August 18, 2015

Starting a teen docent program

Special thanks to guest author Brittany Vernon, IMLS Apprentice at Ohio Affiliate, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, for this inspiring post.

Freedom Center Apprentice Brittany Vernon comes to Washington to work with education colleagues at the Anacostia Community Museum

Freedom Center Apprentice Brittany Vernon comes to Washington to work with education colleagues at the Anacostia Community Museum

As an emerging museum professional, my current position as an IMLS Apprentice at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH, is centered on learning as much as I can within the field while also gaining valuable work experience in my areas of interests. My passions are African American history and culture and public outreach to underrepresented people in museums, so the work that I do for the Freedom Center reflects that. As a co-leader of the museum’s Youth Docent Program, I get to reach out to local high school students, get them excited about what the Freedom Center offers through training seminars, and encourage them to volunteer as tour guides during their summer vacation. Yes, you read that right: teens + museum + volunteering + summer vacation – it seems impossible and certainly makes for a daunting task.  It is also one of the most rewarding projects because of the personal growth and development each student experiences throughout the course of the program once they’re hooked.

Now, when it came time to choose where I would spend my 3-week IMLS internship away from the Freedom Center, I wanted to choose a museum that was engaging in similar work. And for anyone with aspirations of working in the museum field, working in a Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. represents the ultimate in education and museum leadership (besides being a total dream come true!). In picking a museum, I knew the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum [ACM] would be the perfect fit for me because of its focus on urban community issues and populations and its desire to engage teen audiences by starting a youth docent program.

Brittany models the kinds of tours that teens might give of ACM's How the Civil War Changed Washington exhibition.

Brittany models the kinds of tours that teens might give of ACM’s How the Civil War Changed Washington exhibition.

Using existing models including those at the Freedom Center and other Smithsonian Affiliate Museums, the ACM tasked me with creating a guide for a Youth Docent Program that they could implement in upcoming school years. After a week of research, tours and interviews with adult docents and Education staff at the ACM, I was ready to put together a plan. My proposed Youth Docent Program offers teens an opportunity to learn how to interpret museum content for the public and improve their own interpersonal skills and then earn community service hours by giving tours. Through monthly training sessions, teens learn about the content that the museum holds, and that it really is a place for them. Guest speakers and trips expose them to arts/culture-related career options.  Finally, through research and writing assignments, teens feel empowered by the knowledge they now hold and are able to share with the public.

The ACM is not alone in its struggle to get teens into its space.  Museums across the nation have trouble attracting and retaining the interest of teenagers that for the most part would rather be on their phones than walking through a museum.  But from my experiences, a youth docent program is the perfect first step in addressing the gap. When you “hook” teens with things they already enjoy like spending time with like-minded peers, social media, field trips, games and a guaranteed resume building opportunity, they are more willing to invest and learn a lot along the way. The end result is a group of teens that will advocate for your museum and encourage their family and friends to visit if not only to see the teens in action.

Bringing fresh and youthful voices into museum settings that are sometimes thought of as static and rigid only adds to the wealth of knowledge that institutions like this hold, and shows that museums really can serve a purpose for people from all stages and walks of life, which I am all about. I encourage every museum to start some form of teen outreach if they haven’t already.

Brittany passionately pursues African American history and culture, and issues of  freedom and social justice in her museum career.

Brittany passionately pursues African American history and culture, and issues of freedom and social justice in her museum career.

Now that I am back at the Freedom Center, I look forward to continuing my work with the Youth Docent Program with a new group of students this year. I also know that the new Youth Docent Program at the Anacostia Community Museum will be successful in its efforts to connect more with teenagers in the Anacostia neighborhood. Hopefully in a few years, it can evolve to serve as a model for peer institutions that may have similar goals.

Special thanks to IMLS, Smithsonian Affiliations, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2015

What to see while you’re in town for the National Conference

While you’re in D.C.,  don’t miss the opportunity to see what’s new at the Smithsonian! We know that it can be daunting to choose among all the museums and exhibitions, so here are a few suggestions, tailored to your time at the Affiliations conference.

Monday, June 15, 12:15 pm, Freer Sackler Gallery of Art
Before the conference starts, take advantage of a tour of Darren Waterson’s Filthy Lucre, a remix of the iconic Peacock Room (details here).

A decadent ruin collapsing under the weight of its own creative excess, Filthy Lucre forms the centerpiece of an unprecedented exhibition that highlights the complicated tensions between art and money, ego and patronage, and acts of creative expression in the nineteenth century and today. It’s a way to see Whistler’s Peacock Room in a completely new light.

Filthy Lucre

Tuesday, June 16, 5:30 pm, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Mingering Mike: SICKLE CELL ANEMIA, 1972. Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Mingering Mike: SICKLE CELL ANEMIA, 1972.
Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Head to the Smithsonian American Art Museum a little ahead of Congressional Night at the Smithsonian to catch a tour of the Mingering Mike’s Supersonic Greatest Hits exhibition.  If you’ve seen the retrospective documentary Searching For Sugar Man, you will love Mingering Mike, the soul superstar nobody has ever heard of. Learn about him and his visionary collection of fabricated music ephemera with Leslie Umberger, curator of folk and self-taught art. She will discuss the artist’s influences, share how the museum came to own the collection, and guide you through a collection of over 150 works of art.

Wednesday, June 17, 1 pm, Haupt Garden
Why not spend your lunch break learning “What Makes a Victorian Garden Victorian?”  Join one of the Smithsonian Gardens’ knowledgeable horticulturists who will describe the various features of the Enid A. Haupt Garden, including its plants and flowers, the Asian-inspired moongate garden, and the Moorish-inspired fountain garden.  Meet outside in the Haupt Garden, near the south entrance doors to the Smithsonian Castle.  Click here for complete information.

And if you can, take a peek at these new and exciting exhibitions:
Hear My Voice: Alexander Graham Bell and the Origins of Recorded Sound, National Museum of American History
In this new exhibition, see documents, recordings, laboratory notes, and apparatus from the Volta Laboratory. Learn about the early history of sound recording in the United States. Hear some of the earliest sound recordings ever made including the only known example of Graham Bell’s own voice, thanks to sound recovery techniques developed by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in partnership with the Library of Congress and the Museum.

Photographer Zack Brown shooting dapper men in Harlem, c. 1937 by Eliot Elisofon, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Photographer Zack Brown shooting dapper men in Harlem, c. 1937 by Eliot Elisofon, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection, National Museum of African American History and Culture gallery at the National Museum of American History
The much anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture is expected to officially open its doors in 2016. Check out what all the excitement is about right now!  A new exhibition at the National Museum of American History offers a preview of the artifacts and moments chronicled in the collections.

The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, National Museum of African Art

Yinka Shonibare MBE How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Gentlemen) 2006 Sindika Dokolo Collection, Luanda Photograph by Axel Schneider ©Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt

Yinka Shonibare MBE
How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Gentlemen) 2006  Sindika Dokolo Collection, Luanda
Photograph by Axel Schneider
©Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt

Right down the hall from conference sessions in the Ripley Center, you will find The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists exhibition.  A combination of new commissions and recently produced works of art come together in this exhibition to demonstrate the ongoing global relevance of the themes addressed in Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. Forty of the best known and emerging artists from 18 African nations and the African diaspora working in media as diverse as video projection, installation, painting, sculpture and textiles explore diverse issues of politics, identity, faith, and form. In so doing, they reveal that each person’s vision of heaven, purgatory, or hell is unique.

Shirin Neshat: Facing History, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Grab lunch nearby and walk to the Hirshorn Museum to stroll the gardens.  Then, go upstairs to the second level to see the Shirin Neshat: Facing History exhibition. In her mesmerizing films and photographs, Shirin Neshat examines the nuances of

Shirin Neshat, I Am Its Secret (Women of Allah), 1993. Photo: Plauto. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Shirin Neshat, I Am Its Secret (Women of Allah), 1993. Photo: Plauto. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

power and identity in the Islamic world—particularly in her native country of Iran. Shirin Neshat: Facing History presents an array of Neshat’s most compelling works, illuminating the points at which cultural and political events have impacted her artistic practice.

 

For a complete list of all the events and exhibitions at the Smithsonian, click here!

May 4, 2015

Katharine Hepburn at The Durham Museum

Special thanks for this guest post to Amy Henderson, National Portrait Gallery’s historian emerita. Amy is a cultural historian specializing in “the lively arts”—particularly media-generated celebrity culture. Her books and exhibitions run the gamut from the pioneers in early broadcasting to Elvis Presley, Katharine Hepburn and Katharine Graham.

In the late 1980s, I met writer-director Garson Kanin at a Washington dinner party, and he set the stage for one of my happiest adventures as a cultural historian at the National Portrait Gallery. When I discovered that Garson, who wrote and directed all of the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy movies, lived next door to Herself in New York, I whined until he promised to give me her address. My excuse? The Portrait Gallery needed a fine portrait of the iconic actress!

Garson’s introduction worked, and I got to know Miss Hepburn in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I would have coffee and cookies with her when I traveled to New York, and we always went on an exploration of all the portraits she kept in her townhouse; there were a lot, since she had known artists her entire life.

She mentioned “all the costumes” on the upper floor, but I never got a glimpse. Now, thanks to the Durham Museum in Omaha, the costumes are on full view. “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen” is drawn from the Kent State Museum’s Hepburn Costume Collection, and features more than 35 costumes worn in 21 films and 6 stage productions—and some of her private life clothes.

image001

Mick Hale, Director of Education at the Durham, heard that I had curated a 2007 Portrait Gallery exhibition celebrating Hepburn’s centennial, and invited me to speak about her life in conjunction with the Durham’s costume show. I eagerly accepted, and spoke at this Smithsonian Affiliate in April. Talking about her life, I focused mainly on Hepburn’s remarkable ability to fashion her own image, even in the heyday of the Hollywood studio system when studios configured their stars to reflect their own particular movie “brand.”  E.g., Warner Bros. had a “Murderers’ Row” of gangsters, while MGM boasted “all the stars in the heavens.”

The Durham has been a Smithsonian Affiliate since 2002, and Mick Hale estimates that they have hosted 25 or so traveling exhibitions such as the Hepburn costumes. Other recent speakers have included Mike Neufeld from the National Air and Space Museum, who spoke about the Apollo 8 mission during the Durham’s “1968” exhibition; and Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Richard Kurin, who shared his stories about 101 Smithsonian artifacts last Fall when the Durham hosted the Franklin Institute’s traveling exhibit “Identity: An Exhibition of You.”

image002

My visit was enormous fun. First, the museum itself is lodged in what had been a stunning Art Deco train station that opened in 1931; lofty ceilings and a sense of bustle create an instantly uplifting “wow” museum experience. Second, for me it was great to see the costumes Hepburn wore during her long stage and screen career. Her waist was TINY—20”—and it was fascinating to see costumes from such landmark performances as the Broadway version of the Philadelphia Story. I also lingered over the section that spotlighted her impeccably tailored tan slacks, of which she had dozens.

My visit came at the end of Mick Hale’s tenure as education director at the Durham. After ten years, he is heading toward new challenges, directing a leadership initiative in Lincoln. But his dynamic partnership with the Smithsonian will remain firmly rooted at the Durham. “The museum and I are very proud of what we have done with the Smithsonian,” he told me, “and I know the quality work and collaboration will continue for a long time.”

image003All photos courtesy of the Durham Museum.

March 24, 2015

A First Look at New Traveling Exhibitions from the Smithsonian

singerAmong other benefits, Smithsonian Affiliates learn about new Smithsonian traveling exhibitions first!  We’re pleased to bring you two exciting new exhibitions that will travel.  The first, Armchair Archaeology: Paul Singer’s Search for Ancient China from the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery details the amazing story of collector Dr. Paul Singer, a psychiatrist by trade who amassed a wide-ranging Chinese art collection, now part of the Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian.

He collected most aggressively after he immigrated to the United States in 1939, making discoveries at art dealers, auction houses, and thrift stores alike. A self-taught, amateur scholar-collector who never learned the Chinese language, Singer managed to secure a research appointment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art due to his remarkable visual memory and extensive experience in the field.

singer2fsga The exhibition examines both archaeology and miniatures through topical groupings of objects dating from the Bronze  Age (circa 1800–300 BCE) to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644.)  In addition to exploring form, function, and meaning,  the ninety-five objects in the exhibition also represent a range of media, including jade, marble, fluorite, bone,  ivory, amber, gold, silver, bronze, and ceramics from earthenware to porcelain. This breadth reflects Singer’s  ambition to amass “a sequential development in all the materials worked by Chinese artists.”  For more information  and a pdf with an overview of the exhibition, Please email us.

BIG_11EDI_6621F310_13rz copy Across the Mall, from National Air and Space Museum, comes Art of the Airport Tower.  The exhibition is the  second to feature photographs from Museum Specialist, Carolyn Russo. The first, In Plane View, traveled to  many Affiliates over its multi-year run, and is currently on view at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.  Both exhibitions feature stunning photographs of their subjects; Art of the Airport Tower shows these often overlooked utilitarian structures as beautiful art in our everyday lives.   It is a photographic journey to airports in the U.S. and around the world.
DXB_8150F2rz copy

Russo documents these important architectural structures to bring a heightened awareness to their simple beauty and call for their preservation.  She is available for lectures and public programs to venues hosting the exhibition.

Art of the Airport Tower includes historic towers such as the Ford Island Tower, which stood the day of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, as well as today’s heavily trafficked airports such as London’s Heathrow Airport. International towers–including several of the world’s tallest towers, one of which is the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand–are also highlighted. Captions describe the airport and the towers’ significance, and an introduction by F. Robert van der Linden tells the history of airport towers to contextualize Russo’s work.

This exhibit will attract a diverse audience, appealing to anyone with an interest in aviation, aerospace, art, photography, technology, history, culture, and architecture. Please let us know if you’re interested!

 

February 25, 2015

Brand New Exhibitions from SITES

Special thanks to our friends at SITES for this update.

SITES has been busy planning several new exhibits to meet the needs of our diverse host venues. Whether you are looking for a unique and affordable photography exhibit or an epic blockbuster, we’ve got the show for you. Here’s what’s new:

Apart_BikeV2_7x9Things Come Apart
Through extraordinary photographs, disassembled objects and fascinating videos, Things Come Apart reveals the inner workings of common, everyday possessions.  Images of dozens of objects explore how things are made and how technology has evolved over time.  For example, the exhibition juxtaposes the components of a record player, Walkman, and an iPod.  As a visual investigation of design and engineering, Things Come Apart celebrates classic examples of industrial design, technological innovation and more recent ideas about re-use.  The exhibition explores STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) concepts and provides an ideal environment for hands-on investigation.

Contents:  ~40 framed photographs, 4 disassembled objects, video content, and educational component
Fee:  $9,900 per 12-week slot plus outgoing shipping
Size:  200-250 running feet
Security:  Moderate

Tour begins: fall 2016

Contact:  Ed Liskey, liskeye@si.edu, 202.633.3142SWcostumeSITES

Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Warsand the Power of Costume
Presenting 60 of the finest hand-crafted costumes from the first six blockbuster Star Wars films, the exhibition uncovers the challenges, the intricate processes and the remarkable artistry of George Lucas, the concept artists and costume designers. Featured costumes include the robes of Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker; the yak hair and mohair costume of the Wookiee Chewbacca; the elaborately detailed gowns of Queen Amidala, and many more of your favorite Star Wars characters. Learn more about Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen  here.

NARA-cars Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project
Modeled after the Farm Security Administration’s photography project of the 1930s and 40s, DOCUMERICA was launched in 1971 by the newly established U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to document the environmental troubles and triumphs across the country.  What emerged was a moving and textured portrait of America in a rapidly changing society. Includes  90 framed, color photographs and a video. Learn more about Searching for the Seventies here.

Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard
From the beauty of postwar garden design to the history of the rise of the suburbs and the environmental movement, Patios & Pools is a groovy look back at how the mid-century backyard became an extension of the house: a “room” designed for relaxing, recreation, cooking, and entertaining. Featuring period photographs, retro advertisements, pop culture references, and influential landscape designs. Learn more Patios & Pools  here.5-farnham2

Looking to fill an opening in your calendar? These exhibitions are available for immediate booking:

IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas
Available: 7/25/15-10/4/15 (reduced fee:  $2,000) and 10/24/15-1/3/16

The Evolving Universe
Available: 10/3/15-1/31/16 and 2/20/16 to 5/15/16

Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard
Available: 12/19/15-2/28/16

I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story
Available: 12/19/15 – 2/28/16 and 3/19/16 – 5/29/16

Contact us at sites_schedule@si.edu or 202-633-3140.

October 27, 2014

coming up in affiliateland in november 2014

Even though the weather is turning chilly, Affiliates are keeping things hot with events from coast to coast.

CALIFORNIA
General John Dailey, Director of the National Air and Space Museum, will be inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, 11.1.

pins on loan

Environmental pins on loan from the Smithsonian to an Affiliate in California

The Sonoma County Museum will present Hole in the Head: The Battle for Bodega Bay and the Birth of the Environmental Movement exhibition, featuring 13 protest buttons on loan from the National Museum of American History, in Santa Rosa, 11.2.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The National Inventors Hall of Fame will participate in the Smithsonian Innovation Festival in Washington, 11.1-2.

Organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, an exhibition titled Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College opens at the Smithsonian, presented by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in their gallery at the National Museum of American History in Washington, 11.7.

PENNSYLVANIA
The Heinz History Center presents jazz innovation as part of its Places of Invention ongoing project with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center, in Pittsburgh, 11.1.

NEBRASKA
Undersecretary Richard Kurin presents a talk and booksigning on The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects at the Durham Museum in Omaha, 11.4.

Earth from Space exhibition in New Mexico

Earth from Space exhibition in New Mexico

NEW MEXICO
Dr. Andrew Johnston, geographer and curator at the National Air and Space Museum, presents a public talk at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, 11.6.

VIRGINIA
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens presents The Face of the Nation: George Washington, Art, and America symposium, featuring National Portrait Gallery curator Wendy Wick Reaves and curator emerita Ellen Miles, at Mount Vernon, 11.7.

GEORGIA
National Portrait Gallery researcher and author Warren Perry presents a public lecture on Guns, Horses, Uniforms, and More Guns: Themes of American Civil War Visual Culture at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, 11.13.

Jeff Post, Curator at the National Museum of Natural History will present a public lecture on the Hope Diamond at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, 11.21.

PUERTO RICO
Affiliations Director Harold Closter leads a workshop on Designing Museum Budgets at the Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanísticos in Gurabo, 11.15.

25 Smithsonian artifacts from the film industry will be on view soon in North Carolina

25 Smithsonian artifacts from the film industry will be on view soon in North Carolina

NORTH CAROLINA
The North Carolina Museum of History will present Starring North Carolina! an exhibition of the state’s role in the film industry featuring 25 artifacts on loan from the National Museum of American History, in Raleigh, 11.15.

LOUISIANA
Undersecretary Richard Kurin presents a talk and booksigning on The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, 11.18.

 

October 6, 2014

let’s think like inventors

Smithsonian Affiliations would like to thank Kate Preissler, Digital Media Marketing Manager at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for this guest post.

On October 11, the Berkshire Museum will become the fourth museum in the nation to host Spark!Lab, an exhibition developed at the Smithsonian Institution by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History (NMAH). By opening Spark!Lab we are joining with the Smithsonian in a nation-wide initiative to engage young people in acts of invention.

Staff at the Berkshire Museum get a chance to test out the Spark!Lab activities during a special training with Lemelson Center colleagues.

Staff at the Berkshire Museum get a chance to test out the Spark!Lab activities during a special training with Lemelson Center colleagues.

To prepare, colleagues from the Lemelson Center in Washington D.C. joined the Berkshire Museum staff for several days of training. A significant portion of the training had our staff trying out the activities that will be available in Spark!Lab. These activities, primarily engineering and design challenges, pose problems from the real world for visitors to solve. There are no right or wrong answers to Spark!Lab’s challenges; you may invent a solution that is completely different from my solution, yet we have both succeeded by solving the problem. These activities show young people that every brain is capable of creating something totally new and that by coming up with new ideas, we can make the world a better place for ourselves and each other.

As we tried out wind tunnels and tipping tables, it occurred to me that everyone, not just young people, probably craves opportunities to be inventive all the time. Individuals from all departments– marketing, security, visitor’s services, education – became deeply absorbed in the challenges presented. The mood in the room ran the gamut from laughter during experimentation to intense concentration on final designs, and many people had to be torn from the stations when it was time to move on. When we tested the activities with kids, the results were the same – no one wanted to leave!

The author can't look at her desk anymore without seeing all of the inventions that people devised to make life easier.

The author can’t look at her desk anymore without seeing all of the inventions that people devised to make life easier.

Until I encountered Spark!Lab and the Lemelson Center, ‘inventive creativity,’ especially as a skill set that could be learned, practiced, and honed, was not an idea to which I had given a lot of thought. So although learning about the activities and understanding what will be physically happening in our new space was valuable, it was the other aspects of our training that helped me to really understand the potential that Spark!Lab holds for altering perceptions and empowering the young people who visit the Museum.

During training we learned about many different inventors; inventions which have changed the course of history; and inventions which have made our lives a little easier in subtle ways. I spent the next few weeks seeing inventions everywhere. For instance, I sat at my desk and couldn’t help but notice that each of the items in front of me represented an idea from an actual person who saw a problem in need of a solution. And I don’t think I was the only one. My colleague Lesley Ann Beck came back to the second half of the training with a story about opening a pizza box and realizing that someone, somewhere, had gotten so frustrated with squished pizza and cheese stuck to lids, that they invented a small, round piece of plastic to keep the box lid from denting in, saving the pizza from damage. Once we started thinking about inventions, we couldn’t stop.

Spark!Lab under construction at the Berkshire Museum - a space which took inventive thinking to develop.

Spark!Lab under construction at the Berkshire Museum – a space which took inventive thinking to develop.

As construction of our Spark!Lab space in the Museum takes shape, this new lens has allowed me to see how our architects and staff have used inventive thinking to create a space that has to adapt to different needs, different audiences, and changing activities. It’s exciting to have a space for Spark!Lab that is the result of the creative inventiveness we’re trying to instill there.

We also had a discussion about ways to reinforce inventive thinking in kids, which gave me the chance to think back to my childhood and especially to my father, who built my sisters and me a workbench and encouraged us to create using wood scraps from his own projects. For years I used a Walkman held together by a wood nail because he loved to fix things instead of throwing them out. I thought about the pulley system he had rigged for our birdfeeder, which made it easy to fill but hard for squirrels to get to. I realized that my dad is one of those people who travels through the world with the eyes of an inventor. I also realized that not everyone has a person in his or her life to model and encourage these traits – but that by opening this space and staffing it with trained facilitators, our Museum could play that role for many.

You might now be asking, what do you mean when you say “the eyes of an inventor”? In the training, I wondered that too, and for me the best answer came from one of our facilitators, Michelle DelCarlo, Spark!Lab National Network Manager. She described inventors as people who encounter a problem and react by thinking “I can make this better.” With the mindset of an empowered inventor, problems become sources of motivation, not roadblocks or excuses to give up. So with that thought, I can’t wait to be a part of Spark!Lab because, really, what a wonderful world we could live in if each of us approached our days with inventors’ brains – not just seeing the problems, but feeling confident in our ability to solve them.

Spark!Lab will provide a space for young people in the Museum's community to think like inventors.

Spark!Lab will provide a space for young people in the Museum’s community to think like inventors.

 

 

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