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November 25, 2014

Playing in New England

#FindingNEMA - the Boston Terrier mascot for the conference.

#FindingNEMA – the adorable Boston Terrier mascot for the conference.

The New England Museum Association conference is one of my favorite events of the year.  It always takes place in November – when the air is crisp and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  What could be a better time to visit New England?

This year’s conference took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was the biggest to date with about 1100 participants.  Even with that number, the conference feels intimate, and I was so delighted to run into so many Affiliate colleagues during the week.  The theme of this year’s conference was Health and Wellness – so appropriate as museums play such a critical role in the health of their communities.

The keynote panel set the tone for the week.  The panel brought together three local museum directors and two physicians, an interesting mashup that revealed all the ways that museums heal people and communities.  They talked about museums being among the most trusted community resources, and places of respite and beauty, which is why people tend to flock to cultural institutions in times of crisis.  The doctors for example, discussed the importance of careful looking when making a diagnosis – a skill they teach in part by taking students to museums.  What a great discussion.

Looking through a 19th century telescope at SAO.

A colleague from the Abbe Museum looks through “the Great Refractor” telescope at SAO.

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Looking directly at the Sun.. or live images of it anyway, at SAO.

A few Affiliate colleagues and I got an opportunity to hang out at an amazing research center near the hotel, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory [SAO].  There, a Smithsonian educator showed us the Great Refractor, built in 1847 and once the largest telescope in the United States.  We all got the chance to try out the unique seat designed for looking through the telescope, an elegant 19th century solution.  From the old to the new, we then visited SAO’s state-of-the art control room for studying the Sun, and “saw” it at several different temperature iterations in close to real time.  It was beautiful and flaring in a way we’d never seen before.

Conference attendees also had the great fortune to visit the USS Constitution Museum for an evening reception.  The Museum, an Affiliate since 2011, is a trailblazer in terms of research into family learning. They have already published the Family Learning Forum website  based on research and testing on engaging exhibition techniques.  The Museum is now turning its attention to programming with the same vigor, and funds from an IMLS National Leadership Grant.  One

Which role would you play?  Learning the importance of teamwork at the USS Constitution Museum.

Which role would you play? Learning the importance of teamwork at the USS Constitution Museum.

of the activities under testing asks visitors to be part of a 4-person team required to fire cannons from the USS Constitution ship, a much more difficult process than I imagined.  With a blue tarp as the ocean and a print of an enemy ship on the other side, my team fired an “alka seltzer cannon” and learned about the teamwork required to be successful in those conditions.  The Museum staff is refining a body of knowledge about family learning and best practices that will ultimately and undoubtedly benefit the entire museum field.

On the last day of the conference, I was honored to speak in a session with colleagues from our other New England Affiliates, Mystic Seaport and Plimoth Plantation.  Titled, It CAN be all Fun and Games, we looked at Affiliate examples of incorporating games and physical activity into museum interpretation.  The best part was that the directors of interpretation and education from Mystic and Plimoth brought actual games that they play on their 17th and 19th century living history sites, like skittles, Wampanoag football, stoolball, stilts, hoop games, harpoon throwing, marbles and even stilts.  I was a little anxious that audience members might not want to “play” on the last day of the conference.. but I was wrong.  It reminded me of an important lesson – adults also want to play and have fun like kids do.  Give them an opportunity – at a conference or at a museum – and they will literally run with it.

This game from 17th century Plimoth is harder than it seems!

This game from 17th century Plimoth is harder than it seems!

I attended so many useful sessions and heard so many great ideas.  Here’s a quick roundup of the highlights:

•    Think socially responsible or responsive programming might introduce mission creep at your museum?  But what if your mission wandered into a place that made you more relevant to your community?

•    Think it’s hard to engage millennials (ages 21-40)?  Think again.  They are visiting cultural institutions in droves, and there are about 80 million of them in America right now.  Don’t know how?  It’s easy.  Ask them.  And then empower them to create the programming they want to attend at your museum themselves.  For a great example, check out the Portland Museum of Art’s Contemporaries group.

