announcing the 2011 affiliations conference keynote speaker


Claudine Brown, Assistant Secretary for Education and Access

We are pleased to announce that Claudine K. Brown, the Smithsonian’s Assistant Secretary for Education and Access will provide the keynote speech on June 14 at the 2011 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, underscoring the centrality of education and the role of partnerships in advancing the Smithsonian’s mission.  Appointed in June 2010 to this newly established position, Brown serves as the overall leader of educational initiatives at the Smithsonian and coordinates the efforts of 32 education-based offices in museums and science centers.

Brown had been the director of the arts and culture program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York since 1995.   In 1990, she joined the Smithsonian to serve as director of the National African-American Museum Project and in1991 she also became the deputy assistant secretary for the arts and humanities, developing policy for many Smithsonian museums.

Prior to her earlier work at the Smithsonian, Brown held several positions at The Brooklyn Museum:  museum educator, manager of school and community programs, and assistant director for government and community programs.  For more than 20 years, Brown served as a faculty advisor and instructor in the Leadership in Museum Education Program at Bank Street Graduate School of Museum Education in New York City, giving her the opportunity to work with some of the pre-eminent museum evaluators, educators and thinkers in the field.

Following Brown’s speech, conference attendees and Smithsonian educators will join in a series of roundtable discussions to identify potential areas of collaboration.

View the Smithsonian Affiliations Conference web page for further announcements.

thanks for a wonderful conference!

Affiliations Director, Harold Closter, greeting conference guests at the Welcome Reception at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

We were so delighted that so many of you were able to join us for this year’s Annual National Conference.  The spirit of friendship permeated our gathering as did the passion and commitment that you bring to our profession.  We were sorry that some of you were unable to attend, but know that you were with us in thought, and that we’ll see you next year, if not sooner.

Thank you for your many kind words of praise.  We try hard to build a conference that offers the right mix of intellectual challenge, workshops on cutting edge topics, new ways of engaging the Smithsonian, and enjoyable networking opportunities.  We hope our blend worked for you, but if not, let us know so we can try something different next year.

Conference attendees brainstorming with Smithsonian experts at the "Grand Challenges" roundtables.

This year we had more Affiliate presenters and more Smithsonian participants than ever before.  We are grateful to all of you for taking the time to prepare and share your experiences.  They were informative, enlightening, and ever indicative of the impact that we create together through Smithsonian Affiliations.  I am confident that everyone left with a suitcase full of new ideas; we can’t wait to begin unpacking.

Wish we all of you a wonderful summer, certainly one not as hot as in Washington, and continued success in serving your communities.  We are proud to be your partners!

Harold A. Closter

PS- Missed something at the conference?  Click on these links to review Conference Presentations, browse the Conference Guidebook, and enjoy photos from all three days of activities.

Have ideas for next year? Please email Elizabeth Bugbee with ideas for topics YOU want to learn about next year!

the future of the smithsonian institution: the grand challenges

The Smithsonian’s new strategic plan identifies four grand challenges that call for the Smithsonian to broaden access and reach new audiences. These four topics, along with our continued dedication to revitalizing education, will define the work at the Smithsonian as we begin a new era. It’s an exciting time to be at the Smithsonian, and an exciting time to be an Affiliate.

On Monday, June 14, 2010, Smithsonian and Affiliate staff will come together to explore the Grand Challenges and brainstorm potential collaborative opportunities. The session, Smithsonian’s New Grand Challenges Offer Grand Opportunities for Affiliates, has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to learn more about our strategic plan or would like to offer your expertise on one of these topics, we’ve included Smithsonian staff working on some of the most interesting projects at the Institution for you to find inspiration.

Here’s a peek at each roundtable and the Smithsonian staff you’ll meet: 

Apollo 9 at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

Roundtable 1:  Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
Leading in the quest to unlock the fundamental secrets of the cosmos, the Smithsonian will delve into cosmic mysteries through exploration of our own solar system, meteorites, the Earth’s geological past and present, and the paleontological record of our planet. What does the history of the exploration of the cosmos say about us?
Margaret Weitekamp, Curator, National Air and Space Museum
Erika Reinfeld, Education Specialist, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Tim McCoy, Chair, Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History 

2004 Affiliations Visiting Professional from the Pinhead Institute

Roundtable 2:  Understanding & Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
The Smithsonian’s hundreds of researchers across our scientific museums and centers will work with our collections to significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of life on Earth, respond to the growing threat of environmental change, and sustain human well-being. How will your organization get involved?
Mark Haddon, Director of Education, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Sciences, National Museum of Natural History 

Opening of the Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama's exhibition Panamanian Passages at the Smithsonian.

Roundtable 3:  Valuing World Cultures
Through our research, collections, exhibitions, and outreach, the Smithsonian will present the diversity of world cultures with accuracy, insight, and reverence. Discuss how you can help promote greater understanding of, respect for, and meaningful engagement among the world’s peoples and cultures.
John Homiak, Director, National Anthropology Collections & Archives, National Museum of Natural History
Magdalena Mieri, Director, Program in Latino History and Culture, National Museum of American History 

Clash of Empires: The British, French & Indian War, 1754-1763 at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Roundtable 4:  Understanding the American Experience
Understanding how diverse peoples have become one nation; how that nation has been shaped by various communities, individuals, leaders, inventors, heroes, and artists; how it has changed over time; and how our history, art, and culture connect to the world are of vital concern today. Explore what it means to be an American in this roundtable and how the disparate experiences of individual groups strengthen the whole, and help to share our story with people of all nations.
Diana Baird N’Diaye, Cultural Specialist and Curator, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Susan Nichols, Lunder Education Chair, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery 

Smithsonian Week in Long Beach, sponsored by the Arts Council of Long Beach.

Roundtable 5:  Revitalizing Education
The Smithsonian will serve as a laboratory to create models of innovative education. Discover how you can play a role in educational efforts across the Smithsonian, as we create a pan-Institutional approach for education that leverages resources, strengthens communications, coordinates programming, and rewards inventive thinking and collaboration.
Deborah Stokes, Curator for Education, National Museum of African Art
Stephanie L. Norby, Executive Director, Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies
Tricia Edwards, Education Specialist, National Museum of American History

For more information about the 2010 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, click here.

can your museum save the world?

Given all the challenges facing our global society today, should the museum community direct our resources and energies to tackle the world’s great problems, and if so, where do we begin?  Can our  efforts in  research, education, collaboration, or public service (or something else?) really make a difference in the face of issues ranging from hurricanes and earthquakes to war or the loss of indigenous cultures? 

The John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, which documents the lives of a group of Ju/'hoansi (!Kung San Bushman) in Namibia, is held at the Human Studies Film Archives at the National Museum of Natural History. This audiovisual collection is unique in the world for its focus on one group of people over such a long period.

This topic will be the focus of a keynote session at the Affiliations conference on Monday June 14 at 1:30pm in Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History.  Cristián Samper, Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Johnnetta B. Cole, Director of the National Museum of African Art will offer their insights on how a natural history museum and an art museum are addressing these issues and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead. 

We want to share examples from Affiliateland, and ask any questions you may have.   Should museums try to save the world?

For more information about the 2010 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, click here.

conference extra! FREE mobile media workshops for Affiliates

mobile-learning-instituteThe Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies (SCEMS), with sponsorship from Pearson Foundation and Nokia, is offering free mobile media learning workshops June 16- 18, 2010 after the Affiliations National Conference.  Affiliates are the first to have the opportunity to sign up to attend these free day-long mobile media learning workshops.  Extend your conference stay with these bonus workshops!

Click here to register

Leadership Summit Digital Media
Wednesday, June 16
10 am to 4:00 pm
Free to Affiliates 

The summit brings leaders in digital media together with school and museum decision makers. Participants will explore current research and effective practices in the educational use of social networks, cell phones, and social-media-based games and applications.  They will engage in digital media activities, view short media presentations, and discuss digital media in their own context and its potential to bring new life to learning.

Mobile Learning Workshop
Thursday, June 17, and Friday, June 18
10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Free to Affiliates

Learn to use digital media to engage young people with the tools they are already using in their lives outside of school. You’ll create media projects based on Smithsonian resources-digital tours, podcasts, wikis, and more. During the workshops, participants will collaborate with content experts from the Smithsonian and digital media experts from Pearson Foundation and Nokia to create new approaches for reaching today’s students.  The programs will make it possible to test and share how to use mobile technology in a museum setting.

musings from the new england museum association

SI Astrophysical Observatory's Black Holes exhibition, on view at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH

SI Astrophysical Observatory's Black Holes exhibition, on view at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH

One of the most interesting questions I heard asked at the New England Museum Association conference last week was, what’s the new non-profit normal?   There was a sense that both retrenching and rethinking are in order, but that steering museums through these turbulent times will produce changes that will last far beyond the economic crisis and our eventual recovery.

The new director of Affliate Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA), offered one such road map.  It’s hyper-attentive visitor experience, and a zero tolerance for unsatisfactory comments.  One of the results of recent visitor surveys at Plimoth revealed that 93% of their visitors report a very satisfactory experience.  Pretty good right?!  Except for director Ellie Donovan, a missionary for high-quality visitor experience in every regard.  She recognizes that the other 7% represent 25,000 people who are not shopping in the store for things to remember a bad experience, and are not saying nice things to their friends.  In short, that 7% represent thousands of dollars of potentially lost revenue, that no museum or historical site can stand to lose.  A powerful argument.     

The keynote speaker at NEMA made a nuanced plea for new non-profit normal too, that is, how museums need to step up to their role as builders of social capital in a community.  Social capital is a metric, measured by community and state by such statistics as the number of active voters, volunteerism, crime rates, even TV-watching rates (a negative indicator).  Unsurprisingly, his research has shown that, the higher the social capital, the higher are other rates of happiness indicators – education achievement, lower incarceration rates, etc.  Lewis Feldstein, President of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, challenged all the museum professionals present to ask themselves how their organizations are building social capital.  Do new immigrants come to your museum to learn about the community’s history or cultural activity?  Do local civic groups call you to use your facilities for meetings?  Is your staff serving on community boards, active and visible members of civic life in your city?  All (and more) are important questions for establishing the relevancy of museums to the contexts of their communities.

But not all the discussions at the conference were that deep and soul-searching.  I was lucky to see Black Holes: Space Warps and Time Twists, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory, at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH.  (Ok, how many knew that Christa McAuliffe was a high school social studies teacher from Concord, NH High School?  Or that the quote, “I touch the future, I teach,” was hers?!)  It was a wonderfully interactive exhibit with a variety of media stations that allow the visitor to weigh black holes and dive into them, among other activities.    And I met the young enthusiastic safari-clad staff of scvngr – a do-it-yourself interface template for creating location-based, high-tech, mobile games.  So very fun.

Overall, a very pleasant, thought-provoking week in New England.  How about you – what’s the chatter at your regional association or museum?