Today starts our final week of eight with the AmeriCorps NCCC River 7 Team at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa. River 7 is the third AmeriCorps NCCC Team our Museum has hosted since 2012. The three teams have operated in a unique partnership with the C.H. Nash Museum, the Westwood Neighborhood Association, and the T.O. Fuller State Park. The Team worked in the Westwood neighborhood with elderly homeowners to help with landscaping and structural repairs. At T.O. Fuller State Park the Team planted over 1000 trees and installed signage along the six miles of trail. At the C.H. Nash Museum, the Team helped reconfigure the museum’s library and repository and completed the refurbishment of a residential facility that will house future community service teams. The AmeriCorps NCCC River 7 Team also worked with employees from the newly constructed Electrolux plant who volunteered and provided economic support for the home repair projects in Westwood. Click here for additional information about the River 7 Team.
The AmeriCorps NCCC exemplifies the very positive role that millennials play in our country today. AmeriCorps partnerships with museums allow cultural institutions to live into one of their defining principles set forth by the International Council of Museums as “. . . institutions in the service of society and of its development.”
As the AmeriCorps NCCC River 7 Team gets ready to leave Memphis and head for their next eight-week round in West Virginia, I asked the nine Team Members and their Team Leader to explain why they joined AmeriCorps NCCC. Here are their responses.
My name is William Custus. I am 22 yrs old. I’m originally from Baltimore Maryland but I now live in Washington DC. I joined AmeriCorps NCCC on February 11th 2013. The reason I joined AmeriCorps is because I believe in making a difference in people’s lives, and shaping communities to become safer, smarter, and healthier.
Corbin Beastrom is a former college student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After three years in academia, he dropped out of a world defined by in-class essays, titular student government, and DC internships to embark on what he refers to as, “his first sabbatical.” Following graduation from AmeriCorps NCCC Corbin plans to lead a nomadic lifestyle comprised of graduate school, organic farming, and coffee.
My name is KT Ainsworth and I am 18 years old and from Bend, Oregon. During my junior year of high school, my dad received a heart and kidney transplant. The community took time out of their busy lives to help my family and make sure my siblings and I were cared for. Seeing just how much a community of people were able to positively affect a family’s life made me want to carry the kindness forward. That is why I joined AmeriCorps NCCC. Seeing the difference my team makes every single day is what pushes me to keep going. I love what I do and who I do it for.
My name is Kaneesha Frazier and I am from Columbus, Ohio. I joined AmeriCorps NCCC to help strengthen communities. I heard about AmeriCorps NCCC from my school Youth Build in Columbus and I plan to continue my college education in criminal justice upon completion of the NCCC program.
My name is Bobbie Keller, I am 19 years old and before AmeriCorps NCCC I lived in Long Beach, Mississippi. I was affected by hurricane Katrina in 2005 and ever since then I have had a desire to pay it forward. AmeriCorps NCCC is the perfect program for me, I get to travel and volunteer.
Hello my name is Raymond Smith. I am 19 years old and from Chicago Illinois. I joined AmeriCorps NCCC in February 2013. I joined because I heard that there was a program that helps communities in need and respond to disasters. I have a passion for helping others and to see that it makes me happy. I also joined to help change and decrease the crime rate by getting out into the communities setting an example for others so our world could become a better place.
My name is John Cipollo. I am 23 years old and I am from Bristol, Connecticut. I joined AmeriCorps NCCC because I wanted to give back to the community.
I am James Burks. Well my reason for attending AmeriCorps NCCC was to help others and at the same time better myself. I also was interested in the traveling to see and visit different places. I was born in Chicago, Illinois but moved to Park Forest, Illinois. I have other sisters and a brother, but I am the youngest of them all. I wanted to venture off and see what I can do with my life. I like all kinds of sports. I am 20 years old and I like to chill and have fun. I want to make a difference in our community and I plan to try my best to do that.
My full name is John Dale Hamburger III, and I am originally from Grand Island, Nebraska but for the past two years I have lived in Chadron, Nebraska going to Pine Ridge Job Corps. The reason I have come to AmeriCorps NCCC is due to the opportunity I have been presented to help others like when I was in Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Grand Island Senior High school. I feel great helping others and when something like AmeriCorps NCCC presented itself to me, I just couldn’t give it up so easily. Also cause I have always wanted to travel to other places and get to know others. Plus I can’t lie – I also did it for the College opportunity and I wanted to make a difference in my family by being the first person out of both sides of my family to finish a four-year college.
