also prepare their own crab cakes as they watch. To my memory, I have not participated in a demonstration like this one before.
In the next demonstration, Sarah Lohman shared photographs and discussed the history of soda fountains in Soda Fountain Favorites. Sarah Lohman is a culinary historian and the author of the bestselling book Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, and she focuses on the history of food as a way to access the stories of diverse Americans. She focused her presentation on food history in New York and provided recipes of the classic sodas she talked about so participants can make them at home. Lohman shared stories behind some of the favorite fountain drinks including the egg cream and the popularity of seltzer, Dr. Brown’s Soda (specifically Cel-Ray), the Lime Rickey, and the Purple Cow. During the session, I recalled the first time I tried an egg cream when I first visited my then boyfriend (now husband) on Long Island.
After attending the sessions live, I decided to take advantage of the recorded sessions so I can revisit the sessions and listen to other sessions that I did not attend on the day of the conference. I included a pdf file of the itinerary History Camp released to provide an idea of topics that were discussed, tours given, and demonstrations performed. I will also elaborate in future posts about other sessions I attended and tours of historic sites I participated in.
One of my previous blog posts I posted shared reflections on the museum education since the pandemic reached the United States. Since this pandemic has made an impact on all of us around the world, I thought I would share information from museum associations outside of the United States. It is important for U.S. museum professionals to remember that we can learn from museums outside of the United States for ways to deal with challenges in the field. One of the most recent examples of museums learning from one another is how to continually serve the communities we are a part of while the current coronavirus pandemic has changed how we interact in the world. Each museum association I have been following released resources to help museum professionals engage with their communities while we continue to face the pandemic.
The first one I follow is Museums Association (MA). The MA was established in 1889 which made it the oldest museums association in the world, and it represents 14,000 individual members, 1,800 museums and 300 commercial members. According to their website, a small group of museum professionals founded Museums Association to foster mutual cooperation among curators and institutions. During the pandemic, Museums Association released a statement on extending emergency Covid measures; they stated:
The Museums Association is fighting hard to ensure museums get the support and investment they need to see them through the Covid pandemic. In light of the ongoing nature of the crisis, we are calling on the UK and devolved governments to extend the emergency measures that have been so essential to the sector during this time.
I included a link to their full statement in the list below. The MA released some resources in addition to their statement. They shared some considerations to put in place before welcoming visitors back that came from the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) good practices guidelines; the purpose of the guidelines is to set out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England and explains how restrictions will be eased over time. There are nine considerations that museums need to remember; some of the considerations are Government has clearly announced that museums and galleries can reopen; Workforce safety and wellbeing can be supported; Public safety can be assured; and Museums are confident that visitors will return, and they can provide services in keeping with their public purpose. When there are updates needed to be made to the guidelines, they made notes of where on the guidelines it was changed and what was updated. The full guidelines document is available on the NMDC website.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM), according to their website, is an international organization of museums and museum professionals which is committed to the research, conservation, continuation, and communication to society of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible, and intangible. ICOM is the only global organization in the museum field. They also released a few resources on the pandemic and re-opening the museum. One of the resources they released was “Museums and end of lockdown: Ensuring the safety of the public and staff”, and in this page the basic measures are organized into seven categories including preparing for the arrival of the public, public access—adapting the flow of visitors, and in the office. I included a few of the measures from their page here:
PREPARING FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE PUBLIC
Define a maximum number of visitors per exhibition room and inform the public (it is recommended to set a maximum number of people per square meters to allow a safety distance of 1.5 m between each visitor)
Consider a gradual reopening of exhibitions
As far as possible, set up a booking system (online, by phone and/or by e-mail). Set up an online ticketing system. Online tickets can be scanned by visitors themselves at the entrance to the museum
PUBLIC ACCESS – ADAPTING THE FLOW OF VISITORS
Avoid or manage lines at entrances and counters
Consider ground markings for lines to ensure that the recommended distance of 1.5 m is maintained
Close the cloakrooms requiring the presence of staff (lockers can remain available if they are disinfected regularly between uses) to avoid unnecessary handling and contact
IN THE OFFICE
Consider sustainable adaptation of emergency plans
Extend work loans to minimize movement, handling, and transportation
Common equipment used by several staff members will need to be disinfected regularly. In the absence of disinfection standards, this equipment shall not be used
They also pointed out that if museums are not in the position to respond to the measures, then the museums should extend their temporary closings.
Another museum organization I follow is Museums Galleries Scotland. I first became aware of them when I was asked to be a speaker in their webinar about the future of museum education last year. Museums Galleries Scotland, according to their website, is the National Development Body for the Scottish museums sector. They support 419 museums and galleries, through strategic investment, advice, advocacy, skills development, et. cetera. I saw on their website they released a page of resources titled “Coronavirus Guidance for Museums” which is divided into three categories: Operational Guidance, Reopening Guidance, and Remote Working and Online Engagement. One of their pages included “Business continuity during COVID-19” which provide information for museums currently dealing with the effects of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus outbreak; some of information focused on financial support, business continuity advice, and best practice to follow.
