Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Professional Development (page 3 of 41)

AASLH Annual Meeting Scholarship Opportunities

AASLH Annual Meeting Scholarships Available:  

Apply for a scholarship to attend the 2017 AASLH Annual Meeting. Scholarships are available for diverse attendees, employees of small museums, and new professionals in four states.

  • AASLH Douglas Evelyn Scholarship for Diversity (2)
  • AASLH Small Museum Scholarship (2-5)
  • 2017 Austin Diversity Scholarships (10)
  • Robert W. Richmond Scholarship for New Professionals in MO, KS, NE, IA
See the full list of scholarships, details, and deadlines here:

“Not One Size” at the AAM Conference

The next few weeks we will be posting reflections from students who attended the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting and Conference, held in St. Louis, Missouri, May 6-10. 

A few weeks ago, at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Conference, I attended a session titled ‘Not One Size: Interactivity at Small, Medium, and Large Museums.’ A panel of museum professionals at museums of each of these sizes outlined multiple types of interactive elements in their museums, describing the context and use of each. While many of us are familiar with interactive elements in museum exhibitions, I found this panel helpful in that it categorized a few different types of these elements and provided simple examples for producing them in museums with a variety of available resources. That being said, I thought I would relay some of their key points to you all!

Touchable Objects: While this is often difficult in museums, touching authentic objects is a great way to enrich the visitor experience. The biggest difficulties it provides involve collections management issues such as cleaning and durability. Important questions to consider include: where and how are people touching? Is there a way to protect a part of the object while allowing visitors to touch a less valuable part of it? The example given by the panel was of an original Apple 1 computer that is encased. Visitors are able to use an Apple 2 computer keyboard, which is much more replaceable, and still get the experience of manipulating the screen of an Apple 1.

Consumable Materials and Loose Parts: Benefits of these interactive elements include the ability of any staff member to easily replace cheap parts. These materials may not be as impactful as authentic, touchable objects, but they can still greatly enhance the visitor experience. A couple examples given at the session include drawing materials and fur pelts.

Social Interaction: This category refers to interactive elements that may or may not include objects but always involve interaction between visitors. Examples of this type include dance sections, lounges with conversation cards, a reproduced 1980’s living room, and a social engineering challenge.

Visitor Response: We are likely all very familiar with this type of interactive element – just think post-it notes. These spaces allow visitors to contribute their own ideas, opinions, or data in response to a prompt and can be done in many effective and creative ways.

Circularity: This can be a trait within multiple types of interactive elements and refers to the capability of an activity to reset itself for new visitors. One example provided by the panel was of a life-size buffalo puzzle. Visitors explore all the organs of buffalo and how they fit together. While this doesn’t reset itself per se, it is equally as fun for visitors to ‘unpack’ the buffalo as it is to put it back together. Thus, it resets itself in that it can be done effectively at whatever stage the previous visitor leaves it at.

Rock Paper Scissors Principle: Finally, the panelists provided an easy way to remember a common-sense concept; that is, that the most robust part of an interactive activity will degrade the least robust part. When thinking about durability, think about what element is the rock, or the paper, or the scissors, and where they are placed within the entire piece. That mental labeling can help construct a more economical, long-lasting activity.

Call for Posters: 2017 Visitor Studies Association Conference

Call for Posters
2017 Visitor Studies Association Conference
New Pathways in Visitor Studies
July 18-22, 2016
Westin Columbus
310 S. High Street, Columbus, OH 43215

What is the Poster Session?

The poster session is an interactive and collegial format for displaying and discussing project‐based work in a visual format. It offers an alternative for presenters eager to share their work through one-on-one discussion, and may be a particularly appropriate format for presentations where visual or material evidence represents a central component of the project. Posters are often a way to present the findings of an individual project or present preliminary data and gather advice. We expect that most posters for this conference will represent work that is complete, or present initial findings for multi‐year or ongoing projects.

Deadline: April 7, 2017

When is the Poster Session?

The poster session will be held on the afternoon Friday, July 21, 2017 at the Westin Columbus, 310 S. High Street, Columbus, OH 43215.

How to Submit a Proposal

Email your proposal to with the subject line “2017 Poster” by April 7. You will receive a confirmation email byApril 10, 2017. If you do not receive a confirmation email, send a second email (without attachment) because your proposal may not have been received. You will receive notification of whether or not your poster has been accepted by the end of April 2017.

Proposals must be submitted electronically (in ONE PDF document) and include:

  1. Contact information, including participant(s’) name(s), affiliations(s), email(s), and phone number(s).
  2. Title of no more than 10 words
  3. Short description of no more than 50 words for the conference program
  4. An abstract of no more than 300 words that explains and promotes the project
  5. Include a simple one- or two-page visual mock-up of the display (e.g., created in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop, or Publisher, etc. and saved as a PDF). Please include a basic layout for your poster and a general sense of what topics will be addressed in each poster element. See examples of mock-ups here:

How Will Your Proposal Be Judged?

The review committee will consider the persuasiveness of your abstract, the persuasiveness/quality of your visual presentation, and your project’s relation to major issues and questions in the field of visitor studies and informal learning.

What are the dimensions of a poster?

Each presenter will be provided a trifold board and half of a round table on which to set up the trifold board and any supporting materials. The dimensions of the trifold board are 36” x 48”. The side panel dimensions are 36”x12”, and the middle panel dimensions are 36”x24”. Here is a link to an example of a standard trifold board: ( Your poster must fit on this board.

