Category Archives: Museum News

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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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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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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Professional – and Personal – Development

Yesterday I was able to sneak out of the office (during my lunch break, it wasn’t that scandalous) and attend “Legacies & Lunch” a brown bag lecture series supported by the Arkansas Humanities Council. Hosted at the brand new Ron Robinson Theatre in the River Market District, the theatre was a mere hop, skip, and a jump away. The subject of the lecture was in keeping with Arkansas Archeology Month (this month!), and presented by the State Archeologist, Dr. Ann M. Early. With a presentation titled “Big News from Old Stuff” I was hooked even before I sat down. In a quick hour, Dr. Early explored the provenance of several collections within the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) archeology museum collections – including some with ties to the museum. By focusing on a few key collections, Dr. Early helped tell the story of collections as a whole, as well as highlight significant historic archeology events in the state. Many of the local connections and archeology sites were new to me, and there were a few times when a physical map of Arkansas was presented as evidence where I was a bit confused (which river is that again?). Thank goodness Little Rock is located in the dead center of the state!

 Museum-Collections-Rack-Card

Attending the lecture was very fulfilling. Recently I have been feeling…a bit cut off from academia. Despite visiting several sites of informal learning in our new home, and taking advantage of the documentary selection available on Netflix, I have been missing the scholastic atmosphere of a classroom. You may recall I blogged about brown bag lectures last year around this time, when I was invited to present my own brown bag with the Illinois State Museum. I also miss the element of working with a research museum as well, I think. There is something engaging and invigorating about attending all-staff meetings and hearing about the latest publications from peers! Thankfully, there are several volunteer opportunities I am currently exploring in the area to keep myself professionally active and personally satisfied. I am also hopeful to take a stronger role in my alumni organization as a potential board member, and attend at least a couple of national conferences this year, in addition to other regional and local opportunities. Work is also very busy, with some new programs and events debuting as we brace for Spring Rush with oh so many field trips – never a dull moment. Should be a busy time!

What do you do – in or outside your workplace, to stay professionally active and satisfied? Is there even time? Some days there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day or energy left!

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The Directors

The Directors

To help kick off Women’s History and Awareness Month, check out this timely article from The Washington Post which highlights the evolving role of women in museum leadership in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area. Fascinating, inspiring, and thought provoking.  

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Science Snapshot: Celebrating Sixth Grade Students in STEM

Science Snapshot: Discovering Excellence in Arkansas

Arkansas Governor Beebe and the Museum of Discovery celebrated nearly 100 sixth grade students, their families, and teachers at a recent event, Discovery Excellence in Arkansas. Students represented schools from across the state. It was a busy evening – but a fantastic one!

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Kentucky Sink Hole Swallows Up 8 Classic Corvettes

A collection manager’s nightmare….Thinking positive thoughts for colleagues and those impacted by the sink hole at the National Corvette Museum.

Auto World Nation

Image courtesy of USA Today Image courtesy of USA Today

Yesterday, a gaping sinkhole swallowed up a number of classic cars at the National Corvette museum in Kentucky. In the past, this type of event may have been saved for a science fiction novel or some tall tale passed along through campfire conversations. But now, sink holes seem to be more and more prevalent, a new story popping up every few weeks.

According to museum officials, the Kentucky Corvette sink hole was detected yesterday at 5:45 a.m. when the museum’s motion sensors were alarmed. The sinkhole, which was 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep, devoured eight classic corvettes from the museum. According to museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli, “When you go in there, it’s unreal. The hole is so big, it makes the Corvettes look like little Matchbox cars.”

After hours of media speculation and coverage, onlookers and people close to the museum are…

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Science Snapshot: Artifact Experiences

Recently I proposed, planned, and implemented a new visitor experience program at the museum, “Artifact Experiences.” In an effort to interpret our collection (of +1,500 objects!), “Artifact Experiences” seeks to curate temporary, facilitated displays of artifacts from the museum’s collection that connect with a temporary exhibition, special event, or program. Since becoming a more hands-on science center, the museum’s collection is largely otherwise uninterpreted to the public. Combining my museum collections and education background, this program seeks to safely and carefully interpret the collection as appropriate. I created temporary object labels to specifically connect with the new exhibit, Tech City. I also placed the objects on muslin cloth during their temporary display. 

