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October 14, 2014

road report: the smithsonian in sunny california

On the road in sunny California!

On the road in sunny California!

Three and a half days, 559 miles and visits to eight Smithsonian Affiliates in southern California, only just begins to describe my recent trip to the west coast.  I had traveled to Los Angeles to attend the opening event for Cahuilla Continuum: Túku, Ívax, Túleka, the Riverside Metropolitan Museum’s exhibition telling the story of a Southern California Native people, the Cahuilla.  This gave me the welcome opportunity of visiting the Smithsonian Affiliates in and surrounding Los Angeles.  The following is a recap of my whirlwind tour.

Cerritos Library

Cerritos Library

I should start by saying that with 23 Smithsonian Affiliates, California has more Smithsonian Affiliates than any other state in the union.  Most states have three or four (and we have yet to Affiliate with a few states) but the diversity of California’s cultural landscape is certainly well represented in our west coast partners.

Cerritos Library, is a library (and Smithsonian Affiliate) like few others.  There is an aquarium, reading labs, exhibition spaces and an art collection. It was terrific to see the community using this resource so thoroughly.

laplaza_garden

The garden at LA Plaza through the grey metal gates.

On day 2, I visited LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a wonderful space in a historic building- often so rare in the west.  The garden takes advantage of the hot California sun to teach students about nutrition and agriculture.

The Apollo Boilerplate at Columbia Memorial Space Center, on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

The Apollo Boilerplate at Columbia Memorial Space Center, on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

In the afternoon, I visited the Columbia Memorial Space Center, home to an Apollo “Boilerplate,” on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Then I headed towards northeast toward Alta Loma to visit one of our newest Smithsonian Affiliates, the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts.  The visit to this woodworker artist’s home gave me a better understanding of the huge impact his work has had in the art world.

Here I am in a Sam Maloof chair.

Here I am in a Sam Maloof chair.

The next day, my morning began with a visit to a school on an Indian reservation; the Riverside Metropolitan Museum had brought two scholars from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as part of their annual Smithsonian Week in Riverside.  The students asked great questions and shared their own experiences with the visitors from DC.  We stopped in at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs, also a Smithsonian Affiliate, to see their latest exhibition, Through You, Our Ancient Leaders, We Became: Birth of the Agua Caliente Band.

Michael Hammond, Director of Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and Sarah Mundy, Director of Riverside Metropolitan Museum in front of the display case holding the artifacts on loan from the National Museum of the American Indian.

Michael Hammond, Director of Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and Sarah Mundy, Director of Riverside Metropolitan Museum in front of the display case holding the artifacts on loan from the National Museum of the American Indian.

On the last day of my visit I

Students explore study collections after Jill Norwood and Emil Her Many Horses from the National Museum of the American Indian spoke to students during Smithsonian Week in Riverside.

Students explore study collections after Jill Norwood and Emil Her Many Horses from the National Museum of the American Indian spoke to students during Smithsonian Week in Riverside.

stopped in on two Affiliates: Millard Sheets Art Center in Pomona and the Western Science Center in Hemet, both doing great work connecting their communities with educational resources.  I ended my day with the event that had brought me to California: the Riverside Metropolitan Museum was celebrating the opening of their Cahuilla Continuum exhibition, which included three artifacts from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  They were deservedly proud of their work and we were proud of the wonderful partnership between Riverside (and all of the terrific Affiliates in California) and the Smithsonian.

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.

November 22, 2013

What to see at a Smithsonian Affiliate in your neighborhood

It’s the Friday before Thanksgiving break. We’re all excited about seeing friends and family and taking a little break from school and work. So here are a few ideas for including the Smithsonian in your holiday plans from our Affiliate partners across the country:

Midwest

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurt, Illinois, hosts Modern Designer Jewelry from the Smithsonian, an exhibition that features jewelry from American Jewelry designers from 1960 to 2009 from the collections of the National Museum of Natural History.

Mid-Atlantic

Take an in-depth look at Pennsylvania’s significant role during the Civil War at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. In its new major exhibition, Pennsylvania’s Civil War, you can find a tintype camera and portable printing press on loan from the National Museum of American History.

