A Public Historian Explores History Camp

May 6, 2021

I recently came across History Camp while exploring museums virtually, and I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look. According to their website, History Camp is a casual conference generally for adults especially including but not limited to students, teachers, professors, authors, bloggers, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors, board members, genealogists, et. cetera regardless of profession or degree who is interested in and wants to learn more about history. The first History Camp was held on March 8, 2014 which presented 23 sessions and two panels, and welcomed 109 people to an IBM facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are some local volunteer committees that manage History Camps while others are managed by non-profit organizations. In 2019, the non-profit organization The Pursuit of History was started to foster the development of more History Camps across the country.

       Other conferences in the past have been in person at various places including Boston, Colorado, Virginia, and Philadelphia. This year, however, their conference History Camp America will be a fully virtual History Camp participants can enjoy from anywhere in the world.

       Since I have not experienced History Camp America yet, I am not able to, at the time I am writing this blog post, to state what the experience is like. History Camp America will take place this year on Saturday, July 10th. I have signed up for their newsletter so I will know when tickets will become available. If you would like to check it out for yourselves, I have included a link below where you can sign up for their newsletter. Based on the information provided so far, the biggest differences between conferences I have attended in the past and History Camp America is there are no places where services are being shared and sale pitches. Another difference that I noticed is in each conference I have attended there are themes, and the sessions are in general based on those themes; History Camp America put emphasis on making the conferences as broad as possible to attract many people to attend, and they believe that ultimately, it is the speakers and attendees that define the scope discussions are focused on. On their website, they stated that:

        Since our first History Camp in 2014, history enthusiasts of all stripes have been enthralled by our casual conference format. This format encourages a wide variety of topics and participants learn about history and new research, engage with history in unique ways, share what they love about history, and challenge everyone to think about history in new ways.

Once the conference occurs, I will be able to share more about the experience of attending History Camp America.

        During the pandemic, they launched two new History Camp events called History Camp Discussions and America’s Summer Roadtrip. History Camp Discussions are free online weekly discussions that are live every Thursday at 8pm Eastern, and are also available as recordings in their archives section for replays. One of the History Camp Discussions that caught my attention was the discussion with Emerson W. Baker on his book A Storm of Witchcraft: Salem Trials and the American Experience. Baker is a Professor of History and Interim Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. The hour-long program discussed Baker’s book by focusing the discussion on his investigation of the key players in the Salem witchcraft crisis and explains why this tragedy unfolded the way it did according to the research he did for his book.

        Another History Camp Discussions that caught my attention was the discussion with Linda Jeffers Coombs on the topic of The Wampanoag and the Arrival of the Pilgrims. Coombs is an author and historian from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and program director of the Aquinnah Cultural Center. In the near hour-long program, she discussed the Wampanoag’s experience with the pilgrims’ arrival, and the effects of an epidemic that swept through and devastated the region just before the pilgrims arrived.

      America’s Summer Roadtrip is a free online event that brought participants to 12 historic sites across the United States without leaving home and where many of their guides offer special access to areas other tours usually do not go. The twelve historic sites across the United States are located in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Carolina, and California.

      To learn more, I have included links below on their website and the programs they offer.

Links:

History Camp

About History Camp

Upcoming Events

History Camp America 2021

America’s Summer Roadtrip

History Camp Discussions: Emerson W. Baker’s A Storm of Witchcraft: Salem Trials and the American Experience

History Camp Discussions: Linda Jeffers Coombs on The Wampanoag and the Arrival of the Pilgrims

History Camp Newsletter Sign Up

Virtual Museum Impressions: Charles Dickens Museum

April 15, 2021

Most recently I decided to take another virtual trip outside of the United States to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England. Charles Dickens, who was the author of books such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and the novella A Christmas Carol, moved into this house at 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837. They raised the first three of their ten children within this house, and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby inside this house, and where he first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.

        The Dickens’ home became a museum in which hosts events and exhibitions, a garden café and shop, an international center for research on Charles Dickens, and a MA program on Charles Dickens research through the University of Buckingham. Inside the house itself, there are five floors with objects that were owned by the Dickens family. Off of the entryway there is a gift shop where it leads to the café, the Water Closet (bathroom), and the special exhibition room.