*Please note that presenters are not guaranteed access to power sources, so please plan accordingly if you will use a laptop or other electronic device. Internet access is not guaranteed, so, you may wish to demonstrate any websites or videos to your hard drive so that you are able to navigate the site without internet access. Due to limited space, projectors and speakers may not be used during the poster presentation.

Formatting and Content Advice

A good poster should introduce your topic, research questions or goals, methods, and/or best practices, and what was accomplished and what you learned. Be sure to include the following:

  • Give the poster a title.
  • Use images to illustrate your points.
  • Keep text brief. Edit carefully. The test of a good poster is if someone can read it in 60 seconds and understand your main points.


What to Expect During the Poster Session

During the exhibition, you should remain at your poster, prepared to give a brief oral introduction to your project and discuss your work. Individual attendees browse among the posters throughout the event and chat with those presenting work of interest to them. If you get caught up in conversation with someone, try to be aware of, and welcome, others who may approach your poster and have questions about your work.

Insider tip: Some people are more timid than others and may walk by and just pick up your handouts or card. A friendly “Welcome” or “Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions” on your part can serve as a great icebreaker. If you have business cards, this is a great opportunity to distribute them as well.

Printing and Shipping Advice

You have a few options for printing and shipping. If you are staying in Columbus, you may print the poster at home, roll it in a poster tube, and ship it to the Westin Columbus. (Include your name in the address line. The mailing address for the Westin Columbus is 310 S. High Street, Columbus, OH, 43215.) You may also print your poster at home and carry it on the plane/train/bus/car. If you do not wish to ship or transport the poster, you may email your poster file to a print shop in downtown Columbus and pick it up there. One option near the hotel is FedEx Office Print & Ship Center (180 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215; 614-621-1100).

The Decorative Arts Trust 2017 Summer Research Grants

The Decorative Arts Trust is accepting applications for our 2017 Summer Research Grants. This arm of the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program provides support for graduate students working on a Master’s thesis or PhD dissertation in a field related to the decorative arts. More information, as well as descriptions of past grant projects, can be found on our website.

Applications can be submitted electronically through the Trust website, or downloaded as a PDF and sent by post to The Decorative Arts Trust, 20 South Olive Street, Suite 204, Media, PA 19063, or emailed to Applications must be received no later than April 30, 2017. Please contact Trust Programming & Communications Coordinator Christian Roden with any questions at or at 610-627-4970.

Founded in 1977, the Decorative Arts Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and fostering of the appreciation and study of the decorative arts through programming, collaborations and partnerships with museums and preservation organizations, and the underwriting of internships, scholarships, and research grants for graduate students and young professionals.

The Things I’ve Learned During a Year of Membership

Today’s post comes to you from Gina Parente, graduate of the Tufts Museum Education Masters Program and Membership Manager at the New England Aquarium.

The Things I’ve Learned During a Year of Membership

After spending six years in the Education Department of the New England Aquarium, it was time for a change. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to go far as a position had opened in the Membership Department that fit my skill set perfectly. Starting in March 2016, I became the new Membership Manager. However, I had never worked in membership! I had a lot to learn but had a lot to offer to my new department. Here are some of my observations from the past year that I think will be helpful to anyone working in an institution with a membership program.

Give members access to build trust – This idea is important in all our institutions whether they are science-, art- or history-based. Recently we received results from our quarterly visitor surveys conducted by our partners at The Morey Group. They found that millennials, visitors aged 18 – 32, need to have trust in an institution before they support it. For zoos and aquaria, this is even more important. This is an active group of supporters that want to change the world, make a difference and build a community even more than the generations before them. They were raised by parents in the baby boomer generation who taught them to question everything, including the ethics of an institution. For our member base, this means seeing where the food for our animals is prepared, meet and greets with aquarists responsible for the daily care of our exhibits, and access to information not shared with the public which we incorporate into all our events.

Membership isn’t always about the discounts – With over 21,000 member households, we have a diverse member base all over the world. We also have a number of members that have been with us since we opened in 1969. Our Charter members rarely visit but continue to support our mission from afar. It’s important to have these mission-based members, new or old. They are like-minded individuals who are informed on the issues that face our oceans and support the work that we do every day both at the Aquarium and in the field.

Sometimes it is about the money – We also have members that enjoy the fact that our membership pays for itself in about two visits or that they can skip the line during a busy school vacation week. These are great people to have as well. This group keeps us honest in the price we charge and the benefits we offer. For most of 2016, we worked with Keene Independent to survey our members about our current membership program. Many felt it was a great value but would pay a little bit more for more access to the Aquarium staff, fun events, and better parking rates. We listened and will be unveiling our new membership structure starting April 3rd. We tried to include everything that members felt made their membership a good value.  Except for the parking – that’s another blog post entirely.

Adults need their time – The Aquarium is a popular family-friendly attraction in New England. However, the popular trend in zoos, aquaria, and children’s museums has been to give adults time in the building without kids. Throw in some food, a cash bar and you have a great event! We have increased our retention rate by adding a number of adult-only events to our annual offerings. Again, this is a great way to add value, build trust through access, and educate your member base without it always being about the kids.

Members are our best ambassadors and advocates – Members have chosen to support YOU with additional visits and their money. They feel invested with your institution and freely share their experience with others. They are a group that can easily mobilize around an issue and provide honest feedback. In past years, our member base has helped to encourage their children’s schools to book outreach programs in the off-peak season, support the need for marine protected areas off our coastline, and lend their voice for the need for smart waterfront planning in Boston.

No matter what department you work in at your institution, you are sure to come in contact with members. Make sure to thank them for their continued support. It goes a long way.

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