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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.

summer at the smithsonian

We’ve invited our recent Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our Summer at the Smithsonian series beginning in August.  Shawn Pirelli, Smithsonian Affiliations intern partner from Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) will kick us off, so check back soon! Here’s a taste of what each thought of their time at the Smithsonian: 

Affiliate Visiting Professionals 

Eric Stanley (left) spent two weeks at the National Museum of American History researching the process of developing and designing history exhibitions.

“It was my great pleasure to be introduced to many, many facets of creating exhibitions at NMAH. I met over thirty people and was able to learn something from each of them. The time I spent with them, each one knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and warmly receptive of my presence, was a tremendous benefit to me and my institution,” said Eric Stanley, Sonoma County Museum (Santa Rosa, CA). 

Chena Popper spent three weeks at the National Museum of Natural History with registrars and collections care experts.

“It was a great learning experience to be able to see the loan process from start to finish, from loan forms to insurance and shipping, arrangements to condition reporting. Then on the SDNHM side, I was able to assist with the receiving, condition reporting and installation of the pieces,” said Chena Popper, San Diego Natural History Museum (San Diego, CA). 

Lisa Falk (left) benefited from a 4-week, pan-institutional project focused on technology and Web 2.0 initiatives at the Smithsonian.

“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. Back home, I look forward to sharing what I learned with my ASM colleagues and trying out some of the Smithsonian approaches,” said Lisa Falk, Arizona State Museum (Tucson, AZ).

Affiliations Intern Partners

Annette Shumway at the National Postal Museum working to digitize the Postmaster General Collection.

“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 which will involve initiating a collections digitization program,” said Annette Shumway, Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner at the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami, FL). 

Shawn Pirelli is wrapping up 10 weeks at the Smithsonian researching Thanksgiving traditions for a future exhibition.

“I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most revered curators and archivists in the world.  The Smithsonian is truly an untapped gold mine in historical records. With the help of the staff, I was able to uncover some of the most truly magnificent historical records that, during their time, helped shape and change the United States,” said Shawn Pirelli, Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner at Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA). 

David Kerr alternates his internship between the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Affiliations

“My Smithsonian Affiliations internship has been incredibly advantageous. From handling and transcribing Teddy Roosevelt  letters to helping do research for an upcoming work on the Civil War to meeting with curators to discuss current exhibits and collections, my time has been very well spent, and my future as an academic or as a future employee can only benefit,” said David Kerr, Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner at the Frazier International History Museum (Louisville, KY). 

Smithsonian Institution Intern  

Juliana Walker (right) tests an interactive game at the National Zoo with Affiliate researcher, Lisa Falk.

“Under the direction of Harold Closter I was able to learn about the enormous positive impact the Smithsonian Affiliations Office has across the country. By researching museums in the states where Affiliates are not present, I hope my research may help extend the Affiliate network across even more,” said Juliana Walker, Junior at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Don’t forget to visit our blog in August for stories from each of our interns and visiting professionals! Read first-hand how professional development opportunities at Smithsonian Affiliations can benefit your museum.  And keep checking back for application deadlines for 2011.

kudos, affiliates! june 2010

Despite the economy, there are many bright spots to celebrate in Affiliateland this month.  Great job everyone!

The Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) at the Center for Jewish History (New York City) recently signed an agreement with the German Foreign Ministry, to receive $3 million over 2010 – 2013 for “New Acquisitions Preservation Project”, allowing for the cataloging of significant new historical material pertaining to the survivor population of refugees from Nazi Germany.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati) will have a new gallery housing a permanent exhibit on contemporary slavery, thanks to a generous gift from Lois and Richard Rosenthal. The new gallery space, comprising approximately 3,000 square feet, will open as the “Lois and Richard Rosenthal Gallery of Contemporary Slavery” in October and will feature the “Invisible: Slavery Today” exhibit on modern forms of slavery — the first of its kind in the world.

The PNC Foundation has awarded the African American Museum (Philadelphia), $75,000 to support Lens Legacy, a video project seeking to record personal stories.

Heritage Preservation announced the Atomic Testing Museum (Las Vegas) has been chosen to participate in Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Collections Assessment Program for 2010.  The program assists museums by providing funds for specialists to identify the conservation needs of their collections and recommend ways to correctly improve collections conditions.

The Montana Historical Society (Helena) has been selected to receive a “Connecting to Collections Statewide Planning” grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  The $40,000 grant is designed to assess the status of cultural heritage collections in the state and develop recommendations to ensure the ongoing preservation of these collections. 

The Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing) and Arizona State Museum (Tucson) are two of 33 museums nationally to receive a 2010 Conservation Project Support grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The MSU Museum receives a $149,316 grant to purchase and install “space-saver” (high-density) storage units and supplies for newly acquired collections, which include textiles and masks, as well as accompanying letters and documentation. Arizona State Museum receives $147,043 to treat 700 archaeological and ethnological ceramic vessels from its Southwest collections.

Conner Prairie (Fishers, Indiana) received the 2010 Pinnacle Award for the program “1859 Balloon Voyage Exhibit Launch” from the Hoosier Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recognizing Indiana’s best and brightest communicators for work completed in 2009.

affiliates in the news: week of jan 18

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines this week!

ARIZONA
Arizona State Museum (Tucson)
Hopi lecturer illuminates culture

CALIFORNIA
Wing Luke Asian Museum (Los Angeles)
4Culture funds local heritage and cultural facilities projects 

381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story

381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story. Photo by Don Cravens; courtesy Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego’s Natural History Museum recieves LEED certification

GEORGIA
High Museum of Art (Atlanta)
5 Ga. Art Museums Form Partnership
Georgia Art Museums Collaborate to Share Resources and Collections Across the State

MASSACHUSETTS
Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth)
Recycling at Plimoth Plantation

PENNSYLVANIA
The African American Museum in Philadelphia
“381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story” donated to the African American Museum in Philadelphia

National Civil War Museum Curator, Brett Kelley

National Civil War Museum Curator, Brett Kelley

National Civil War Museum (Harrisburg)
Man Lives Civil War Style

TEXAS
Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio)
Institute takes a look at ‘Race’

VIRGINIA
Birthplace of Country Music Alliance (Bristol)
Federal Funding Aids Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Center
$2.5 million allocated for Birthplace of Country Music Alliance museum/performance center