My name is Ana Rea and I was raised and had lived in Greenville, TX since the age of 9 and had never left my small town until I joined AmeriCorps NCCC. After attending Texas A&M-Commerce for a year I decided to take a break and really discover what it was that I wanted to do with my future. I am currently serving in my second year of AmeriCorps NCCC Southern Region as a Team Leader for River 7 and so far, I have been privileged enough to serve in the states of Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. I plan on continuing the path of service to others with an open mind and learning something new every day.
You can contact the AmeriCorps NCCC River 7 Team at - email@example.com
I will appreciate any feedback of interest or forwarding this call to others you think might be interested:
Call for Papers for the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology Meetings, April 24 – 27 Austin
Co-Creation, the Public and the Archaeological Record
Robert Connolly (University of Memphis) and Elizabeth Bollwerk (University of Virginia)
Co-creation in public archaeology is a means to engage and empower citizens to become stakeholders of the archaeological record. In museum contexts Simon (2010:278) writes that the purpose of co-creative community projects is “to give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals.” Co-creation moves beyond simple “hands-on” educational experiences because participants are invited to play an active role in designing and constructing the final products to address their needs and interests. We seek papers that explore the following questions from theoretical, methodological or case study perspectives:
• How can a co-creative approach enhance the presentation and preservation of public archaeological resources?
• What are the obstacles to co-creative projects? Can we develop a set of best practices associated with these types of projects? If so, what are they?
• How are co-creative projects different from field schools, or typical volunteer programs?
• How do co-creative projects fit with open authority models?
• How do co-creative projects lend themselves to user-generated digital and other resources?
• Are co-creative models a means to demonstrate the relevance of the archaeological discipline in an era of increased life-long, informal, and free-choice learning?
• How can co-creative projects have an adverse impact on archaeological resources?
• How can co-creative projects demonstrate the ability of archaeology to contribute to debates about contemporary issues and problems?
Those of you on Twitter may have already heard about the Day of Archaeology. But for those of you who haven't heard of it before, the Day of Archaeology is a communal blogging project which aims to give the public a better insight into the daily lives of archaeologists and heritage workers around the world. Once a year, archaeologists and archaeology students are invited to write about their exploits in the field, workplace or classroom and show that there's more to archaeology than just digging and ancient tombs.
As we head into the summer months archaeological sites and museums will see an increase in the number of visitors. Typically, the April to October period is the high visitation season for cultural heritage venues. Family visitation at regional cultural heritage institutions will increase as staycations remain popular. During this busy season the last thing on the mind of most cultural heritage professionals is advocacy. After all, the American Alliance of Museum (AAM) celebrates Advocacy Day in February and the Archaeological Institute of America‘s International Archaeology Day is not until late October.
However, perhaps the best time to gain public support for cultural heritage venues is during the time of greatest visitation. Consider the following:
- The families whose children take part in museum day camps and visit the summer field school excavations are the same people who will be voting in the November elections for officials who will decide the public funding for these institutions. Why should we not take advantage of telling the public about how their current and future tax dollars are needed to continue the services they are experiencing during their visit?
- Elected officials spend a good bit of August in their home district on summer recess. Last year the AAM promoted “Invite Your Representative to Your Museum Day.” We have four months remaining to plan for these events this year!
- As we all know advocacy works best as a year-long process institutionalized into our everyday operations. Our elected officials and the public need to know about the importance of our institutions, not just when we are in need of funds, but by building long-term relationships that extend throughout the year.
So how can we insert advocacy into our already packed summer schedules. Here are a few ideas:
- The AAM website has a great fact sheet on the importance of cultural heritage venues as integral components of today’s economic, educational, and entertainment engines. Consider inserting relevant information from this sheet or link the entire document to your newsletter, website, or Facebook page.
- Create an Economic Impact Statement and Educational Impact Statement that highlights the role your cultural heritage institution plays in your local economy. Here are some samples provided by the AAM including our own from the C.H. Nash Museum.
- Speak Up For Museums by Gail Ravnitzky Siberglied is the best single source I have found on advocacy for a broad range of cultural heritage applications. The book is loaded with effective projects from simple five-minute tasks to complex programs on advocacy. I use this text to create projects for graduate students in my Museum Practices seminar. For example, here is an advocacy inventory that Ashley Foley Dabbraccio completed for a Memphis area museum.
