NEMA 2020 Virtual Conference: Part 1

November 19, 2020

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.

Whova (Mobile)
Whova (Laptop)

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.

Day 1

Keynote Presentation: Colleen Dilenschneider

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:

Superconnection:

  • 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

Elevated Expertise:

  • 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.

Exhibit Hall
Your Museum Career: Now What?

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.

What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid
Resources to Create Virtual Games, What Now? Immersive Theater, Games, and Interactive Content Responds to Covid

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:

Concept of Programs from Vermont Historical Society, History is Happening Now: Collecting the Covid Experience

Day 2

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?

Past NEMA conference coverage:

Mini Blog Post: #NEMA2019

#NEMA2019 Recap

Recap: The 100th Annual New England Museum Association Conference

Information about Whova App

#MuseumEdChat: NCoC and Museum Leaders

October 15, 2020

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:

NCoC x Museum Leaders: Scenario Planning for the 2020 Election and its Aftermath

National Conference on Citizenship

#AASLH2020: Day 1

September 24, 2020

AASLH Conference 2020

Earlier today was the first day of the virtual American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) conference. This year’s theme is “What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?” It was an engaging and thought provoking first day with sessions focusing on being aware of our blind spots in terms of diversity and we could learn more about women in history through generations. I have included some tweets I released throughout the first day below with brief explanations of what session each tweet is referring to. The first thing I will address is

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. I also thought about my answer to this year’s conference theme:

One of the sessions I attended was #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter: Black Women Leaders Overcoming the Double Burden. In the session, the speakers revealed a number of disturbing statistics on how many people make up the museum leadership in the entire country:

Meanwhile 85 percent of the individuals in museum leadership roles are white men. This shows that we still have a way to go to making the museum field more diverse. We should not expect that when we fulfill one criteria for diversity our work is done because our society is continuously changing, and we need to continue to learn how to be better organizations.

Another session I attended was Generations of Women: Complicating Traditional Timelines which focused on three case studies of researching women’s history through using sources found from census records, books, articles, et. cetera and generations of their families. The speakers discussed how keeping track of what happened in history through generations rather than dates because people can relate to generations since we all belong to generations.

The previously listed sessions and tweets were just a sample of what I did today. I learned so much, and I look forward to learning more in the next few days (until September 30th).

Follow me on Twitter, @Steward2Lindsey, to see my thoughts and reactions in real time. If you would like to attend the conference, click on the AASLH conference page.

Stay tuned!

Museums’ Role in Activism

July 9, 2020

Activism in the United States, especially in the past few months, expresses the need for change and museums have been participating in many ways. It is important for museum staff on all levels to recognize their role in activism in order to effectively understand their role within the communities they serve as well as engage in. In one of my previous blog posts Reaction: Museum Values in Times of Crises, I pointed out that: If we do not get involved in the community and listen to what the members of the community need, then we cannot claim we are having any influence or involvement in our communities. I believe that this certainly applies to museums and activism.

Earlier tonight I participated in the #MuseumEdChat on Twitter to discuss museums and activism facilitated with the question and answer format. The first question that participants addressed within the conversation was:

Q1 How do you define museum activism? #MuseumEdChat

Among the many possible definitions, they all have one thing in common: museum activism is not limited to one location and one medium. For example, I pointed out that I define museum activism as museum professionals either individually or the whole museum spreading the word and taking action to make changes. Museum activism can come in all sorts of formatting from museum professionals participating in the Black Lives Matter movement to supporting museum unions fighting against inequitable workplace practices.  Communication is an important tool in museum activism, and without maintaining communication within and outside the museum walls we would not be able to go far in our activism to effect great change.

Another question that participants in the #MuseumEdChat addressed in the discussion was: Q2. Should museums consider themselves activist spaces? Why/why not? #MuseumEdChat. While I do believe that museums should consider themselves activist spaces, I think it is important that museums are not solely activist spaces because museums should be considered for multi-purposes that both serve and contribute to the community. If we use the museum space for one sole purpose, then we not only limit ourselves, but an imbalance would be created and therefore we would not be considered relevant in the activist role or in any role. Activism is a continuous series of actions that all museum professionals do and should take seriously if we want to effectively make significant changes within our society.