         As I went through the virtual tour, I was surprised by the layout of the house since it was different from other historic house museums I previously visited both virtually and in person. For instance, the servants quarters where they cook the meals were below the first floor where the dining room was, and the servants’ sleeping quarters were on the top floor. The Charles Dickens Museum considered the main floor with the dining room and parlor to be the second floor while where the servants cooked and stored food and wine is the first floor, at least according to the virtual experience.

        Also, at the time of writing this post I noticed that in almost each room there were only two links to explain the room and one object (sometimes there is a link to learn more about the object). One object in the Entrance Hall is the large, 8-day chiming clock that is still in good working order once was displayed in the hallway of Charles Dickens’ home Gad Hill Place in the 1860s. The link led to the collections page for the clock that includes a picture of the clock with information such as its object number, when it is created, and an object note that shared a letter Dickens wrote to the clockmaker who made the clock, Sir John Bennett of Cheapside, London, regarding problems with the clock following a cleaning. I would have loved to learn more about other objects in the Entrance Hall such as the objects in the glass case and the letters in the frames displayed on the walls.

       In the study, the highlighted object in the room is the desk and chair that was originally used in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. According to the information provided by the Dickens Museum’s collections, the desk and chair were acquired by Charles Dickens in 1859, and they remained in the Dickens family after he died in 1870. Both of them were on loan to various heritage institutions, including the Charles Dickens Museum, from 1967 to 1987. They were eventually purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in 2015 with support from the National Monuments Trust and the Dickens Fellowship after years of being on loan at various places over the years. Dickens would have written portions of his novels, such as Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, on this desk.

      Not only in the interactive tour I was able to explore the house but I was also able to visit inside the gift shop and café, the small garden outside of the café, the exhibition room, and a couple of additional floors that included a meeting room where it seemed like one could do research in.

      I really appreciate that this interactive tour is available online, and I hope to visit there in person someday. I especially would like to see it in person so I could learn more about other items that the interactive tour did not share their history and their relevance to Charles Dickens’ life and/or works. To check out the Charles Dickens Museum, I posted links, including the interactive tour, below.

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Links:

Desk and Chair

Mahogany Clock and Shelf

Interactive Tour

About the Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens Museum Online Collection

Charles Dickens Museum Collections Database

A Public Historian’s Perspective on Women’s History Month

March 25, 2021

This past month we all have dedicated our time and efforts to honor women’s history. Women’s history month is especially significant for me since I am a cis woman who appreciates the focus on women’s significant contributions throughout history. However, we all need to not only acknowledge women’s history does not occur one month out of the year, but we should be honoring all women-women of color, transwomen, indigenous women-who have made an impact and are often ignored when discussing women’s history. Over the years, we celebrate women’s history month by sharing achievements women have accomplished from the past to more recent years.

Museums also take part in celebrating women’s history month by developing, promoting, and implementing exhibits and programs focused on women’s history. For instance, the Museum of the American Revolution hosted a virtual Zoom presentation called “Remember the Ladies”: The World Premiere of a New Choral Work by Dr. Melissa Dunphy that is presented with their exhibit When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807. The experience is a live broadcast from the Museum for the choral world premiere of Dunphy’s “Remember the Ladies,” which sets excerpts from the letter for a cappella mixed chorus, performed by the 40-voice community choir, PhilHarmonia. The Wisconsin Historical Society has a free online panel discussion on exploring how women’s stories and experiences can be told in new ways.

Wisconsin Historical Society’s online panel discussion Sharing Women’s History: Exploring New Stories and Formats for Engaging Audiences discussed examples of innovative programming and best practices for interpreting complex stories that will aim to engage new audiences. A couple examples include DyckmanDISCOVERED at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, which investigates the stories of enslaved people belonging to the Dyckman family and the community that is now called Inwood in New York City, as well as virtual programs and poetry festivals at The Emily Dickinson Museum. Some of the panelists include Mary van Balgooy, Vice President of Engaging Places, LLC, and Director at the Society of Woman Geographers; Meredith S. Horsford, Executive Director at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum; and Brooke Steinhauser, Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Their discussion also included the added challenges of and possibilities for engaging new audiences through virtual engagement.

The Old North Church has a Digital Speaker Series, and it is called Revolutionary Women, Live! Presented by Old North Church Historic Site and the Freedom Trail Foundation, it was an hour-long program with two historians engaging participants in learning about the unique ways women of Boston influenced and shaped the world around them throughout the centuries. They focused on some women including Anne Hutchinson, Phillis Wheatley, and Melnea Cass. Anne Hutchinson was a spiritual preacher in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the seventeenth century and Melnea Cass was one of Boston’s most beloved and effective advocates for African Americans in Boston. At the end of the program, there was an interactive question and answer session to help participants delve deeper into women’s history.