Mountain Plains

Apollo Boilerplate Command Module on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

Apollo Boilerplate Command Module on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

More than 21 artifacts on loan from the National Air and Space Museum are on view at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamagordo. Get an up-close look at an Apollo Boilerplate Command Module and see the training coveralls worn by New Mexico astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist to walk on the moon.

If you’re in San Antonio, the Institute of Texan Cultures is currently displaying two exhibitions from the National Museum of the American Indian and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Native Words, Native Warriors tells the story of soldiers from more than a dozen tribes who used their Native languages while in service in the U.S. military. Ramp It Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America celebrates the vibrancy, creativity and history of American Indian skateboarding culture.

New England

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the rich tradition of gathering together at harvest time and celebrating the abundant joys of the season. At Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, visitors can learn all about the settlement of the Plymouth Colony in the 17th century.

Southeast

Go on safari at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, North Carolina. Fourteen specimens—from a tiny eastern mole to a mountain gorilla—are on loan from the National Museum of Natural History.

The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, Florida, includes five works of art from the National Air and Space Museum collection in its exhibition Paintings of the Space Age.

The Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, Florida, has Earl Cunningham’s painting Seminole Indian Summer Camp on view from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in its Earl Cunningham gallery. 

Seminole Indian Summer Camp, ca. 1963, Earl Cunningham, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Michael and Marilyn Mennello.

Seminole Indian Summer Camp, ca. 1963, Earl Cunningham, oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Michael and Marilyn Mennello.

West

Arizona State Museum, in Tucson, celebrates the creative work of American Indian directors, producers, writers, and actors during the Native Eyes Film Showcase, in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian and many others.

If you’re in California, visit the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and see I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story. Created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and organized for travel by SITES, the exhibit tells the story of how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of our nation’s history.

Check out the San Diego Air and Space Museum where you can see nearly 30 space-related artifacts on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

 

Is the Smithsonian in your neighborhood? Find an Affiliate here.

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September 24, 2013

coming up in affiliateland in october 2013

NEW YORK
Smithsonian Regent David Rubenstein will be featured in the Titans of Industry seminar at the Center for Jewish History in New York City, 10.2.    

VIRGINIA 
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens will host a field trip and sessions as part of the International Museum Theater Alliance Global Conference in Mount Vernon, 10.8.   

FLORIDA
The Polk Museum of Art opens Paintings of the Space Age, featuring five paintings on loan from the
National Air and Space Museum, in Lakeland, 10.12.  

SOUTH DAKOTA
South Dakota State Historical Society will host a special webcast of the National Air and Space Museum entitled Star Trek’s Continuing Relevance, in Pierre, 10.13.

D.C.
wankel-rex-is-comingJack Horner, Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, MT) comes to Washington to discuss the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex which was excavated near the Museum, but will be coming to the Smithsonian in 2019, in Washington, 10.16.  

Affiliations’ staff takes part in Smithsonian Teachers Night, distributing digital, educational materials from more than 15 Affiliates across the nation in Washington, 10.25.   

CONNECTICUT
The Mashantucket Pequot Museum hosts a conference on 17th Century Warfare, Diplomacy & Society in the American Northeast featuring James Ring Adams, a historian from the National Museum of the American Indian, and a historical theater presentation by Plimoth Plantation, in Mashantucket, 10.18-19.  

TEXAS
The Institute of Texan Cultures opens the Native Words, Native Warriors  (SITES) exhibition in San Antonio, 10.19.    
 

August 27, 2013

Plimoth Plantation creates mishoon for Smithsonian museum

On September 6, 2013, Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, Mass.) will donate a mishoon to the National Museum of the American Indian. Created this past spring by the Wampanoag Indigenous Program (WIP) at Plimoth Plantation, members of the WIP will present the mishoon and accompanying paddles to NMAI in a special gift ceremony at the museum’s Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland.

As a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Native American communities, we’re delighted to welcome a creation like this one that represents a living tradition among the Wampanoag,” says Kevin Gover (Pawnee) Director, National Museum of the American Indian.

So what is a mishoon?  During the 17th century, the mishoon—a traditional Native American canoe—was the most common boat in North American waters. A typical 17th-century mishoon was created from a giant tree and capable of carrying 40 men. The mishoon being accepted into the NMAI collection isn’t quite that large—it’s 16 feet long and can fit up to 3 people—but it was created in the traditional way.