- Today we understand that advocacy is not just for the marketing, government affairs or public relations departments. Rather, advocacy is also the responsibility of the exhibit designer, field director, docent, and field school student. Nearly 30 years ago during my first field school experience the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis told her students that “If you cannot explain to the visitor why their tax dollars should go to support these excavations or keep the Fort Ancient site open, you might as well go home.” Sound advice then and today.
How do you make advocacy a part of your everyday operation?
A few months ago I posted a Museum Practices seminar student, Leila Hamdan’s response to the following question:
Put yourself in the position of John or Josephine Q. Public. In the current economic chaos, the bank is foreclosing on their home, they have lost their jobs, and the city just reduced their public services. In referring to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the House Budget Committee recently arguedthat “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Isn’t your research or the position you aspire to as a museum professional just another example of this wealth transfer? What do John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars that fund your research/position?
Since that time, I have asked these questions of my students more often in both formal and informal settings. I believe that the ability to articulate the relevance of cultural heritage professionals to the issues facing our country today is critically important. The essay below is a portion of the written comprehensive exam answer to my questions for University of Memphis Anthropology Graduate Student Mallory Bader. For her practicum project in Anthropology, Mallory coordinated last fall’s AmeriCorps Team project at the C.H. Nash Museum. As well, for the past two years, she served as a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum. And I should add, today Mallory successfully passed her written and oral comprehensive exams for her M.A. degree in Anthropology at the University of Memphis. Below is Mallory’s answer to the above question:
Our world is rapidly changing due to globalization and modernization. Cities are shifting, economies are collapsing, and violence threatens us daily. Citizens often question the value of museums and the government entities that support them such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is often said that museums are places for the elite, making these taxpayer-funded organizations doing a wealth transfer. However, I would argue that this is not true. Museums have historically been viewed as places for the elite, but that model is shifting towards a new museum that is more participatory and engaging. Additionally, museums offer many services to the public that do not benefit only the elite or wealthy citizens, such as educating youth and protecting natural resources. As an emerging museum professional, my work in museums is not a wealth transfer and the benefits that John and Josephine Q. Public get for their tax dollars are immense and real.
The shift of demographics in America has been reflected in museums. The United States is now a majority-minority population and is becoming more diverse daily. In museums, people of color and low socio-economic status have not always felt welcome due to the stigma of museums as places for the elite. However, many programs have been instituted that are shifting the visitation of museums. The Center for the Future of Museums publishes a state of museums article that details the various ways museums are reaching out to increasingly diverse audiences. Museums are adding front-line staff that speak multiple languages, offering free or reduced admission to visitors receiving public assistance, conducting outreach into areas that have historically not been museum visitors, and many other things. This is one way that museums are not simply enjoyed by people of higher income.
As an emerging museum education professional, my job is to educate youth and adults on a variety of topics. Similar to a teacher, I must provide an engaging and stimulating learning environment that builds on core curriculum standards. As a museum educator, I feel that my job is a public servants job, just like a teacher would be. In addition, I would argue that other museum professionals such as collections managers are also public servants by protecting the natural and cultural resources of our nation.
Although at this time, I do not know where my career will end up in museums, I can say with certainty that my position is not just another example of this wealth transfer. At Chucalissa, I have provided quality educational programming to thousands of students in my two years at the museum. John and Josephine Q. Public directly benefit from this through having students graduate more prepared, more engaged, and ready to enter the workforce. In addition, I have assisted with community outreach projects that help with community development projects that make Memphis a better and healthier place to live. My future career in museums is not set, but my plans include projects similar to the ones I have conducted at Chucalissa. In addition, my long-term goal is to operate a science museum that focuses on providing STEM education to underserved students. This will help to provide a better prepared workforce in our world that is increasingly reliant on technology. My partner in this project has a PhD in Materials Chemistry from CU-Boulder. Together, we have applied to the National Science Foundation for a Graduate School Innovation Challenge to present a model of service learning and outreach for STEM education through museums.
Both she and I have been committed to justifying our positions as researchers at taxpayer funded institutions by engaging in outreach during our careers. These are the various ways in which my position and research within museums are benefiting John and Josephine Q. Public
Mallory can be contacted at mbader(at)memphis.edu
I have thought a good bit about volunteering lately, in part because of the evolution in how this process works at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa. I posted before about our Museum’s irregular staff that includes a range of volunteers, student interns, and community service participants. In the past year we saw a stagnation in our traditional once-a-month type volunteer program but a radical growth in the other components of our “irregular staff” category. For example, our traditional Volunteer Saturdays now have a more modest attendance than two years ago. At the same time, in 2012 the real hours contributed at Chucalissa by the total of these irregular staff continued to increase (@8500) and exceeded that of the regular staff (@8000).