Three Village Historical Society has a lecture series that has been on the Zoom virtual platform over the past year, and this month the virtual lecture was The Founding Mothers of the United States. Guest lecturer author Selene Castrovilla discussed her book she wrote about founding mothers, both well-known and others that were previously not part of the narrative in our history. From the program’s description, the lecture will address that:

Many women helped shape a free and independent United States of America. These smart, brave women were ambassadors, fostering peace between Native Americans and Europeans. They risked their lives by writing, printing, and distributing information about the fight for independence. They supported their husbands during battle and even donned disguises to join the army.

Throughout the presentation, Castrovilla shared content from her book about the founding mothers in the United States. In addition to discussing the well-known founding mothers, she shared information about founding mothers whose stories are not told as much as founding mothers such as Martha Washington. For instance, there were a group of women in North Carolina who had their own protests against the unfair taxes on tea and clothing.

On October 25, 1774, about a year after the Boston Tea Party, 51 women in Edenton, North Carolina drafted and signed a declaration that they will boycott British tea and clothing until the products were no longer taxed by England. The protest became known as the Edenton Tea Party. Another example of women Castrovilla discussed about was Phillis Wheatley who was an enslaved poet.

Wheatley was born in West Africa around 1753 and was abducted by slave traders and was forced onto a ship to America when she was seven years old. She was enslaved in Boston, Massachusetts, her owner noticed how smart she was and decided to educate her which was rare since most slaves suffered under harsh conditions and were not allowed to learn to read and write. Wheatley began to write poems when she was thirteen, and her first published poem appeared in a Boston newspaper on December 21, 1767. In 1773, she sailed with her owner’s son to England where a book of her poetry was published. She was given her freedom shortly after her book was published and her return to Boston. While she wrote a poem celebrating George Washington’s selection as army commander, she also believed the issue of slavery prevented the colonists from the true heroism they could have achieved during the American Revolution. Castrovilla also shared the story of Nanyehi/Nancy Ward who was an Indigenous woman born in Chota, the Cherokee capital, which is now part of Tennessee, in 1738.

Nanyehi fought alongside her husband in a battle between the Cherokee and another Native Nation, the Muscogee Creeks. When her husband was killed during the battle, Nanyehi picked up his rifle and led the battle where she earned the title Ghigau, or “Beloved Woman”, for her bravery. She later became a leader of the Women’s Council of Clan Representatives where she excelled as negotiator and ambassador. While they were in war, Nanyehi tried to achieve peace between Indigenous people in North America and the settlers. When the Revolutionary War began, the Cherokee fought alongside the British to prevent losing more Cherokee land to the settlers, and Nanyehi warned the settlers of Cherokee attacks since she did not want increased hostilities between her nation and the settlers.

  If interested in learning more about Castrovilla and her works, she has a website that promotes most of her books. To learn more about the TVHS lecture series and purchase her book, I included links in the list below. 

Castrovilla’s book reminded me of Cokie Roberts’ book Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, except the major difference between these two books is her book is geared towards young adult audiences while Roberts’ book focuses on addressing women’s history on academia audiences. I appreciate, as a public historian with an interest in Early American history, that there are programs that discuss women’s contribution and involvement in before and during the American Revolution. Also, I appreciate indigenous women’s stories are being more included in these programming options since I not only enjoy learning more history, but it is also a lot more that I am learning now about indigenous people than what was being taught when I was attending school as a child. We need to continue to do more to acknowledge and understand indigenous history as well as remember that we are on land first occupied by indigenous people.

The previously listed examples of how museums honor and celebrate women’s history month are only a small sample of what I noticed and does not represent what all museums are doing. I have included more links to examples museums have honored and celebrated women’s history month and resources they have available on women’s history. If there are any that I have not listed, please tell me about them and if possible, share a link.

