Reactions to Blog: “9 Ways To Supercharge Your Museum Volunteers”

Also posted on Medium, June 29, 2017.

I decided this week to talk about another one of the blog posts I have been reading this week. I found this blog on Medium, 9 Ways To Supercharge Your Museum Volunteers, written by Ashleigh Hibbins for Museum Hack. As I prepare to help with revamping the docent manual for the Three Village Historical Society, I review resources I have to use as guides for this project. Part of developing the volunteer program is working on the docent manual. When I read this post, it reinforced what I already learned from the webinar I attended in January and the book I have read, Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums by Kristy Van Hoven and Loni Wellman. Museum Hack’s post provides additional resources that are very helpful for the readers, and there were many statements they made that reaffirmed not only the knowledge I have gained but the importance of maintaining a great relationship with volunteers.

In the past and currently, I have volunteered for various organizations that have different ways of running their volunteer programs. I have also run a volunteer program in the past where I was responsible for volunteers teaching larger school programs. By learning how they could be run through professional development and reading books, I gain knowledge on how I should be treated as a volunteer and learn how I can improve my skills when I run a volunteer program. There is always something to learn when revisiting a subject including volunteer management, and this post is no exception.

I liked that they included how important volunteers are to museums at the very beginning of the article. They stated “Who are the most excited and engaged people in your museum?… Your volunteers!” And this is very true because as a volunteer and a leader in the volunteer program I see so many passionate people who have been volunteering for many years. It is important therefore to make sure that passion is kindled and used to help complete projects for their museums. Also, the post pointed out the importance of keeping volunteers happy.

It is true that volunteers are our museums’ biggest fans and advocates since they are dedicating their time to help museums to continue to adapt and develop. What I have not thought about before that they pointed out was according to a U.S. survey two-thirds of volunteers also donate money to their place of volunteering (they used Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund Volunteerism and Charitable Giving in 2009 Executive Summary as a source). It makes sense because they work hard to keep the museums running and they are willing to do whatever is possible to keep them running including donations of time and sometimes money. The rest of the post gave the ways to supercharge volunteers, and then gave detailed explanations for each way.

Some of the ways they shared in the post include treat volunteer interviews like job interviews, don’t just smile and nod-volunteers have great ideas, volunteers are your secret recruiting weapon, and remind your volunteers how awesome they are. While these tips should seem obvious when considering volunteers, there are various points that need to be brought to our attention. For instance, when it was stated that readers should treat volunteer interviews like job interviews they pointed out that “don’t set someone up for failure by giving them a position they are unable to perform.” It is not only important to keep this in mind because no projects will be accomplished if volunteers cannot perform tasks but it will also affect their self-esteem and passion for the organization. Without that passion, we will not be able to retain the hard-working volunteers we need.

The post also pointed out how important it is to learn about volunteer programming from other museums in the community. In the post, it talked about being a nosy volunteer manager, or be continuously involved in making sure volunteers’ and museums’ needs are met, and then they stated “Also, be nosy with volunteer managers at other museums so you can pick up tips and tricks from them too.” I believe that it is important for volunteer managers should learn from other museums on how they run their volunteer programs not only because the programs can inspire their own way of running volunteer programs but museum professionals can come together to learn how to keep their museums relevant in the community through their volunteer programs.

What we should take away from this post is to be sure to keep our volunteers needs and happiness in mind when developing volunteer programs. I have also provided the link to the original post from Museum Hack for you all to read, and links to the resources they used in their post especially for anyone running volunteer programs.

Do you run volunteer programs? What do you think of Museum Hack’s contribution to the subject of museum volunteers? Have you followed similar advice Museum Hack discussed? What challenges have you faced when developing your volunteer program(s)? Share your reactions.

Resources used in Museum Hack article:
https://aamv.wildapricot.org/Standards-and-Best-Practices

Click to access Technical_Bulletin_45_-_Creating_a_Successful_Volunteer_Program.pdf


Click to access Volunteerism-Charitable-Giving-2009-Executive-Summary.pdf

View at Medium.com

Summertime: Keeping Audiences Coming to Museums

Originally posted on Medium, June 15, 2017.

As the summer approaches, museum professionals continue to develop exhibits, kids summer programs, and public programs that encourage visitors to keep coming back to these organizations. I have visited many museums throughout my life, and each one provides various and unique summer programming to keep visitors, new and regular, coming to their institutions. Summer programs must not only provide visitors options for summer entertainment but should also reflect the institutions’ missions in some way. During my experience as a museum education professional, I have figured out there are many ways to help visitors engage with museums I have worked with. As I begin my summer work as an educator at Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson and at Three Village Historical Society in East Setauket, I reflect on what has worked in the past.

My summer experience began with my summer internship at Connecticut’s Old State House, located in downtown Hartford, while I was earning my Master’s degree at Central Connecticut State University. In addition to giving tours to the public and researching answers to questions asked during tours, I create an animal scavenger hunt for young kids, called “Where Am I Hiding? Holcombe Center Animal Hunt”, to do while visiting the Old State House. The animals I used for the scavenger hunt came from Connecticut’s Old State House’ s Holcomb Center, where education programs are usually held for young kids. I walked around the Center and chose nine animals that were painted on the walls. I chose a variety of animals that can be found in different habitats; the animals I chose include a duck, cow, horse, starfish, turtle, and an alligator. To participate in the activity, the kids followed simple instructions so they will be able to find all the animals in the room.

Kids would use the clues provided to figure out what animals they will look for. For instance, one example of a clue I wrote was
“I love to swim and ruffle my feathers. I love to say ‘Quack’ and you can find me and my little ones underneath the bench in the water.”

When they look for the animals, the kids use the clue to figure out what animal it is, and where it is in the Center. Once they found where the animals are in the room, the kids use the reference picture on the sheet to match it with the clue. By doing so, it will show that the kids know what the animals are and keep the kids entertained. While this activity does not completely tie into the mission to reawaken citizen engagement and awareness, it helps young kids interact with their surroundings which would carry into getting more engaged and inspired to learn more as they grow up and learn how their voice matters as citizens of a democratic nation.

Another example of summer programming I worked on was at Connecticut Landmarks’ Butler-McCook House also located in Hartford. During the summer, the Butler-McCook House has a summer concert series where various artists on certain dates in the summer months perform on the lawn between Connecticut Landmarks’ headquarters and Butler-McCook House; the headquarters was moved into the Amos Bull House which was relocated from Main Street to behind the Butler-McCook House on the McCook family property to save the Bull House from being torn down. The Butler-McCook House also had a few rooms open to concert attendees to learn a little bit of the history of the house and Hartford. Connecticut Landmarks’ mission is

“to inspire interest and encourage learning about the American past by preserving selected historic properties, collections and stories and presenting programs that meaningfully engage the public and our communities.”

The summer concert series are an example of how programs are relevant to the institutions’ missions because the summer concerts encourage many people in the community especially families to come together to not only enjoy the music but become more aware of what Connecticut Landmarks’ can offer to the community as historical resources of local and national history.

Some museums and historic sites also provide summer day camps for kids of various ages to participate in to both learn and have fun. I worked at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society’s summer day camp which had two sessions that kids between the ages of 8 and 12 could sign up for one or a later one; the program taught kids about 18th century life through cooking recipes, performing chores, making crafts based on toys that 18th century children would have made themselves, and creating their own skits based on what they learned for their families at the end of the session. Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society also partnered with Westmoor Park to include farm activities to learn what it is like to do chores on the farm as well as to learn about and pet the animals. At Westmoor Park, the kids also participated in other activities including crafts and nature walks. This summer camp helps kids gain a better understanding of history and culture while participating in fun activities.