The entry for volunteering at Wikipedia provides some insights on the shift we are seeing. The entry notes that volunteering:
is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity produces a feeling of self-worth and respect; however, there is no financial gain. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work . . .
What I like about this entry is that the very essence of the action is focused on the volunteer and not the agency. That is, in the case of museums the institution is meeting the need and providing a service for the volunteer. Intuitively, that understanding seems to flip the traditional concept of volunteers as those providing the service. However, the institution being the provider in the service relationship is the essence of the Participatory Museum. This understanding is stated in the opening paragraph in a recent article on volunteers:
To begin, we start with a question: If there were an opportunity for an unlimited number of paid staff at museums would we still recruit volunteers to assist in collections work? In this paper we answer that question with a resounding yes. In fact, we suggest that with increased paid staff, the quantity of volunteers should increase as well. We base this assessment in recognizing the shift of museums from being collections driven to centering on the visitor experience (Anderson 2004:2-5), an educational approach that is constructivist (Hein 2006:347-349) and that acknowledges the role of free-choice learning (Falk and Dierking 2002). (R.P. Connolly & N.B. Tate, 2011,Volunteers and Collections as Viewed from the Museum Mission Statement. Collections, 7(3), p. 325-346)
The flipping of roles makes the museum responsible for addressing the public needs whose cultural heritage the museum presents and preserves. In this capacity, it becomes incumbant upon the museum to provide opportunities for volunteering that align with how the public organize their volunteering capacity.
Besides the traditional, consider a few of the other types of volunteers we now serve at the C.H. Nash Museum:
- Avocational Organizations – I previously posted about the work of Memphis Archaeological and Geological Society. Also, for nearly ten years the Southwind Garden Club has planted seasonal floral arrangements at the museum. In a two-year effort, the Club created an arboretum at the site with plans for expansion in the coming months. Over a similar period, the Friends of Chucalissa provided integral support in coordinating special events and fundraising for the Museum. Particularly as the public pursuit of informal lifelong learning continues to grow, avocational and social groups will expand their outreach for volunteering opportunities.
- Scout Youth Groups – Through both regular volunteer service activities and program requirements, Boy and Girl Scout groups have built, painted, or maintained a variety of facilities, both large and small at our Museum. We maintain a regular list of possible projects for these groups to choose from. As youth discretionary time becomes more structured with a host of competing activities, we might expect that youth groups will continue as a primary outlet to experience volunteering in the formative years.
- Community Service Learning – Through programs such as the University of Memphis Emerging Leaders, area high schools, alternative spring breaks, students at all levels take part in curriculum-based volunteer activities that last for anywhere from 2 hours to several days in length. This type of volunteering proved instrumental in creating our medicinal plant sanctuary, landscaping at the Museum, exhibit creation, and in community outreach/cleanup projects. Community service/learning continues to increase both informally and through formal educational curriculum with no evidence of reaching a plateau anytime soon.
The above examples can be less predictable than recruiting the traditional volunteer docent who will show up like clockwork every other Tuesday and Saturday. However, in the same way that to remain relevant to the public that we serve, museums are shifting more to family programs in response to the reduction in the school “field trip” experience, we must also provide new and creative volunteer opportunities that are relevant to the public needs.
Without a doubt, the most exciting conferences I have attended for the past two years are the Volunteer Tennessee Annual Meetings that explores many of these possibilities. I will post about one of my favorites, the The Corporation for National and Community Service, separately.
What innovations have you incorporated into your volunteer programs?
This week’s post is an interview with Kimberley Popetz, the Director of Education at Maryland’s Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. Kim directs an innovative, intensive and engaging volunteer and public outreach program at her Park and Museum. I found Kim’s interview responses very informative on multiple levels. The breadth of Kim’s career path is informative for today’s cultural heritage professional. Kim’s work also exemplifies the interdisciplinary potential of archaeology and museum studies. The Jefferson Patterson program demonstrates the value of long-term development with a diversity of public engagement. And if you want to experience the very essence of a Participatory Museum, read Kim’s answer to the last interview question below!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your responsibilities at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum?