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Additional Resources:

Women’s History in the National Women’s History Museum

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail

Facing History and Ourselves: 6 Virtual Exhibitions and Teacher Resources for Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month website

Why March is National Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Alliance

Links:

Museum of the American Revolution’s When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story

Museum of the American Revolution’s When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, Virtual Exhibit

Wisconsin Historical Society

Dyckman Farmhouse Museum’s DyckmanDISCOVERED

Emily Dickinson Museum

Old North Church Events, Digital Speaker Series

Three Village Historical Society Lecture Series

Selene Castrovilla’s website

The Founding Mothers of the United States by Selene Castrovilla

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts

Boston Women’s Heritage Trail: Melnea A. Cass

National Women’s History Museum: Anne Hutchinson

Facing Today: “Making Space for Women’s History”

Facing Today: “Teaching in the Light of Women’s History”

Museum Impressions and Virtual Revisit: Old Sturbridge Village

March 11, 2021

When I was in college, I made my first visit to Old Sturbridge Village located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Old Sturbridge Village, which invites each visitor to find meaning, pleasure, relevance, and inspiration through the exploration of history, is the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast that depicts a rural New England town of the 1830s. There are more than 40 original buildings, including homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, working farm, three water-powered mills, and trade shops, which are situated on more than 200 scenic acres. The buildings were moved to the area between the late 1940s and early 1970s. Inside the Village, there are authentically costumed historians and farm animals to talk with and interact with on a regular visit or during various programs they offer.

As a member and treasurer of the historical society club, other members and I visited a number of times including during the Christmas by Candlelight program. I remember traveling to the Village while it was dark out to walk through, visit the buildings decorated in holiday decorations, and seeing the display of gingerbread houses for a gingerbread house contest. I also visited Old Sturbridge Village a few times after I graduated.

It has been a while since I last visited Old Sturbridge Village, and I decided to make another visit since I thought I would see how much has changed. This time it will be a virtual visit. Recently, Old Sturbridge Village designed and released the link to a virtual experience called 3D Tours as part of Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village. The Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village offers content created by the interpreters and farmers for Old Sturbridge Village’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Interpreters share fun facts, activities, recipes, and more, while the farmers shared updates with photos and videos of the animals. The Village also released more content within their 3D tours.

According to the website, 3D Tours are supported in part by a grant from the Webster Cultural Council, a local agency that is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. At the time I made this visit, the following buildings were available in the virtual tour: the Asa Knight Store, the District School, the Pottery Shop, the Freeman Farm, the Sawmill, the Printing Office, and the Fenno House. To learn more about these buildings, they include brief histories of the buildings that include when and where they were built, when they moved to Old Sturbridge Village, and what they were used for. Also, the tours allow virtual visitors to get up close to artifacts that are usually behind barriers such as the catalog in the Asa Knight Store and the pottery on the shelves of the Pottery Shop. There are pins throughout the tours to look closer or learn new information, and new videos with some of the Village’s knowledgeable costumed historians to bring the spaces to life.

While I was experiencing the virtual tours, there were many observations I made at each place. The first building I visited was the Asa Knight Store where I was able to go behind the counters to see numerous items that the store sold on shelves, in drawers, and underneath the counter; there were a few pins that described the items in the store including information on textiles. When I visited Old Sturbridge Village in the past, I spent most of my time in the front of the store since there is so much to see and so little time to see it all in at each visit I made, and on this virtual trip I was able to spend more time in the store and learn more about the store. For example, I saw a china and ceramics crate that had plates inside it in a room where hats were being made and in the next room there are a number of items including Prussian Blue pigments they sold, and the pigments were used to make paint. The next place I went into was the District School.

Asa Knight Store
Asa Knight Store: China and Ceramics

I do not remember going inside the District School during the last time I visited Old Sturbridge Village, so I decided to check it out. The focus of the building was to share information and ask visitors about the classroom in the 1830s versus today. My visit reminded me of my experience teaching students about the one-room schoolhouses at Noah Webster House and the Long Island Museum. Inside the classroom, the staff provided information about the Blue Back Speller used by students to learn how to read and it was written by Noah Webster. I used a reproduction of the Blue Back Speller as a museum educator while teaching about schoolhouses to share with students who visited Noah Webster House. I then moved on to the Pottery Shop & Kiln. Inside the Pottery Shop, there is a video on making pottery the staff shared and I noticed a clay cellar among the numerous pottery and glazes.

District School
Pottery Shop & Kiln

Then I went to explore the Freeman Farm and the Sawmill. Inside the house of the Freeman Farm, there is a video that describes what farm life was like in the 1830s located in the kitchen; also, there was information about dinner, food preservation, farm animals, dairying and the buttery, garden, and the root cellar. While I was exploring, I tried to explore a little more of the grounds but was limited to only the house and around the house. I would have loved to see more of the other buildings on the farm including the barn. When I was at the Sawmill, I saw the video on the saw and how it works and was able to see it up close behind the barriers. They also included a Woodland Walk booklet pdf which had information about New England trees and there was also information in another pin about the New England Landscape.