The above examples I shared is only a sample of what museum associations outside of the United States are distributing on their websites. If there are any resources that you do not see here, please share in the comments below.
I decided to attend this year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) virtual conference which took place on Monday, May 17th. This was their second conference on the virtual platform, and not only did I want to engage with colleagues in the field and learn from sessions on the museum education field, but I also wanted to see how the second virtual conference compares to the first virtual conference. The theme this year was Reflect, Reinterpret, Represent: What’s your Re__? and the sessions encouraged participants to reflect on the lessons we learned and reinterpret the fundamentals of both museum and informal education while we move forward towards a renewed and more representative museum field. Once again, the NYCMER conference was held on the Hopin app, and like I said in last year’s post: participants would be able to do what we usually did during the conference, including attending the keynote session, sessions, poster sessions, Peer Group meetings, and networking, but from home. Instead of releasing my thoughts last week, I wanted to focus on gathering them and my notes to give a concise account of my experiences during the conference.
As usual, I found it hard to decide which sessions to attend during the virtual conference, but I will be getting recordings and resources from the conference as a NYCMER member. Throughout the day, I tweeted my thoughts on Twitter while engaging in the sessions I attended. I gathered some of the tweets I wrote during the day and background information on the sessions to share with all of you. I collected the rest of my tweets and placed them in an Excel spreadsheet, and it is found within the resource section. In addition to tweeting my experience, I made note of the interactions I had with colleagues online in comparison to last year.
Networking with colleagues was a challenge last year since the time was short and it was hard to have conversations when they suddenly cut off; the networking feature was continuously updated throughout the conference so more time was added conversations. This year the networking feature has a maximum of five minutes to interact with one another, and we are able to extend the time spent in five-minute increments as long as both parties click on the extend button. I like what they did this year in the networking experience because I got to have longer conversations if time permitted; in one conversation I was able to help answer an emerging museum professional’s many great questions about the museum field.
While waiting for the keynote session to begin, participants were encouraged to visit the mentimeter site to answer the conference’s theme question: What’s your Re__? We were encouraged to add our words to the word cloud that will be shared at the end of the conference. My “Re__” words I added to the word cloud were: Refresh, Renew, Reflect, and Remember. I chose these words since they apply to both the museum field overall and my career in the field. It is good to refresh and renew our practices in the museum field, reflect on the progress we have made and what we still need to do, and remember the lessons we learned especially during the past year.
The keynote speaker this year was Dr. Porchia Moore, who is the Assistant Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Florida, champion of the Critical Race Theory, co-director of the Incluseum, and co-creator of the Visitors of Color project. Dr. Moore emphasized during the keynote that we need to use the time we are in now to create new educational practices. Within her presentation, Dr. Moore shared what her “Re__” words were in museum education. She chose recall, reimagine, and also remember then explained her reasons behind the words:
Recall: Why am I doing this work?
Reimagine: think critically about what the new space should look like
Remember: inspired by the term Rememory and the book Beloved by Toni Morrison. Dr. Moore spoke about the collective memory and how even if something you remember does not physically exist it still exists within the mind. As a field, we need to re-write our values to form a collective body
I attended the session Redesigning in-person programs, and the speakers were Raymond Rogers, Ciara Scully, and Tiffany Yeung from the New York State Parks. Rogers, Scully, and Yeung shared information on what they needed to consider when redesigning in-person programs and what we should apply to our own programs. The following sections are what we need to consider in our program redesigns:
-know what your agency’s guidelines are
-know what to expect from participants beforehand
-what needs can we meet?
-language clear and descriptive?
-How is it advertised?
-who is it designed for?
-anyone excluded from program? Why?
-what language are we using? Gender neutral? Inclusive?
-does it include multiple perspectives?
-main goal of this program?
-how are we engaging people with the content?
They encouraged us to brainstorm things to keep in mind when we redesign our in-person programs.
The next session I attended was Reimagining Equity and Inclusion within Docent Programs, and the speakers were Christina Marinelli (Senior Museum Instructor/Adult Learning Coordinator at the Brooklyn Museum) and Maria C. Pio (Co-Director; Director of Education and Administration at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, CUNY). In this session, all participants were encouraged to start discussions in separate sections to discuss policies, shared commitments, & values and training strategies. During the first section on policies, some points that were discussed included concerns on being too political and the need to make them feel safe, how to navigate DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, Inclusion), and docents that are also donors. When we went back from our groups, we learned about what the second group discussed. In the second section, we brainstormed answers for types of trainings that were particularly helpful or problematic including setting clear roles and responsibilities.
