Learning from 100-year-old Museum Education

Check out this amazing story from the Sunderland Museum. In 1913, their curator came up with a program for blind visitors–adults and children–to let them explore objects. Architectural columns, historical gas masks, and scores of natural history specimens were included.

courtesy of Atlas Obscura

courtesy of Atlas Obscura

Make sure you scroll to the end of the article to see the clay models that the visitors made after their visit. Really incredible!

How is this different from what we do today?

Summer Reading, Anyone?

With summer classes at Tufts kicking off this week, we thought we’d offer a few suggestions for those of us who aren’t in class to keep up the good work. (Of course, our reading is all beach-worthy!)

This week’s recommendation is from Program Director, Cynthia Robinson:

Mary Kay Zuravleff’s fictitious but totally believable National Museum of Asian Art takes center stage in her funny and offbeat book, The Bowl Is Already Broken (2006). Zuravleff, who worked as an editor at the Smithsonian, used her insider’s knowledge to construct wickedly accurate depictions of the quirky but devoted people who work in museums and confront-or cause-many of the big and small issues that we discuss in “Museums Today.”

Looking for more books? Check out the “Read More” tab. We’re storing all the suggestions (summery and otherwise) right there.

Have a book you’d like to recommend? Email Phillippa at tuftsmuseumblog[at]gmail.com.

Museums in the News

Here’s our weekly round-up of our favorite things that were said about museums this week: the good, the bad, and the really quite strange!

But first, I was sad to hear of E.L. Konigsburg’s death this week. Her book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler made a huge impression on me as a kid and is still inspiring kids today. (I know, I led a Mixed-Up Files tour at the MFA earlier this year!) Read the NYTimes blog post here: The Legacy of an Author Lingers at the Met

Guest Post: Historic Houses as Holiday Rentals

by professor Kenneth C. Turino

Using historic houses as holiday rentals is nothing new in Europe. The National Trust of Britain, the Landmark Trust of Britain, and English Heritage among others rent historic properties from cottages to portions of castles. Here in the United States the idea has been slow to develop, but this is changing. Last October, my partner and I rented a Lockkeeper’s House on the C&O canal near Washington, D.C., operated by the C&O Canal Trust in partnership with the National Park Service, the owner of the building and the park it is in. The house was restored to a 1950′s appearance, with period furniture that could actually be used. Each of the 6 rental houses is restored to reflect a different aspect of the canal’s history.  What a wonderful way to experience the history of the area and the C&O canal. In the house, we found information on the house and canal and guide books on the history of the canal. We used one book on our walk along the canal into Georgetown. We learned a tremendous amount about the history of the canal as we enjoyed the perfect fall weather, along with the many people who were jogging, walking or bicycling on the towpath. That evening we invite about 20 friends to the house for a party. They explored the house, sat on the porch overlooking the canal, and enjoyed the ambiance. The next morning we left our comments in the guest book and were delighted to read about other people’s experience who came here to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and simply the atmosphere: “Thank you C&O Trust for restoring these historic houses and sharing them with sojourners who long to enjoy the vision and reality of this place birthed by the founders of our nation.” Historic houses as holiday rentals are just another way that people can engage in history. It is something we in the field should seriously consider as an option, especially since historic sites are looking for new ways to engage audiences. Some additional rental examples are Rudyard Kippling’s house in Vermont, Naulakha, (www.landmarktrustusa.org/) where he wrote Captain’s Courages and the Jungle Book. Or one where my family stayed, officers’ housing at Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA (www.parks.wa.gov/fortworden/accommodations/), a former military base with accommodations for family vacations, conferences, reunions and retreats. Visitors may choose from buildings including century-old officers’ housing, a castle and special one-room houses. Try historic house rentals, a different way to enjoy history.

Read another post about the C&O Canal: Life on the Canal. This post originally appeared in History Places.

Interested in Historic Houses? Check out Kenneth Turino and Barbara Silberman’s course, Revitalizing Historic House Museums, this summer at Tufts!