Sawmill
Freeman Farm

The final two places I visited were the Printing Office and the Fenno House. In the Printing Office, I was able to go behind the barrier to see the printing press up close where there are pins revealing information on how the machine was operated and how they were trained to operate it. Also, a video is shared to explain what it is like to work in the printing office. Inside the Fenno House, half of the house is set up as a historic house and the other half has exhibits. On the first floor, there was the kitchen and an exhibit with the spinning wheel and loom describing how each of them were used to create fabrics for the home. On the second floor, there was a bed chamber on one side of the house and on the other side was an exhibit display of clothing and a few pieces of furniture.

The Printing Office
The Fenno House

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of re-visiting Old Sturbridge Village in a virtual capacity. I appreciate their efforts in encouraging visitors to ask themselves what is similar and different to their daily lives today versus the time periods each site introduces. I wonder if they are going to include more buildings in the virtual tour, and if they do, I will certainly return to experience these virtual tours. Also, I like that not only the staff introduced virtual tours but also developed resources to be utilized along with the tours.

The resources they provided are lesson plans, hands-on activities, and other links including their online collections. Old Sturbridge Village provided these resources to help other educators teach their students history, and it is one of many examples I have seen of museums sharing educational resources while we are all figuring out how to carry on while we are still going through the pandemic.  The lesson plans I have seen are designed for students in grade levels 3rd through 5th grade, and in addition to the lesson plans and pdfs they included a link to their Google classroom with fillable documents that educators can download and assign to their students. Plus, there are hands-on activities one can download to be used alongside the virtual tours including “Make Your Own Cardboard Loom” with the Fenno House tour, and the “Home Scavenger Hunt” with the Asa Knight Store tour.  

I recommend experiencing the virtual tours for yourselves if you want to spend time learning more about Old Sturbridge Village.

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Links:

Old Sturbridge Village: Virtual Village

3D Tours

3D Tours Resources

Museums Offering Virtual Experiences during the Pandemic

March 26, 2020

We are all in this together, and museum communities around the world are sharing virtual experiences they have created before the pandemic or because of the pandemic. This past week I shared previous blog posts about the significance of virtual experiences in the museum field. Current events prove that virtual learning and experiences are vital more than ever. I have been researching virtual experiences that are currently being offered since I am currently working with the Education Committee at the Three Village Historical Society to create virtual learning experience, and this project was one of the reasons why I was inspired to see what museums are offering.

I came across Scholastic’s resources which provide online classroom resources and lesson plans from museums across the United States. One of the Scholastic’s resources includes a virtual field trip to the Museum of the American Revolution with Lauren Tarshis, author of the best-selling “I Survived” book series including “I Survived the American Revolution, 1776”. Including an introduction and a behind the scenes tour, the site also includes a vocabulary list, discussion questions, a frequently asked questions sheet, and Lauren Tarshis’s narrative nonfiction article “Blood, Smoke and Freedom,” about the experiences of one of the young soldiers featured in the virtual field trip for each grade level between grade 2 and grade 8. The Museum of the American Revolution itself provides resources from their own website available. In addition to the virtual field trip, the Museum of the American Revolution also other digital resources including but not limited to a virtual tour of the museum, an archive of Read the Revolution book excerpts, a digitized collection of the Museum’s art and artifacts, the Museum’s comprehensive lesson plans, and a free coloring book.

Another museum that has a virtual presence is the Mill Museum-The Windham Textile History Museum. The staff last month opened their new exhibit called “Unlacing the Corset, Unleashing the Vote” celebrating the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Because the museum was closed due to the coronavirus, they created a virtual version of this exhibit. According to the exhibit’s introduction label, the exhibit uses stories, fashion, undergarments, and photographs to explore the collective of Connecticut women’s experiences in the century since the 19th Amendment. The exhibit focuses on fashion for political empowerment which is reflected in increasing choices about clothes, styles, and comfort. The virtual exhibit features a narrative about early 20th century women’s history focused on women from mill towns of the northeast and photographs of the collections featured in the exhibit.