For my third session, I decided to attend New York Responds: Creating a Crowd-Sourced Exhibition and Responsive Programming for a City in Crisis. The speakers were Maeve Montalvo (Director, Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center, Museum of the City of New York), Hannah Diamond (Education Manager for Professional Learning, Museum of the City of New York), Jelissa Caldwell (Museum Educator, Museum of the City of New York), Joanna Steinberg (Curator of Education Programs, Museum of the City of New York), and Amanda Johnson (Artist, Museum of the City of New York). All of the speakers discussed how this exhibit came to fruition, and a link to information about the exhibit New York Responds: The First Six Months is included in the list below. The exhibit is now available online.
Then there was the Expo in which there are shorter sessions that introduced various topics and speakers introduce the research or projects they were working on to conference attendees. For this year’s conference, NYCMER shared a YouTube playlist as an introduction to this year’s Expo (I included a link of the playlist in the list below). When I attended the Expo, I attended the one called Squash the Museum. Danaleah Schoenfuss and Sonya Ochshorn discussed the current workplace structure that are still in place in many museums, and presented a range of alternative structures such as flat management, worker co-ops, and delayering processes both as a thought experiment but also as steps for creating lasting change.
The fourth and final session I attended was called Making Institutional Change. Braden Paynter (Director, Methodology and Practice at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) and Tramia Jackson (Senior Coordinator, Science Research Mentoring Consortium at the American Museum of Natural History). This session shared two frameworks to help participants, the first to analyze challenges and the second to create strategic processes for change. Drawing on the experience of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and the Science Research Mentoring Consortium participants won’t have all of the answers, but they will have better questions to begin revealing them. The goal of the session was to provide basic tools for our own institutional change. When working on making institutional change, it is important to remember to:
-What is your why?
-Where are your concerns in your institution?
-find allies and build partnerships
Grow collective and individual knowledge
-continue to build your knowledge about the issue
Small acts of change
-within your purview and your allies, begin applying knowledge and making small changes
Paynter and Jackson also pointed out that it is important to take breaks and celebrate your accomplishments. I really enjoyed this year’s NYCMER virtual conference, and stay tuned for more resources as I continue to participate in NYCMER events.
During this past year, there were a lot of webinars produced for professional development programs especially in the museum field. This is not the first time webinars have been developed and utilized but participation in them increased during this global health crisis. Since I write about the services museums could learn about and see how they could help them, I thought I would write about another one called Cisco. Also known as Cisco Systems, Inc., Cisco is an American multinational technology conglomerate headquartered in San Jose, California that develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment and other high-technology services and products.
I chose to focus more on one of their services not only because they are so many, but I thought I should focus on ones that can be helpful for education programs in museums and classrooms since one of my focuses for this blog is on education. One of the services they offer include webinar set ups called Webex.
Webex has the following features: calling, messaging, meetings, and connecting in Webex. With the Calling in Webex feature, users can enable it to get enterprise-calling features on features on desktop and mobile devices. In the Messaging in Webex feature, individuals are able to use text messaging with built-in enhanced features, such as custom presence status and custom filters, for one-on-one and group messaging. In the Meetings in Webex feature, users are able to meet securely with integrated video, audio, and content sharing on any device; it also has features such as noise removal and speech enhancement, live transcripts, and translations with Webex Assistant, to automate meeting tasks and enhance relationships. Then in the Connecting with Webex feature, users that utilize Webex realize they are able integrate with third-party apps right your existing workflows to streamline the workday. The benefits of using Webex are:
Built-in security: Strong encryption, compliance, and control inside and outside of your organization.
Easily deploy and manage: Intuitive, with easy provisioning, control, and management of your Webex services.
Made to fit: From classroom to boardroom, to the front line, Webex is customized for your environment and workstyles.
Powered by Webex: Built on the industry-trusted global Webex platform.
Cisco also promotes services that would help educators provide hybrid learning opportunities for their students.
They provide a number of hybrid learning solutions they offer to help increase student and faculty engagement, educate anywhere at any time, and provide flexible learning experiences. The hybrid learning solutions they offer are hybrid learning spaces, secure distance learning, and faculty professional development. According to the site, Cisco’s hybrid learning spaces offers to expand teaching and learning and across physical and virtual environments; they went into detail on pages for hybrid learning solutions, Cisco Webex, Webex Education Connector, and Cisco Webex Board.
Cisco shares detailed information about what they offer on their virtual platforms. I recommend taking a closer look for yourselves to see what may be appropriate for your educational interactive experiences in virtual and hybrid classrooms as well as museums. To find out more about Cisco, check out the links below.
MuseumsEtc, an independent publishing house based in Edinburgh and Boston on books for museum and gallery professionals, published the book For Love or Money: Confronting the State of Museum Salaries edited by Dawn E Salerno, Mark S. Gold, and Kristina L Durocher. I chose this book because museum salary is still a relevant topic in the field, and I have wanted to write this book review for a while. Now I am glad that I am re-visiting this book since I am going to be writing more book reviews for this blog. I recommend checking out this book, especially for individuals who are new to the museum field, since each section is incredibly detailed in the topic of what is going on for museum salaries.