I have included links to relevant blog posts and resources in the list below.

What do you think the museums’ roles in activism should be?

Links:

Reaction: Museum Values in Times of Crises

Museums Are Not Neutral: A Discussion on Why There is No Museum Neutrality in Museum Education

Michelle Obama, “Activism”, and Museum Employment: Part I

Your neutral is not our neutral

Advocacy and Lobbying Without Fear: What Is Allowed within a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization

Oppression: A Museum Primer

Brooklyn Museum’s The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America

AAM Virtual Conference 2020 Experience

June 4, 2020

This past week I was able to attend the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) conference. Like the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, AAM decided to hold the conference online to present content that will help move the museum field forward. The AAM virtual conference took place on May 18th, and June 1st through June 4th. Its’ theme this year was: Radical Reimagining. Since this is the first-time museum associations in the United States are holding conferences on the internet, there are bugs they would go through as multiple museum professionals interact with one another from the comfort and safety of their homes. I liked that in response to the murders, protests, and police brutality, AAM responded not only with a statement but made sure the sessions we attended continued the discussion of racism in this country. One of the sessions I attended today was the PSA of the Future with speakers from Poster House (the first museum about the history of posters) and Isometric Studio (a visual identity and graphic design consultancy based in New York City).

The PSA of the Future session, including a brief history of posters and PSAs, had an interactive workshop in which participants were encouraged to design our own posters. We were introduced to elements of poster design, have the opportunity to exchange ideas about the subject matter, and design our own posters in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I shared the design I worked on in the social media platforms Twitter and Instagram after the session concluded:

When registration first opened for the conference, there have been concerns expressed across social media by museum professionals because of the fees AAM charged while many museum professionals are facing furloughs, layoffs, job hunting halts, et. cetera. They also made arguments that charging high fees contradicts not only the theme of the conference but also contradicts its efforts for a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible museum field.  According to AAM’s website: Registration for the virtual conference is $235 for all AAM members and $345 for non-members. In addition to releasing a statement for their losing revenue reasoning, they also encouraged registrants to make donations in addition to the registration fees and sponsors were able to provide for a number of deeply discounted ($25) registrations. Even though I was one of the lucky individuals who was able to register for $25, I wonder how many people were actually able to receive it or were able to even pay that much.

Since I have not been to the AAM conference before this year, I was curious as to not only what the conference was like but how they would be able to handle operating a virtual conference. I enjoyed the sessions I was able to attend live while connecting with other conference participants was limited to sending messages during sessions, an open chat, and a few virtual networking events. A networking section was later added by the last day of the conference.

Because I did not receive an email that I was able to register for the conference at $25 until the Friday before the full conference began on June 1st, I missed the General Session due to previous engagements but attended the sessions for the rest of the day. Instead of attending the last few minutes of the General Session, I went to the MuseumExpo, as well as throughout the day, which includes various links to conference sponsors, booths with external links to services they have, tech talks, and virtual poster sessions. The virtual poster sessions were about twelve downloads of PowerPoint presentations on relevant topics in the museum field. I attended the following sessions on June 1st: Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research, Moderated Open Chat, Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance, and Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World.

The Rethinking Experience Design for a New Reality — With Early Glimpses from National Audience Research session had the following speakers: Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann, Museum of Science, Boston; Jen Benoit-Bryan, Slover Linett; Madeline Smith, Slover Linett; Peter Linett, Slover Linett; and Tim Hallman, Asian Art Museum. Slover Linett uses tools of research, evaluation, community dialogue, and experience design to help cultural organizations become more inclusive, innovative, and relevant. The speakers discussed the 6 Ps of Experience Design, which is a framework for the cultural sector from Slover Linett. The 6 Ps of Experience Design are: Programming, People, Place, Policies, Promises, Personality, and a Bonus “P”: Purpose. I have included a link to the framework in the resource section below for more details about the 6 Ps of Experience Design.

