Kudos! September 2010

In these times of economic challenges, it’s nice to see some bright spots!

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust announced the Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona) was awarded an Arts Restructuring and Transformation Fund (ART Fund) grant to expand current retail space for Native American artists, add a new bookstore with expanded inventory and open a coffee shop that serves traditional Native American refreshments. The grant was $150,000 over 24 months.

Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan) received funding from The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The MSU Museum will receive $98,173 from the National Leadership Collaborative Planning Grant to be used to expand technology and access for the online resource, the Quilt Index. 

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation has awarded a two year grant in the amount of $230,000 to The Raices Latin Music Museum (New York, New York) for the implementation of the strategic planning and collection preservation initiative as well as the purchase of TMS, a museum database. 

The Senate confirmed five individuals to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board, which advises the Institute of Museum and Library Services on general policy and practices including Dr. Lawrence J. Pijeaux, Jr., President and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Alabama).

The Kona Historical Society (Kona, Hawaii) received $255,592 to buy two acres on the Big Island as a scenic buffer for the historic H.N. Greenwell Store and additional space for preservation of the farming and ranching heritage of Kona. The money is from the Legacy Land Conservation Program and will be matched with about $9.5 million from federal, county and private sources to acquire land or protective easements for public benefit.

Congratulations all!

lisa falk: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our “Summer at the Smithsonian” series. Below, Lisa Falk, Director of Education at Arizona State Museum (Tucson), describes her residency at the Smithsonian. Special thanks to Lisa for this post!

As I crisscrossed the Mall and marched to Smithsonian sites beyond, I clutched my cell phone and lugged my laptop, always mobile and ready for my daily Smithsonian adventure. The Smithsonian is embracing mobile technologies as it strives to serve visitors in their museums and in cyberspace. My Visiting Professional residency provided me the contacts and time to learn about the ways the Smithsonian is engaging visitors through digital means as well as some more low-tech “human” engagements in their halls.

Each week I visited different museums and spoke with my colleagues about their work. Days were filled with talking, observing, and playing. As I texted my way through museum exhibits, playing several digital games and even creating some, I realized that cell phones are more than devices for making calls on; at the Smithsonian they became guides for discovery. With so many excited educators working with content managers and web and mobile developers, many new ways to experience the resources of the museums are being developed and tested. It was exciting to be around so much spark! 

Week One: National Museum of the American Indian, D.C. and NYC. 
In D.C. I learned about their Cultural Interpreter program that has Native educators work with visitors on the floor giving tours, demonstrations, and instruction for hands-on crafts projects (I learned to weave a basket!) among many other exciting initiatives. 

At NMAI in NYC I visited exhibits and spoke with staff about film programming. Arizona State Museum already collaborates on our Native Eyes Film Showcase with NMAI and this gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about what they do and plan for our next festival. I tested a new text messaging quiz initiative their visitor services manager is offering to attract more Latino visitors to NMAI’s galleries. It has spurred an idea for a text messaging quiz I want to develop in conjunction with a new exhibit opening at ASM this fall. 

Week two: Smithsonian Affiliates Conference and Mobile Media Learning workshops 
During the Affiliations National Conference, I heard and saw a lot! As my focus is digital, the high point for me was playing the Ghosts of a Chance game with my peers. We interacted together in the galleries at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and talked with a developer about how the game was created. We dashed through the halls discovering clues from art works, computer collection information, and even made tin foil sculptures. I think I saw more of the museum in one visit than I ever have before! 

At the Mobile Media workshops, we used Nokia phones to photograph objects and add augmented reality information to them, i.e.: we created short video that added meaning to the objects. It was good to have hands-on time actually trying to create using cell phone technology and to work with other peers as we questioned not only how the technology worked, but how we could use it, and how youth might interact with it. 

Week Three: National Museum of American History 
The high point was talking with Xavier Carnegie, Actor and Trainer for museum theater programs. He spoke about the power of theater to emotionally involve visitors with the history and ideas behind museum objects. Observing him in two different on-floor drama presentations was powerful. 

Week Four: Meetings with digital media strategists and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 
I hopped around this week, gleaning knowledge from different sources. At the American Art Museum I further explored the digital media text messaging scavenger hunts in the Luce gallery as well as cell phone audio tours, and old-fashioned paper-based treasure hunts. 

At National Museum of Natural History I enjoyed talking with staff about how they approach the use of digital media, particularly with their Facebook page. They see the Facebook page as a very interactive program where they disseminate information, questions, and encourage comments and questions. 

The highlight at NMNH was my meeting with Robert Costello who developed a web comic to go with the Written in Bone exhibit. I’m also trying to develop a web comic so it was great to talk with a colleague who had already done the research on youth use of such a tool and had evaluation notes showing how people were using it (more adults then youth seem to use it!). 

On my last day, in honor of my explorations, I was invited to moderate a panel about digital media at the Smithsonian on one of the stages at the Folklife Festival. Smithsonian staff spoke about how their jobs had changed over time and how they were approaching making their resources available using digital media. The audience expressed interest in access to content and images and applauded their efforts. 

During my residency I was all over the place, but it was a great! The connecting strand was audience involvement with Smithsonian resources and using digital media to engage and reach out. My SI colleagues were inviting, open, and encouraging. Their work is inspiring and has given me many ideas and broadened my understanding of the possibilities and some of the difficulties in creating digital and face-to-face museum interactions! I look forward to sharing what I learned with my ASM colleagues and trying out some of the Smithsonian approaches.

annette shumway: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our “Summer at the Smithsonian” series. Below, Annette Shumway, intern partner from the Frost Art Museum (Miami, FL) shares the story of her summer internship at the National Postal Museum.  Special thanks to Annette for this post!

As a graduate student in the Museum Studies Certificate program at Florida International University I’ve focused much of my research efforts on digitization projects being undertaken by museums and archives.  I am particularly interested in the effective administration and proper usage of current technologies for digital projects and believe that without organization much time and resources could be wasted. I was looking for an internship that would provide a meaningful, sensory experience that would enhance all of the learning that I had acquired, but couldn’t quite find one. When my Museum Studies Coordinator suggested I look into Smithsonian Affiliations Internship Program (our campus museum –The Frost Art Museum- is a Smithsonian Affiliate), I was excited because I would actually be able to execute my own project at the Frost, after I acquired hands-on skills at the Smithsonian.

I was placed with Kate Diggle, Database Administrator at the National Postal Museum (NPM). At NPM digitization of the collection is a high priority.  While at the museum I had the opportunity to work on two different projects involving digitization. 

We worked on one collection consisting of modern philatelic and postal history artifacts which are being transferred from the USPS to the National Postal Museum’s care.  We re-housed, marked, and cataloged all of the objects during the first phase. Next, we created digital records for more than 4000 records down to the item level.   Hard work, but we accomplished our task a month ahead of schedule!  With the help of curators and conservation staff, we identified the items that would be the best candidates for imaging. Some of the artifacts in the collection were larger than the imaging equipment we had in-house, so we couriered these objects to a facility that would be able to handle our imaging needs. It was fascinating to courier the objects and to have access to some of the most state-of-the-art equipment in the field of image capture.  

The second project involved the actual image capture of artifacts for an upcoming exhibit.  These images were added to the museum’s database and will be available online when the exhibit opens. This helps to preserve artifacts like letters from revolutionary war, civil war, and both world wars for future generations of researchers.  Thanks to instruction from the preservations, collections, and web team at NPM, I was able to hone the handling, technical and editing skills necessary for completing projects in digitization field.

Taking part in both of these projects has helped me understand the logistics behind coordinating loans and standards involved in collections’ imaging projects. I feel that much of the experience that I gained through this period will aid in the second portion of my internship at the Frost Art Museum. I look forward to contributing valuable knowledge to the digitization plan and efforts at the Frost.

affiliates in the news: week of August 9

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines this week!

The Air Zoo (Portage, MI)
Imagine a multi-sensory atmosphere which is like ‘no place else on earth,’ totally unique and wonderful. That is perhaps the best way to describe the amazing Air Zoo aviation history museum in Portage, Michigan, USA…READ MORE

 

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History (Albuquerque, NM)
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History has exhibits that cover everything from medicine to Cold War pop culture to the science and history of the atom. But on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings that ended World War II, it’s the weapons that draw the crowds…READ MORE (photo courtesy of the Museum of Nuclear Science & History)

Frazier Museum of International History (Lexington, KY)
David Kerr of Bowling Green, a graduate student in history at WKU, is participating in the Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partnership Program during the summer of 2010…READ MORE

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meets with Western Kentucky University student David Kerr last week in his office at the Capitol in Washington, D.C…READ MORE

Arizona Historical Society (Tucson, AZ)
One of Arizona’s educational gems is about to become a piece of history…READ MORE

 

Snug Harbor Cultural Center (Staten Island, NY)
More than a dozen bosses have presided over the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden in its 35-year history but none has had the breadth of experience the new interim chief executive officer has…READ MORE

 

Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ)
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust announced 11 Arts Restructuring and Transformation Fund (ART Fund) grants, totaling $1.2 million…READ MORE

 

Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, CA)
Bruce Kaji, the founding president of the Japanese American National Museum,… was born in Boyle Heights, was attending Roosevelt High School when World War II began. He, his family and thousands of people of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed by the U.S. Government and unconstitutionally incarcerated in domestic concentration camps…READ MORE

eric stanley: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our Summer at the Smithsonian series. Below, Eric Stanley, curator of exhibitions and collections at Sonoma County Museum (Santa Rosa, CA), describes his spring residency at the Smithsonian. Special thanks to Eric Stanley for this post.