There are virtual experiences offered in museums outside of the United States. Some of the examples I found were on the MCN website. MCN, a not-for-profit corporation that envisions a world in which all museums are empowered digitally to achieve their missions, posted a very well detailed list of virtual museum experiences around the world in their post “The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections”. The list is broken up into a number of sections including virtual tours/online exhibits, e-learning, online collections, and digital archives & libraries as well as subsections for art, science, and history museums. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, for instance, offers an e-learning experience that has an interactive timeline on its website. The Canadian Museum of Nature has an e-learning experience for kids with coloring pages of Artic animals and plants, garden plants, and dinosaurs. The Musée du Louvre in Paris and the São Paolo Museum of Art in Brazil are offering a virtual tour of the museums. Also, Les Fruits de Mer, a non-profit French association based in Grand Case, Saint Martin, provided lists of resources of activities, books, films, et. cetera about Caribbean wildlife.

Museums have previously been offering museum experiences online to reach out to their audiences as our world is becoming more accessible through technology. This has been evident especially in previous blog posts I have re-shared on social media with lists of resources I found at the time I wrote those posts. With many museums closing their doors of their physical museums due to the pandemic, it is important for museums to connect to its audiences, reach out to new audiences, and its museum professionals with one another through the virtual world. Numerous resources from museums are available on the internet for individuals of all ages, and it would impossible to explain each one in full detail without making this blog post too overwhelming.

I have included a list of resources I have come across in my search for virtual experiences for all of you to explore in your own time. If there are any resources you would like to share, please continue to share them. Stay safe and be good to one another!

Resources:

https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome/grades-3-5.html

http://www.scholastic.com/beyondthebattlefield/

http://www.scholastic.com/webcasts/

https://www.amrevmuseum.org/education/digital-resources?utm_source=welcome-mark-text&utm_medium=cc&utm_campaign=welcome-mark-text-cc-ongoing-general1

https://millmuseum.org/current-exhibit/

http://mcn.edu/a-guide-to-virtual-museum-resources/

https://springfieldmuseums.org/about/updates/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/68-cultural-historical-and-scientific-collections-you-can-explore-online-180974475/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20200323-daily-responsive&spMailingID=42092612&spUserID=MTQ4MDg3NTIwNDQ0S0&spJobID=1722260882&spReportId=MTcyMjI2MDg4MgS2

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/weeks-best-livestream-learning-opportunities-180974465/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20200323-daily-responsive&spMailingID=42092612&spUserID=MTQ4MDg3NTIwNDQ0S0&spJobID=1722260882&spReportId=MTcyMjI2MDg4MgS2

https://www.cilc.org/community

https://www.docsteach.org/

https://www.civicsrenewalnetwork.org/featured/resources-for-learning-at-home/

https://www.archives.gov/legislative/resources

https://founders.archives.gov/

https://anamericaninrome.com/wp/2020/03/italy-museums-visit-for-free-online/

https://adventuresinfamilyhood.com/20-virtual-field-trips-to-take-with-your-kids.html

https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

Previous Posts on Museums and the Virtual Experience:

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/05/13/museum-education-online-museums-position-in-the-virtual-world/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/08/01/virtual-museum-experiences-impressions-of-museum-education-roundtables-journal-of-museum-education/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2020/02/20/how-virtual-exhibits-can-be-accessible/

Virtual Museum Experiences: Impressions of Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education

August 1, 2019

This week Museum Education Roundtable released the forty-fourth volume, number three edition of their journal, Journal of Museum Education, online. In case you are not familiar with the journal, the Journal of Museum Education is a peer-reviewed journal released by the Museum Education Roundtable four times a year that explores and reports on theory, training, and practice in the museum education field. Each journal is divided into at least four sections, and in the latest edition they are: Editorial; Articles; Tools, Frameworks and Case Studies; and Book Review. In this edition of the Journal, there are four articles focused on virtual reality, five pieces in the Tools, Frameworks and Case Studies, and a book review of the book Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact by Randi Korn.

On Museum Education Roundtable’s website, they released links to the articles from this edition Virtual Visits: Museums Beaming in Live focusing on using virtual reality for museum experiences. I believe that utilizing virtual reality in museum education is a helpful tool for visitor experiences, and while it does not replace the in-person experience, but it especially is a benefit for individuals who are not able to for various reasons be in the physical space. I have limited experience with virtual reality, but I continuously seek professional development opportunities to advance my skills as a museum educator; which is why I took advantage of reading these articles.