The Choose Your Own Adventure: Providing Engaging Experiences at a Distance session had Camille Tewell, North Carolina Museum of Art; Jacqueline Benitez, California Academy of Sciences; Matt Schullek, Ohio History Connection; and Tami Moehring, CILC – Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration as its speakers. In the session, participants discovered how distance learning can help museums increase their reach. Also, we joined small group discussions led by the speakers to talk about developing content, infrastructure requirements, marketing, and making museums more accessible. In the Planning for Success: Fundraising Management in a Changing Museum World session, we heard Kate Brueggemann (Adler Planetarium) and Donna McGinnis (Naples Botanical Garden) share information about building a fundraising management plan that can leverage our institutions as we are preparing for re-opening our institutions.

I also attended a part of the Virtual Reception which was led by Songdivision, in which we were all in the Zoom calls (much like the ones we were in for the sessions) watching the group as they engaged us with live performances and a rock-and-roll game show. Because I have not experienced a reception on the virtual platform for a conference before, I decided to check it out and enjoyed the music they played.

The rest of the conference was a similar experience I had on the first day with some changes including a new moving and significant session that was added to take part in the discussion on racism, unrest, and the role of the museum field led by Lonnie Bunch (14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (National Council of Negro Women, Inc. and Baltimore Museum of Art), and Lori Fogarty (Oakland Museum of California). I have included the link to where I logged in for the conference for an overview and specific details of the sessions that were offered throughout the four days.

Next week I am continuing the discussion about AAM and virtual conferences since there was a lot of detail to put into one blog post.

If you have attended virtual conferences, please share your experiences and impressions. Also, if you have any questions about the conferences I have attended please visit the contact page where my contact information is located.

Resources:

AAM Virtual Conference

Annual Meeting Information

The 6 Ps of Experience Design

See also: NYCMER 2020 conference blog post

#NEMA2019 Recap

November 13, 2019

I have once again participated in the New England Museum Association conference. It was in Burlington, Vermont this year and it was the first time that I have been in the state. I was not only excited to be participating in this year’s NEMA conference, but I was also looking forward to exploring the area. With a friend, I took a road trip to travel to Vermont for the conference. This year I decided to not only focus on sessions focusing on education but also sessions that help me get a better understanding of how to improve my leadership skills and of fundraising. As always, I found these conferences both informative, engaging, and entertaining to be with New England and New York colleagues. Thanks to all who have been following my tweets on Twitter covering the conference, and I have included a highlight of my tweets, photographs, and the sessions I attended during the week.

There were many beautiful views I witnessed as my friend and I went up to Middlebury, Vermont as the first stop before going to the hotel.

Once we arrived, she went to a pre-conference event and I decided to explore the area. The first place I went to was the Henry Sheldon Museum. The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History is the oldest community-based museum in the country opening their doors to visitors and researchers in 1884. Their mission is to serve the public by preserving the historic memory of the Addison County and surrounding communities, heightening the awareness and enjoyment of our rich cultural legacy, and stimulating the study of connections between Vermont’s past and broader historical themes. There are three main areas of the museum:

The Judd-Harris House, built in 1829, showcases a wealth of objects depicting small town life in nineteenth century Vermont

The Stewart-Swift Research Center houses one of the state’s premier archival collections, documenting the history of Middlebury, Addison County, and Vermont

The Walter Cerf Gallery hosts changing exhibits throughout the year.

After visiting the museum, I walked around Main Street and window shopped along the street. I did go into a few stores including Vermont’s Own, which the majority of the products they sell were maple syrup which I could not help but purchase a sample. I went through a country store and the Vermont Book Shop. Eventually I walked back to meet my friend and explore the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s exhibit on the Women’s Suffragette.

Once we checked into the hotel, we walked down Main Street to visit the Lake Champlain Chocolate Store. As a former employee of a chocolate store, I purchased a number of samples for comparison. When we were done with exploring, we were ready for the next few days of conference sessions and events.

My first day of the conference began with learning about analysis of the open-ended questions and audience data. The panelists pointed out that using more than one method to analyze the data and multiple people to review the questions will be helpful for getting the results needed for what the museum is looking for.

I also attended the keynote session that focused on social justice. Dr. Gretchen Sorin, who is committed to encouraging museums to be more active in civic responsibility and social justice, discussed the upcoming book Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights and the PBS documentary produced by Ric Burns and Steeplechase Films, to be released in 2020.

