Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Weekly Job Roundup

Communications and Administrative Coordinator – Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Executive Assistant to the Director, Boston Athenaeum (Boston, MA)

Program & Volunteer Coordinator, Canterbury Shaker Village (Canterbury, NH)

Events Coordinator, Seacoast Science Center (Rye, NH)

HR & Finance Associate, Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT)

Regional Site Administrator Northern New England, Historic New England (Portsmouth, NH)

Collection Specialist, Maine Maritime Museum (Bath, ME)

Collections Manager, Nantucket Historical Association (Nantucket, MA)

Community History Project Manager, Connecticut Historical Society (Hartford, CT)

Archives and Research Manager, Historic Beverly (Beverly, MA)

Project Archivist, South County History Center (Kingston, RI)

Curatorial Assistant, Colgate University (Hamilton, NY)

Education Manager, Connecticut River Museum (Essex, CT)

Museum Educator, Martha’s Vineyard Museum (Vineyard Haven, MA)

Education Manager, Amelia Park Children’s Museum (Westfield, MA)

Student and Program Manager, MassArt Art Museum (Boston, MA)

Memorializing and Teaching Tragedy

This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack that shaped the future of U.S. security regulations and international relationships. Though it is still a dark memory that haunts thousands of people today, the 20th anniversary of this event also unveils an obvious, yet still surprising truth: there are many students today who have no memory or connection to the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. This has put educators in a tough spot; teaching about 9/11 felt more like a conversation, an opportunity to mourn together and discuss personal connections to a tragedy. Nowadays, the conversation is less personal and more formal since that direct memory or connection is no longer guaranteed.

So how do we start that conversation? For me, the best place to look was the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. Learning about difficult histories is, for me, only made worse in the classroom. Classroom teaching has always been a cold, disconnected field in my experience as both an educator and a student. Museums, however, have been a warm place to surround yourself with stories rather than facts, personality rather than numbers. So, of course, when trying to figure out how to begin talking about September 11, 2001, I immediately turned to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

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9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum has an abundance of resources on its website. These resources include lesson plans for different age groups, recordings and information for public programming, and even collaborative activities that allow parents to approach the subject with their children in an age-appropriate manner. There are far too many resources available for me to delve into, so instead I am choosing to focus on one that I think is universal and emotional yet pragmatic: oral histories. Both online and in the museum, you can hear actual interviews with people like Lieutenant Adrienne Walsh, first responder to the World Trade Center, or Arturo Ressi, World Trade Center engineer. These oral histories transport audiences to those pivotal moments on September 11, 2001 and offer real perspectives on the events of that day. There is fear, anger, and hope; there is determination, leadership, and loss. To hear the voices of people so directly tied to a tragedy is an unforgettable experience that serves as a great starting point for learners of all ages.

I cannot recommend another resource for teaching about this difficult history that would be more inclusive or informative than the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. I have crawled through endless pages and hyperlinks available on their website and virtual programming, and I continue to hope that museums will serve as a forefront for making education easier and more connected for communities.

Dwelling in Possibility: The Emily Dickinson Museum

Emily Dickinson is a figure shrouded in mystery. We have her beautifully exultant poetry to give us clues about who she was — poetry that, curiously, she did not want published during her lifetime. She wrote many letters, but most of them were burned upon her death. She was a writer, but really didn’t leave behind much documentation. She is hard to get to know — making her a special challenge for a museum.

A young Emily Dickinson, via the Emily Dickinson Museum website.

Over the summer, as an assignment for the Revitalizing Historic Houses course, I interviewed Brooke Steinhauser, who is the Program Director at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. Out of a list of potential interviewees — all professionals in the field, all well-acquainted with experiencing the joys and solving the problems involved in historic house museum work — I chose her, having always had an interest in Emily Dickinson.

It was a great decision. Brooke was wonderful, so open and happy to answer all my questions. I really wanted to get at the heart of this issue: how do you teach a figure who was, famously, so private? How do you make her legacy come into focus, and present who she was in a clear, digestible way to visitors?

Brooke’s answers fascinated, surprised, and inspired me. She talked to me about how much Emily Dickinson means to so many people — and not all for the same reasons. Because there is so much we don’t know about her, there are many possible avenues of explanation, potential answers to the question “who was she, really?” This allows each and every visitor who walks into the Emily Dickinson home to come in with a slightly different Emily in their mind and heart.

Different people identify with Dickinson in varying ways. Her decision to become reclusive resonates with many, as it likely can be explained by mental illness. Or perhaps it was a physical illness or disability that led her to become such a private person. Or, as has been posited in more recent times to explain why she chose not to marry, maybe Dickinson was a gay woman. She is a symbol and an icon for numerous different groups of people because of all these possibilities.

There are many Dickinsons. According to Brooke Steinhauser, each is valid. She explained to me that because there are so few concrete answers about who Dickinson was, conversations at the museum can “dwell in Possibility” — which, of course, Dickinson herself espoused in one of her poems. Visitors can approach her with their own perspectives and ideas, and the museum can guide them in understanding why those answers to the questions about this woman make sense, while also presenting other possible answers. It is the job of the museum, Brooke said, to “complicate while celebrating” Dickinson’s legacy, and to hold visitors’ hands to that end, meeting them where they are in their own personal journeys with the poet.

The Emily Dickinson Museum — the place she called home.

Respecting what the subject of a museum means to each individual visitor is important. In the case of someone like Dickinson — about whom we have so few answers, only her art and the walls in which she lived — questions, uncertainties, and possibilities are okay. Not knowing all the answers is okay. This actually provides a unique and special opportunity to value the visitors’ own ideas and thoughts.

As a training historian, of course, I hold the truth very dear. It does matter, and museums are places where truth should be valued more than almost anywhere else; we have a responsibility to accurately inform the people who visit our sites, ready and expecting to learn. We owe that to them. But we also owe them our respect, our gentleness, our open minds, and the humble assertion that just because we work inside the museum, it doesn’t mean we have all the answers. We never can — not really.

We will probably never have all the answers about Dickinson. The museum’s mission statement promises to “spark the imagination by amplifying Emily Dickinson’s revolutionary poetic voice,” and by allowing its visitors to “dwell in Possibility,” it certainly fulfills that goal.

Dickinson means a lot to people. If her museum can spark their imaginations with possibilities about who all she may have been — just like her beautiful poetry has for over a century — I think that’s a definite win for the museum world, and something to be admired and aspired to by other institutions.

The Emily Dickinson Museum is closed for a major restoration project until spring of 2022, but their website has incredible resources and ways to explore. Check it out here.

Paid Internship at the Brooklyn Museum

For anyone interested in a fall semester internship, here is a great opportunity at the Brooklyn Museum! This could be a great option for museum studies students in their second year or beyond, especially those living and working in New York City. Applications are due on Wednesday (August 25th), so if you’re interested, be sure to submit your application right away!


The Brooklyn Museum Fall Internship is a part-time, paid opportunity. Interns receive $15 per hour, and work 17 hours per week for 10 weeks from late September through early December. Selected interns will be paired with a supervisor and integrated into one of our departments, participating fully in day-to-day workplace activities and projects with the guidance of full-time staff members. In addition to gaining extensive work experience, they will have the opportunity to attend weekly seminars together that focus on the role of museums in society today, and how they might imagine the future.

The application form can be found here, and questions can be directed to hannah.lawson@brooklynmuseum.org.

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