•    Do your public spaces achieve the magic power of 10?  That is, can people find 10 things to do in your plazas, courtyards, front steps, etc.? (eat, people watch, see a performance, access wifi, meet friends, etc.)  For ideas, check out the Peabody Essex Museum.

•    Attending a conference is a great opportunity for a networking game. It’s super fun when it’s easy and for example, on your cell phone.  The one we played at NEMA had us asking questions of each other like “have you ever lived abroad?” and snapping photos for extra points.  Thanks Museum Trek.

Given the breadth, depth and richness of the conversations I attended last week, it’s abundantly clear that the museum community in New England is very healthy, and helping to make their communities amazing places to live.  A big thanks to the small but mighty staff at the New England Museum Association for bringing us together and expertly facilitating such enriching dialogue.  And Happy Thanksgiving to all!

October 9, 2014

Guest Road Report: Canoeing in Maine

Smithsonian Affiliations thanks guest author Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Learning at the National Air and Space Museum for this post, and for his support of Affiliates!

I recently had an incredible visit to the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine’s only Smithsonian Affiliate. I’ve been going on vacation to Mount Desert Island for a number of years and had been encouraging my friend, Cinnamon Catlin-Leguko, President and CEO of the Abbe, to consider the Affiliates program. The Abbe’s collection and mission focuses on the Wabanaki nations and the affiliations program seemed a good fit.

A unique birch bark canoe at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine

A unique birch bark canoe at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine

On my visit to the Abbe last year, I was happy to see the new Smithsonian Affiliate flag flying out front. I was also intrigued to watch master canoe builder David Moses Bridges (Passamaquoddy) building a 14’ traditional birchbark canoe in the Wabanaki style. It was thought to be the first time in one hundred years that a traditional native canoe had been constructed on the island. Museum visitors could observe the process and learn about the skills involved. (Click here to see images of building the canoe.)  After 200 hours of gathering and processing materials and 500 hours of building time, the work of art was completed. The Abbe staff officially launched the canoe last September and it became part of the museum’s teaching collection. In a new educational program, students could learn about traditional native craftsmanship and ingenuity.

This year on my return to the island, Cinnamon invited me to talk about my new book, A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History. It’s an eclectic look at some of the projects I’ve worked on during a career at some of America’s most popular history museums, including three Smithsonian museums. I used to manage the National Museum of American History’s Hands On History Room and am an experiential learner. The book is filled with examples of my hands-on adventures.

So, guess what I really wanted to do? Go for a paddle! Abbe educator George Neptune and his cousin, canoe builder David Bridges, graciously agreed to facilitate my wish. The canoe had never been on the ocean before. They brought the canoe to a dock on Somes Sound (“Pihcicihciqipisipiqe” in the Passamaquoddy language!) a long sliver of ocean slicing the island almost in two. The canoe only weighs 52 lbs. out of the water, but in the water is designed to carry 700-800 lbs of supplies. First David and I took it for a ride and then David let me go solo.

Smithsonian educator Tim Grove paddles in the Abbe Museum's homemade canoe in Maine.

Smithsonian educator Tim Grove paddles in the Abbe Museum’s homemade canoe in Maine.

As I glided through the water I marveled at the ease of travel, while trying to stay low and maintain balance. I wasn’t used to sitting on my knees to paddle. The gray sky and placid water were perfect conditions for this new hands-on history opportunity.

I shared some of my history stories a few nights later at the museum. I talked about my experiences on the Lewis and Clark trail with native teachers, of the challenges of telling Shoshone Indian Sacagawea’s story, and of the incredible insight that tribal advisors offered about pipe ceremonies and other native customs. I shared my favorite story about the corn mill and the Mandans and cultural misinterpretation. And, Cinnamon interviewed me about working at a national museum. The audience asked fascinating questions and once again, I realized how much fun I’ve had on my history adventures.

Affiliates, if you would like to bring Tim to your museum to talk about his book and hands-on history experiences, please contact your National Outreach Manager.

carrycanoe

A quintessential shot of the great state of Maine!

August 26, 2014

coming up in affiliateland in September 2014

Affiliates are “going back to school” with gusto this September!