It is also a relevant topic now as the pandemic hit the museum field hard (like most if not all professional fields). Many museum professionals faced layoffs, furloughs, salary cuts, schedules cut, et. cetera when museums closed or continue to offer online experiences as a result of the pandemic. There are some that have re-opened their sites to limited capacity and some even require purchasing tickets ahead of the visit. As we continue to move forward, we need to revisit museum salaries. We as a museum field need to continue to make progress in equity for gender and salary, and having these conversations as well as sharing our thoughts, ideas, and actions are important steps in improving the state of the museum field.
For Love or Money is a collection of chapters written by various museum professionals within the museum field. Inside the book, there are twenty-four chapters and are divided into four sections: the state of museum salaries, causes and effects, addressing the issues, and turning talk into action. There are at least 29 museum professionals who have contributed their thoughts and research to this book.
I appreciate that not only are there table charts but also cartoon depictions to illustrate and stress the points being made inside the book. In Taryn R Nie’s “Far Too Female: Museums on the Edge of a Pink Collar Profession” for instance, they included a table chart of compensation expenditure as a percentage of the operating budget and a table chart of gender ratio by position; an example from the gender ratio (according to the AAM 2017 National Museum Salary Survey) is the amount of museum professionals who held the position of volunteer coordinator who identify as male was 12.5 percent and those who identify as female was 86.8 percent.
In Emily Tuner’s “What’s Going on In This Picture? Museum Education as Undervalued Labor”, she included a number of cartoon panels that describe and illustrate the points she made in her chapter of the book. One of them labeled The price of entry to full-time museum education work displayed a hopeful candidate asking a museum professional about a full-time museum education position but was told despite her experience she was qualified for a part-time museum education position.
Also, I appreciate how much detail each writer put into their chapters as well as the amount of research they have included within the text and in their resource sections. In Charlotte Martin, Sarah Maldonado, and Anthea Song’s “A Case for Salary Transparency in Job Postings”, for instance, their chapter described how salary transparency in job postings is a relatively easy step towards the goal for assuring diversity and equity in museum and cultural institution employees, and they described New York City Museum Educators Roundtable’s (NYCMER) transition into changing their policy for all posting jobs on their job board to have salary transparency.
On an additional note, I thought it was really awesome to see a tweet I had posted during the NYCMER conference in 2018 on the announcement of the policy change for their job board.
I recommend checking out this book for yourselves to learn more about what each museum professional has discussed about museum salaries and salary transparency.
If you like this book review and would like to see more of these posts on the blog, find out how you can become a supporter of the blog and website by “buying me a coffee”. Check out the link here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog.
This is the second part of my experience at this year’s virtual NEMA conference. If you have not read the first part, check out the link here: NEMA 2020 Virtual Conference: Part 1: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1bD . Then come back here to see the rest of this post.
On the third day of the NEMA conference, the first session I attended was the keynote with Sarah Sutton, the Principal of Sustainable Museums, and Cultural Sector Lead at We Are Still In. The presentation was pre-recorded, and once we finished watching the presentation Sutton was available to answer our questions. In the keynote Climate Change. Covid-19. Racial Inequality: What Each Crisis Can Teach Us for Tackling the Others, Sutton’s presentation addressed that the lessons from decades of climate advocacy have noticeable parallels with the experience of fighting Covid-19, the efforts to manage an economic recovery, and the work to address racial inequality. Also, the argument made was museums are perfectly suited to help communities because science, data, language, politics, history, and human nature are all mixed up in the problems and the solutions cope with and overcome these crises.
The first session I attended was called We Are Allies: How to Listen, Learn, and Become Anti-Racist Museums with Kristin Gallas (Principal, Interpreting Slavery) as facilitator and the speaker was Katherine Kane (the former Executive Director at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center). Gallas and Kane pointed out that museums must step up and commit to making their work and public spaces welcoming and equitable.
After the session, I had lunch with the Education Professional Affinity Group/Gathering (PAG). At the in person NEMA conference, there were PAG Lunches that encourage conference participants to engage with one another while taking lunch breaks between sessions; I wrote about previous PAG Lunches in past posts about the NEMA conference. Each PAG lunch also had themes for each one, and this year’s Education PAG Lunch theme was Grief and Recovery.
The next session I attended was Let’s Take This Outside with Brindha Muniappan (Senior Director of the Museum Experience at the Discovery Museum) as facilitator, and the speakers were Kate Leavitt (Director of Mission at the Seacoast Science Center) and Lorén Spears (Executive Director at the Tomaquag Museum). Within the session, each of them discussed how their four different organizations (children’s museum, science center, historic house/garden, and Indigenous museum) encourage visitors to spend time outside and think about their physical place in the world as a way to build life-long connections with nature and conserve it for future generations.