At the Long Island Explorium, a children’s science museum, I have worked with virtual reality programs for educational and entertainment purposes. Each visitor had the opportunity to wear a virtual reality headset and participate in a couple of programs that came with the Microsoft virtual reality system. One of the programs allowed visitors to tour through the solar system wearing the headset and using the handsets participants can click on each star, planet, etc. to learn more about everything about solar systems. The second program gives participants two ancient ruins and their modern landscapes to tour through to learn the history of each civilization; participants can tour through either Peru or Rome. What was different about this program from the solar system program is participants can move around a little bit as if they were really standing in the locations. The Microsoft system we used connected to the PC and Smartboard which allowed individuals who were not wearing the headset to view what the person wearing it sees.

Since I was guiding visitors and showed the rest of the museum staff how to use the virtual reality, I have gained some experience using it and recognize the value of virtual reality in museums. Both programs provide an educational opportunity for visitors to explore space and civilizations where they are most likely have not been before. When I read the latest edition of Journal of Museum Education, I shared the sentiment the Editor-in-Chief, Cynthia Robinson, shared in the journal

“Although virtual access does not provide some of the authenticity of a physical encounter, it is no less meaningful than reading a history book to learn about and imagine the past, or viewing a filmed documentary of a place we would otherwise not visit.”

By including virtual reality in museums, museum professionals can provide another medium they will utilize for programs and exhibits to reach out to visitors. My experience with virtual reality showed me the potential of its use in a children’s science museum and based on the programs I worked with I have no doubt it could work with varying types of museums.

Individuals can take advantage of virtually visiting museums and participating in museum programs that are far from home, or places that are not entirely handicapped accessible. According to one of the articles, “Virtual Visits: Museums Beaming in Live”, Allyson Mitchell stated

“Museum educators already interpret the collections and content of their institutions through educational programming to meet the needs of family, school age, adult, senior, and community audiences. IVL [Interactive Virtual Learning] programs provide a similar real-time connection to a museum professional who facilitates personalized learning experiences that actively engage groups visiting virtually to forge deeper connection to cultural institutions and lifelong learning.”

IVL programs provide live interactive broadcasts that offer visitors at a distance real-time connection to a museum professional and resources. I had my first experience with an IVL program during a professional development program. During last year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference, I participated in a session called Virtual Field Trips: Traveling Through Time and Space to Connect Museums and Audiences in which session speakers discussed the benefits and challenges of running and planning virtual field trips. Also, they performed a demonstration what a virtual field trip is like using Skype by giving us a brief demonstration of what it would be like to be in space without wearing a space suit. As I continued to read the Journal of Museum Education, I realize the continued potential of virtual reality use in museums not only in programs but with museum collections.

In the article “Defining Interactive Virtual Learning in Museum Education: A Shared Perspective”, Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski & Lynda O’Leary discussed how all cultural institutions can benefit from a top-notch virtual learning program in terms of outreach, diversity, and promotion of collection. According to Gaylord-Opalewski and O’Leary, there are multiple benefits of using

“The world of IVL is commonly viewed as an addendum to an onsite experience with cultural institutions such as zoos, museums, libraries, science centers, and the like. Through dedicated virtual educators trained to interpret collections using synchronous technology, IVL programs serve not just as an addendum to onsite experiences, but rather as a conduit for greater outreach and promotion to audiences that may never have the opportunity to visit the collections of a museum in person – due to budget, physical limitations, or distance.”

While the program I used at the Long Island Explorium was used as one of the additions used onsite, I believe in the potential to reach out to many current and potential visitors who do not always have access to museums in person. Museum professionals have always investigated ways we can draw more visitors to our museums and sites, and as technology continues to develop we continue to figure out different ways we can reach out to people to share resources and collections.

Discussion Questions: Have you used virtual reality, whether it was in a museum or not? What is your reaction to virtual reality? Do you think virtual reality could be useful in museums? Why or why not?

Resources:

www.museumedu.org/jme/jme-44-3-virtual-visits-museums-beaming-in-live/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/05/24/social-media-journalists-at-conferences-my-experience-as-one-at-nycmer-2018/

Museum Education Online: Museums’ Position in the Virtual World

Originally posted on Medium. December 8, 2016.