The next session I attended focused on how to foster deeper connections between local teachers and museums; they argued that focusing education programming on supporting educators can lead to more quality student-site interactions, a deeper valuing of our museums in the community, and an expansion of museum capacity. Other sessions I attended were about summer camps and how to use camps to draw in new audiences as well as strengthen ties to schools and community (and listened to the experiences of teenagers who participated in the camps), and museum volunteers and how to create an impact measure for their roles.

That night I attended the opening evening event at the Echo Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. Echo Leahy Center inspires and engages families in the joy of scientific discovery, wonder of nature, and care of Lake Champlain. While enjoying hors d’oeuvres, I interacted with various exhibits including but not limited to Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab (which invites visitors to join the fun through interactive explorations that promote science, technology, engineering and math learning) and Into the Lake (which allows visitors to be immersed in the shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Champlain and learn about a twenty-foot serpent that may have lived in the lake). 

On the second day, I attended a number of sessions, an Educators professional affinity group (PAG) lunch, and another evening event at the Shelburne Museum. The first session I attended that morning was the importance of fundraising as a team effort (to learn effective ways to motivate staff and board members to be better fundraisers and hear strategies for attracting and retaining members). Also, the panelists led us in a half hour exercise around major gifts where we practiced “Making the Ask” or an elevator pitch to convince donors to help contribute to our museums’ upcoming major projects. One of the most important takeaways I learned from this session was:

Other sessions I attended were about emotionally intelligent leadership and how to incorporate evaluation practices into museum programming. In the session on emotionally intelligent leadership, we learned about assessing emotional skills, leveraging emotions and learning strategies to achieve results.

In the session on how to incorporate evaluation practices into museum programming, panelists shared practices and examples of incorporating evaluative thinking and reflective practice into the work as practitioners. It introduced practical, tested approaches for building evaluation capacity and using data to improve educational products and professional practices. At the Educators PAG lunch, we discussed the necessity of advocating for our needs as educators and had discussions among ourselves to ask questions, share ideas, offer each other advice, and connect with one another to provide inspiration, support, and resources after we leave the conference. 

The second night I attended the evening event at Shelburne Museum. After eating hors d’oeuvres, I walked through an exhibit that was not yet open to the public and a current exhibit. Time Lapse: Contemporary Analog Photography, which opened on November 9th (a couple of days after the evening event), is an exhibit that celebrates the work of 13 international and national contemporary artists who use the darkroom as a laboratory and find inspiration in the vast range of 19th-century photographic processes, from daguerreotypes to photograms. In the second exhibit, which is called Joel Barber & the Modern Decoy, the curator of the exhibit led us through a tour to discuss the life and artwork of architect, author, illustrator, and pioneering decoy collector Joel D. Barber.

After returning to the hotel, there was a lot of cars covered in snow which made me excited since I grew up watching the film White Christmas (majority of the film taking place in Vermont) and I was looking forward to seeing snow in Vermont. I was excited to see more snow on the ground the next morning, and while I was a little disappointed that most of it melted by the end of the conference, I was relieved that we were able to travel without worrying too much about the road conditions.

On the last day of the conference, I attended sessions about the introduction to assessment programs for museums, intangible histories, and a session of its kind called Recharge and Reimagine: Creative Break before attending the closing luncheon and annual meeting. The assessment programs session was intended to introduce, clarify, and spark interest in museum assessment programs such as AASLH StEPS, AAM MAP and Accreditation programs. In the intangible histories session, which was standing room only, panelists shared case studies from the Monticello (an exhibit about Sally Hemings), the Rokeby Museum, and Florence Griswold Museum to share techniques they used to show intangible histories and create meaning out of the memories and stories of individuals. As a public historian, this session was interesting to me because of the challenge intangible histories present and the importance of addressing underrepresented history.

