Throwback Thursday – Shedd Aquarium

Throwback Thursday - Shedd Aquarium

Throwback Thursday – My sister (left) and I highlight signage at the Shedd Aquarium.
I may still have that jacket. . .

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Encountering Corpses (And following best practices in museum standards….)

samantha:

Check out this neat blog post from across the pond, which explores interpreting, conserving, and exhibiting corpses! Fun fact: This post was thoughtfully composed by a fellow University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) alum. Small world!

Originally posted on Exploring the Collection...:

Museums, in order to achieve accredited status, must adhere to correct standards and policies. Alongside this it is essential to address the ethics of dealing with certain collections items. Collection items such as human remains.

The conversation is an interesting one to have – should museums display and/or store human remains? Do they even have the right to? What gives them that right? What are the advantages, or the disadvantages? And how should display and interpretation be attempted, what is there to accomplish?

This is why I jumped at the chance to attend ‘Encountering Corpses’, a day of lectures and debates presented by Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research (iHSSR) and held at Manchester Museum (MM).

The event aimed to “specifically address how the materiality of the human corpse is treated in and through display, exhibition, sanctification, memorialisation, burial and disposal”. This meant that although…

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World Autism Awareness Day – April 2

Autism Awareness Day!

Autism Awareness Day!

Ignore the glossy-eyed look – it’s 7:30 AM and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Traffic was minimal, and I got to work too early – enough time to quickly share a post!

Today is Autism Awareness Day, and one of our new staff members crafted some homemade Autism Awareness Day pins. Our staff is excited to help spread awareness, and this highlights not only a positive and supportive community, but also an openness to new ideas and program research!

Several staff show support for Autism Awareness Day.

Several staff show support for Autism Awareness Day. Photo: Courtesy of our awesome Marketing/PR guru

We recently started to investigate low-sensory programming, inspired by The Children’s Museum of Houston. The CMH works to reduce light, sound, and high number of crowds on low-sensory days, and offers specific recommendations for other times of year – i.e. in the afternoons during the school year, or early in the mornings during the summer, when crowds are smaller. This parallels our busy times with school groups here at the museum, specially during this busy spring season and post-testing season. The CMH also offers ear-defenders, to help cancel out noise which may be overwhelming. The website makes a special note on these low-sensory days, and highlights that no music is played. Additionally, it should be noted, the CMH is closed to the public on these specific days.

Does your museum or institution offer low-sensory programming?

What have you found which works – or doesn’t?

As we continue to explore offerings to make all our visitors feel welcome and engaged, I am curious about your experiences! At this stage in program research, we are exploring programs and opportunities at other museums – especially other children’s museums and science centers – and seeking professional insight and experiences. While museums definitely encourage bustling galleries with excited and engaged visitors, this does not always create a positive visitor experience – especially for visitors with heightened senses and needs.

Side note: As you can tell in this early morning shot, my gaze is directed toward my snazzy Brain Scoop poster, which, while decorative, also raises a lot of questions from other staff members unfamiliar with this terrific YouTube program, now hosted out of The Field Museum by their Chief Curiosity Correspondent.

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Hipster Jones

Hipster Jones

This meme has been around for awhile, but I thought I’d share it here. The last time I saw it, I think it graced the walls of our grad lab…

It’s Friday and Spring Break here at the museum – so things are pretty busy. What are you or your organizations doing to mark this busy time of year? Extra programs? Special presentations? I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

Regardless, when in doubt, Indiana Jones.

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Throwback Thursday – History Land

History Land Highway

History Land Highway, a stretch of road which runs along the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Snazzy sign, eh?

Here’s a throwback to Summer 2012, when I was enjoying the summer interning in the Northern Neck of Virginia at the birthplace of Robert E. Lee at Stratford Hall Plantation. What a summer! When I wasn’t discovering the collections of the Georgian-style home – I tried to explore this part of the country. Along the way, I discovered several wineries, plentiful antique stores, a rich food scene, and no shortage of history! When I spotted this sign in my travels -  I couldn’t help but snag a picture. The rural countryside you see in the background is a pretty sharp contrast to the theme park imagery that the name may conjure up!

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Golden Age of (Re)Discovery – Museum Collections

Golden Age of (Re)Discovery – Museum Collections

If you haven’t yet seen it, check out this article fresh from The New York Times. Even the most well-managed of museum collections may hold a secret or two, as this article on museum collections points out.