VERMONT
Smithsonian Affiliations staff will participate in a ceremony with Senator Patrick Leahy to announce our new affiliation with the Sullivan Museum and History Center, the first Affiliate in Vermont, in Northfield, 9.2.

grizzly

new book by National Air and Space Museum educator

MAINE
The Abbe Museum welcomes Tim Grove, educator at the National Air and Space Museum, for a talk and signing of his new book A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History, in Bar Harbor, 9.4.

ALABAMA
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute hosts the Save Our African American Treasures program organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Birmingham, 9.6.

FLORIDA
Chef and expert on Native cuisine Richard Hetzler presents a lecture and cooking demonstration at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum in St. Augustine, 9.6.

The Museum of Arts and Sciences presents Septembers with the Smithsonian, which includes a public lecture by Craig Saffoe, Curator of Big Cats from the National Zoo, 9.20; and a concert and student workshops with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, in Daytona, 9.27.

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum opens SITES Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America in Clewiston, 9.13.

TEXAS
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science hosts a workshop on Creating Collections with Young Children led by educators from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, in Dallas, 9.11-12.

George Jacob, Executive Director, Ellen Noël Art Museum (Odessa) will give a lecture on the meaning of WPA era murals as part of The Art of Tom Lea: Preserving Our National Heritage symposium hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., 9.24.

visitors enjoy Ramp It Up

Ramp It Up exhibition coming to Florida

ARIZONA
The National Museum of American History collaborates with the Arizona Historical Society and the Arizona State Museum to present the Let’s Do History professional development program for teachers in Tucson, 9.20, 27.

IDAHO
The Idaho Museum of Natural History opens SITES I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story exhibition in Pocatello, 9.20.

PENNSYLVANIA
Renee Anderson, textile conservator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will spend a week at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, in dialogue with staff on conservation projects and future collaboration opportunities, in Carlisle, 9.22-26.

CALIFORNIA
The Riverside Metropolitan Museum presents Smithsonian Week in Riverside featuring talks by experts from the National Museum of the American Indian, 9.24-27.  The Museum also opens Cahuilla Continuum, an exhibition featuring three objects from the National Museum of the American Indian, in Riverside, 9.26

gems

curator Jeff Post talks gems in Illinois

NATIONWIDE
More than 75 Affiliates will participate in Smithsonian Museum Day Live!, offering free admission to their museums, 9.27. Find a list of participating Affiliates here.

ILLINOIS
The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art hosts a talk by National Museum of Natural History curator Jeff Post on A Look Inside the Smithsonian’s Gem & Mineral Collection in Elmhurst, 9.28.

PANAMA
Smithsonian Affiliations staff will attend the opening ceremonies of the new BioMuseo when it opens to the public in Panama, 9.29.

March 31, 2014

kudos Affiliates! April 2014

Affiliates are bursting into spring with impressive awards and recognition. 

FUNDINGP

The National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg, PA) has received a $30,000 grant from the Kunkle-Rutherford Foundation to pay for upgrades to the museum’s galleries audio system.

The George Gund Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to the Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, OH) for the restoration and installation of the Euclid Beach Carousel at its University Circle facility.

Thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum (Manitowoc, WI) will create four new guides on the Manitowoc River, focusing on a different facet of the river and its heritage.


RECOGNITION

Drumming at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Drumming at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Two Affiliates – California Science Center (Los Angeles) and Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, AZ) – made the list of USA Today’s 20 Best Museums for Families across the USA.

As part of a marketing campaign planned for this spring, the Nebraska Tourism Commission surveyed Nebraskans and non-Nebraskans alike on what Nebraska attractions and events are the most iconic. The Strategic Air & Space Museum (Ashland, NE) came in at #7 and was the only state museum in the top-10.

Peter Aucella, assistant superintendent of Lowell National Historical Park (Lowell, MA) is the 2014 recipient of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell’s Thomas G. Kelakos Community Spirit Award, which recognizes people who give back to the community.

The Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) received the 2014 Maine Office of Tourism Leadership and Growth Award.

The Army Heritage Center Foundation (Carlisle, PA) announced that its education director, Jeff Hawks, will receive the Adler Friend of Education Award from the Pennsylvania State Education Association for his work as state coordinator for National History Day in Pennsylvania.