My goal when graduating from school was to find a job that would let me teach about archaeology outside of a classroom. When looking for that job, a kind soul who interviewed me said that I had more education experience than any other candidate. But, while I had a Master’s degree in anthropology, I had no practical experience in archaeology so they couldn’t hire me. I set out to fix this discrepancy by landing CRM jobs while also working in museums part-time. After working in CRM for many years, I turned my attention fully to the museum world and succeeded in reaching my goal when I obtained my current position.
Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum (JPPM) is Maryland’s State Museum of Archaeology. As Director of Education I oversee the planning and implementation of our public and school programs including our Discovering Archaeology, Tidewater Lifeways and Kids’ Work programs; assist in exhibit development; develop and run long and short-term outreach programs in the local schools; develop and promote our traveling trunks program; assist with public events, speaker series and workshops; and create and run our docent program. Because we have a fairly small staff I also oversee visitor services and do development work to support my programs.
How are volunteers recruited and retained in your public archaeology programs?
Odd as it may seem from the outside, I don’t run the public archaeology program at the museum. The land for our facility was donated because of the large number of archaeological sites contained on it—we have approximately 70 known archaeological sites dating from 9,000 years ago through the early 20th century. Because of this we have someone on staff dedicated to running the public excavations as well of supervising any other sort of excavation on Park land. His name is Ed Chaney and here’s how he answered this question:
We use archaeology volunteers in two different ways, so there are two answers to this question. For our formal, two-month long, annual Public Archaeology Program, we recruit volunteers in many ways. We advertise on our website, in the newsletter of the Archeological Society of Maryland, in local newspapers, and in the outreach material produced for Maryland’s Archeology Month each April. We generate flyers that are distributed at our Visitor Center and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab, located on JPPM grounds), at special events, and at local libraries, etc. We get positive word-of-mouth advertising – for example, on home-school websites. As for retaining these volunteers (and really, we think of them more as participants in an educational program than as strictly volunteers), we mainly work at giving them a quality experience. Because the program has been running since 1996, we have developed a core of certain groups – camps, classes, etc. – that return year after year, and this also holds true for some families and individuals. Every year we also have many new participants who join us for a single day to see what archaeology is all about.
During the rest of the year outside of the Public Archaeology Program, the MAC Lab uses a small number of volunteers. That number is kept low because we have a limited amount of work appropriate for volunteer assistance. We recruit these volunteers through announcements in the newsletter of the Archeological Society of Maryland, and through the efforts of the JPPM Volunteer Coordinator. As a general rule, we try to find off-season volunteers who have already done archaeology before, or who are college student working on a degree in an archaeology-related field. For those who don’t meet those criteria, we encourage them to participate in the summer Public Archaeology Program so they can figure out if they really are interested in archaeology, and so we can evaluate if they will be able to help us the rest of the year. To retain off-season volunteers who are doing a good job for us, we invite them to staff events (such as our luncheons and holiday parties) and to the annual JPPM Volunteer Awards dinner, and we try to work with them to find projects that are both interesting to them and beneficial to us.
One of your public archaeology projects involved high school students using curated collections to create exhibits for public libraries and museums. How did you recruit students for this project?
We’ve been working for over three years with a local high school teacher’s archaeology class. Jeff Cunningham’s classes have researched and created three cell phone audio tours for JPPM on topics ranging from the Native Americans that used to inhabit the land along the Patuxent River in Maryland to the War of 1812. Last year he came to me and asked if I would be willing to help him create the content for a class called Historical Investigations. The idea for the class was to pull together a group of students really interested in history who wanted to gain deep knowledge about one or two specific historical moments as opposed to the broad overview they receive in their regular history classes. The students had to be invited to take the class by Jeff or recommended to him by another teacher or guidance counselor.
How has your Museum’s outreach to the general public evolved over the past few years?
More and more we’ve come to recognize that we have to work much harder to involve the local community. We’ve been focusing on creating a wider variety of programs that appeal to a broader spectrum of the public. Our marketing coordinator has really stepped up her efforts to make sure the community is aware of our offerings both by taking advantage of the various social media out there but also by reaching out more to local groups and creating word of mouth advertising. We’ve made large strides in making our facility welcoming and open on a more regular basis than in the past, and we’ve begun collaborating regularly with other community players to create exhibits and presentations that go to the people, instead of asking them to come to us. Lastly, we work hard to listen to what the community needs and wants before creating programs so that we know that we’re filling a gap.
Having said all of this, I think the biggest way we’ve drawn in the wider community is actually through our project based school programs. We celebrate the student’s achievements with openings that showcase their hard work and bring relatives, friends and community members who were involved in the process to our site. Because we’re fairly isolated on a small peninsula, we often get comments at these events about how wonderful the facility and grounds are and how folks didn’t know we were here, but will definitely be back.
