The JME40 blogging project is an initiative of the Museum Education Roundtable to commemorate the publication of the 40th volume of the Journal of Museum Education. Each month, posts will expand upon the most recent JME issue; or, as appropriate, will address timely issues that have antecedents in the lengthy JME archive. Blog editors Susan Spero and Lexie Carlson would love your input! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, or ideas.
The End of One Thing, the Beginning of Something Else
Miriam Langer & Lauren Addario
Over the last seven years, we’ve spent a lot of time telling stories from our successful AmeriCorps Cultural Technology (ACT) museum internship program. This program, which embeds our New Mexico Highlands University media arts & technology students and recent grads in paid long-term service positions in museums, libraries, and historic sites, has been running since 2010. There have been articles, blog posts, presentations, celebrations, and many grant proposals. The stories that we’ve collected, the data that we’ve analyzed, and the student success that continues to ripple outward has built our reputation both in New Mexico and nationally.
Making a (Museum Book) List, Checking It Twice
‘Tis the season for holiday shopping lists! And who doesn’t love to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good read around the holidays? Keeping these two things in mind, the Board of Directors at the Museum Education Roundtable have some recommendations for the museum-centric bookworms in your life. Perhaps one or two of the books on this list will even make their way onto your own wish list this season. Either way, we’re here to help with some juicy reviews!
There it is again. That phrase.
A small group of local teachers and media specialists are gathered at the Beckley Furnace industrial monument in Northwest CT, where we are discussing ways to engage area students in learning at the heritage site. As the conversation progresses one teacher offers:
“We need to find a way to make this history relevant to the kids.”
Relevance is a hot topic these days. In the museum field. In history classrooms. In the latest issue of the Journal of Museum Education (JME). The issue, guest edited by MER Board member Mariruth Leftwich of the Senator John Heinz History Center, presents five case studies exploring ways history organizations are expanding the notion of who they are for and what they offer their visitors. They are actively seeking relevance by stretching themselves beyond commonly held expectations of what history museums do.
Future Forward: Towards a Racially Inclusive Museum
This year’s annual MER Forum held in Washington, DC at the Phillips Collection, was an interactive workshop led by new MER Board member and consulting curator and inclusion specialist, Porchia Moore. Future Forward: Towards a Racially Inclusive Museum was designed as a primer on race and museums, and forms the basis of her doctoral work at the University of South Carolina. The MER Board asked Porchia to guide this workshop as part of our ongoing goal to create meaningful, impactful dialogue around the growing topic of diversity and inclusion within 21st museums.
Own Your Expertise…But Know Where it Comes From
When I worked as a museum educator, I defined myself as a facilitator who built bridges linking visitors with objects and ideas. As a facilitator, I translated the content expertise of curators and scholars into language and concepts appropriate to various audiences. My products were tour outlines, programs, labels, curricula, and exhibitions.
To Start Life Anew Again
My husband was diagnosed with cancer a few short months ago. Cancer. Even today, the word carries with it that horrible feeling of dread, the acknowledgement that, as humans, we are not invincible, the acceptance that our time here on this planet is precious, and the recognition that we all want to find meaning in our lives, however we each define it. Life and living it well rise to the top of the to-do list, instead of doing the laundry or asking the kids one last time to get their pajamas on.
Reflections from AAM 2016: Power, Influence and Responsibility
Last year, attendees of the American Alliance of Museums’ Annual Meeting in Atlanta were pondering the theme of The Social Value of Museums the same weekend as the Baltimore Uprising, a series of city-wide protests in response to the police brutality that led to the death of Freddie Gray.
During last year’s meeting I heard many of my fellow attendees express their frustration that the conference barely acknowledged the Uprising was happening. It was only outside the conference walls where we could find the conversations we craved.
Mingle with MER at AAM
Brooke DiGiovanni Evans
The American Alliance of Museums 2016 conference is almost here! This year thousands of museum professionals will head to Washington, DC over Memorial Day weekend to attend informative sessions and spend time with colleagues. We on the MER board hope that you can join us for some (or all!) of the exciting events we have planned.
On Being Heard
Susan Spero, Ph.D.
The Broad’s No. 1 objective from the beginning was to connect a wide audience with contemporary art. To do that effectively, we had to think about how you can be truly welcoming and engaging in new ways.
Joanne Heyler, Director, The Broad
A New Kind of Museum Guard: Know-It-Alls in the Best Way
New York Times (paywall), March 15, 2016
Before me was Damien Hirst’s Away from the Flock, a life-size lamb suspended in turquoise formaldehyde. Near me stood one of The Broad Museum’s Visitor Services Associates (VSA). I don’t remember being asked a direct question but something triggered my out-loud response, “Oh gosh, this thing is creepy.” Flat out, Away from the Flock is an example of Hirst’s work that always makes me shudder. The VSA confidently countered, “I don’t think it’s creepy.”
Amanda Thompson Rundahl
My cell phone has been prompting me daily now for a couple of weeks (or longer?) to update it to the newest version of its operating system. Each time, I tell it to remind me later. When I stop and ask myself why I keep putting it off, there are a couple of reasons: running the update takes time away from my using the phone to do all the important things I depend upon it to do (email, calendar, social media, online searching and shopping, etc.). After the update, I will have to re-learn how to use it because it will look and feel different than what I have grown accustomed to since the last update. And, based on previous experiences with this kind of thing, I am afraid that the update will go badly, and I’ll be left with a phone that’s useless.
Reflecting on the Year Ahead
Brooke DiGiovanni Evans
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays behind us, I love the beginning of the New Year because it offers us an opportunity to take a step back from our work, to reflect on what has happened throughout the past year, and to look ahead to things we’d like to accomplish in the year ahead. I finally have the opportunity to tackle the pile of books that has been growing on my shelf! In Trendswatch 2015, Elizabeth Merritt mentions reflection as something we should foster in our visitors, but it’s also something we need to do as professionals. As we finish one project or program, the next one is already calling our attention and we have to move on quickly. Time for reflection in our field is rare, yet crucial, for our professional well-being.
Looking Back, Continuing Forward
Elisabeth Nevins & Susan Spero, Ph.D.
Last December, while Santa was in the North Pole making his list and checking it twice, we were busy tinkering with a project of our own. 2015 would mark the publication of the 40th volume of the Journal of Museum Education (JME). It was an anniversary worth marking—but how?
At MER, we love when an issue of the Journal of Museum Education (JME) lends its voice to a juicy conversation at the national level. And JME Vol. 40, No. 3, Common Goals, Common Core: Museums and Schools Work Together, did just that. The issue hit mailboxes in October, 2015. In November, 2015, Massachusetts opted to keep the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but to develop its own state test rather than continue to participate in multi-state high-stakes testing. Massachusetts is not alone in its reinterpretation of the standards: the CCSS exists, in some form, in most states—but the form continues to shift. Meanwhile, museum educators must sort out their role in this evolving landscape.
Common Core? Oh, we go waaay back.
A Museum Educator’s long-term relationship with standards
Deciding what to write about for this post that wouldn’t recycle much of what has already been said about the Common Core, I kept circling back to something my professor Roberta Altman told me in a graduate course at Bank Street College, circa 2001. She said something like, “Design a creative, lively lesson with all of your best teaching strategies and then you can go through the standards and check off those it addresses. Don’t start with the checklist or you’ll be crafting a lesson constrained by them.” Frankly, as a pretty devout rule-follower, this get-out-of-jail-free card was huge for me. Only now, looking back on my experiences with school audiences, am I so acutely aware of the impact Roberta’s words had on my teaching practice.
Getting it Down on Paper
Part of the fun of taking on our JME40 blog project has been the necessity of diving deep into the Journal of Museum Education (JME) archives. These explorations have yielded insight into the early years of the journal and the field, the evolution of the topics and trends that have shaped our work, and the personalities that lent their time and energy to building a body of knowledge for our profession—the theory, research, and best practices that continue to guide our efforts.
MER: The Little Engine that Is
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill
Every August, as summer vacations wind down and autumn routines begin to wind up, the Museum Education Roundtable’s Board of Directors convenes for an annual retreat. As a national organization, this is the one time of year that we are all together, in person, beyond the confines of conference calls and Google hangouts. For a precious few days, we reflect, dream, plan, and transition from one fiscal year and board cohort to the next. Together.