As both a museum professional and enthusiast, I found this article engaging, interesting, and perhaps most importantly, a reminder to try and apply best practices in inventories, research, and, of course, interpretation. Easier said then done, perhaps! Regardless, it is always exciting and rewarding to see museums making headlines – especially in positive and exciting circumstances.

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Artist Spotlight: Edward Gorey

Best known as an illustrator of vaguely Victorian and morose themed works, Edward Gorey was born in Chicago, 1925. I grew up fairly familiar with the artist – several of his books were on our family’s bookshelves, and my parents were (and are) faithful fans of the PBS program Mystery! Occasionally on Sunday nights I would hear the wailing of an animated woman atop an ink and paper building (see video at 25 seconds), a fine sound to close the weekend.

Gorey crafted the animation for the PBS Mystery! series introduction in 1980, and the work highlights much of what today is considered signature Gorey. The macabre and almost haunted humor of the artist pairs well with the spirit of the program. During his career Gorey’s style was often termed “goth” and his works warmly embraced by the Goth subculture. In reaction to his work being titled “goth,” the artist told The New Yorker in 1992, “If you’re doing nonsense it has to be rather awful, because there’d be no point. I’m trying to think if there’s sunny nonsense. Sunny, funny nonsense for children – oh, how boring, boring, boring. As Schubert said, there is no happy music. And that’s true, there really isn’t. And there’s probably no happy nonsense, either.”

Gorey's grim alphabet - as featured in his work "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" (1963).

Gorey’s grim alphabet – as featured in his work “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” (1963).

The artist’s formal training in his craft was limited – he spent only a semester at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1940s. Later, Gorey would leave Illinois behind him and spend time in New York City, where he worked with Doubleday Anchor as an illustrotor for book covers. The artist became well-known for his own works and artistic style when the Gotham Book Mart featured some of his pieces. In addition to lending his talent to books and his own works, Gorey was also responsible for the decor and costumes behind the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula. The artist was awarded a Tony for his work on costume design. Later in life Gorey purchased a 200 year-old home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he continued to illustrate, but also dived into the realm of puppetry.

Edward Gorey - Artist & Puppeteer. Image: Edward Gorey House

Edward Gorey – Artist & Puppeteer. Image: Edward Gorey House

Gorey died in 2000 at the age of 75. Today, that centuries old home in Cape Cod hosts an Edward Gorey museum, The Edward Gorey House. Open seasonally, the website promises an educational and enlightening look into a masterful, fun, and interesting artist. For those interested in Gorey’s work and not close to Cape Cod, the Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago is currently presenting “The Art of Edward Gorey,” an exhibition up through June 15. Promising to be full of prints, letters, and unique emphemera, the exhibition looks very interesting. When we make our Illinois tour at the close of May, we’ll have to see if we can squeeze this exhibition into our schedule.

Chicagoans, have you seen this exhibition yet? I’d love to hear what Chicago EMPs think – or if any of the Windy City EMPs had the opportunity to contribute on this neat project.

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Science Snapshot: Cary Grant as a Paleontologist

Science Snapshot: Cary Grant as a Paleontologist

Cary Grant (right) portrays mild-mannered paleontologist David Huxley in the 1938 screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby. Engaged to a stern woman (Alice Walker, left), the paleontologist’s world is soon rocked by none other than Katharine Hepburn and a quest to locate a leopard, Baby! There’s a fun subplot involving a missing dinosaur bone too, as well as the museum’s need to secure funds from a wealthy donor. While much of the action does not take place in the museum, it helps set the stage for this classic film. There are some great moments. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend.

Do you have a favorite museum-themed film? There are a few good ones out there – Would love to hear any suggestions. My Netflix queue could use some new additions…

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Citizen Historian: Unique Volunteer Opportunity

Hello, all.

I’m excited to share a neat online volunteer opportunity and educational resource. In January the BBC reported on the digitization of British World War I diaries from the collection of the National Archives (UK). About 25 volunteers scanned hundreds and hundreds of boxes of diaries from military units, and today these are part of Operation War Diary. Operation War Diary allows “citizen historians” or public volunteers, access to these diaries in an effort to catalogue and gain intellectual control of the documents. The website is the result of a partnership between the National Archives, the Imperial War Museums (London), and Zooniverse - a tech savvy web forum to allow for active scientific research by the public.