I attended the Fostering Community Within Frontline Staff with Helen Brechlin and Tom Maio, who are both from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts, for the last session of the third day. Brechlin and Maio shared how their frontline staff program not only supports their frontline staff but support the visitors during this pandemic. Their discussion focused on how to build and foster a positive working relationship with and among frontline staff.
The panel session for the fourth day of the NEMA conference was Celebrating Museums with Rebekah Beaulieu (Executive Director at the Florence Griswold Museum) as moderator, and the following individuals were the panelists: Catherine Allgor (President at the Massachusetts Historical Society), Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy) the Executive Director and Sr. Partner to Wabanaki Nations at the Abbe Museum, and Hallie Selinger (Visitor Experience Manager at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA). In the panel discussion, they talked about the question: Why do you love museums?
For my first session of the fourth day, I attended the Beyond Hands-On: Tapping the Non-Touch Senses in Exhibitions session. Betsy Loring (Principal, exploring exhibits & engagement, LLC, MA) and Laurie Pasteryak (Director of Interpretation at Fairfield Museum & History Center) spent some time reminding us of the many other senses that exhibitions can invoke instead of – or in addition to – touch. They shared examples of non-touch interactivity through sound, smell, and proprioception; and participants broke out into smaller groups brainstorm ways to inexpensively increase the sensory dimensions of exhibits.
The next session I attended was Planning for Interpretive Planning with Julie Arrison-Bishop (Community Engagement Director at The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association) as facilitator, and the speakers were Matt Kirchman (President and Creative Director at ObjectIDEA in Massachusetts) and Brooke Steinhauser (Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum). All of them discussed tackling the interpretive planning process and shared their tips and tricks for successful project planning.
The last session I attended on the fourth day was Happy House Tours: Working with Homeowners and Volunteers for a Great Event with Sue Goganian (Director at Historic Beverly in Massachusetts) as facilitator, and the speakers were Fay Salt (a Trustee at Historic Beverly) and Beverly Homeowners John and Jaye Cuffe. Goganian, Salt, and Cuffe shared their perspectives on how much work and cooperation it takes to run a house tour event. They discussed how they require many volunteers and lots of coordination, and a great partnership makes it possible even with limited staff and a small budget. Staff members share the financial, organizational, and community benefits, and how it is done before the pandemic and beyond.
Before I attended the sessions for the last day of the conference, I revisited the Exhibit Hall to participate in a live demonstration from Panospin 360. Located in Lowell, Massachusetts, it offers virtual tour services for hospitality venues, universities, conference centers, medical facilities, corporations, retail stores, historical sites, and national parks across the United States. I will go into more detail in a future services examination blog post.
The first session I attended on the last day of the conference was Resource Roundup: A Roundtable for Sharing (and Discussing) Sources Relevant to Contemporary Issues in the Museum Field with many museum professionals participating as facilitators and speakers. It was a session where participants could get a bibliography of sources and engage with colleagues via active discussion to explore resources, ideas, share information, and network. All participants were broken into a number of different groups on various topics, and were encouraged to attend more than one: Museum Compensation/Salary Transparency; Issues of Access; Evaluation; Decolonization; Museum Activism & Social Justice; Gender Equity & Leadership; and Museum Careers & Professional Development. The purpose of the roundtable was to:
highlight the key books, articles, and resources useful for understanding and navigating contemporary museum issues while encouraging participants to seek out and engage with literature in the field, and consider how it influences, inspires, and/ or applies to their professional practice.
While this year’s conference had a different format than usual, the Annual Meeting and Awards still celebrated museum colleagues, associations, and museums. The highlights of the Annual Meeting and Awards luncheon were presenting the annual NEMA Excellence Awards, presented to colleagues who have gone “above and beyond;” presenting the NEMA Lifetime Achievement Award honoring Susan Robertson, executive director of Gore Place; and a brief “state of the association” presentation from NEMA Executive Director Dan Yaeger. Also, NEMA members voted on this year’s slate of NEMA officers and new members, plus bylaw updates.
The last session I attended for the last day of the conference was Accessibility for Online Programs and Communication Channels with Susan Robertson (Executive Director at Gore Place) as facilitator, and the speakers were Charles Baldwin (Program Officer, UP Designation, Innovation and Learning Network at Mass Cultural Council), Emily Carpenter (Web Designer and Digital Marketer, WA), and Aaron Rawley (Volunteer Coordinator at Gore Place). Within the session, the speakers spoke about how participants of all levels of technical knowledge could improve access to their digital offerings for visitors with disabilities. Participants learned from each presenter on how Gore Place, for instance, makes digital programs and communication channels more accessible through universal design. The discussion included but not limited to accessibility for social media, webinars, and websites.