Going the Distance
Susan Spero, Ph.D.
Every once in a while, something happens to make me realize that changecan happen. In this case, the change is both technological and pedagogical. Thinking back to 20 plus years ago, I remember talking to the tech team at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see if we could create an online curriculum interface that allowed for student conversations around a work of art. “Nice idea,” they told me, but one that was just not possible given the digital tools available at the time. I’d have to wait. But I don’t have to wait anymore.
Asking Beautiful, Scary Questions…
I recently enjoyed traveling to the great city of Denver, Colorado and participating in the Leading the Future of Museum Education: Challenges and Opportunities, a convening of an amazing group of museum leaders from across the country. This event, co-hosted by Bank Street College’s Leadership in Museum Education and the Education Professional Network (EdCom) of the American Alliance of Museums, offered a much-needed opportunity for educators in our field to come together and discuss issues, the future, and ask beautiful, scary questions.
An Editor Reminisces
Monica M. Smith
I still recall my first official meeting with publisher Mitch Allen at a Vietnamese restaurant in Washington, DC in December 2005. As I dribbled spring roll sauce on the white paper tablecloth, we discussed the ins and outs of the new partnership between Left Coast Press and MER. One piece of advice from Mitch particularly stuck with me: if you have to choose between perfection and meeting the publication deadline, the latter is preferred! He said subscribers expect to receive their journals regularly, and if deliveries are erratic you tend to lose readers. It turned out to be an important lesson, one of many during my three-year tenure as the editor-in-chief of the JME.
Diversity and Slow Change
Museum Education Roundtable (MER) was out in force at the 2015 AAM Annual Meeting last week in Atlanta. Board members, including me, enjoyed connecting with members new and old at our joint reception with EdCom at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the EdCom Marketplace of Ideas, and our newest tradition—MER Happy Hour.
The theme of this year’s annual meeting was The Social Value of Museums: Inspiring Change, a topic of central importance to our field—an importance underscored by the events unfolding in Baltimore, MD as we gathered together to tackle the issue.
A Visual History of the JME
In “looking back” on my own history, I realize my interest in the visual design of the Journal of Museum Education should come as no surprise. I’ve always seemed to find a design-focus in my professional and volunteer work. And personal; I married a designer. So, when I learned the JME was mid-redesign when I joined the Museum Education Roundtable (MER) Board in 2011, I naturally joined the effort.
Looking Back: Evaluation & Research
Susan Spero, Ph.D.
For several years now I have served on the selection committee for the California Association of Museums’ Superintendent’s Awards for Excellence in Museum Education. As a requirement of the nominations process, applicants must describe their program evaluation methodology. In reviewing these statements, I have found that some museum educators and their institutions show sophistication and in-depth understanding of processes as they systematically measure their program outcomes, while others lag behind in their ability to gather and analyze data in order to improve practice.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Though I never planned on it, I’ve moved around a bit in my life—from the east coast to the west coast to the southwest and back east. Each time I moved, it was an adventure, with challenges and benefits. There is nothing like relocating to introduce you to a new part of the country. But ironically, even as I settled into a new city, one of the biggest benefits was actually a broadening perspective on where I come from. When you move or even just travel to a new place, you have a unique vantage point from which to look back at where you’ve come from with fresh eyes.
- February | The End of One Thing, the Beginning of Something Else
- December | Making a (Museum Book) List, Checking It Twice
- November | On Relevance
- September | Future Forward: Towards a Racially Inclusive Museum
- August | Own Your Expertise…But Know Where it Comes From
- July | To Start Life Anew Again
- June | Reflections from AAM2016: Power, Influence, and Responsibility
- May | Mingle with MER at AAM
- April | On Being Heard
- March | Moonlighting for MER
- February | Docents 2.0
- January | Reflecting on the Year Ahead
- December | Looking Back, Continuing Forward
- November | Special Sauce
- October | Common Core? Oh, we go waaaay back.
- September | Getting it Down on Paper
- August | MER: The Little Engine that IS
- July | Going the Distance
- June | Asking Beautiful, Scary Questions…
- May | An Editor Reminisces
- April | Diversity and Slow Change
- March | A Visual History of the JME
- February | Looking Back: Evaluation & Research
- January | Looking Back, Looking Forward