Photo courtesy Plimoth Plantation.

Photo courtesy Plimoth Plantation.

Daruis Coombs with tree that will become mishoon

Photo courtesy Plimoth Plantation.

So how does one create a mishoon? Picking the tree is the first step of course. With the help of Gurney’s Lumber Yard in Freetown, Massachusetts, WIP selected a white pine. The tree was burned down by wrapping clay around the trunk and burning the roots. It was then brought to Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite, where the log was worked with fire. By burning into the widest point of the tree a natural keel is created, where the bottom of the boat is thicker than its sides. Historically, mishoons were burned 24 hours a day, since the longer the fire was maintained the hotter it would get. Typically, it would take about 10-12 days for mishoons to be created in the 17th century. Although this seems like a long time, trees during this period were typically over 150 feet tall and 6 feet wide, capable of creating the mishoons that could carry 40 men.

It’s an honor that the Smithsonian will accept it, and we enjoy doing new work—it keeps the job challenging,” said Darius Coombs, Associate Director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program. “It has been a fun and educational experience. The mishoon is an invaluable piece that will add depth to the Smithsonian’s already rich representation of Northeast Native life.”

Smithsonian Affiliations and NMAI will be tweeting live on September 6 as the #mishoon enters the collection. Follow @SIAffiliates, @SmithsonianNMAI, and @Plimoth and check out our Flickr group for photos from the event.

Mishoonash in the Eel River next to Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

Mishoonash in the Eel River next to Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

Plimoth Plantation has received some amazing press coverage of the donation. Check it out below:

http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130905/NEWS/309050323

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/7432b135bbb744ff90f829a97a073bc5/MA–Wampanoag-Canoe-Smithsonian

http://www.enterprisenews.com/news/x1281953326/Plimoth-Plantation-makes-replica-of-Native-American-canoe-for-Smithsonian

http://www.patriotledger.com/topstories/x1281953326/Plimoth-Plantation-makes-replica-of-Native-American-canoe-for-Smithsonian

http://www.wickedlocal.com/plymouth/news/x1843580627/PLIMOTH-PLANTATION-Mishoon-accepted-by-Smithsonian-National-Museum-of-the-American-Indian

http://plymouth.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/smithsonian-accepts-dugout-canoe-from-plimoth-plantation

http://www.pr-inside.com/smithsonian-s-national-museum-of-r3786683.htm

http://www.wbur.org/2013/09/03/wampanoag-canoe-smithsonian

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2013/09/02/wampanoag-canoe-headed-the-smithsonian/kNmhDOOWTQnB2VkOQmMiUO/story.html?rss_id=Top+Stories

http://ww.abc6.com/story/23319713/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian

http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/09/wampanoag_canoe_headed_to_the_smithsonian

http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/7432b135bbb744ff90f829a97a073bc5/MA–Wampanoag-Canoe-Smithsonian/#.UiX9idIp8to

http://www.eagletribune.com/boston/x335461568/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-Smithsonian

http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/23319713/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian

http://www.necn.com/09/02/13/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonia/landing.html?&apID=7432b135bbb744ff90f829a97a073bc5

http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonian-4781724.php

http://www.telegram.com/article/20130902/APN/309029676

http://www.news10.com/story/23319713/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian

http://www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.cbs3springfield.com/story/23319713/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian

http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonian-4781724.php

http://www.the-dispatch.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.wtnh.com/news/massachusetts/ap-massachusetts/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian_70775095

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonian-4781724.php

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonian-4781724.php

http://www.sportballa.com/2013/09/indigenous-peoples/canoe-headed-wampanoag-smithsonian

http://www.chron.com/news/article/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonian-4781724.php

http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/article/Wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-Smithsonian-4781724.php

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.theledger.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://ewallstreeter.com/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian-37

http://www.roonte.com/www/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian

http://boston.cityandpress.com/node/6741978

http://news.silobreaker.com/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian-5_2267076475486208002

http://www.connectednews.com/news/massachusetts/boston/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian/

http://www.tribtown.com/view/story/7432b135bbb744ff90f829a97a073bc5/MA–Wampanoag-Canoe-Smithsonian

http://www.sport-telegram.com/wampanoag-canoe-headed-smithsonian-necn/

http://www.goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130902/APN/1309020791

http://www.masslive.com/newsflash/index.ssf/story/wampanoag-canoe-headed-to-the-smithsonian/7432b135bbb744ff90f829a97a073bc5

August 9, 2013

“Hey Mom, guess what I did today? I moved a totem pole!”

