Video: We Are Museums 2014 (Warsaw, Poland)

This 3:45 video gives a quick overview of We Are Museums, a two-day international conference on innovation and creativity within museums.  Hosted by the National Gallery of Art and the State Ethnographic Museum, it combines workshops, exhibitions, and presentations.  Presenters included Seb Chan of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and Sarah Hromack of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Recent Articles on Historic Sites You May Have Missed

Stack of JournalsKnowing that most people working at historic sites don’t have access to an academic library, I thought I’d share a few articles around some major topics that caught my eye.  This is not a thorough review of the last 18 months, just a casual glance backward to highlight some studies that relate to the preservation, management, and interpretation of historic sites and house museums.

More Professors are Combining Local History and Service Learning to Engage Students

Henthorn, Thomas C. “Experiencing the City: Experiential Learning in Urban Environments.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 3 (2014): 450-461.

Henthorn describes various student experiences to engage them in history, including a course on American urban history that combines an historical study of Flint, Michigan with an off-campus service learning project and a collections internship in automotive heritage at the Sloan Museum.

He concludes by finding that, “experience and place combine to prepare students for active citizenship.  This is arguably the most difficult to instill among students and in the same way one class will not change students understanding of a subject, one experience will not awaken in students a sense of civic responsibility.  At the very least, by linking the classroom with the community, students learn to respond creatively to critical issues confronting them.  But active citizenship requires Continue reading

Online Learning Opportunities for Historic Site Interpreters

The opportunities for sharpening your skills as an historic site interpreter continue to grow online, sometimes even for free.  Here are a sampling of a few non-degree granting organizations where you’ll find workshops and classes on the Internet to keep your thinking fresh and improve your technique.  All times are Eastern unless noted.

American Alliance of Museums

  • Embracing 360 Engagement, Widening the Circle.  September 2, 2014 at 2:00 pm Eastern.
  • Building Trust through High Performance, Becoming Essential.  December 3 at 2:00 pm.

American Association for State and Local History

  • Historic House Calls: Using Futures Thinking to Navigate Ongoing Change.  August 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm. Free for AASLH members.
  • Writing the Grant: What’s the Process Like?  August 27 at 3:00 pm.  $115; $40 members.


Continue reading

Video: Museum of Water at Somerset House

This is a 2:38 amateur video documenting the “Museum of Water,” an unusual “live artwork” by Amy Sharrocks at the historic Somerset House, a new arts and culture center in London.

A melted snowman. Droplets from a baby’s bath. Sacred draughts from an Indian river. Just some of the items donated to London’s newest museum. In the atmospheric underground spaces of Somerset House, Amy Sharrocks invites you to consider our relationship with the most precious liquid the world has to offer.

Video: The Ragtrade: The Story of Flinders Lane

Melissa Rymer wrote, directed and produced this 14:50 video which was made in conjunction with an exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Australia. It is a small snapshot of some of the Jewish run businesses that operated out of Flinders Lane, the fashion district of Melbourne in the late 1940s through to the late 1980s.  It includes historic images intercut with oral histories of former employees and employers.

AASLH Annual Meeting in September Offers Lots for Historic Sites

Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul, an historic site of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul, an historic site of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Historic sites and house museums will find lots of educational sessions and workshops just for them at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History on September 17-20 in St. Paul, Minnesota (the right half of the Twin Cities).  There are more than 70 sessions and workshops offered this year, so I’m only highlighting a few to show the diversity of topics on or about historic sites:

  • Putting the Native American Voice into Historic Sites
  • Saving the Charnley Norwood House
  • Interpreting Religion at Historic House Museums
  • Two Very Different Historic Houses Ask:  We Got the Money–Now What?
  • Telling a Whole History:  Methods of Interpreting Domestic Servants
  • Welcoming All Visitors:  Accessible Programs at History Museums and Sites
  • Diversity and Inclusion:  What Does that Really Mean for Museums and Historic Sites?
  • Diversity in Education:  Teaching About Slavery, Innovative Strategies, and Best Practices
  • Making the Invisible Visible:  Using Mobile Technology to Reach New Audiences, Improve Accessibility, and Breathe New Life into a Virginia Historic Site
  • Redefining Success:  Tips and Techniques for Training Interpreters to Talk About Slavery
  • They Can’t All be Museums
  • Pocket Change:  Moving a House Museum into the 21st Century on a Budget