At all times carefully facilitated by museum staff, interested visitors had the opportunity to don gloves for a careful hands-on exploration. I also provided mini-magnifying glasses for curious eyes to get a closer inspection. The display offered visitors an entirely new opportunity to connect with the museum’s collection and mission, and I had a lot of great questions and enthusiasm from visitors. 

This Friday, February 7th I kicked off the new program with a small display connecting to the new exhibtion in our WOW Gallery, Tech City. Focused on themes of industrialization, manufacturing, and communication (all key elements to a modern city, eh?), the temporary display highlighted a small sample of our truly awesome collection. 

Curated pieces included: 

  • An Automatic Fire Alarm Repeater (c.1899) 

  • Hallicrafters Model 505 Television (1948) 

  • Wooden Planer (c. 1850) 

  • Dalton Adding Machine (1912) 

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    An Artifact Experience

     

    Any suggestions for this program as it continues to grow and evolve? I’m eager to continue to safely highlight our collection while continuing best practices. 

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Still me – I promise!

 

Hello, all.

After some thought, I’ve revamped the Wunderkammers page. After a year, let’s consider this a birthday rebranding, of sorts. Rebranding – a name, logo, slogan – often comes with the fear of confusing audiences or may be associated with a change of management or mission. FEAR NOT! The mission of this blog remains the same: to highlight an emerging museum professional’s experiences, reflections, and inquiries. I will also continue to be at the helm. 

In addition to signifying a change in mission or management, rebranding also signifies an awareness of marketing and public image. Rebranding too often or without significant direction is when confusion arises. Last year the Whitney Museum made headlines with its minimalist logo and rebranding, completed after about ten years of its previous logo – a short time. The move to rebrand however coincides with the institution’s physical move and a massive construction project. After much consideration, while “Wunderkummers” (wonder rooms, cabinets of curiosity) still remain at the core of the blog, the title itself leaves a bit of room for confusion and interpretation. While museum geeks and enthusiasts may instantly recognize this – and many have! – I wanted to make the blog a bit more accessible, open. Another key factor in my rebranding was also my shift from graduate student to emerging professional, and physical shift in location.

Inspired by none other than Downton Abbey‘s favorite butler, Mr. Carson, I thought this quotation fit with my mission both as a museum professional and museum enthusiast: “The business of life is the acquisition of memories.” How…perfect. I believe this quotation reflects the mission of this blog, as well as highlights the mission of many a cultural institution – acquiring and interpreting artifacts, art, and ideas. 

To sum up: It’s still me. The title and font have changed, but the mission, writer, and, yes, URL, have remained the same. Questions? Ideas? I welcome them. 

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Carson? 

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                                     Mr. Carson knows all, really

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Four Things Museums Can Learn From Sharknado

While I pack, unpack, pack, and repeat a few times during an especially busy July, I thought I’d share this fun & insightful post from Museum Minute. Even if you haven’t (yet) seen Sharknado, this article nicely sums up some key concepts that museums and all non-profits can easily embrace to better serve audiences. What do you think?

Museum Minute

This is not a paid endorsement for The SyFy Channel. In fact, I understand that SyFy isn’t for everyone – just like C-SPAN and Powerblock TV isn’t for everyone.

I’m a sucker for SyFy movies. As someone who lives and breathes history, which I find incredibly exciting (and at times exhilarating), the thing about history is that it isn’t always so happy. That being said, there is always something to be learned from history, a silver lining (no matter how small or seemingly unimportant), and the repercussions of history cannot be argued. While it’s hard for a history lover for me to admit, I completely acknowledge (and agree) that history can be a downer. After a long day of reading about chattel slavery, the civil war, segregation, genocide, etc., I truly appreciate a bizarre SyFy film.

So, why am I talking about SyFy films?

If you missed the cultural…

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