Special thanks to Summer Olsen, 2013 Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner for writing this guest post. Summer spent 10 weeks at the Smithsonian this summer. She returns to California this fall to complete the second half of her intern partnership. Thank you, Summer!

summerolsenDuring my summer 2013 internship through the Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partnership Program I assisted the Office of the Registrar at the Cultural Resources Center (CRC) of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) from June 3rd to August 9th. Inventory Specialist Heather Farley and Assistant Registrar for Acquisitions Margaret Cintron supervised me.  During my internship in Registration I learned about the daily processing, tracking, and inventory of objects in collections, researched Plains beadwork with NMAI curator Emil Her Many Horses, and experienced the organization of other Smithsonian branches via intern tours and events. The skills and knowledge I developed during my internship will be applied to a comprehensive project involving an inventory and assessment of the Plains beadwork collections at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum (a Smithsonian Affiliate) and the museum at Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, California.

My time at the CRC has flown by and I have developed skills and gained knowledge by completing a variety of tasks: documenting the un-accessioned collections, processing new acquisitions, processing outgoing loans and objects returned from being loaned, working in collections, assisting in the de-installation of an exhibit, and office tasks like scanning and filing catalog cards and accession lot folders.

My main project this summer was to work with two other registration interns documenting the un-accessioned collections. To prepare for our work in registration work we received object-handling training from conservation staff members and training from registration staff to operate work assistance vehicles (WAV) and pallet jacks. We photographed, recorded measurements, and re-housed disassociated fragments from their parent object and un-accessioned material. After photographing the objects we edited the photo files and embedded them with metadata. Then we made custom storage mounts, and shelved the objects in their appropriate locations in collections. I was also taught how to enter some cataloging information and object dimensions into EMU.

We learned to use the barcode system in collections. When working on the documentation project we assigned a barcode to each item. New acquisitions were also assigned barcodes. In addition we re-associated a group of fragments using the barcode system to locate their parent objects and conducted an inventory by scanning the barcodes of un-accessioned works on paper.

olsen3I learned the procedure for processing new acquisitions into the collection.  We unpacked crates, took reference photos, and made/wrote condition reports and lot forms. For cloth objects we made tags with NMAI catalog numbers and sewed them down. The procedure was much the same for the outgoing objects for the Anishinabe exhibit at the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. We checked the condition of each object and compared it to previous condition and conservation reports. When objects came back from a loan I helped Museum Registration Specialist for Loans, Rajshree Solanki, unpack objects and updated their condition paperwork. We also wrote condition paperwork for peace medals that were de-installed at the NMAI Mall Museum in Washington, D.C.

During the second part of my internship I met with NMAI curator Emil Her Many Horses who guided me through NMAI’s beadwork collections. I learned about the progression of beading (from quillwork to early beading to the present day), different cultural styles of beadwork, and beading techniques. The information he imparted will be key to completing my project this fall at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum and Sherman Indian High School.

This internship also gave me access to knowledge via tours of other Smithsonian Museums and events sponsored by the Office of Fellowships and Internships. I was able to see collections storage practices at National Museum of Natural History, the Hirshhorn, and National Air and Space Museum and toured the Folklife festival with curators from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The “From Here to Career”, an event hosted by OFI, gave me the opportunity to talk to Smithsonian museum professionals.

My internship at NMAI has been an incredible experience.  I will be able to apply all the skills I learned while working at NMAI to my project at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum and Sherman Indian High School.  I have been able to see objects I have only ever read about, interact with fantastic people, been given advice that will impact the rest of my academic career, and formed professional relationships. Highlights of my experience have been: Moving a totem pole, documenting strange animal specimens, getting to see collections while re-associating fragments, and learning about beadwork with Emil Her Many Horses.