Thank you all for your patience as I complete this second part of the conference coverage! If you have any questions about the sessions I attended above and in the previous NEMA virtual conference post, you can find my contact information on the Contacts page. Stay tuned for next week’s blog post about the holidays this year, and be sure to check out my campaign I have started on the Buy Me A Coffee site:
This year I decided to attend the virtual New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference not only for professional development reasons but to also find out how they will execute a virtual conference. Like in previous conferences, I have also participated in the conversations and shared my thoughts on Twitter using the conference hashtag: #NEMA2020. Also, I decided to split it into two parts since there is so much information I gathered, it would be too long to fit into one post. I will post the second part after Thanksgiving. I learned that the majority of the recordings from the conference will be available after the conference for three months.
In case you are not familiar with the NEMA conference, I have included a few previous blog posts I wrote about a couple of the conferences I attended in the past below. I found out as I signed up for this year’s conference that the whole conference would be held through the app Whova. The app, Whova, has been used in previous NEMA conferences and I have used it as a way to network and keep track of the conference schedule. Whova has provided a platform this year to participate in the conference virtually, and the app could be used not just on the phone but also on the laptop/computer.
The NEMA conference took place between Monday November 16th and Friday November 20th. It was originally going to be located in Newport, Rhode Island (the same place where I attended my first NEMA conference seven years ago) but due to the pandemic it was switched over to the virtual platform. Like the rest of the virtual conferences I attended this year, I missed interacting with people in person however I did find it convenient to attend online. It saved me some time commuting to the in-person location and I did not have to worry about finding a hotel to stay in during the week. This year’s theme is Who Do We Think We Are Now? There are over sixty sessions, multiple keynotes, networking lunches, and a virtual exhibit hall.
On the first day of the conference, I attended the first keynote, three sessions, and visited the virtual Exhibit Hall. The keynote speaker for the first day was Coleen Dilenschneider who is the Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS. Dilenschneider is also author of the popular website Know Your Own Bone, and during the keynote she shared contemporary research about potential museum visitors in New England. This presentation focused on shifting sentiments, the insights these shifts provide for the future, and why agile, strategic museums are especially well-positioned to engage and inspire their communities during this time of change and beyond.
One of the key takeaways from the data Dilenschneider shared was when participants answered the question (what would make you feel comfortable returning to cultural organizations?) the number one answer for participants in the United States and in the New England region was mandatory face mask coverings. She also pointed out that there are three trends that are indicating positive change: superconnection, elevated expertise, and activating new audiences. The following are from the notes I took during the session of the survey results Dilenschneider shared:
to the web at home, work, and on mobile device
people prefer to stay home, the safest place to stay during the pandemic [according to survey]
more people spend time using digital sources for media consumption
highly credible source of information
visiting a(n) [organization type] is educational
opinion has increased during the pandemic
We are trusted experts.
Activating New Audiences:
Length of leisure visit preference in New England: preference to take day trips increased in 2020.
Leisure travel means: increase in personal vehicle preference
Newly activated visitation increased significantly in 2020
Newly activated visitation=new visitors, or those who have not visited in the last 3 years or so.
After the first keynote, I went to the virtual Exhibit Hall to see the exhibitors’ services and what giveaways they are offering for this year’s conference.
The first session I attended was called Your Museum Career: Now What? This session was aimed to help participants get ready to deal with the issues in the field that were amplified by this crisis. Each of the speakers talked about understanding museum salaries and doing your research before applying; the divide between “essential” and “non-essential” positions; coming out of the shutdown trauma and returning to work; taking control of the application process; how to get your digital and physical materials ready; and how to handle an all-virtual process. Some of the advice they shared for the job search post-COVID include:
pay close attention to the details of the job description, and while your resume may not be a 100 percent match to the job description it has to be enough to meet the qualifications
do not be afraid to apply to something you haven’t done in a while
look at the priority of listings in the job description; it will show what responsibilities are the most important for the role.
In the session, the speakers also shared their advice on how to understand museum salaries. A couple of the points they made on understanding museum salaries were:
look up the 990 forms of organizations but keep in mind that everything is different in 2020
do the research first then put down a reasonable number that is fair to you
Also, they provided advice on virtual interviews. According to the speakers, when you get a virtual interview it is important to run the technology beforehand. I believe that advice goes both ways because while it is important that the interviewees should make sure their internet connection, sound, et. cetera is working, it is also important for interviewers to make sure everything on their end is working for a successful interaction throughout the interview. For interviewers, speakers also recommended that the instructions and materials for the interview should be sent ahead of time to the interviewee in order to make sure they know what to expect for the interview process; also, if interviewers do not send log in information for the interview, the interviewee will not be able to get into the interview on time. A couple more advices they shared for interviewees are to dress the part (because it would also be a mood and confidence booster) and to have notes near you so that you would have visual reminders of what you want to say and ask in the interview.
