Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Month: May 2011 (page 2 of 4)

AASLH Book Series Survey

Very cool news from AASLH – read through the whole thing, take a few minutes to do their survey, and you might win a great prize!

For over 40 years, the AASLH Book Series ( <> ) has been a primary source of professional support for historical organizations large and small. On behalf of AASLH and AltaMira Press, our publishing partner, we are contacting you now in the hope that you will take a few minutes to complete the brief survey at so that we can serve you even better in the future by publishing books on topics of key interest to you.

Everyone who submits a completed survey will be eligible to win a gift certificate toward free books from the AASLH series. We’ll select 1 first prize winner, 2 second prize winners, and 3 third prize winners.

First prize: $200 worth of free books
Second prize: $100 worth of free books
Third prize: $50 worth of free books

In order to be eligible, you must supply name and contact information. Should you choose to remain anonymous, we still welcome your feedback

First Lady Michelle Obama Joins IMLS to Launch “Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens”

I’m going to post a recent press release I received from AASLH, and then pose a few questions at the end of it. It’s a really interesting initiative that deserves some good thought.

First Lady Michelle Obama Joins IMLS to Launch Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens

For more information, visit: Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens

May 23, 2011

Houston, TX—Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Susan Hildreth announced the launch of Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens. The national initiative will provide opportunities for millions of museum and garden visitors to learn about healthy food choices and will promote physical activity through interactive exhibits and programs.

Mrs. Obama, addressing museum conference attendees in Houston, Texas via video message, said, “Everyday, in museums, public gardens, zoos, and so many other places, you expose our children to new ideas and inspire them to stretch their imaginations. You teach them new skills and new ways of thinking. And you instill a love of learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Every day, you all make such a difference in the lives of our children. And that’s why I’m so excited to work with you on an issue that is so critical to their health and well-being.”

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.

“Museums and gardens are well positioned to make a difference. Many of them have core missions that focus on creating healthy environments for children and their families,” said Susan Hildreth, director of IMLS.” They are trusted institutions with deep community connections, knowledgeable staff and the ability to provide immersive interactive experiences that can help children, parents and caregivers to make healthy changes in their lives.”

Developed in coordination with national museum and garden leaders, Let’s Move Museums & Gardens will sign up 2,000 museums and gardens and reach 200 million visitors in the next year. The initiative aims to reach out to and engage twenty million young people in one year in Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens education programs. Activities will include interactive exhibits, afterschool, summer programming and cafeterias that help educate young people on how to make healthy food choices and be physically active. In addition, Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens aims to offer healthier choices in 90% of existing facilities.

Museums and gardens that wish to become a Let’s Move! Museum or a Let’s Move! Garden, are encouraged to visit

The initiative was originally developed though a collaboration among the American Association of Museums, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the American Public Gardens Association, and has now been broadened to include, the Association of African American Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, Association of Science-Technology Centers, American Association for State and Local History, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Center for the Future of Museums.

“The American Public Gardens Association is a natural fit for this initiative because public gardens provide families with indoor and outdoor spaces where they can engage in physical activity, interact with nature, and learn about the important role of plants in a healthy lifestyle,’ said Dan Stark, Executive Director, American Public Gardens Association.” We feel privileged to be a part of this exciting initiative, and hope to inspire a generation of healthy, active, gardeners.

Janet Rice Elman, Executive Director, Association of Children’s Museums noted, “Children’s museums are places where children learn through play and exploration in environments designed just for them. The interactive learning at children’s museums motivates children to try new experiences with their families and reinforces positive behaviors and messages that can lead to lifelong healthy habits. The Association of Children’s Museums is pleased to bring its network of more than 300 museums to this important initiative.”

Ford W. Bell, President, American Association of Museums applauded First Lady Michelle Obama and IMLS Director Susan Hildreth for their leadership on this issue and encouraged museums of all types to learn more and get involved.” Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens is a terrific example of the role that museums can play in addressing societal challenges and devising strategies to shape a better tomorrow.”

Museums and gardens have great collective power to reach children and their families with important health messages. There are more than 17,500 museums in the United States and they reach an estimated 850 million people each year. Museums and gardens that wish to become a Let’s Move! Museum or a Let’s Move! Garden, are encouraged to visit

Click here to visit the IMLS Website for more information and the full Press Release.

So, a few questions:

1) Museums aren’t typically considered places where kids are encouraged to move in a way that would qualify as meaningful exercise. Should this change? The First Lady and the Director of IMLS, Susan Hildreth, both speak quite eloquently about museums as learning spaces and healthy environments, and I think few would argue with that, but how can that learning and healthfulness be applied to this specific problem?

2) There’s a lot of talk lately about museums tackling community issues. Should something like this be part of a museum’s mission? How can, say, an art museum encourage kids to pursue more exercise? Or is this initiative best suited for the “making healthy choices” part of the initiative’s mission?