Another session I attended which was different than ones I have previously attended was Recharge and Reimagine: Creative Break. I enjoyed it because it not only helped us tap into our creativity to inspire our work, but it also helped us wind down from an overload of information and excitement from the past few days. We participated in hands-on exercises that helped us use examples of ekphrasis, or the creation of one kind of art inspired by another kind of art. For example, one of the pieces of art shown to us Henri Matisse’s Open Window (1905) and we were encouraged to write any type of poem inspired by this painting. This is my poem:

Today I will look out my window. The colors are so vibrant. The shades of green bring the yard to life. The reds are these in my flowers helping them stand out on this beautiful day. The blues bring out the boats and the body of water. The water filled with so many waves of pink that channels happiness on this beautiful day. I welcome these colors into my window, and I watch as they emerge inside. The pinks and greens occupy the walls of my home. The blues join the greens and even some of the pinks joined the greens. All of the colors also reflect in my windows. I hope to never close my windows to these colors. I implore all who see colors outside to let them in. The colors bring me joy each day. Colors, please keep coming to my window. Tomorrow will be another beautiful day with you.

The drive back was beautiful because there was still snow on the ground. Once again, I enjoyed my experiences at the NEMA conference and will make efforts to exercise what I learned in all of the sessions.

If you are interested in learning more specific information about what I learned and my thoughts, please contact me here. Stay tuned for a new blog post tomorrow!

Resources:

https://henrysheldonmuseum.org/

https://www.echovermont.org/

https://shelburnemuseum.org/

Mini Blog Post: #NEMA2019

November 3, 2019

This week I will be attending the New England Museum Association conference in Burlington, Vermont. The New England Museum Association conference is a large annual professional development gathering of museum professionals in and out of the New England area; in most recent years, member of the Museum Association of New York are able to attend as NEMA members. Museum professionals have been gaining new insights, inspirations, and friendships through the NEMA conference since 1919. Since I am going to have a full schedule attending sessions and events, I will not be posting a full blog post on the usual Thursday date but I will be updating my experiences on my Twitter page throughout the week.

I will be in Vermont from November 5th through November 8th, and on November 5th I will be exploring the area before the official sessions begin. To learn about my experiences and my thoughts on the sessions as well as the events, follow me on Twitter: @Steward2Lindsey. Also, follow the conference itself by using the hashtag: #NEMA2019.

To learn about the previous NEMA conference, this is a recap from last year.

International Museum Workers Day 2019 and #MuseumEdChat

October 24, 2019

October 24th is International Museum Workers Day. According to the official website, IMWD began as an educational project to introduce the general public to the myriad professions relating to the creation, research, discovery and presentation of heritage. The people behind International Museum Workers Day value the importance of soft power heritage diplomacy to help with exchange of views & ideas, promote knowledge of other cultures, and build bridges between nations. This year IMWD is supporting sustainable heritage by committing to stimulate communities to urgently embrace the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. The Agenda, developed by the United Nations, is a commitment to eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide. To learn more about the Agenda, take a look at the European Commission page on the Agenda and sustainable development here.

In honor of International Museum Workers Day, I participated in the #MuseumEdChat on Twitter that focuses on stress and how museum professionals deal with stress. We all need to remember how to take time for ourselves for our emotional, mental, and physical health. The first question we addressed in the discussion was:

Q1: What in your work tends to ignite stress? #MuseumEdChat

A lot of the discussion focused on boundaries not being set, working significantly beyond the job description, low wages, and lack of understanding from leadership about emotional labor as well as physical and mental work put into our work as the main triggers of our stress in the museum field. In my opinion it seems that the further removed from the emotional, physical, and mental work the more leadership is unaware of what museum staff can realistically accomplish.

Museum professionals who participated in the discussion seem to agree that it is a challenge to have a work-life balance because we are stretched beyond our capabilities to meet expectations of leadership and the nature of our work. Some museum professionals, in my experience from talking with colleagues and participating in professional development programs, feel that they need to stretch themselves out to make ends meet on unlivable wages. If we continue this path, we will continue to have both an increase in burn out and individuals leaving the museum field. The second question we addressed in tonight’s discussion was:

Q2: What methods or strategies do you use to manage your stress? #MuseumEdChat.

My response to this question was:

There are varying strategies museum professionals can do to manage stress. For instance, some watch favorite television shows and knitting. The third question we addressed in our discussion was:

Q3: In what ways can managers/supervisors help staff manage their stress? In other words, what support do you need?  #MuseumEdChat

My response to this question was:

In other words, staff and managers should set aside time away from the museum to attend painting classes, go for a hike, etc. which would help both parties set up work/life balances. It is important that leadership should set an example for a healthy work/life balance. Also, an open communication between leadership and staff is a must to improve the quality of the museum work we do.