Students celebrate National History Day in Pennsylvania

Students celebrate National History Day in Pennsylvania

The Building Museums Symposium selected the Museum of History and Industry (Seattle, WA) as one of two museums to be awarded the 2014 Building Museums “Buildy” Award in recognition of their exemplary accomplishment in leading their institution through the challenging process of creating new museum space. The museum converted an historic Naval Armory building into museum space, while retaining the architectural integrity of the historic landmark.

The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum (AACAM in Hershey, PA) was recently awarded five NAMMY awards, bestowed by the National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM) at their annual conference in California last week.  AACAM took home first place awards for Events & Public Promotion, Collateral Materials, and Interpretative Exhibits; and third place awards for Newsletters and Magazines, and Websites.  Mark Lizewskie, Executive Director of the AACAM, was also elected to the NAAM Board of Directors.

 

Congratulations to all!

 

 

August 20, 2013

kudos Affiliates! September 2013

Summer 2013 is winding down but continues to be a hot one for our Affiliates!

Funding

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The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced the recipients of $33 million in grants for 173 humanities projects, including the following Affiliate projects:

Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT)-$164,280
Project: “The American Maritime People” NEH Summer Institute 2014
Project Description: Implementing a five-week summer institute for twenty college and university faculty to examine recent social, cultural, and ecological approaches to American maritime studies.

Mystic Seaport Museum (Mystic, CT)-$450,000
Project: Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers: The 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan
Project Description: Implementing a long-term exhibition, a website, and public programs at the Mystic Seaport Museum that examine the broad economic, social, and cultural impact of whaling. 

Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME)-$220,000
Project: Implementing Sustainability Strategies for the Abbe Museum’s Collections Environment
Project Description: The implementation of environmental improvements, consisting of upgrades to the climate control and lighting systems, for a museum that collects, preserves, and exhibits ethnographic and historic material relating to the four tribes of central Maine,  collectively known as the Wabanaki.

Montana Historical Society (Helena, MT)-$300,000
Project: Montana Digital Newspaper Project
Project Description: Digitization 100,000 pages of Montana newspapers dating from 1836 to 1922, as part of the state’s continuing participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, OH)-$40,000
Project: Ohio’s Ten Tribes
Project Description: Planning for a five-thousand-square-foot permanent exhibition, a website, and educational materials examining the forced removal of ten Native American tribes from Ohio in the early 19th century and the historical and contemporary impact on these tribes.

Oklahoma Historical Society (Oklahoma City, OK)-$300,000
Project: Oklahoma Newspaper Digitization Project
Project Description: Digitization of 100,000 pages of Oklahoma newspapers issued between 1836 and 1922, as part of the state’s continuing participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA)-$300,000
Project: Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Jews in America
Project Description: Implementation of an artifact-based traveling exhibition, a smaller panel version to be displayed in baseball parks, a catalogue, a website, and related public programs.

- Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (Seattle, WA)-$179,914
Project: Asian Pacific American Immigrants in the Pacific Northwest: Transforming the Nation
Project Description: Two one-week Landmarks workshops for eighty school teachers to explore the history and culture of Asian immigrant groups in the Pacific Northwest and their significance to the nation.

Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody, WY)-$200,000
Project: The Papers of William F. Cody: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and the European Frontier
Project Description: Preparation for publication of materials related to the tours by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show of Great Britain and Germany in 1887-1906.

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The Institute of Museum and Library Services recently announced recipients of its grants for African American History and Culture, including the following Affiliates:

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, AL)-$74,277 to implement the Collection Storage Improvement Project, the goal of which is to safeguard its archival and fine arts collections to ensure that they will be available for use by current and future staff, scholars, and researchers.

– The Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH)-$150,000 for an apprentice program, recruiting recent talented graduates from colleges and universities across the country, with a focus on those from HBCUs.
 

The Montana Historical Society (Helena, MT) is going a little Hollywood with its historic collection of films and still photographs that will help tell the story of Sen. Lee Metcalf and his contributions to what he helped make “The Last Best Place.” A two-year grant from the private sector Council on Library and Information Resources will allow them to arrange, preserve and describe the Metcalf photographs and film. The grant provides the resources necessary to spend time researching, identifying and preserving all of the materials in the collections.

Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) received a $200,000 grant from the Plymouth Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to support the renovation and expansion of the Museum’s Craft Center, providing essential visitor services like climate control and additional area for demonstrations and hands-on activities. The Museum also plans to construct a bakery in the Craft Center, where guests can view demonstrations of 17th-century baking techniques and learn how to make bread.

Leadership

Patricia Wilson Aden has been named the new President & CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia

The International Storytelling Center (Jonesborough, TN) has hired Kiran Singh Sirah, a prominent folklorist, as its new Executive Director.

Carrie M. Heinonen has been named President and Director of the Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, AZ)

July 18, 2013

coming up in affiliateland, July-August 2013

Spend your summer at a Smithsonian Affiliate! Check out these events in your neighborhood in July and August.

MAINE
Kevin Gover, National Museum of the American Indian and Harold Closter, Smithsonian Affiliations, attended the public announcement of the Abbe Museum as a new Smithsonian Affiliate in Bar Harbor, 07.05.

Gabrielle Tayac (Piscataway), National Museum of the American Indian curator of the IndiVisible exhibit will give a public lecture on the similar histories of African-Native Americans and Acadian/Wabanaki relations at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, 7.10. 

FLORIDA

Lindsay Bartholomew, science curator at the Miami Science Museum, presented as part of the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access online webinar, Do It Yourself Astrophotography:  Applications for the Classroom and Beyond, along with Mary Dussault, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in Washington, D.C, 07.10.

MARYLAND
The B&O Railroad Museum collaborated with the Smithsonian Science Education Center for a Science Education Academy for Teachers workshop, in Baltimore, 07.10.

Warren Perry, National Portrait Gallery curator, will guest jury the exhibition Humor Me! at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center, in Solomons, 08.07.

COLORADO
National Outreach Manager Aaron Glavas will be speaking at the public announcement of the Telluride Historical Museum as a new Smithsonian Affiliate in Telluride, 7.29.

IDAHO

The Idaho Museum of Natural History will host the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) exhibit Native Words, Native Warriors in Pocatello, 07.20.

MISSOURI
The American Jazz Museum will host SITES’ American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, in Kansas City, 08.01.

MASSACHUSETTS
The USS Constitution Museum will host a teacher workshop featuring a lecture by Sidney Hart, Senior Historian from the National Portrait Gallery, in Boston, 07.26 and 08.09.

NATIONWIDE
Ten Affiliates are hosting student interns as part of the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Young Ambassadors Program, through 08.02—Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Musical Instrument Museum, California Science Center, Museum of Latin American Art, Chabot Space and Science Center, Miami Science MuseumMuseum of Flight, and the International Museum of Art and Science.

Four Affiliates are participating in a Smithsonian EdLab teacher workshop, Connecting Classrooms, throughout July and August —the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre; the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, Texas; the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan; and Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum in Arizona.

LAST CHANCE! See these exhibitions in your community before they close!

CONNECTICUT

The SITES’ exhibit Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America closes at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, in Mashantucket, 07.21.

TEXAS
Within the Emperor’s Garden: The Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion exhibit closes at the International Museum of Art and Science, in McAllen, 08.18.

MAINE
SITES’ exhibit IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas closes at the Abbe Museum, in Bar Harbor, 08.04.

April 30, 2013

affiliates in the news, spring 2013 edition

Affiliates are making news this month!

National Atomic Testing Museum (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Las Vegas museum tells of city’s history with nuclear testing

 

North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Exhibition featuring 19th-century African American master cabinetmaker Thomas Day opens at Renwick Gallery April 12

 

Mennello Museum of American Art (Orlando, Florida)
Live Active Cultures: Orlando’s balance of old and new: 20th-century canvases and a world-premiere play just a few hundred yards apart.

 

National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) and the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (Kennesaw, Georgia)
Medal of Honor 150: The National Civil War Museum gathers 6 examples of highest honor

 

Mashantucket Pequot Museum (Mashantucket, CT)
Ramp It Up’ at museum

 
Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME)
Abbe will partner with Smithsonian

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