Thank you Smithsonian Affiliations for this amazing opportunity. I have enjoyed every minute of it and am gearing up to complete the next part of the internship in Riverside.

congressreceptn

Summer receiving a Certificate of Award at the Congressional Reception during the 2013 Affiliations National Conference. Left to right: Smithsonian Secretary, G. Wayne Clough; Summer Olsen, Smithsonian Regent, France A. Córdova; Smithsonian Assistant Secretary for Education and Access, Claudine Brown; Riverside Metropolitan Museum Curator of Collections & Exhibitions, Brenda Focht; Riverside Metropolitan Museum Curator of Collections & Historic Structures, Lynn Voorheis; and Smithsonian Affiliations Director, Harold Closter.

July 10, 2013

A unique experience: a peek into a two-week visiting professional residency at the smithsonian

Special thanks for this guest post to Jessica Crossman, Experiential Learning Department Program Coordinator at the San Diego Museum of Man, a Smithsonian Affiliate in San Diego, California. Jessica spent two weeks in April 2013 at the Smithsonian.

This year I had the honor of being selected to participate in the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program.  My goal while in Washington, D.C., was to learn about how best to create hands-on/interactive exhibits that effectively integrated educational material and to study the use of technology in these types of exhibits.  The museum where I work, the San Diego Museum of Man, is redoing the hands-on part of our Ancient Egypt exhibit.  Because of this, those of us working on the exhibit wanted to explore different ways we could approach the idea of interactivity in an exhibit.  I spent time at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian Latino Center.  At each of these places I learned how these Smithsonian institutions approached hands-on/interactive exhibits in their own unique way.

Forensic Anthropology Lab

In the Forensic Anthropology Lab at the National Museum of Natural History.

My first week in DC was hosted by NMNH.  The members of the exhibits department were kind enough to meet with me, let me attend some of their meetings, and brain storm ideas with me about our exhibit at the Museum of Man.  Coming from the Education Department at my own institution, I gained a whole new perspective on what it takes to make an exhibit while learning great logistical ideas and questions to bring back to the Museum of Man, such as how to think about being able to make our exhibit easily adaptable for future changes and how to think about our goals regarding exhibit interactivity.  Members of the education department met with me to talk about our education programs and gave me tours of their education spaces in the museum including the Discovery Room, the Q?rius Lab, and the Forensic Anthropology Lab.  It was wonderful to see the exhibits from their educational point of view and to hear what their education goals were in the creation of these spaces.  One of the most important ideas that I got out this week was the idea of putting the visitor in the role of the “scientist” both in the wording of text panels and in the execution of interactive elements, such as providing tools (microscopes, magnifying glasses, etc.) for the children to use to make scientific observations in the Discovery Room.  This approach helped the team at the Museum of Man reform how we wanted to approach our own exhibit.

My second week I spent most of time at NMAI, with some time spent at the Zoo and the Latino Center.  At NMAI both the exhibits team and the education team gave me tours of their highly hands-on exhibit for kids called imagiNATIONS, which is designed to show children the innovations and inventions that different Native American Nations have created in order to meet their own specific needs.  While learning about this space I was told that people stay and learn when they feel safe and smart.  This is something that was taken into account when the NMAI team created this space.  While this idea was a simple one it was one of the most important of my trip because once I shared it with the Museum of Man exhibits team it helped us rethink how we wanted to physically design our space so that our visitors would have more of a sense of comfort and would stay longer to learn.

ImagiNATIONS

At ImagiNATIONS education space in the National Museum of the American Indian.

My time at the Zoo was focused in learning about their exhibit development process and in getting a tour of their new elephant exhibit.  It was wonderful to see an approach to technology as a means of visitor participation in their exhibit in the form of a photo booth.  It was fun, effective, and even left visitors with a message of conservation on the photo strips that took home with them.  This low tech use of technology was in contrast with the use of technology that I saw at the Latino Center.  While at the Latino Center I was given demonstrations of immersive gaming experiences that put students at the site of an archaeology dig, of Augmented Reality at use in exhibits, and of the Latino Center’s digital collections.  It was truly amazing to see what possibilities high tech, digital interactives might hold for our visitors.

Along with all of these wonderful learning experiences I met some truly talent and kind people that I hope to keep in touch with.  And of course this trip provided the Museum of Man some new ideas for our hands-on exhibit space.  There was even talk about possible future collaborations between the education department at NMNH and the Museum of Man as well as the Latino Center and the Museum of Man.  I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally through this wonderful opportunity.

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