All museum professionals would benefit greatly from equitable pay, benefits, feasible expectations, and a healthy work/life balance. We need to continue to advocate for these things for museum workers. When we think about our museums contributions to the communities surrounding them, and sustainability for around the world, we should not forget about improving the quality of the museum workers’ working conditions. Our recognition of museum workers should be acknowledged on more than one day, as the people of IMWD strive towards with International Museum Workers Day.

Resources and Relevant Posts:

http://museumworkersday.org/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/06/07/why-self-care-is-important-for-museum-educators/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/04/04/reaction-no-money-no-new-ideas-conundrum/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/06/06/moving-towards-an-equitable-museum-workforce-reaction-to-salary-doc/

#AASLH2019: Conference Recap

September 5, 2019

Last week I attended the AASLH Annual Meeting for the first time located in Philadelphia. If you were following along with me on Twitter, I tweeted a lot about the sessions I attended, the events I participated in, and the places in Philadelphia I visited on my own. I included a highlight of tweets from the Annual Meeting in this post, and to see all of tweets I posted they can be found on the page here @Steward2Lindsey. Because I have not been to Philadelphia since I was a teenager, I was naturally excited to return and explore the area while I could during the conference.

I started tweeting about the conference the night before since I was so excited. I got the song “One More Sleep ‘til Christmas” from The Muppets Christmas Carol stuck in my head thinking about one more night until I leave for Philadelphia which inspired this tweet:

I will admit that it was hard for me to sleep the night before because I was so excited to be going back to a city I have not been in many years. In the morning, I left with my Three Village Historical Society colleagues to the Philadelphia 201 Hotel where the conference took place.

We arrived in Philadelphia later in the morning to check into our rooms. Once we put our things in our rooms, we went to the registration table to check in and get our totes that include conference programs, leaflets, and tickets for lunches as well as events. My colleagues and I went our separate ways to do our own plans in the city. Wednesday is technically the first day of the conference since there are several workshops that require an additional registration fees for each workshop. Since I have not been to the city in years, I decided to not sign up for them opting to explore the area instead. I went to take a tour of Independence Hall, visited the Liberty Bell, explored the Museum of the American Revolution, looked inside Carpenter’s Hall, and walked through the 18th Century Garden. After attending the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience reception, I walked to Chinatown to get some dim sum.

On the official first day of the conference I attended the opening plenary (opening panel discussion), first time attendee reception, and sessions. When I was sending tweets from the conference, I followed the social media guidelines AASLH provided to show where one was tweeting from such as #plenary, #keynote, and if one is attending a session the hashtag starts with “#s” then the session number (i.e. #s10) listed in the program.

After attending the morning sessions, I went to the Educators and Interpreters Affiliation Luncheon which had three courses including an irresistible chocolate cake. During the luncheon, we learned more about the Museum of the American Revolution and its education program offerings.

I attended afternoon sessions after the luncheon including, and these are a few of my favorite moments from the sessions:

In the evening, I went to an evening event that took place at the Eastern State Penitentiary. After getting off the bus, the first thing I did was participated in a twenty-minute introduction tour. Then I walked around the Penitentiary on my own looking at various cells including Al Capone’s cell. At the Penitentiary, there are a few food stations that offered various cuisine; for instance, there is one station that served Philly Cheese steaks and another one that served sushi and dumplings. I also went through an exhibit called Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration that illustrates what prisons are like in recent years in both general facts and in more personal experiences. In a future blog post, I will talk more about my experiences at this museum. While waiting for the bus heading back to the hotel, I watched part of the animation films, made by people currently in prison, that were projected onto the Penitentiary’s wall outside the main entrance.

On the second day, the Three Village Historical Society colleagues and I participated in a poster session to talk about the Founder’s Day program which won a Leadership in History Award from AASLH. Then I attended a luncheon for historic house museums, and sessions about reworking historic house tours and advocacy for equity. In the evening, I joined the rest of the Three Village Historical Society conference participants and staff/colleagues who were able to come down to attend the Awards banquet as the Historical Society received the award.