Through a user-friendly website volunteers can systemically go through and “tag” diary pages for information such as date, location, person, military life, etc. Multiple readers go through each document, the website stresses, so users do not need to feel pressured about exacting 100 % of the information or making a permanent and irreversible error. There’s a brief tutorial on how to “tag,” and users must register an account on the site. Operation War Diary outlines its project outcomes as the following:

  • to enrich The National Archives’ catalogue descriptions for the unit war diaries
  • to provide evidence about the experience of named individuals in Imperial War Museums’ Lives of the First World War project (another exciting endeavor to help mark the centennial remembrance of the Great War)
  • to present academics with large amounts of accurate data to help them gain a better understanding of how the war was fought

I’ve registered and volunteered my time on three separate occasions so far, and I find it engaging and interesting. One thing I should point out is that these are military unit war diaries – so not personal diaries of soldiers. Handwriting is tricky at times, but the pixilation on the scans is very strong, so feel free to use the zoom feature liberally. Another thing I found especially accessible about the project so far is the fact that, again, the website lets you know that no single user is having a final say on specific diary pages. Multiple readers will go through and review each document, so there is a check and balances system in place to ensure accuracy. Finally, there appears to be no minimum requirement of time (i.e. 10 hrs/week), so this is flexible project for both time and energy.

It’s free, easy, and will help historians and the public alike utilize historical documents. Win, win, & win!

 

For even more information, check out Zooniverse’s blog on the project, which boasts updated stats on users, the data, and additional project goals.

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Artist Spotlight: Pulaski County Kidos!

Happy (Belated) Pulaski Day!

As a Chicagoan, I have fond memories of enjoying the first Monday in March off of school due to this famous Polish explorer. Celebrated in places with large Polish populations, Illinois actually enacted a law in 1977 to celebrate this American Revolutionary War hero. Born in Warsaw on March 6, 1745, Casimir Pulaski emigrated to North America to assist revolutionaries with military actions. He is known as “the father of the American Calvary” and was awarded honorary United States citizenship when he died, following injuries earned at the Battle of Savannah.

Now that we have relocated to exotic Arkansas, I was a bit disappointed (though not surprised) to find that Pulaski Day is not celebrated as such here. Little Rock however is located in Pulaski County – which is in fact named for Casimir Pulaski!

On that note, I wanted to share a couple of images of artwork created by Pulaski County children for The Art of Recycling Sculpture Contest and its resulting exhibition. This exhibition helps highlight the creative and continuous use of recyclables, while also emphasizing the importance of recycling by reusing and reducing waste. The top four winners (selected by a mysterious panel) won $300 for their school districts’ art programs. How neat is that?

Materials: Large Goldfish cracker box, gallon milk carton, newspaper, rainbow loom bans, cardboard, toilet paper and paper towel cores, trash bag tie, brown paper, GoGo squeeze toys, glue, ink sharpie pens.

Materials: Large Goldfish cracker box, gallon milk carton, newspaper, rainbow loom bans, cardboard, toilet paper and paper towel cores, trash bag tie, brown paper, GoGo squeeze toys, glue, ink sharpie pens.

“The Giving Tree” was created by students in third and fifth grade at Forest Park Elementary in the Little Rock School District. One thing that strikes me about this piece is the diverse recycling materials the classes utilized (with guidance from an art teacher). The range of material helps create multiple textures and an exciting amount of depth on this tree – inspired, I believe, by the popular children’s book The Giving Tree. The leaves pop out – at least to my eye. There is a great amount of detail on this piece, a bird on the branches, with a swing set hanging from another. The subject matter itself, about a tree continuously giving for multiple purposes for a little boy until (spoiler alert…) the tree is merely a stump, also uniquely supports the contest and exhibition’s theme about utilizing resources wisely.

Another piece I wanted to share from this special display is, well, pretty darn adorable.

Materials: Newspaper, toilet paper roll cores, bottle caps, milk cartons, paperboard

Materials: Newspaper, toilet paper roll cores, bottle caps, milk cartons, paperboard

Titled, rather whimsically, “Fuzzalina” this piece was submitted to the contest by two second grade students at Williams Magnet School, also located in the Little Rock School District. Fuzzalina looks a bit like a baby harp seal:

Adorable Baby Harp Seal - Source: Wiki

Adorable Baby Harp Seal – Source: Wiki

“Fuzzalina” is fun, rather quirky, and rich with details – which suggests time and effort by its young artists. The whiskers are probably my favorite – rolled strips of newspaper. : )

In short, some great pieces created by local young artists to celebrate recycling AND the arts!

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