The Long Island Museum also had a summer day camp that allows kids to work with artists hired for the summer to teach different art projects. I supervised check in to make sure everything ran smoothly and I was on call to make sure each session had enough supplies and everything else ran smoothly during the day. There are many different sessions scheduled during the summer. For instance, one of the sessions is called Fashion Illustration. Fashion Illustration teaches registered kids how to draw sketches to create different fashion designs. Another art session tied in with the exhibit Long Island in the Sixties by having kids create crafts based on things from the 1960s. These summer day camp sessions allowed kids to have a better understanding and enjoyment of art, especially through Long Island heritage.

In my current roles, I continue to provide educational and entertaining experiences for visitors of various ages. At the Maritime Explorium, I assist kids with hands-on activities related to science and maritime. For instance, I helped kids between kindergarten and second grade find a way to make a penny shine by providing materials such as dish soap, barbeque sauce, baking soda, salt, and sponges for them to figure out the solution, and have them write down methods that did not work. Also, I worked at the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire where kids participated in hands-on games, activities, and crafts while participating in other Maker Faire activities such as interactive activities and listening to live music.

I also began working with Three Village Historical Society on education programs. Collaborating with the Director of Education and the Historian, I will work on school and kids summer programs. I look for inspiration from past programs Three Village Historical Society has taught, my own experiences, and the lessons I learned from professional development programs. Summer programs and the staff who develop them I have learned from my experiences provide opportunities for visitors to return for more programming. It is important to have it well advertised so more people will be able to know about these programs through outlets such as social media, newspaper ads, flyers, mailings, and/or a mixture of any of the previous methods. Also, it is important to develop a way to evaluate the programs to see what works and what needs to be improved on. Summer programs continue to evolve as the communities needs change while fulfilling their institutions’ missions.

Do you have a favorite experience, or experiences, with summer programs? What are your experiences in developing and/or implementing summer programs at your institutions?

UPDATE: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Originally posted on Medium, April 25, 2017. 

As promised, I am giving you all an update on the response to the exhibit I created and discussed about in the blog entry Looking Back, Moving Forward: How to Create an Exhibit on Limited Resources. I created an exhibit for Trinity Church in Wrentham displaying the Church’s over 150-year history with the Easter theme; the exhibit has photographs and objects related to the Easter season. Also, I included photographs of the exhibit in the blog post. You can find the original blog post here: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/looking-back-moving-forward-how-to-create-an-exhibit-on-limited-resources-f99d2f3e56f6. It was decided that the exhibit will be displayed throughout the Easter season.

After the exhibit was completed, parishioners who attended the Good Friday service could see the exhibit for the first time. The rector made an announcement during the service, and in the next couple of services, that I had created the exhibit and is available to be seen in the Parish Hall. Parishioners gathered around the exhibit to thoroughly read the exhibit labels as well as look at the pieces. They enjoyed learning about Trinity’s history and appreciated the efforts put into the exhibit. A few comments included it is evident that I had put a lot of time and effort into the exhibit.

One of the common comments stated that they were surprised with how many people have been in Trinity’s choir. The comment was referencing a photograph I chose to include in the exhibit. I included a picture of a boy choir that was taken outside in 1909. While it does not indicate when in 1909 the photograph was taken, it is supposed to epitomize a depiction of Trinity parishioners 46 years after Trinity Church’s first year as a parish.

This reaction to the exhibit tells me that they appreciate the exhibit and enjoy learning about their church’s history. It is also gives me further encouragement to create another exhibit to display Trinity Church’s collections.

Looking Back, Moving Forward: How to Create an Exhibit on Limited Resources

Originally posted on Medium, April 13, 2017. 

This week I am going to discuss something a little different than I usually do on this blog. I discuss on this blog many experiences I have had in the museum field and yet I have not discussed another aspect of my museum experiences. For more information about my previous experiences related to exhibit design and planning an exhibit, see this blog post: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/how-to-use-food-to-create-relevance-in-museums-810c7ad7c713 . To read about my other experiences in the museum field, look at my other previous blog posts here: https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey . While I have talked about one of the exhibits I created in the past, I have not discussed my work with my childhood church. For the past couple of years, I have volunteered at Trinity Church in Wrentham as Parish Historian.

As Parish Historian, I oversee maintaining the collections and updating the collections list of Trinity’s Historical Collections. I became the Parish Historian not only because my educational background made me qualified to handle the position and project but I have always been interested in learning more about Trinity Church’s history since I attended services as a child. My family went to Trinity for many years while I was growing up. Whenever I saw old pictures of the church and the rectors, I asked many questions about how old the church is and who the individuals in the photograph were. Many years later I developed a deeper appreciation for Trinity Church’s history, and have continued to learn more about Trinity Church’s history through the collections. I was asked this year to develop an exhibit displaying the church’s collections.

Since Easter was coming up I decided to create an exhibit that showed Easter traditions at Trinity. The first step was to go through the Trinity Historical Collections to find items related to the Easter season including objects, books, and photographs. I wrote down a list of items in the collections related to the exhibit theme. From that list, I narrowed it down to about ten items since the space available is limited. Some of the items I chose were Lent and Easter cards, 19th and 20th century Books of Common Prayer, a hymnal from 1940, and I also included photographs from Palm Saturday Children’s Event. I decided on these items because over Trinity’s 150 history there have been many Easter services, and by including recent photographs they show that current parishioners are a part of Trinity’s long history and they are significant in Trinity’s future. To bring these items in the collections together, an exhibit narrative and labels need to be typed and edited.

Some of the items selected for the exhibit.

Also, I typed the exhibit narrative and exhibit labels to honor the Easter exhibit theme. In the exhibit, I described the importance of this exhibit:

Since celebrating our 150th anniversary, our parishioners continue to carry on the tradition of worship. As we remember and celebrate Jesus’s resurrection, Trinity looks back at our long history of celebrating his return. This exhibit shares items from Trinity’s archives that reflect on where our Easter traditions came from. By looking at these items, everyone will understand the story of Trinity’s celebration of Easter. We learn about how Trinity Church continues the Parish Community traditions during holy week and Easter.

After I wrote and edited the exhibit narrative, I wrote the exhibit labels for each of the items on display. To write the exhibit labels, I examined each item to figure out how old the item is, what is made of, what is in the photographs, and how it is related to the Easter theme. I used the information I gathered through observations and information provided with the collections to create the exhibit labels to share information with the visitor and parishioner. Here is an example of one of the labels I wrote for the exhibit:

Easter Card, 1954
Easter card was given to parishioners during Reverend T. Frederick Marshall’s ministry in 1954. Reverend Marshall served as rector at Trinity Church between 1947 and 1956. Inside the card is the schedule for Easter Day services with the Holy Communion at seven and eight in the morning, Choral Eucharist with Sermon at 10:45 a.m., Public Baptism at three in the afternoon, and a Children’s Service at four in the afternoon. This card also has an Easter Greeting from Reverend Marshall stating, “Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter”. The card also has a quote from the Prayer Book,
“And note, that every Parishioner shall communicate at the least three times in the year, of which Easter to be one.”
Printed by Mowbrays in England. Found among the Trinity Historical Records in 2015. [slightly altered after pasting it in Medium post and here on this webpage]

Once I edited and printed out the labels and narrative, I discussed with the current rector where the display will be placed to make sure parishioners will be able to see it. I knew before the discussion that the most likely room the exhibit can be seen is in the Parish Hall, which is a room where parishioners gather after services to socialize and drink coffee. I shared my thoughts on where the exhibit should be displayed; I pointed out two places that may work. The first option is close to the seating area and right across from the entrance into the church; it is the best option because the exhibit will be the first thing parishioners will see when leaving after the service for coffee hour. The second option was next to the entrance to the Parish Hall from the parking lot; while it may seem to be a good option since it offers similar exposure, the exhibit would be displayed underneath a bulletin board with various announcements potentially distracting, and it is too exposed to where parishioners get their coffee and treats. We agreed that the first option is the best place for the exhibit. The rector also offered to let me borrow one of her table cloths to drape over the table for the display and to add color to the exhibit.