On the last day of the conference, I attended morning sessions about finances in historic house museums and revamping school programs. While the rest of the day were more workshops, I decided to walk around Philadelphia before I left the city. I went to places including Betsy Ross’s House, Elfreth’s Alley, the Science History Institute, Christ Church and Burial Ground, and the Quaker Meeting House.

Overall, I enjoyed the conference and it made me want to go to Philadelphia again so I could see more of the city. The sessions were informative and are helpful as I move forward in my career. To see more tweets from the conference, they are available on my Twitter page.

If you have any questions about the sessions I attended, please reach out to me on my social media pages or here.

A Public Historian’s Participation in Historians At The Movies

June 20, 2019

I first became aware of history depicted in movies was when I was about nine years old and I heard about the movie Titanic starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet being released in theaters. I read books about the history of Titanic with a classmate of mine, and I began to become more and more interested in learning about the ship itself and the tragedy that occurred in her maiden voyage.  When I approached my mother about going to see the film, especially since a number of my peers were going to see it, she said no pointing out that it was not going to be historically accurate since it is focused on a love story (and of course she also told me that she did not approve of taking a nine year old to see a PG-13 rated film). The fact that it would not entirely be a historically accurate film was enough for me to not ask to see it again. Almost a decade later, I watched the film and while yes it was more focused on a love story between two fictitious Titanic passengers I was impressed with so much detail that was put in to make the ship as accurate as possible. I may revisit the film in a future blog post to go in depth of how the filmmakers approached historical depiction. Since then, I have always enjoyed watching films depicting historical events or stories taking place in specific time periods.

The reason why I bring up my childhood memory is because this past weekend I participated in a live tweeting discussion called Historians at the Movies. Hosted by Jason Herbert, a Doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota focusing on Indigenous and Atlantic History, Historians at the Movies is an online community for everyone interested in history and films and historians on Twitter that live-tweet films every week using the hashtag #HATM. On Saturday June 15th, I participated in Historians at the Movies live-tweet of the film Carol which is about an aspiring photographer who develops an intimate relationship with an older woman named Carol in 1950s New York starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Participants are asked to use Netflix to get access to the film. If people do not have a Netflix subscription, I think it is possible to still watch the film using other ways including owning or borrowing the DVD/Blu-ray and watching it on demand.

Without revealing any spoilers, I will share a few of my tweets reacting to the film. The following tweets are reactions to the details made in helping make the film set in the 1950s.

Lindsey Steward-Goldberg @Steward2Lindsey

It does a really wonderful job in setting up the time period the story takes place in, and it doesn’t need to have font telling us when it takes place #HATM

Lindsey Steward-Goldberg @Steward2Lindsey

My grandmother had a beautiful collection of clothing she saved and as kids my cousins, sisters, and I would play dress up and put on plays in Nana’s old furs, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. #HATM

In response to a tweet on happiness in 1950s families: It was definitely the perception people in the 1950’s we’re expected to strive for especially from the media but does not exactly reflect the reality of people’s lives in this point in time.  #HATM

Reaction to a department store depicted in the film: It must have taken a lot of research time to not only find out what dolls were sold in that time but finding the dolls or even creating their own dolls using the parts that were used creating them in the doll factories back then. #HATM

If interested in participating in future live-tweets with Historians At The Movies, join them throughout the rest of this month on Saturdays at 9pm using the hashtag #HATM. In July, Historians At The Movies will move to Sundays at 9pm.

As a public historian, I thought the concept of historical depiction in films is interesting and curious about the work filmmakers put into these type of movies. I included a link to the National Council on Public History’s definition of public history in the resources section for those new to the public history field. Now that I have a Master’s degree in Public History I wonder how much involvement did historians have in depicting historical events and stories taking place in a specific time period. I watch films keeping in mind that there are decisions all involved in making them they need to consider to make visual and technical sense to entertain the intended audiences. This past weekend’s live-tweet of Carol was an example of that. I see films and television shows that are set in time periods or depict moments in history are ways to bring attention to history and hopefully inspire viewers to learn more by visiting museums, reading books, watching documentaries, and other accurate resources available.

How do you feel about history being depicted in films and televisions? Do you believe it has an impact on the history that is being portrayed in these mediums?

Resources:

https://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/about-the-field/ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2402927/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1