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.

 

 

 

July 24, 2015

what’s going on in Affiliateland? july-august 2015

MICHIGAN
Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight exhibition from the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service opened at the Air Zoo in Portage, 7.4.

Dr. Jeremy Kinney of the National Air and Space Museum talks about the role of aeronautic innovation in western Pennsylvania during WWII.

Dr. Jeremy Kinney of the National Air and Space Museum talks about the role of aeronautic innovation in western Pennsylvania during WWII.

OHIO
Brittany Vernon, Coca Cola/IMLS Museum Studies Apprentice at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati spent a three-week externship at the Anacostia Community Museum, helping the education department plan for a teen docent program in Washington, 7.6-7.24.

The Ohio History Connection will host a webinar on Early Childhood Programming in the Museum featuring Betsy Bowers of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, in Columbus, 8.5.

SOUTH DAKOTA
South Dakota State Historical Society broadcasts Smithsonian webcasts on Space Junk: Fast Trash and Hot Air Balloons and Air Pressure in Pierre, 7.21.

PENNSYLVANIA
Dr. Jeremy Kinney, curator at the National Air and Space Museum, will give a public lecture on Innovating for Victory: How Pittsburgh Helped Win WWII lecture at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, 7.25.

Measuring 48 feet long and weighing in at 2,500 pounds, the massive predator Titanoboa cerrejonensis is coming to Seattle.   ©2012 SNI/SI Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Measuring 48 feet long and weighing in at 2,500 pounds, the massive predator Titanoboa cerrejonensis is coming to Seattle.
©2012 SNI/SI Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Center will also host the annual Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures: An Antiques Appraisal Show event, featuring Manda Kowalczyk, Preservation Specialist at the National Postal Museum, in Pittsburgh, 8.30.

NEW YORK
The Long Island Museum opens Beth Levine: The First Lady of Shoes exhibition, featuring Levine’s portrait on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, in Stony Brook, 8.21.

SOUTH CAROLINA
The Children’s Museum of the Upstate will present Innoskate 2015 in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation in Greenville, 8.8.

CALIFORNIA
The Chabot Space and Science Center hosts ¡Descubra! Meet the Science Expert Family Day in collaboration with the Smithsonian Latino Center, in Oakland, 8.22.

WASHINGTON
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture will open Titanoboa: Monster Snake from the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service in Seattle, 8.22.

MARYLAND
Mary Savig, curator at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, will serve as a juror for the exhibition Finding our Place: The Geography of Art at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons, 8.24.

Skaters of all ages can learn innovative techniques at Innoskate in South Carolina.

Skaters of all ages can learn innovative techniques at Innoskate in South Carolina.

September 24, 2014

coming up in affiliateland in october 2014

The air is turning crisp and Affiliates continue to host top-rated programs all over the country.

PANAMA

The BioMuseo, designed by Frank Gehry, is ready to open in Panama.

The BioMuseo, designed by Frank Gehry, is ready to open in Panama.

National Outreach Manager Alma Douglas takes part in the celebration of the BioMuseo, which officially opens to the public in Panama City, 10.2.

TENNESSEE

Smithsonian Associates lead an exclusive tour Inside Oak Ridge National Laboratory featuring two Affiliates, the Museum of Appalachia and American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, 10.4-7.

FLORIDA

The Menello Museum of Art opens George Catlin’s American Buffalo exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Orlando, 10.4.

The South Florida Museum opens SITES The Evolving Universe exhibition in Bradenton, 10.25.

TEXAS

Affiliations director Harold Closter will announce the new affiliation with the Witte Museum in San Antonio, 10.7.

Affiliations director Harold Closter will announce the new affiliation with the Space Center Houston, 10/8.

MASSACHUSETTS

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Several Smithsonian staff members will attend the celebration to open Spark!Lab, an interactive exhibit and activity space resulting from a collaboration between the Berkshire Museum and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, in Pittsfield, 10.10.

The Lowell National Historical Park will host an Innovators in Community Engagement Forum, including Sharon Reinckens from the Anacostia Community Museum, and fellow Affiliate, Cassie Chinn, from the Wing Luke Museum, in Lowell, 10.21-22.

SOUTH CAROLINA

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate hosts their first “Smithsonian Speaker Series” with a talk by fellow Affiliate Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Museum will also present public exhibition of student creations as part of the Smithsonian’s Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos astrophotography project, in Greenville, 10.28.

 

 

May 24, 2011

conference road trip to focus on community museums

Anacostia Community Museum

Yes, there are Smithsonian museums off the National Mall!  Most Affiliates know about the ones in New York City, but the Institution has another gem of a museum across the river in the Anacostia Community Museum.  Affiliations’ conference participants will be able to experience this resource on a special road trip designed to explore issues of specific concern to community museums.

Opened in 1967, the Anacostia Community Museum documents and interprets the impact of historical and contemporary social issues on communities.  After a narrated tour (on the bus) en route to the Museum, participants will receive a guided tour of the pioneering exhibition, Word, Shout, Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner, Connecting Communities through Language.  This show details the historical journey made by Africans, their language and their music, to the Americas.

Doing the Ring Shout in Georgia, ca. 1930s, from the Lorenzo Dow Turner Papers, Anacostia Museum Archives

Following the tour, Affiliates will sit down with the Museum’s staff to discuss the challenges and opportunities of working at the community level.  The Museum’s curators will also discuss projects underway with potential for Affiliate collaboration, including professional development and the Urban Waterways project.

Hope to see you there!  For information on the 2011 Affiliations’ National Conference, and to register, click here.

January 24, 2010

your exhibit here

Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Community Museum

The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum would like to host a traveling exhibition from May through August 7, 2011, to accommodate an exhibition space of 2,500 square feet.

The exhibition should address contemporary community issues in the urban setting and include engagement of a local community in its development. The content may address any of the following:  neighborhood histories; family histories and family life; the built environment and community development; cultural encounters and demographic changes; craft and creativity in community life; leisure and recreation; spirituality, worship and religion in community life; cultural and ethnic encounters; impact of globalization on communities and neighborhoods.

Please contact Sharon Reinckens at reinckenss@si.edu or 202-633-4838 for further information.

 

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