When creating the exhibit I used limited resources available from the church. For instance, I used an extra Elmer glue cardboard board that I borrowed from the church’s choir room and scrap paper to make crosses, eggs, and birds that were used as decorations; also, I borrowed push pins to attach the labels, decorations, and artifacts in plastic slip covers. To create the crosses, eggs, and birds, I took green, pink, and blue pieces of paper then I traced them into the various shapes and cut them out to pin them on the board. I also pinned a couple of the pieces from the collections on the board by placing them in plastic sleeves and pinning the sleeves onto the board. Also, I displayed the exhibit labels by figuring out how the viewer will most likely be able to read it and to make it visually appealing.

Picture of exhibit board designed using limited resources.

Once I have completed this board, I laid out the rest of the items and exhibit labels with similar standards I used for the Elmer glue cardboard board on visibility and visual appeal. So far, I have had positive reactions to this exhibit and more individuals will be able to see this exhibit before and after services this Easter weekend and afterwards to allow more opportunities for people to see the exhibit. I will post an update the more I learn about people’s reactions to this exhibit.

The exhibit as a whole. Trinity Traditions: Easter Celebrations Throughout the Century.

How have you designed an exhibit on limited resources and limited budget? What challenges did you face when creating your exhibits?

 

Book Review: Museum Administration 2.0 by Hugh H. Genoways, Lynne M. Ireland, and Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko

Originally posted on Medium, April 6, 2017.

After a while, I have completed Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland’s Museum Administration 2.0 with revisions made by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. It took me a while to read this book because I wanted to make sure I comprehended each detail the authors provided. I wanted to read this book not only develop my skills as a museum professional but to learn more about how museum administration works. As a museum educator, in the past, I had limited experience in the administration aspect of the museum. I taught school and public programs and the experiences I gained did not include a lot of administration skills. The administration skills I gained before I went to the Long Island Museum was some time answering phone calls and preparing flyers and mailings.

While I was at the Long Island Museum, I gained more administration skills that helped me develop my skills as a museum professional. In addition to teaching school programs and implementing public programs, I learned how to book school and group programs including tours and In the Moment program (for Alzheimer’s/dementia patients); after answering phone calls and taking down information such as the name of school/organization and the number of individuals attending, I recorded the information on the facilities sheet, placed the program and organization (as well as the time) on the Master Calendar via Google Docs, and provide the program/school/organization/time information on the daily sheet to write down official numbers as well as observe the number of programs for that day.

Also, I was also in charge of scheduling volunteers who taught larger school programs that require various stations and geared towards larger school groups. Based on how many of these school programs were scheduled for that month, I used the sheet of the volunteers’ availability to schedule the number of volunteers needed to run the program(s) for the number of days scheduled. Once finalized I printed copies and sent them to all volunteers while keeping one to put on the board for them to refer to while at the museum.

In addition to the programming related administration work, I also worked on various projects in the Education department. For instance, I oversaw printing program flyers, after the everyone in the department approved of the details, and sending the flyers to the head of the Suffolk County and Nassau County libraries for them to distribute to all libraries in the counties to post on bulletin boards; I also made sure there was many copies printed to be sent to and distributed at the museum’s visitor center. Then I went over budgets with the Director of Education for purchasing food and drinks for the public programs; we collaborated on the paperwork once the items were purchased. Also, I made sure the mailing for school program brochures and bus trip flyers mailings went smoothly; I printed address labels, placed address labels on envelopes, placed brochures/flyers in the envelopes, borrowed mailing boxes from postal offices to place envelopes in, and send them to the post office to be mailed. Since the Long Island Museum, I answered and redirected phone calls at the front desk, assisted in gift shop inventory, and tallied volunteers’ sailing Priscilla records during last year’s sailing season at the Long Island Maritime Museum.

I decided to write a review of this book because not only will this book be useful for all museum professionals but it has also been a while since I wrote a book review. By reading this book, I gain a deeper understanding of the museum running process on all levels and I hope everyone who reads this blog entry will also have a better understanding of how museums are run.

Genoways, Hugh H., Lynne M. Ireland, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Museum Administration 2.0, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. ISBN: 978–1442255517

This book is a second edition to the Museum Administration book published in the early 2000s and revisions were made in this second edition to provide updates on changes in the field since the first edition was published. The authors pointed out that this book is not just for museum directors and department heads but this book is for all members of the museum staff who have administrative duties. The book also provided not only case studies and case reviews but it also shared activities that can be used to practice the skills introduced in that chapter. There are also diagrams to illustrate the concepts explained in the chapters. Also, the authors pointed out the main point of this book which is this book should be used as a quick reference, inspiration during challenging times, and a jumping off point to dig deeper into more complex topics. Each chapter is dedicated to different aspects of how museums are run from what a museum and administration is to interpretation, exhibits, and programming.

The first chapter not only defines what a museum is and what an administration is but it also discusses types of museums, museum associations, the museum profession, and academic programs related to the field. In this chapter, the academic programs discussed in the book are museum studies, public history, and archival education. The chapter also lists several museum associations that exist in the United States including the primary professional museum association American Alliance of Museums, American Association for State and Local History, Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums, Association of Children’s Museums, International Museum Theatre Alliance, and Museum Education Roundtable. The first chapter also pointed out that ultimately when learning about administration in museums experience is the great teacher. Also, it is important to know that no matter what position one holds in the museum each staff member will be expected to perform some administrative duties and each day presents sets of opportunities to make something happen.

The second and third chapters discussed start up and strategic planning. According to the second chapter on start up, creating a new museum or improving an existing one is a complex process requiring a clear sense of purpose and compliance with state and federal regulations. A couple of things the chapter points out are a museum should form only when a community can specify the need for it and plan a solid business model for its sustainability; and all museums need a well-defined mission statement, written bylaws, articles of incorporation, and IRS tax-exempt status. Another important part of museum operations is strategic planning; a strategic plan is a map or chart an organization agrees to follow for three to five years to reach its goals, and the plans are strategic when the goals that respond to a museum’s environment, seek a competitive edge, effectively serve stakeholders, and identify the keys to long-term sustainability.

There are ten steps in the developing process of a strategic plan for a museum. The steps are initiate and agree on process, identify organizational mandates, identify and understand stakeholders and develop mission, external and internal assessments, identify strategic issues, review and adopt strategic issues, formulate strategies (action or work plans) to manage strategic issues, establish a vision for the future of the museum, evaluation and reassessment, and finalizing the plan. The fourth and fifth chapters discuss topics on finance and sustainability.

I appreciate that the finance chapter went into such detail since finance is important for the staff to have a handle on how money is spent as this helps them make effective decisions with significant financial impact. The chapter discusses how to develop a budget, manage a budget, and accounting. Budget management requires both a day to day approach and a long view so by learning all the steps of developing and maintaining the budget a museum will be able to function and fulfill its mission. On the chapter of sustainability, it discusses how a museum’s financial stability and future rely on effective fundraising and revenue-generating practices that provide for present operational needs and generate income for future capital and operational needs.