The second session I attended was called What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid. Each speaker talked about how they were coming up with solutions like live radio, letterboxing, alternate reality games, unique Zoom interactions, and GoPro cameras to deliver engagement with an isolated audience using on-hand tools. There were five different presentations that addressed how they responded to and adapted programs because of Covid. Each speaker shared interesting programs, games, et. cetera that museum professionals could create their own versions. For instance, there are online puzzle hunts, radio broadcasts, mobile escape games, and phone- and letter-based immersive theater.
The third session I attended was called History is Happening Now: Collecting the Covid Experience. Representatives from three organizations recounted their efforts to capture the impact of the pandemic on their communities by collecting time capsules, written reflections, artwork, signage, masks, and other objects. Strategies discussed will include fast-forwarding development of projects in a moment of crisis, collecting methods and logistics, reaching different constituent groups, web archiving on a shoestring, and legal considerations. The speakers from the Norwich Historical Society (Vermont), Champlain College Archives (Vermont), and the Vermont Historical Society have shared their projects on keeping track of how the pandemic has impacted their communities and what they have faced during the process. The Norwich Historical Society for instance had a blogger help document curbside pickup for collecting items for their collection, and they also created a space online for members of the community to upload paintings that depict emotions felt during this time; they also had encouraged members of the community to paint murals, called Community Circles, that depict their answers to the question: What brings you hope?
I have also included some highlights of the presentations I shared on Twitter through #NEMA2020
Norwich Historical Society:
Champlain College Archives:
Vermont Historical Society:
On the second day of the NEMA conference, I started the day by attending the second keynote of the conference Museums, Race, and the Road to Inclusion. The keynote speaker was Jamal Jimerson who is the founder of Minority Inclusion Report and the Managing Partner at Thought Partner Solutions. Jimerson spoke about the issues of board and staff diversity, and the layers of systemic racism that is pervasive in society; he also spoke about how museums can stay effective and relevant in this changing world by aligning their values based on equity and inclusion with their practices. Here is a highlight of Twitter posts from this keynote presentation:
The first session I attended was called Leadership At All Levels – Exercising Influence When You Don’t Have Authority. Within this session, the speakers challenged the traditional idea of leadership in museums (leadership comes from the top-i.e. head of an institution or department in order to be a leader). They explored what it means to be an influential mid-level or emerging leader, and shared practical tools for leading without official authority, an understanding of what it means to step up and why it is essential for our success, and strategies for showing and developing our leadership skills no matter where we are in an organization. The following is a highlight from the session I shared on Twitter:
The third session I attended on the second day of the conference was Moving from “George Washington Slept Here” to “Who Cleaned this Chamber Pot?”: Redefining School Programs to Meet 21st Century Learning and Teaching. Within this session, the speaker provided tools, takeaways, and tips to help museum education professionals revamp school programs in order to be more intentional and utilize current strategies in education. The session covered how to make minor, no cost changes that have major impacts that include adaptations for specific grade ranges, sensory learning integration, and student-directed experiences. Each of the sections in the session presented tools and strategies that are applicable across the field and could enhance existing programs.
The session set up was interesting to me because it was a half hour pre-recorded session then the rest of the time was an open discussion; I liked that it was a somewhat different way of participating in a virtual conference session, and I could revisit it when I need to during and after the conference. I liked that there was also an opportunity for all participants to share their own experiences in revamping school programs and our own wants in adapting programs in an open discussion section. Here are a few tweets I posted to contribute to the discussion about the session:
The last session I attended on the second day was Stretching the STEAM/STEM Pipeline- Advancements Through Community Collaborations. It was an interesting session that pointed out museums should ask how they can help their community especially when it is facing social and economic challenges, and the academic achievement of area youth is tested. The speakers from the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, Connecticut shared their experience in answering the question: How can we step outside of our museum walls and unite with likeminded community stakeholders to make a lasting impact on STEAM/STEM achievement?
The presenters used their program “Bringing the Museum to the Neighborhoods” to highlight the steps necessary to successfully engage, coordinate, and manage a common agenda with collaborators and stakeholders who maintained varied missions and processes, and strive to advance a common agenda to support the community. For their program, the Children’s Museum collaborated with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford, the Hartford Public Library, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to provide a program that would encourage families within the Hartford community to engage in activities. Here are some highlights from that session:
The next three days of the conference will be covered in the second blog post covering this year’s NEMA conference. In the meantime, enjoy the blog posts I have previously written about past NEMA conferences I have attended since starting this blog.
To catch up on my live reactions to the virtual NEMA conference, follow me on Twitter at this username: @Steward2Lindsey and check out the hashtag #NEMA2020 for conversations among museum professionals, including myself, about the keynotes, sessions, and virtual meetups.
If you attended this year’s virtual NEMA conference, what do you think of the sessions and the virtual platform so far? Which one of the sessions I attended would you like to learn more about?