Eric meeting with Peter Liebhold and other curators at NMAH to discuss the "Bittersweet Harvest" exhibition

Seeking insights into the process of creating history exhibitions, I spent two weeks in March at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) through the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professionals Program. While I was expecting exposure to a select few elements of the process, it was my great pleasure to be introduced to many facets of creating exhibitions, as well as some other management and collections issues at NMAH. During the course of my program, I met over thirty people at the Smithsonian, mainly at American History, and was able to learn something from each of them. The time I spent with those individuals, each one knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and warmly receptive of my presence, was a tremendous benefit to me and my institution.

Early in my program, I met with Paula Johnson, Curator in the Division of Work and Industry. Our conversation focused mainly on the exhibition On the Water. She shared with me the various stages of exhibition conception and design; fundraising; label writing; artifact selection; which elements were most successful and why; and many other topics. As the Sonoma County Museum moves into the process of creating larger, longer term exhibitions, the exposure to Paula’s approach was useful.

Eric meets with Peter Liebhold and Steve Velasquez at NMAH.

Two particular appointments helped me appreciate the craftsmanship, planning and effort involved in the physical production of exhibition cases, graphics and other components. I met with Omar Wynn, Director of the Office of Exhibits Production at NMAH and toured the museum’s production areas. I also had the opportunity to see Omar and his staff at work in the First Ladies’ gallery in preparation for receiving and installing Michelle Obama’s gown. His outlook on the relationship between his production staff and the curators, and his intense commitment to uphold his standards was thought provoking and inspiring. Similarly, I had the unusual opportunity to tour the Office of Exhibits Central and met with graphic designers, curators, collections managers, and production people associated with the facility.

One of the most relevant and insightful meetings I had was with Nigel Briggs, Exhibit Designer. The core goal of my program was to gain some knowledge of contemporary exhibition design standards and aesthetics, which is a challenging and complex question. History exhibitions throughout the country take a remarkably diverse approach, so defining one standard is nearly impossible. However, Nigel provided me some very practical insights and discussed the “look” of a number of exhibitions and what made them appear dated or contemporary. My only regret was not being able to spend a little more time in conversation with him.

Finally, I had an exceptionally productive meeting with the team who created the Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 exhibition.  Since the Sonoma County Museum is taking this SITES exhibition in November, it was an enormous benefit to be able to interact with the people who actually created the exhibition. I had a chance to discuss their approach to the collection and oral histories from former braceros; we are planning to employ a similar approach to collect bracero oral histories locally. We also recently were awarded a SITES grant to support our programming for Bittersweet Harvest.

Eric was presented with a certificate of award from Affiliations Director Harold Closter and NMAH Affiliations Program Manager Rosemary Phillips.

There were other, very productive meetings that I did not mention here. The broad overview that I was provided through my program was an undeniably valuable experience and afforded me an unusual, insider’s glimpse of one of the finest history museums around. I could not have been more pleased with the support and encouragement I received from Smithsonian Affiliations staff and from the Affiliations Program Managers at NMAH. My participation in the Visiting Professionals Program is an experience I will never forget.

Next in the series: Annette Shumway- Affiliations Intern Partner from the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami, FL).

affiliates in the news!

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines!

Anniston Museum of Natural History (Anniston, AL)
This fall, the museum complex, which includes the Berman Museum of World History, will begin building and landscaping Anniston’s first botanical gardens on the site of Lenlock Community Center, once it closes…READ MORE

Louisiana State Exhibit Museum (Shreveport, LA)
Waddell takes over today as executive director of the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum. He replaces the popular Forrest Dunn, who retired at the end of June…READ MORE

National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg, PA)
Just across the wide Susquehanna River from Pennsylvania’s capital lies the point marking the northernmost advance of the Confederate army…READ MORE

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, AL)
With a gleam in his eye and all the ebullience of a youth discovering new-found treasures, Lawrence J. Pijeaux Jr., stepped spryly through the exhibition space last week at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute…READ MORE

Durham Museum (Omaha, NE)
There are more living creatures in a shovel-full of soil than human beings on the planet, yet more is known about the dark side of the moon than about soil. These are just a couple of the fascinating facts visitors can learn from the new temporary exhibition Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, which will be on display at The Durham Museum in Omaha, NE, from October 2 to December 26, 2010…READ MORE