There are various parts of financing that help sustain museums to keep them running. For instance, development is about building relationships with people that would lead to the end result (money) for museums. Other parts of sustainability include making a (development) plan, raising funds, accumulate contributed income (i.e. memberships, annual giving, sponsorships, fundraising events, and campaigns), planned giving, government support, and grants. Museums are also sustained through earned income which includes admission fees, museum store, dining facilities, planetariums and theaters, educational programming, special exhibits, traveling exhibits, and blockbuster exhibits and other partnerships.

The sixth and seventh chapters discuss topics on the working museum and ethics and professional conduct. According to the working museum chapter, staff are the museum’s most valuable asset. I agree with this statement because each museum staff member has a role in keeping a museum running, and a museum like any organization is like a car (each part of a car helps keep the car running and performing its functions as well as fulfilling its purposes). The working museum describes how the staff, board members, and volunteers understand how their organization is laid out in chart form that would be especially helpful for new people joining the organization. It also discusses the museum employees which reveals general expectations of the employee based on their job descriptions, and the significance of leadership in museums with detailed descriptions of leadership types. This chapter also went into detail about how the museum board, director, and staff should interact with one another.

In the ethics and professional conduct chapter, it points out that there is a universal agreement that standards articulate a way to guide the thoughts and actions of museum professionals and provide some basis for judging the performance of institutions and individuals. The chapter discusses museum ethics by defining ethics and how important it is to develop a code of ethics for museums. Also, the chapter describes ethics statements and a good statement according to the authors will articulate the traditional values or morals and communal standards of the museum profession. Then the chapter discusses the codes of professional museum conduct through governance, collections, institutional codes of professional museum conduct, and enforcement.

The eighth and ninth chapters talk about legal issues and facilities management. I appreciate that in the beginning of the legal issues chapter the authors stated that nothing in the chapter should be considered legal advice because it reinforces the idea that this book should be used as a reference. The authors also recommended a couple of books to use as museum law references to start with and then seek legal counsel when necessary: Museum Law: A Guide for Officers, Director and Counsel by Marilyn E. Phelan (2014), and the 2012 update of A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections by Marie C. Malaro and Ildiko P. DeAngelis. This chapter provides brief detailed descriptions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBIT), legal liability, artists’ rights, copyright, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. To have a good facilities management plan, museum staff must consider the needs of the people who work within the organization, the preservation and exhibition of objects in the museum’s collection, and the people who visit the museum.

The facilities management chapter describes in detail museum facilities and the significance of maintaining the museum property. Museum facilities includes the physical structure and the utility services. This chapter also discusses facility operations which includes housekeeping, emergency preparedness, health and safety, fire prevention, safety data sheet, hazardous materials, biological waste materials, integrated pest management, and security. Visitor services is also part of facilities management since providing a range of services will make the museum a welcoming environment for visitors to feel comfortable in and a guaranteed return visit. The services provided are pre-visit information, parking, accessibility, orientation, museum stores, rest rooms, food service, and educational services. In the tenth and eleventh chapters, the authors provided details on marketing and public relations as well as collections stewardship.

Both marketing and public relations are married concepts since both concepts deal with communications and reaching to the public. Marketing is a process that helps people exchange something of value for something they need or want. This chapter discusses several aspects of marketing including motivations for marketing, history of marketing activities, the marketing plan, tactical marketing, and e-communications. Public relations, meanwhile, is built upon marketing and is charged with trying to develop a successful image for the organization. The chapter also discuss how public relations are incorporated in museum’s overall strategic plan; it also describes the PR tools museums use in museums’ public relations practices which are events, community relations, media relations, media releases, public service announcements, interviews and speeches, print materials, and buzz. This chapter also discusses the significance of museums and the community working together to maintain museums’ relevance within the community. The authors dedicated an entire chapter on collections stewardship.

In this chapter, the authors describe what a collections management policy is and addresses nine issues that the collections management policies must cover. The nine issues mentioned are collection mission and scope, acquisition and accessioning, cataloging, inventories, and records, loans, collection access, insurance, deaccession and disposal, care of the collection, and personal collecting. Each of these nine issues are fully described throughout the chapter. The twelfth chapter discussed interpretation, exhibition, and programming.

According to the book, interpretation is everything we do that helps visitors make sense of our collections include: exhibitions, education programs, and evaluation. The core of interpretation is communication and it is up to museum professionals to translate these communication pathways to a variety of audiences. In this chapter, it discusses exhibits as well as interpretive planning, exhibit policy, exhibit planning and development. The chapter also went into detail about programming as well as the policy and guidelines for the museums’ educational functions. All museums also need to provide evidence from outcome based evaluations that they are fulfilling the social contract of providing educational experiences for its visitors.

One of the things that we all should take away from this book is the longer one works in the field, the more one will know and the more one will give back to the field. The advice that I took away from this book is to keep your head up, your eyes forward, and your brain learning. This is important to me as a museum professional because I understood that we are always learning from our experiences and we continue to develop our skills as museum educators to better serve our institutions and our communities. While I read this book, I used a pencil to write down notes in the books to highlight the main points of the book for whenever I want to look back at the lessons this book presented. It is an important book I will continue to use throughout my career as a museum professional.

What are your experiences in museum administration? How have you applied your administrative skills in your daily role as a museum professional?

Women Represented in Historical Narrative and Museums

Originally posted on Medium, March 23, 2017.

In honor of women’s history month, I thought I would discuss women’s roles in history and how women are represented in museums. I specifically will talk about the women in the historical narrative of the museums I worked for. Also, I will discuss a lesson plan that I wrote for my capstone project, Women of the Eighteenth Century at Stanley-Whitman House, as a requirement for my Master’s degree in Public History at Central Connecticut State University. The lesson plan I wrote focused on the women who lived in the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut, and women’s role in 18th century America.

In addition to my experience writing this lesson plan, I also worked at Connecticut Landmarks’ Butler-McCook House where strong independent women once lived in and heavily involved in the Hartford community. For instance, there was Frances McCook who was a substitute organist at her father’s (Reverend John James McCook) church at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in East Hartford and was an active member of the Antiquarian Landmarks Society (now called Connecticut Landmarks) who saved a historic building from being torn down by suggesting it is moved onto her family property. Women’s roles in history as we are reminded this month are significant in our society.

Women have an impact on our society in large and small ways. My experience on teaching Hartford history and the women’s role in preserving that history is an example of this. Stanley-Whitman House is a living history center and museum that teaches through the collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington. My lesson plan was written based on this mission and on my experience teaching programs there. The purpose of this lesson plan was to aid school-age children in becoming more aware of the study of Early American women’s history and its significance to the overall local and American eighteenth-century history. According to my capstone project, it is based on the requirements of a Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan which focuses on eighteenth century New England women and it takes a specific look at the lives of two women who lived in the Farmington, Connecticut, Mary Steele Smith and Susannah Cole Whitman.

Mary Steele Smith was born in 1709 to Ebenezer Steele and Sarah Hart. She inherited the house from her father who purchased it from Deacon John Stanley, whose father (John Stanley) built the house between 1709 and 1720 using wood and stone, and used post and beam construction for the frame. At the time of her father’s death, he did not have male heirs who would have inherited his property so therefore Mary inherited the property. In 1725 18-year-old Mary and her 25-year-old husband Thomas Smith moved in, becoming its first occupants. Smith was a professional weaver who also farmed along the banks of the Farmington River. Mary and Thomas Smith lived in the house for ten years before selling the property and moving to another house in Farmington.