As I prepare to go through the virtual sessions I had participated in, the ones I did not get a chance to participate in live, and ones that were pre-recorded, I thought I would do a recap on the rest of the AASLH conference that concluded on September 30th. This conference theme was “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” and each session I attended and the ones that I will continue to attend after they were live addressed this question. The recordings are available until November 11th.
I previously stated in my blog post on the first day of the AASLH conference:
AASLH’s staff worked really hard to make this year’s conference a virtual one. Originally, this conference was going to be in Las Vegas, Nevada. If it were still in Las Vegas, I would not be able to go since I would not be able to afford the airfare in addition to the hotel and conference rate. While I do like to be in person when I participate in professional development programs, I like that by making this year’s conference virtual it is a little more accessible for more people to participate in. Also, at the time I was attending the first session there were 2,245 conference attendees and I believe it was at least more than half of the conference attendees that attended last year. Since the conference is online this year and that I was able to receive a scholarship to attend, I decided to attend this year’s conference to learn more to develop my skills as a museum and history professional.
Since I made the above statement, at the time of the last day of the sessions, the number of participants increased to 2,400 participants. I still agree that by making this year’s conference online it is a little more accessible for more people to participate, and the number of participants this year proved having a virtual conference is beneficial. Therefore, I believe hybrid conferences should be planned to make conferences as accessible as possible.
During the conference, I thought about my answers to the question “What Kind of Ancestor Will We Be?” and I know what kind of ancestor I want to be. I will be the ancestor who continues to learn about the world around me, to listen to other people’s experiences and dedicate my actions to working on a better world until we can truly say all lives matter, to remember to acknowledge my privilege, and to be able to share the lessons I have learned to the next generation. It is also important for all of us to acknowledge that the United States itself is a country of immigrants, including my family; my maternal great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy and my paternal great-grandfather immigrated to this country from England in the early 20th century. I also thought about previous generations like my great-grandfathers pondering similar questions on what legacy they would leave behind.
I have learned a lot in those days, and I included a highlight of the Twitter conversation I participated in while engaging in conversations during the sessions. It would be extensive to include everything in this post, and to see and participate in the dialogue follow the Twitter hashtag #AASLH2020.
Here is the highlight from the rest of the AASLH conference:
In preparation for the workshop next week, NCoC and Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath, the MuseumEdChat Twitter conversation focused tonight’s discussion on what role museums could play as 2020 comes to a close post-election. The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) dedicate their work to strengthen civic life in America by connecting people together through a nationwide network of partners involved in a cutting-edge civic health initiative, their cross-sector conferences and engagement with a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations interested in utilizing civic engagement principles and practices to enhance their work. With this partnership, museum leaders and thinkers are virtually gathering together to support museum staff and imagine the roles museums, as trusted civic institutions, can play in whatever 2020 has left in store.
The Twitter discussion explored four areas of museum work with the theme of community in each question. For those who are not familiar with #MuseumEdChat, discussion hosts and participants used the Q1/A1 format and the #MuseumEdChat hashtag in replies in order to be seen by all participating in the discussion.
Because Twitter at the time of this post was not letting me, and as I suspect other participants, post our responses to the questions I am posting my answers to this blog post. Here are the following questions and answers for tonight’s discussion:
Q1. Operations: What should concern museums regarding their operations and serving their community after the election? Is your museum discussing this at all? #MuseumEdChat
I think it is important to figure out the decisions that would be best for each individual museum on how they will operate and serving the community since each museum is different and the communities they serve have their own needs to attend to. Museums should be discussing with one another what could be the best approaches for within the museum and community, and the individual museum will use what was discussed to figure out what approach works best for their own institution.
Q2. Messaging: What ideas, messages, publicity, etc. could museums share with the community that would be valuable right now *and* post-election? #MuseumEdChat
I tested posting to Twitter by attempting to send this answer as a response: A2 I think museums can share resources that would best educate the public about what the issues we are voting on and set up programs & statements on what the next steps would be for museums and how they’ll continue to work on serving the community now & post-election. #MuseumEdChat
Q3. Programs: What kinds of programs would you like to see #museums do for the community post-election? (Again, think about those scenarios…)
I would like to see museums plan programs for the community that focus on mental health to help people in the community deal with how the pandemic and the election has impacted them these past months.
Q4. Staff care: How could museums help staff practice self-care and provide for them given the potential election outcomes and the role of the #museum post-election? #MuseumEdChat
Museum leaders should dedicate some time in the day for staff to practice self-care whether each staff member wants to practice by themselves or practice self-care together. There should be focus on letting staff figure out how to care for themselves as well as their families to prepare for the impact the election results will have on what is happening in their own lives.
I plan on attending this workshop coming up on October 21st from 3pm-5pm EST to better educate myself and participate in the discussion on how museums can best serve the community post-election.
The following links are where you can participate in the discussion and to learn more about National Conference on Citizenship: