Courtyard   Affiliations staff participated in a lovely morning tour of the newest spectacular space at the Smithsonian, the Kogod Courtyard at the Reynolds Center.  (American Art Museum  & Portrait Gallery’s building). 

Our pictures wouldn’t do it justice, so check out the awesome images from their public opening a few days ago on SAAM’s blog.    

Can’t wait for Affiliates to experience it too!

Plimoth Plantation thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy and safe thanksgiving.  In the spirit of the season, and in the name of historical accuracy that’s also fun, here are some recipes from our friends at Plimoth Plantation, our affiliate in Plymouth Massachusetts (experts in all topics Thanksgiving!)  Enjoy!

 Thanks.png    An Onion Sauce for Roast Turkey;
                               Sobaheg: A Wampnoag Recipe (a stew);
                               Stewed Pompion(Pumpkin);
                               Pease Pottage



colorlogo2.gif  I just returned from lovely Portland Maine and the annual New England Museum Association conference.  One of the things I admire most about this conference is how honest people are – participants and presenters.  I so frequently heard comments like, “ultimately, the program didn’t work so well” or “yeah, we found that the particular board model we adopted wasn’t functional in the end” or “if you can’t get good feedback from your community on an exhibition, maybe they’re just not into it and you should let it go.”  How refreshing to share mistakes so everyone can learn from them!

Other highlights?  The keynote speaker, Harold Skramstad, president emeritus of the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village.  He talked about how outdated so many museum missions are – the old “collect, preserve, interpret” line just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Instead, he challenged participants to think about what is their organization’s ‘value add’ to their community, as defined by the community itself

A braintrust from MIT presented on new technologies for museums.  They seem to be heading into Web 3.0!  They are far beyond podcasting and blogs, and into the ubitiquous media-rich immersive environments such as the Spy Experience in DC or The Tomb experience in Boston.  Fascinating stuff – here’s a sample.   

My favorite quote came from a session with Mystic Seaport and our Rhode Island Affiliate, Heritage Harbor.  The presenters urged the audience to be absolutely ruthless in self-analysis of what you have, what you can truly do with it, and who will care.  The earlier this analysis is done, and the more ruthless it is, the more time and money will be saved and allocated wisely.  Hard core museum talk indeed! 

Breaking Ground!

Congratulations to two Affiliates who have reached milestones in their development – groundbreaking on new museums that promise to be stellar contributions to America’s cultural landscape.

philly 030.jpg   On September 30 in Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History broke ground on its phenomenal new space at 5th and Market streets, directly across Independence Mall from the Liberty Bell.  On hand to make comments and celebrate with NMAJH staff were Senator Arlen Specter, Governor Edward Rendell, Mayor John Street and several other members of the City Council and state government.  The Museum, designed by renowed architect James Polshek, will showcase the history of Jews in America, from the 17th century to the present.  Click here for more pictures of this event.

hh groundbreaking 018.jpg  On November 8, the long-awaited Heritage Harbor Museum in Providence, Rhode Island celebrated the start of its renovation of the South Street power plant (appropriately renamed “Dynamo House”).  The Museum will ultimately share this huge historical site with a Starwood hotel and restaurant.  Shown here are Mayor David Cicilline and the developer, Bill Struever, opening the gate for confetti to fly, marking the beginning of the renovation project.  Heritage Harbor will share the history of Rhode Island through interactive exhibits.

Both projects plan to open by summer 2010.  I’m sure we all can’t wait to visit!

Artists rendering of the new National Museum of American Jewish History     Model of Heritage Harbor Museum
the new NMAJH         the new Heritage Harbor

IMLS training graphic

Shaping Outcomes

shaping outcomes.gif 

Are you familiar with this course offered through IMLS?  Several SI staff had the opportunity to participate in a training session about this approach yesterday, and it was a real eye-opener.  Here’s an example –

In a typical project, you get an idea.  You plan the program, budgeting resources and costs, and argue successfully for modest funding.  You offer the services and monitor the results. 

Using Outcomes Based Planning and Evaluation, planning of the program includes defining what success will look like for the specific target audience, and how you will evaluate that outcome based on measurable indicators.  It makes you realize the difference between outputs and outcomes, outcomes being so much richer in terms of demonstrating long-term impact on your audience.  And that’s the key – the goals are centered on the end user, the specific target audience, be they African Americans in Chicago, 8th graders on a tour to DC, or 20-somethings with stereotypes on Asians (all actual Smithsonian examples which came up.)

Much of this content may sound like common sense, or like every strategic planning book you’ve ever read.  Many of the methodologies are the same.  But I would recommend this approach nonetheless… the online course is free, and is peppered with really wonderful case studies

Especially interesting to me was to see how often the goals I identified were institutional goals, rather than audience goals – the opposite of the Shaping Outcomes objective.  Whether the audience I defined were Affiliate organizations themselves, or the audiences they serve, our goals at Affiliations are the same – that they can access, appreciate, and be transformed by the Smithsonian, the national museum that they support through their tax dollars.  When that happens, it’s as good for us as it hopefully is for the audience.  Maybe that’s not so bad?! 

Smithsonian on iTunes

A nugget to add to the “who knew?!” category…

We recently got an announcement that Smithsonian’s Global Sound, a program of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, had launched a new section on the iTunes store in the iTunes U section called ‘Beyond Campus.’ One of only 6 organizations featured in this new project (with MoMA, American Public Media and others), this site gives free access to lesson plans, education kits, and videos that utilize and relate to Global Sound recordings for sale on SI websites and in the iTunes store.

alhaj.jpg  It’s fabulous. For example, I watched a three-minute video of the 2007 Teacher of the Year talk about how she used Global Sound to introduce her students to the music of Zimbabwe, and to explain the different classifications of instruments. I watched a short video of Iraqi virtuoso Rahim Alhaj record a song on the oud. (I didn’t know what an oud was either! the ” (ōōd) ” is a pear-shaped, stringed instrument similar to a lute used in traditional Middle Eastern music.  See picture above.) I downloaded the Center’s fantastic Oral History Interviewing Guide. You can search the site by instrument, culture, country, genre.. you name it.

How can Affiliates use this? Why not consider SI Global Sound next time you’d like to add a soundtrack to your African art exhibit? Do you have musical instruments in your collection, and need ideas for fresh ways to interpret them to your audiences? Chances are, Global Sound has a lesson plan or a video of someone playing the instrument, that you can share with your visitors.

So for fun while surfing around iTunes, I searched for ‘Smithsonian’ to see what else they might have. Need a new podcast to listen to on your way to work by chance?!
si podcast.jpg  The Institution’s podcasts are collected here. Some are familiar – the Hirshhorn and the Freer/Sackler presented theirs at an Affiliations Conference a few years ago. But have you heard Cheetah Chat from the National Zoo? Interested in hearing about what Smithsonian scientists are researching these days? The Undersecretary of Science has a podcast to share our findings. NMAI is producing fabulous podcasts that are audio or video recordings of their concerts, public art projects, or particular objects in their exhibitions (like a Tlingit elder describing the craftsmanship and story behind a Brown Bear Clan Hat from Alaska).

The depths of content and possible applications to plumb here are very deep… have fun!