The second family that lived in the Stanley-Whitman house was the Whitman family. Reverend Samuel Whitman, a minister of the First Church of Christ, Congregational in Farmington, purchased the property in 1735 for his son Solomon Whitman who was born in 1711. Solomon married Susannah Cole (Cowles), born on October 22, 1721, in 1736. Susannah was the daughter of Caleb Cowles (1682–1725) who was a deacon and Abigail Woodford (1685–1736). Cowles and Woodford were both descendants of the parties that followed Thomas Hooker to Connecticut in the 1630s; James Cowles, Caleb’s great grandfather, came over to New England with his family from Essex County in England and sometime in 1633 his family traveled to where they settled Hartford, and Woodford was the granddaughter of Thomas Woodford who was one of the parties led by Thomas Hooker to Hartford, of which he became one of the founders in 1633. Based on these connections, Susannah would have come into a lot of wealth, land, and prestige.

Both were economically comfortable, two white New England women who were members of the First Congregationalist Church. Also, both Mary Smith and Susannah Whitman were landowners, mothers, daughters, faithful Christians, and servants within their communities, one in the early eighteenth century, and the other before the Revolution. The lesson includes background information about the history of Farmington and about women of different social and economic status to inform students that not every individual who lived during the eighteenth century lived the same way Mary and Susannah lived.

The capstone also includes background information on the history of Farmington taken from research materials found in the Stanley-Whitman House library and collections as well as Central Connecticut State University’s Elihu Burritt Library for more background information about eighteenth century New England. Farmington was settled in 1640 when English settlers arrived in the Tunxis Native Americans territory. For the first 100 years in Farmington, the main occupation was farming. By 1700, the self-reliant community included carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers, tanners, weavers, and coopers. As the number of industries grew in Farmington in the late 1700s, the town became increasingly prosperous. After the Revolutionary War, the town became a trading center, selling Yankee wares in the South and importing goods from as far away as China. Townspeople began wearing silks and satins, buying luxuries such as pianos and phaetons — light horse-drawn carriages — and spending money on fine new homes. The lesson plan has an impact on the Stanley-Whitman House because it provides them another lesson plan for visiting students who come to the museum.

This project provided a way to teach eighteenth century New England women’s history to students. The capstone project began with a paper called “Eighteenth-Century Women’s Roles in the Stanley-Whitman House: Typical or Extraordinary?” which discusses the question of whether Mary Smith and Susannah Whitman were typical women of their time or were exceptional; based on the available evidence, I discovered that Mary Steele Smith and Susannah Cole Whitman were largely typical women of their respective eras within their socio-economic class. After the paper, the capstone project continued with the lesson plan. The lesson plan was divided into sections: an introduction to the history of Stanley-Whitman House, about the lesson which has a citation and where the curriculum fits into the national and state learning standards, objectives for students, and materials for students. Another section in the lesson plan was teaching activities which includes a map activity, a few reading comprehension activities that include narratives of Farmington and women’s history especially the women who lived in Stanley-Whitman House, and object-based activities inside the house that help students compare the women in the house as well as the 18th century. The experience of writing this lesson plan provided an opportunity for me to learn more about women’s roles in the local community.

I continued to learn more about women in the local community by learning more about three women who were dedicated to preserving their family history and Hartford’s history. Connecticut Landmarks, originally known as the Antiquarian Landmarks society, obtained two historic houses from members of the organization in Hartford.

The first property was the Butler-McCook House located on Main Street across the street from Capitol Street; it was originally owned by four generations of the same family from the 1780s until 1971, and the last living member who owned it was Frances McCook (1877–1971). In 1907 and 1908, she traveled around the world with her father stopping in places like Spain, Italy, Egypt, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong and then visited her sister Eliza in China; Eliza McCook was a teacher who moved to China to become a missionary. As a member of the Antiquarian Society, she offered to save Amos Bull House by having it moved onto her property.

The eighteenth-century building was originally a dry goods store and a residence and then it was used as a hardware store, an auto dealership, insurance offices and a restaurant; Amos Bull (1744–1825) was born in Enfield and grew up there and in Farmington. He completed his home in late 1789 and advertised that he was open for business in December 1789; his store sold linens, hardware and household items. In 1968, the building was threatened with urban renewal-related demolition but with the efforts of the community and Frances’ generosity the endangered building was moved to the rear of the Butler-McCook House.

Toward the end of her life, Frances decided to make the McCook house into a museum and spent years organizing family letters and diaries as well as taking care of the house. She wanted people to enjoy the house for its architectural significance as well as her family’s role in the Hartford community and the history of Hartford. What I have learned from these experiences and throughout my life is that women have contributed so much to our society, and they inspire me to be continue to achieve my goals as a person, historian, and museum educator.

Find out more about these women and places they lived in here:
http://www.ctlandmarks.org
http://www.stanleywhitman.org

What have you learned about women in history? If you had to choose a favorite female historical figure, who would it be? Do you have any women in your life you look up to for inspiration?

 

 

 

 

 

How to use Food to Create Relevance in Museums

Originally posted on Medium, February 24, 2017.

Food is an important necessity people need to survive, and by creating an exhibit or program based on the narrative of food history museums create examples of how people can understand relevance in museums. This week there was a webinar the American Association of State and Local History hosted called Interpreting Food at Museums and Historic Sites, which provided introduction to strategies for using food and food history to develop interpretation with depth and significance, and will make relevant connections to contemporary issues and visitor interests. This webinar inspired me to write about my own experiences when I collaborated with my classmates and Connecticut Historical Society on the exhibit Cooking by the Book: Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart. Also, I will discuss how the study of food history is continued to be discussed since I first approached the subject during graduate school.

During my second semester of my first year of graduate school, I took a course on Museum Interpretation in which the major assignment was creating an exhibit at Connecticut Historical Society using food as the theme. My classmates and I were introduced to the project at the beginning of the semester, and my professor assigned books to provide background information on food history; one of the books was Warren Belasco’s Food: The Key Concepts (Bloomsbury Academic, 2008) which served as an introduction to the study of food studies and an essential overview to the increasingly critical field of enquiry. Other books assigned were about food and food preparation in different centuries in America.

In my records, I also found my notes on the justification of creating an exhibit based on food for Connecticut Historical Society. They argue that food is a part of history that individuals can identify with as being universally relevant. According to my notes, food is an essential part of life for everyone needs food to survive, and more than that food can unite families and larger communities; food can also conjure powerful memories for individuals whether it is a yearly holiday meal tradition or cooking in the kitchen with a relative. My justification notes also stated that the exhibit will provoke questions about the differences in food history as it relates to class and gender within Connecticut’s social structure as well as challenging visitors to think about their own personal experiences with food. This is what my teammates and I had in mind when we created the original proposal presented to the committee at Connecticut Historical Society.

To create the proposal, in addition to figuring out a way to present food history in Connecticut, we also picked out objects that represented food history and our idea for the exhibit. We originally came up with an idea that was like the Upstairs/Downstairs concept when creating the Connecticut food narrative. Then we included the idea of telling Connecticut food history throughout time from the 18th century to current period. We then looked through Connecticut Historical Society’s collections that we felt best represented the narrative we believed will be presented in the exhibit. For instance, I oversaw picking out items from the eighteenth century and one of the pieces I chose to include in our proposal was a ceramic bowl that was made and used between 1730 and 1770.

After selecting our items for the proposal, we also had to figure out how to include an interactive segment in our exhibit to allow visitors to engage with the historical narrative. A couple of ideas we had include a tea etiquette practice in which a table and chairs are set up with a container of all the necessary items for the tea setting (photocopies of the directions for a Victorian tea setting would be provided and visitors would then attempt to properly set the table for tea based on the directions). The second idea we came up with was we would provide reproductions of community cookbooks from the Connecticut Historical Society’s collections for the visitors to look through.

When our class had the opportunity to present our proposals, my teammates and I presented our idea to a committee of Connecticut Historical Society staff members to determine which group’s exhibit idea they will move forward with. Each member of my group presented two different sections of our exhibit idea, and I presented the very first section when visitors enter the exhibit space as well as the interactive elements section to the committee. The first section was called “Cooking for a New Nation” which would feature Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (which was the first cookbook published in America). The book would have been used as a representation of how women cooked in eighteenth century America and the narrative would have described the women’s and servants’ roles in the kitchen during this period; when discussing these roles, the narrative would also discuss the separation between servants and household was emerging in the eighteenth century as well as the transition from colonies to a new nation. Then I described the objects that would be selected for display in this section. After the rest of the sections were presented, I introduced the interactive element for the exhibit we brainstormed for the proposal.

Some time passes, and our professor announced that the committee decided to choose our group’s idea for the exhibit with some suggested changes. The exhibit was changed to focus more on the time line of cookbooks published in the United States and discuss food history in America (especially Connecticut) in each century beginning with Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery and ending with Martha Stewart’s cookbooks. It was named Cooking by the Book: Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart and we proceeded with selecting the objects and collaborating with the University of Hartford art design students to design the exhibit labels and space. My group oversaw the interactive element of the exhibit; the interactive element was changed to providing copies of various recipes that came from the cookbooks displayed in the exhibit, and presented the opportunity for visitors to write their own recipes and place them in a box. We each took a cookbook and selected the recipes we would be interested in using then narrowed down the options to a few of them. Cooking by the Book: Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart eventually opened in January 2013, and it ran from January 18, 2013 to April 13, 2013.

Since then I did not see much of the history of food presented in a museum setting until I came across Michelle Moon’s Interpreting Food in Museums and Historic Sites which was published by the American Association of State and Local History in 2015, and the basis of this past week’s American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) webinar. Moon’s book argued that museums and historic sites have an opportunity to draw new audiences and infuse new meaning into their food presentations, and food deserves a central place in historic interpretation. Her book provides the framework for understanding big ideas in food history, suggesting best practices for linking objects, exhibits and demonstrations with the larger story of change in food production as well as consumption over the past two centuries. She also argues that food tells a story in which visitors can see themselves, and explore their own relationships to food.

I also came across Linda Norris’ blog post “Building a Learning Culture: Food Included” on her blog The Uncatalogued Museum which discussed her experience working with the board and staff at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota on creative practice in context of interpretive planning. The American Swedish Institute decided to include stories of all immigrants not only Swedish immigrant stories. To assist with creative practice including in interpretive planning, there are lessons that each institution needs to learn to connect with each other and with their communities. Norris introduced lessons from this experience including good ideas come from everywhere so it is important to cast a wide net to gain knowledge, and making time to think together is especially important.

Also, it is important be open to collaborate with people in the community to develop new collaborations and deepen other partnerships. If the American Swedish Institute did not learn that lesson, then they would not have learned about a restaurant in their community that shows appreciation for Bollywood dance and shows customers how to perform them. She also talked about the experience influencing the staff to schedule regular fika, or Swedish coffee break, with baked goods to spend some time from a busy day and connect with each other. For more information about her experience, the link to her blog can be found here: http://uncatalogedmuseum.blogspot.com/2017/02/building-learning-culture-food-included.html.

These previous examples show how food presentations in the museum field has evolved in the past few years. By sharing my previous experience on food presentation and the most current experiences on food and culture, I provide some examples of how visitors can make connections to their own memories related to food. I will soon be attending a New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) program called Lessons in Equity from Culturally-Specific Institutions: Beyond the “Target Program” at the Museum of Chinese in America on creating a diverse environment in the museum. The program will also include a closer look at the special exhibition Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America. When I heard about this program the first time, it reminded me of the many family meals I have had during my childhood and in my adulthood trying various Chinese food dishes. I will continue the discussion on food history and how individuals can to share my experiences after I attend this program.
Do you think your museum or institution would be able to include food history in its exhibits or programs? What is your most powerful memory that comes to mind when you think of food? Have you attended a program or exhibit that discusses food history or a subject related to food?

 

Book Review: The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon

Originally posted on Medium, February 10, 2017

This week I am writing a review of Nina Simon’s The Art of Relevance which I completed reading. Simon’s book provides examples, case studies, and practical advice on how museums or organizations can be relevant to many people and how museums’ work can be more vital to the community. I enjoyed this book because it breaks down the various case studies to show many ways any type of organization can show their communities how they can be relevant and why they remain relevant. I also enjoyed her comparison of relevance to being a key to a locked room where meaning lives.

 

It is a true comparison since keys can open many doors that can lead to opportunities on the other side especially programs that introduce new meaningful connections with people in the community. Also, I found Simon’s book interesting because her layout of the book is not broken up into chapters, like many books I have read in the past, but rather broken into five parts with five or twelve examples, case studies, and advices for the reader. Each of these examples, case studies, and advices are related to the specific parts in the book. She told a story in the introduction which inspired the this book, and I agree with her when she stated that relevance can unlock new ways to develop deep connections with people.

 

The Art of Relevance is also an important book in the museum education field since our museums can practice this art of relevance through the educational programs offered including public programming, school programs, and summer programs. After reading the book, I felt that I could adapt these advices to my own practices as a museum educator.

Nina Simon, The Art of Relevance, Nina Simon CC Attribution-NonCommercial, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. 2016
The first section answers the question: What is Relevance? Simon had five different examples of relevance in the field. One of the parts called “A Walk on the Beach”, she discussed the 130-year anniversary party for the first surfers in the Americas her museum the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History planned; three teenage Hawaiian princes put on the first surfing demonstration ever documented on the mainland of North America in Santa Cruz. What she learned from the experience was “…relevance is just a start. It is a key. You’ve got to get people in the door. But what matters most is the glorious experience they’re moving towards, on the other side” (31). Another part in the first section was called “Meaning, Effort, Bacon” which talked about Deidre Wilson and Dan Sperber, the leading theorists in the study of relevance, who argued that the there are two that make information relevant: 1. How likely that new information is to stimulate a positive cognitive effect to yield new conclusions that matter to you; 2. How much effort is required to obtain and absorb that new information (the lower the effort, the higher the relevance). The section also discussed a study she saw in 2015 from the World Health Organization showing that processed meats (such as bacon, ham, and sausages) are among the top five most cancerous products alongside established killers like cigarettes and asbestos; the study is an example of the two criteria for relevance since it creates a new connection to things people care about and it adds information to our knowledge of these topics.
The second section is called Outside In, in which Simon pointed out there are two kinds of people, the outsiders and insiders. She stated that insiders are in the room who know about it, love it, and protect it while outsiders don’t know about those doors exist so they are not interested, unsure, and unwelcome. Therefore, if we want new people to come inside our organizations we need to open doors that speak to outsiders and welcome them in. The third section is called Relevance and Community which expressed the importance of being relevant to one’s community. According to Simon, communities are made of people with shared dreams, interests, and backgrounds, and the more we understand them the more easily we can unlock relevant experiences with them.