3) I hate to say this, but – is this simply a way to get museums in on a popular issue? Does it come organically out of their mission, or is tacked on?

(I am ambivalent about all of those points, I hasten to say – I just think we need to keep asking these questions!)

New Series: Online Learning Reviews: Wellesley College Davis Museum

It’s a week for new occasional series! This spring, students in the Museums and Online Learning class, taught by Cynthia Robinson, wrote short reviews of various online learning opportunities. We are lucky enough to be publishing them here on the TMSB. They’ll appear over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out. Posts will appear under their authors’ names, or anonymously.

Wellesley College’s Davis Museum:

This Alumna Tells All

It may or may not surprise you that the Davis online collection was not the most memorable aspect of my four years at Wellesley. Perhaps I was too busy when I was there to give it a fair chance. However, upon some investigation, the verdict is clear: the collection’s website is about as impressive as Tuesday night leftovers in the dining halls.

The online collection is separated into the same thematic groupings used at the museum itself. These include, “Perceiving Space in Art,” “The Artist as Curator: Kiki Smith,” “American Art,” and “Stories, Ideals, Beliefs.” If they sound compelling, it’s probably because they are, however grouping them in such a way online seems counterproductive to the purpose of the online collection. Surely in person the collection ought to invite discussion about the art based on theme, but if I’m browsing the site for examples of East Asian art for a paper, within this framework it’s not exactly clear where to start.

For a self professed “academic fine arts museum,” I was also expecting that their online collection might include more resources, perhaps by class subject, or professors’ interests. There are podcasts offered on various subjects, but they fall short when it comes to real research potential. If I’m trying to write that paper on East Asian art, it’s likely that I would want to write it on a piece that I know is in the collection. However, without any research guides, or ability to browse by region or culture, I could see myself pulling an all-nighter hunting for that perfect example. I guess I know it’s not in “American Art,” right…

… Oh wait, I can’t know for sure, because when I click on a link to each theme, I get sent to a brief description of the gallery or exhibition, where I have the option of clicking on various related podcasts. While they range in content from professor lectures, to student responses, to linked art projects, none of them tell me about what art might be found in that gallery.

To try and do that, I click on “Search the Collections,” where I am succinctly informed:

“Images featured in the Davis Museum Collections Database are low-resolution thumbnails, intended for quick reference and limited use.”

And, in case you were wondering, indeed they are.  Too small to see any details, and without any information to further my research, the collection’s use is certainly limited.

Wellesley is my beloved alma mater, and so at least I can say this: the Wellesley experience is much better appreciated by views of the lake, Sundae’s on Sunday, and seeing the collection in person.

New Series: Awesome Tufts Internships

We’re starting a new occasional series here at the TMSB (yes, that’s what I’m calling it now). We’ll be sharing some of the great internships that Tufts students are heading off to this summer, and over the following year.

First up is Rebecca Barber, who’s finishing her Museum Studies certificate this summer and fall with a sweet internship at the Peabody Essex Museum. Here’s what she has to say:

This summer I will be interning at the Peabody Essex Museum in their conservation department. I met Mimi Leveque, a mummy conservator, through an interview on a project I did through collections care and management class. She offered my an internship all the way back in November, was very helpful, and very hospitable. I am starting next week and will be working on cleaning and restoring furniture from the Ropes Mansion (previously had a fire in 2008). In addition, I will be helping cleaning and restoring objects in the Asian,  Maritime and Export exhibits. Pretty much I will be assisting Mimi Leveque with many pieces of art and learning new conservation techniques as well as getting more hands on experience with the collection. I have no previous conservation experience and no collection’s experience so this is a good internship to be thrown into learning how to handle objects and conservation techniques right away.

Some Great Blogs for You

We’re always happy to showcase useful, interesting blogs for those interested in museums. Here’s a roundup of a few you might want to add to your regular reading list.

(There are  a couple of great ways to easily follow blogs you like, including ours; this post sums up your options.)

ArtDaily – Pointed out by Tufts alum Henry Lukas, this is a really good overview of…well, everything! Lots of information on lots of topics.

NEMA – Everyone’s favorite museum association has a blog! Only a few posts so far, but it promises to be a useful and interesting reading venue.

American Enterprise – This is a blog and a participatory experiment. The National Museum of American History is writing about its research process for a big new exhibit while inviting visitor comments on shaping that exhibit. Should be interesting to see how it goes!

Museum Audience Insight – We already knew these guys were fantastic – Susie Wilkening has been generous about sharing her time and brilliance with classes at Tufts for some time now. This blog is a cut above. They’re doing important, useful research about issues that matter to museums, and they’re sharing it with us!

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