Of course, there are many more sessions that address related topics, such as boards, fundraising, Continue reading

Video: Happy 4th from Philadelphia

In this 1:39 video, Historic Philadelphia features Benjamin Franklin and a dozen living history actors dancing to Pharrel William’s “Happy” on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. Dozens of ongoing and special events will take place on and around Independence Mall over Independence Week and the summer and this video shows the fun and lively side of its history.  It was produced by Historic Philadelphia, Inc. (@HistoricPhilly), Independence Visitor Center (@PHLVisitorCntr), National Constitution Center (@ConstitutionCtr), Visit Philadelphia (@VisitPhilly), and Independence National Historical Park (@INDEPENDENCENHP). More information is available at   Thanks to Sandy Lloyd for sharing this video.

How Museums Can Optimize Revenue Through Dynamic Pricing

pricing-productsOptimizing revenue by increasing pricing for special exhibits or peak times (e.g. weekends) is widely adopted in the performing arts (e.g., matinee vs evening performances at the theater) but rarely used by museums.  A few museums, however, are beginning to experiment with dynamic or demand-based pricing to maximize their revenues.   For example, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art increased their price $2 for the last four weeks they were open before renovation began and received no complaints.  In 2008, the EMP Museum dropped its admission fee from $30 to $15 and it did not affect visitation, so in 2011 they increased prices and in 2013 they moved to 2013 to dynamic pricing. During the last 3 weeks, they earned an additional $15,000.

In “What Price is Right?”, a session at the recent AAM annual meeting, Heather Calvin (Museum of Science), Jill Robinson (TRG Arts), and Jessica Toon (EMP Museum) discussed how museums can use demand-based pricing strategies to set admission prices, service fees, discounts, and membership dues.  It was a wide-ranging presentation so I’m sharing the highlights here to Continue reading

Video: Vacant Not Blighted: Revitalizing Detroit

This 4:12 video by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network shows that preservation and rehabilitation are much more effective than demolition to address “blight” in Detroit. The video was created in Mindfield and features a host of interesting people across the city working on rehab projects from firehouses to garages, homes to schools.  Thanks to Jay Vogt for telling me about this video.

Are Bloggers Mostly Educators?

Museum bloggers converse over morning coffee at AAM 2014.

Museum bloggers converse over morning coffee at AAM 2014.

Blogging is a new form of communication, often falling somewhere between professional journalism and personal journaling.  There are lots of people who love museums and historic sites, and they’ve spawned lots of blogs devoted exclusively to them (including this one).  To give you a sense of this specialized blogosphere, Jamie Glavic at Museum Minute has conducted more than seventy (70!) interviews with museum bloggers.

Last month at the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting in Seattle, Jamie convened an informal gathering of a dozen museum bloggers to meet and chat about their work over morning coffee.  I wasn’t able to catch everyone’s name, but the conversation included Rowanne Henry of Museum Stories, Chris O’Connor of the Royal BC Museum, Ed Rodley of Thinking About Museums, Jennifer Foley of Runs with Visitors, Scott Tennent at Unframed, Annelisa Stephan at the Getty Museum, and Kellian Adams at Green Door Labs.

I noticed that most of them were educators, not curators, conservators, collections managers, or administrators, which launched a discussion about the circumstances that seem to be creating this social media distinction in the museum field, including:

  • curators and conservators don’t consider blogging as scholarship; it’s not regarded equal to an article or exhibit catalog for measuring job performance or professional development.
  • blogs provide a place where educators can be heard and voice their opinions; curators dominate conversations in museums
  • blogs require a different type of writing; curators use a language couched in academia, which usually isn’t suitable for blogs
  • blogging isn’t a priority for the organization
  • blogging doesn’t work well in the institutional culture of museums; blogging requires some comfort with risk and letting go

What do you think? Does the cultural divide between educators and curators continue online? Are the distinctions around museum blogging accurate and true? Share your thoughts in the comments below.