Museum education is continuing to evolve as a museum field after many years of creating programs for schools and the public. While I have over seven years’ experience in the field so far, I have seen many changes to advance the field and make an impact on the community around us. For instance, in my last blog I discussed the continuously evolving inclusion of programs for people with special needs. Also, the internet has given the world, especially the museums, opportunities to connect and provide ways to learn online. This week I am looking at museums in the virtual world, including social media and online learning, and my reactions to these changes. When I was growing up attending museums, the internet was still a new concept created and not many websites offered online learning. As a child, I visited more museums than finding out about museums on the internet. My family would drive down to see Washington D.C., Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and Gettysburg battleground during the summer. I used the internet later to assist me with research for school and I used the internet more when I went to college and graduate school.

When I was at Western New England getting my Bachelor’s degree I participated in different courses that used online tools as part of curriculum. Most of my classes were in person courses with activities and assignments taken in an online portal, MYWNEC, as a supplement to these courses. I took two online courses, and with some exceptions the class met online; my first course was a psychology course that was entirely online and my second course was an art history course that occasionally had assignments where I had to attend a museum to complete them. I had a few courses that took place completely in the classroom. Meanwhile while I was at Central Connecticut State University getting my Master’s degree, there were no online courses provided in the program but I used resources online as part of my research for papers and projects. For instance, when I worked on the proposal for Connecticut Historical Society’s next exhibit which was eventually accepted and became Cooking by the Book (it was displayed from January 2013 to April 2013), I used their online collections resource to decide which objects to include in the proposal. Outside of school I took a few online courses on edx.org about various subjects including history and interactions in the classroom; I take these courses at my own pace to keep my skills relevant and updated. While I was becoming a museum professional, I saw how museums utilized the internet to create websites that provide information about their exhibits, programs, and resources.

Each museum I worked for have various ways visitors and potential visitors can access what they offer on the internet. On Stanley-Whitman House’s website, it has the history of the house and information on the museum as well as information about education programs, adult group programs, and special events & programs. The Stanley-Whitman House also provides information about the collections, gardens, exhibits, and research services. On Connecticut Landmarks’ website, it provides information about the nine properties it owns especially the two properties I worked at, Butler-McCook House and Isham-Terry House; the website also provides other information including information about the organization, upcoming special events, events calendar, a link to the facilities rental site, various ways individuals can donate to the organization, ways to get involved in the organization, and press releases. On Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society’s website, in addition to information about the historic house museum/historical society and on how to become a member, it has information about school, youth, adult, and public programs as well as information about their exhibits especially their new tablet tour I learned about while I was a museum educator there. The website also has a Discovery & Learn section which includes the history of Noah Webster and West Hartford, brief descriptions of the historical society’s collections; a kid’s corner that includes interactive activities kids can download and click on tabs to learn about the history of West Hartford and Noah Webster, and teachers can download keys to a couple of the activities; and a Q&A section with the Executive Director that is coming up soon. On the Long Island Museum’s website, it has various information including on exhibits past and current, programs for students, adults, public and families, and a collections database that allows visitors to look up various pictures, books, and objects found in the museum’s collection. The previously mentioned museums’ websites have different ways to grab people’s attention and help bring them to these museums.

Museums use and should use the internet to their advantage to expand their reach to their audiences. As technology and the internet continue to evolve, museums also need to evolve to gain as well as maintain visitors to their exhibits. One of the books I read about museums and the internet is called Unbound By Place or Time: Museums and Online Learning by William B. Crow and Herminia Din published by the American Association of Museums Press (now called the American Alliance of Museums) in 2009. This book discusses various forms of online learning, the advantages and challenges of online learning, and how museums can utilize online learning.

Crow and Din also provided case studies that gave examples of how museums can create successful programs for visitors. The authors also stated that it is important to recognize that in the end our online programs are tools, no matter what we learn and experience our relationship with it will change as it evolves, and that what is consistent is our dedication and commitment for providing resources our museums offer. This is true even today especially with new technology being used in school and adult programs; at Long Island Museum for instance has a program for Alzheimer’s patients that use a tablet to play music related to objects and sections in exhibits. It is also true especially as skype is used to communicate with people and it has the potential to be used in more museum education programs. What do you think of the relationship between museums and online learning? Does your organization have online programs? If so, what are the advantages and challenges you find as an educator using these programs? If your organization does not use online learning programs, would you like to introduce this to your museum/organization and create your own?

As you ponder these questions, I recommend visiting these sites:
www.stanleywhitman.org
www.ctlandmarks.org
www.noahwebsterhouse.org
www.longislandmuseum.org