 

The fourth section is called Relevance and Mission which discusses how adapting your organizations’ missions to make it relevant to new people. She viewed organizations as structures stating that every institution has a mission that forms the structure of the room; it is important to not obscure it with tidbits but instead strip back the paint, recommit to its frame, then use it to open new doors to new people. The fifth section is called the Heart of Relevance which explains how it is important to maintain that relevance in your institution. Simon stated that the more someone uses the key the more it becomes a part of them; and therefore, the room changes them and they change the room. In other words, we need to inspire newly introduced visitors in our institutions to keep returning to the institutions. After reading this book I remembered my own experiences with relevance in programs.
When I started at the Butler-McCook House, I gave tours based on the script I received and I used my script to help me remember details of each item in the room and the history of each room and family members. As I continued working in the house museum, I noticed that not many people expressed interest in the narrative I told. This traditional way of providing tours did not help me make connections with most of the visitors. However, as the executive director recognized the need to change the way we run the museum and when I became a part of the team that did research on the house to improve visitor experiences, a shift was made towards creating a better connection with visitors. Visitors are beginning to understand not only the McCook family history and the contents of the house but they also learned about the family’s role in making a difference in Hartford’s community. While I used the script as background information, I had a more inquiry-based approach to ask visitors about how they grew up in their childhood homes to connect people with what growing up in the 19th century house was like for the family who lived there. By incorporating relevance in the tour, more visitors can connect with the history of the house and recognize its significance in Hartford’s history.

 

If you have read The Art of Relevance, what example in the book did you enjoy? How does your museum or institution use relevance to maintain its significance in the community?

Professional Development Programs: Managing Your Museum’s Online Reputation and Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs

Originally posted on Medium, February 2, 2017. 

In one of my previous blog posts, I said that professional development is important for all career paths. I still believe that is true. I recently attended a couple of professional development programs offered by the New England Museum Association and American Alliance of Museums. The New England Museum Association (NEMA) offers monthly online discussion series called Lunch with NEMA. NEMA’s program this month was called “Managing Your Museum’s Online Reputation Will Increase Visitors and Save Marketing Time and Expense”, and the presenters were Jonathan Lhowe and Terra Marcarelli from the Visit New England website. Lhowe and Marcarelli discuss how to attract today’s visitors and maintain museums’ online presence. Meanwhile, the American Alliance of Museums feature various online programs, including the EdComVersation discussions. The EdComVersation I attended this time was called “Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs” which featured several presenters giving case studies of how volunteer programs are run at different museums or organizations; each case study provide advice on how we can run our volunteer programs and make sure we utilize volunteers’ time to everyone’s advantage. It is important that volunteers feel like their time is well spent at the organizations and the museums or organizations need to see how volunteers’ work are assisting with their overall goals. By attending these programs, I not only learned more about the museum field but I also could see how the advice these programs gave can be applied to the museum education field.

The New England Museum Association’s “Managing Your Online Reputation” program began with statistics related to online presence of businesses in general then moved on to detailed advice for maintaining an accurate online presence to gain as well as maintain attention. Lhowe and Marcarelli explained that in the past reviews of museums and other businesses depended on in person visits and word of mouth. Today many people rely on online reviews from reliable sources including Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and expedia; in fact, two-thirds of people are more likely to buy from a store if they find positive comments about it online, and half are less likely to buy if there are negative comments. They also stated that it is important to be a part of the people’s conversations since the consumers control conversations about your institution and therefore your institution can participate in the conversation to easily moderate it. Another take away from this program was social media is not just about followers and likes but social media can also be used to generate leads and conduct customer service to gain return on investment. Managing online reputation can contribute to museum’s educational purposes.

By participating in consumer’s conversations, the museums will be able to get accurate reactions to the summer camp programs, after school programs, adult programs, and other public programs; then the staff can understand how to improve their programs or how to run the programs. Connecticut Landmarks, for instance, has released a survey on Facebook that will provide data that will help them understand how they are doing, compare them to other museums, and help them understand how they can create better experiences for the viewer and their community. With the data they collect, Connecticut Landmarks will be able to better serve the community with re-evaluated educational programs. It is especially important if a museum created a new educational program like a lecture, family or summer program; the museum would want to see how participants reacted to the program to see what they liked about it and what can be improved upon for the future. The second program I attended went into detail about how evaluating volunteers and the programs can benefit the museum overall, and by attending I not only gained new skills but was reinforced by my unique advantage of both running a volunteer program and being a volunteer myself.

The American Alliance of Museums’ “Evaluating Volunteers and Volunteer Programs” discuss the importance of evaluating volunteers and the programs as well as providing specific case studies on how evaluations can affect volunteers and volunteer programs. The following are reasons why museums should evaluate the volunteers and the volunteer programs: evaluation can help give volunteers information they need to do better work and can help museums nab problems early (problems with program or problem volunteers); convey appreciation and reinforce value of volunteers; motivate volunteers to do both their personal best and give positive impact on the museums; and it allows museum to improve volunteer program. When evaluating volunteers and the volunteer program, museums need to keep these questions in mind: Are we attracting enough volunteers with the right skills? Is our volunteer program effective? Are volunteers having the best possible experience with us? The presenters also gave specific pointers about how to evaluate the volunteer programs and the volunteers themselves. To effectively evaluate volunteer programs, it is important to have constant and consistent formal as well as informal evaluations; also, it is important to build the evaluation into the handbook, expectations, and orientation, explain your motivations and methods then report back to the volunteers, and be prepared to actively use the results and feedback. To effectively evaluate volunteers, there are a few ways to proceed including self-evaluations (asking them about their own actions as volunteers can give museums a visual of what is exactly being accomplished), individual evaluation sessions with supervisor, informal feedback, and if they are leaving the museum provide an exit interview to see what the museum can improve on the program. Then the program went into specific case studies with details on how their programs are run and what methods were used that either worked or needed improvements; a couple of them include a teen volunteer program at the Winterthur Museum, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, and the Chicago History Museum. Volunteers can serve many different departments in a museum, and the education department is no exception.

Volunteers can serve different purposes for the education department in a museum including assisting with school programs and summer camps, and working on administrative duties in the office. In my experience as a museum educator, I have had the opportunity to work with volunteers as well as being a volunteer for museums because I hope to develop my skills as a museum professional and continue my career in the field. At the start of my career, I volunteered at my childhood hometown’s museum during college and later I began an internship at Connecticut’s Old State House as a graduate student; then I got a job as a museum teacher at the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut. I then later worked for Connecticut Landmarks’ historic house museums in Hartford, Butler-McCook House and Isham-Terry House, as a museum interpreter (I gave tours for school groups and the public) and Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society as a museum educator; while I worked at these two historic house museums, I also volunteered to co-create and run a craft fair fundraiser for the Killingly Historical Society in Killingly, Connecticut. I created this fundraiser with my friend and grad school colleague to raise funds for operating the historical society; I ran the historical society’s twitter page to point out fun facts about the history of the town and advertise for the craft fair, talked to some interested crafters who wanted to sell their items at our craft fair and collect reservation fees, went with my friend to see the space where it will take place and organize the tables layout, and helped set up and clean up the fair. When I went on to the Long Island Museum, I oversaw scheduling volunteers to assist with larger school programs based on their availability and discussed with them what the students got from the lessons. Then when I went on to the Long Island Maritime Museum, I volunteered for a school tour, collected admission for a Boat Burning event, Past Perfect data entry and preserving books by scanning pages, and working at the visitor services desk. From my perspective, I can understand what volunteers need to complete their goals as well as making sure their work accomplishes work museums’ need to accomplish their mission.

