Tag Archives: George Washington University

Engaging Places is Expanding its Vision

GWU-or-SHA.jpgThis year has been incredibly busy for me, so much so that I’ve been unable to share many of the ideas that I’ve discovered in my travels to historic sites across America through this blog. Along with my active consulting practice, I’ve recently agreed to become the director of Developing History Leaders @SHA and an assistant professor in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University (GWU).  Both positions were announced at the same time at the beginning of the year and because they were both attractive opportunities, I applied for both, thinking it was like submitting an application to IMLS and NEH and assuming only one or none would be funded.  I hit the jackpot when both came my way and I’m thrilled about the opportunities.  I’m already at work with SHA in November and teaching at GWU starting in January 2018.

As my friends and colleagues learn about this big change in my career, Continue reading

Corcoran Dismantlement Offers Lessons for Museums and Sites

Corcoran 2014The recent news that the Corcoran in Washington, DC, will be mostly dissolved and its parts distributed to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and George Washington University (GWU) is generating lots of discussion on whether this is a good thing or not, and who should take the credit or blame.  For those unfamiliar with the Corcoran, it’s an unusual museum because it’s a combination of art gallery and art college.  Students use the art collection for study and inspiration, and the art gallery exhibits student and faculty artworks along with historic American paintings and sculpture, connecting past and present.  It’s a great approach for providing a rich environment for the study and appreciation of art for both students and the public.  Other museums have followed similar paths to create deeper places of learning, including the Henry Ford Museum with its charter school, the Academy of Natural Sciences in its merger with Drexel University, and the American Museum of Natural History offering a Masters of Arts in Teaching.  Yes, museums and historic sites can offer more than just an hour-long tour or a morning field trip.

The Corcoran was created in the Gilded Age, the era of the first major public museums.  Unlike its contemporaries such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran seems to have gone asleep in the mid-twentieth century and like Rip Van Winkle, it couldn’t wake up.  It made attempts to move out of its slumber, including Continue reading

Interpreting Historic Sites: a GWU version

This fall I’m teaching a graduate-level class on interpreting historic sites and house museums at George Washington University, which has one of the best museum studies programs in the nation (I can’t say THE best, because I attended the University of Delaware’s museum studies program).   Historic site interpretation is so popular at GWU that there are two classes:  one taught by me in the museum studies program and the other by Carol Stapp in the museum education program.  My class is focusing its work on Carlyle House, a mid-18th century house in historic Alexandria, Virginia.  Director Susan Hellman has graciously allowed my class examine its interpretation for the next few months and I’ll be sharing a few of those experience on this blog.

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I’ve significantly revised the syllabus for this fall, and because the readings form a core library on historic site interpretation, it might be useful as a bibliography of sorts to readers who are interested in this topic.  Three books are required for the course, including Interpreting Historic House Museums, edited by Jessica Foy Donnelly (Altamira, 2002).  It’s more than a dozen years old but Continue reading

Challenges and Opportunities Facing Historic Sites and House Museums

This fall I’ll be teaching the historic site and house museum interpretation class in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University.  Department Chair Kym Rice graciously offered me this opportunity earlier this summer and I couldn’t resist.  I’ve been impressed by the caliber of GW students and I count many of their graduates among my friends and colleagues.  Today is the first class and participating are fifteen graduate students, mostly in museum studies with a handful from history and anthropology.  We will  have some fun discussions!

During the next few months, I’ll share my experiences with you and I thought I’d start by laying out the initial readings for the course, which focus on the opportunities and challenges in interpreting historic sites.  It was hard to pick and choose among Continue reading

Amelia Wong Joins Museum Studies Faculty at GWU

Amelia Wong, currently the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s senior social media strategist, will be joining the fulltime faculty of the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University this fall as an assistant professor. Amelia holds a BA from UCLA in history and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. Amelia’s scholarship focuses on how museums, especially those concerned with democratization, can engage critically with technology for their goals. Her dissertation, “Museums, Social Media, and the Fog of Community,” reflects her research interests and
is the first book-length project about social media in American museums.

At the Holocaust Museum, the Twitter community has grown from 2000 to over 100,000 people under her direction. Amelia also developed and produced an ongoing Web series, “Curators’ Corner,” which gives the public, donors and others an inside look at the
museum’s collections via short multimedia presentations narrated by museum staff. During her first year at the museum, Amelia proposed, Continue reading