What do you consider your most successful recent efforts in public outreach or community engagement?
In a little less than a month, I hope that I’ll be able to say that the final project for the current high school class will be one of our most successful efforts. In October, we presented the students with the opportunity to document and present objects that haven’t been touched since their excavation in 1980. At that time, a new Federal Reserve Bank was under construction in Baltimore, MD. Construction crews began uncovering multiple archaeological features and archaeologists were called in to salvage the information about a Baltimore neighborhood that had long since been destroyed. It was a wet cold February when the archaeologists were called in and they were given no more than two months to save what they could before the construction equipment went back to work. Over twenty features were uncovered and the documentation and artifacts associated with those features has sat untouched until now.
As the state repository for artifacts, we’ve had this collection sitting on our shelves for over a decade (our collection storage wasn’t built until the mid-90s and state collections were housed in multiple locations all over the state up to that point) but haven’t had the manpower to do any sort of research. Patricia Samford, the Director of the MAC Lab, chose one feature, a privy, for the students to examine. They have cataloged all of the artifacts, researched the neighborhood, looked at maps, visited the National Archives for more extensive assistance, mended artifacts and done minimum vessel counts among other things. They have each chosen an artifact or aspect of the site for further research and they will be the authors of the final report on the feature that will be archived along with the collection. They are currently designing an exhibit to share with the community what they’ve learned. The exhibit will be on display in our local public library for 10 weeks beginning in May. We’ll launch the exhibit with a party open to the community, to celebrate what they have accomplished.
How has the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum incorporated social media and a “virtual” presence in public outreach and education?
Two years ago we launched a section of our website devoted to kids in hopes of making archaeology more accessible to people who can’t make it to our physical site but wanted to learn more. We offered prizes to encourage people to offer feedback and make the pages better. We also have a Pinterest page where you can see things related to all different aspects of the facility. In a couple of weeks we’re planning to use the Pinterest page as part of a professional development workshop for teachers by asking them to submit new ideas for teaching elementary students about the War of 1812 that others can use in their classrooms. We use our Facebook page to promote programs and events at our site but also to pass along articles, blog posts and other information we think our followers would find interesting. We love to see the photos that visitors post after attending a program, event, or just visiting the grounds. We also have a Facebook page.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned over the years with the volunteer program?
I created our 10 week training course for our docents and have found them to be some of the most interesting and enthusiastic people. I have learned so much from them that it’s hard to distill it down to one or two ideas. I would say that museum staff should really take the time to listen to their volunteers. Every year we have a wrap up meeting at the end of our busy fall season. We provide a homemade dinner for all of the docents and then ask them to give us some tough love and let us know what worked and what didn’t work and how we can make the docent program work better for them. We also ask for their input on our programming and events and what they would like to see in the future. Their answers often surprise me and allow me to see what we do in a different light. We try to follow up on as much of their feedback as possible. Some of the ideas they suggest aren’t workable because of various time or physical constraints, but we have had some great successes following through on other ideas.
What do you consider to be the biggest obstacle in developing effective educational outreach?
Finding the staff time and funding to execute a program well. Compared to many small museums, I have a big staff—three full time educators plus myself. But we have a commensurately large program and have been pushing ourselves to offer and do more every year. Making time to find funding that could potentially bring on additional staff is the only way I can see right now to expand our offerings into new areas without cutting some of the programming we already do. We did this recently when we created a new traveling trunk called Through the Perilous Fight—Life during the War of 1812. The funding we received allowed us to hire a curriculum writer to develop the lessons that travel with the objects in the trunk and guided our decisions on what to include while saving us from devoting hours to curriculum development in-house. The trunks are now available for teachers throughout the state of Maryland to rent at a nominal cost, expanding our reach while not appreciably expanding the amount of staff time needed to maintain the program.
None of this is revolutionary in any way. But staying on top of the planning and grant cycles so that we can launch these types of outreach projects is a constant struggle for most educators.
Do you have any words of wisdom for archaeological and museum professionals to enhance their outreach work?
Do as much as you absolutely can to find out what your community wants and needs. If your programming is created because you think it’s a good idea it may or may not work. But if your programming is created to address a need in your community, especially one that has been voiced by community members, it will almost certainly succeed.
Kim can be contacted at kpopetz(at)mdp.state.md.us