Have you attended programs like these two programs? Did you attend these programs, and what did you think of these programs? What are your organizations doing to preserve your online reputations? What are your volunteer programs like? Do you feel that volunteers are accomplishing their goals and the goals of your organizations?

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

Museum Education Programs: The Challenges of Having Chaperones Be Effective Participants

Originally published on Medium and Student Voices, January 27, 2017.

I think many museum educators agree that from time to time we all have chaperones accompanying school groups that do not engage with the program and not participate in encouraging kids involvement in the programs. I recently had a conversation on Twitter about this subject which began with this question to the online discussion group, #MuseumEdChat: “how do you engage chaperones to be effective partners in your programs? Without losing kid interest or pandering”. Not many people on Twitter have found solutions to this posted question but we attempted to answer this question by coming up with our own answers. I thought it would be best to create a program that would encourage chaperone participation by allowing them to collaborate with the students so that way kids are not discouraged from participating and chaperones can set a good example for kids to become active learners. Also, chaperones are therefore seen as more than “crowd control”. The conversation on Twitter made me think about my own experiences with school field trips and chaperones.

As a museum educator, I have had mixed experiences with chaperones. Some of the chaperones encouraged kids to participate in the school program activities while others passively sit there not engaging with kids or the educators. Chaperones who have not interacted with the program have either text or talk amongst themselves. These museums I have taught school programs taught me various lessons on how to handle these mixed experiences. At the Old State House in Hartford, for instance, I taught the “I Spy” program for kindergarten students on my very first day of my museum education internship. The “I Spy” program is an activity in which students created their own spy glasses made from paper towel rolls and decorated various stickers, crayons, and color paper; then once their spy glasses were finished, the educators, chaperones, and myself took the group of kids around the Old State House using the spy glasses to make observations about what they saw. While they were being made, chaperones and teachers not only brought kids around with Old State House staff to participate in the activity together but they also assisted me and the Old State House staff helping students decorate their spy glasses as well as made sure they could understand the instructions. After the first day of my internship at the Old State House, I learned that students and teachers can participate together on the activity and can encourage students to participate in the activity. Another experience taught me how to handle challenging situations while teaching programs.

When I was at the Stanley-Whitman House, I taught various programs including a life in eighteenth century Connecticut program for kids aimed at fourth and fifth grade levels that included a cooking lesson assisted by myself and another museum educator. One of the fifth-grade groups were a rowdy bunch that were rough housing and not listening to a word one museum educator and myself were instructing the students about the cooking lesson on making Irish-style mashed potatoes and apple pie. The group was so rowdy that because of the rough housing and not paying attention, the recipes came out poorly and one student cut his finger with the knife used to cut potatoes. The museum educator and myself followed protocol to get first aid to clean and put a band aid on his finger. Then I called the rest of the group to sit down in silence until the program was finished. Meanwhile, the teacher who was with this group sat by and did nothing to help discipline the group nor showed interest in what we were teaching this group throughout the whole cooking lesson. What I kept thinking was: If the teacher was not willing to engage with the session, then why should the students? This experience has taught me to figure out how to handle tough groups, and showed me one of the early examples of what it is like to be around inactive teachers and chaperones. Another example of mixed experiences I have had with school groups and chaperones revealed that each visiting school chaperones behave differently and museum educators prepare for various situations.

At the Noah Webster House, I have had various teachers and chaperones that had different levels of involvement in the programs. Some chaperones were willing to assist the groups in making sure the students were paying attention as well as assisting with activities. Others were either passively sitting by as I teach the session or were destructive in the students learning process. For instance, there is a program called Living History in which museum teachers and students assume 18th century identities and pretend to be living in that period in West Hartford (or West Division as the town was called in the 18th century) learning different ways the Webster family performed chores i.e. cooking and cleaning. Some teachers and chaperones would continuously refer to 21st century items and ideas which distracts the students and encourages the students to do the same thing even though the pre-visit materials they received before the field trip warned against doing so. Then at the Long Island Museum, one of my most recent experiences, I taught a program that took place in the museum’s 19th century School House to teach students about what school and life was like on Long Island during the 19th century.

The program starts with a comparison on what school is like back then and now by asking students about their school and informing them about the 19th century rural community. I asked the students what their schools was like, and then asked inquiry-based questions about what they think it is like in the School House; for instance, I ask how many rooms are in this school house as well as how many grade levels are inside and after hearing their answers I inform them there is one classroom with eight or nine grade levels. After the short introduction, I informed the students we are pretending to be traveling back in time and share that they will be participating in reading, writing (using scratch pens, or pen and inkwells), and arithmetic (math) activities as well as behave how 19th century students would have in school. After the students participates in the lessons and the recess using toys students back then used, we pretended to travel back to the 21st century so they can go back on the bus to go back to school. There were different reactions chaperones had to the program and different ways chaperones interacted with the students. Some assist with the activities and even asked to also participate in the activities such as working on penmanship using scratch pens and inkwells. Other chaperones had a less active approach including sitting back and chatting with other chaperones. All experiences showed me that each chaperone had different expectations about what the chaperones’ roles should be.

I decided to take a closer look at any research and published works written about chaperones to see how museum educators can answer the question about chaperones being effective partners in school programs. I found an article from Volume 28 of the Journal of Museum Education by Maija Sedzielarz called “Watching the Chaperones: An Ethnographic Study of Adult-Child Interactions in School Field Trips”. Sedzielarz, at the time of the article, was the School Visits Coordinator at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul where the research for the article took place. This article was a synthesis from her master’s thesis research at the University of Minnesota; it was a study of the types of chaperones that participate in school field trips to museums by using ethnography to record observations between adults and children. This study was conducted at the Science Museum of Minnesota where they began to design materials that tap into the chaperone’s expectations of field trip outcomes, directly addressing chaperone needs as well as assumptions then share these findings with the teachers planning trips to the museum. According to Sedzielarz, she stated that she found in the recent study of the chaperones’ behavior in elementary school field trips, in which she observed and interviewed almost thirty chaperones at the museum and additional five chaperones at three other local museums, she “heard comments that revealed what each chaperone felt was important about the trip and what kinds of outcomes they expected and consequently experienced” (Sedzielarz, 21). The article went into detail about how the chaperones Sedzielarz observed felt they had multiple roles to fill: guide, learning leader, teacher, role model, security guard, learner, group facilitator, and timekeeper. She explained chaperones frustrations on what roles they should be focusing more on during their visits with school groups.

From my own experience, chaperones are not necessarily included in most of the programs taught and this causes them to think the programs are only for the students; therefore, it leads to most chaperones taking inactive roles in the field trips. What I understood from the article is that we as museum educators need to remind chaperones that the most important role that they are there to learn as well. Sedzielarz stated that “If we believe that school field trips are valuable learning experiences, we also need to regard all members of the field trip as learners” (24). Each museum has their own materials and ways of presenting this material to the school groups, and it is up to museum educators to make sure the chaperones’ role have a part in being learning partners with the students and museum educators.

How are your museum(s) or cultural institutions handle working with teachers and chaperones? Do you have ideas on how chaperones can be learning partners in your programs? What are your experiences working with chaperones like in the past?

Maija Sedzielarz (2003) Watching the Chaperones, Journal of Museum Education, 28:2, 20–24, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2003.11510478

https://mystudentvoices.com/museum-education-programs-the-challenges-of-having-chaperones-be-effective-participants-96cced3d449c