Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Spellman Museum Produces Monthly Video on Stamps and History

Here’s an exciting announcement from the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History in Weston, MA:

“Ask any stamp collector and they will tell you that one of the best ways to learn about history is through the hobby of philately.  The Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts strongly believes that collecting stamps greatly helps in the study of historical events. As a result the Museum  now produces a monthly TV show that highlights historic events and birthdays of famous people for each day of the month that have been commemorated on stamps.

This fifteen minute video entitled “Going Postal” is produced in connection with the local Cable-TV station Weston Media  and is filmed and edited by high school student intern David Sabot.  Museum Educator Henry Lukas narrates the show and takes viewers on a visual tour of many of the United States stamps connected to past events of each month.  For extra measure, student filmographer Sabot adds a few humorous touches.

The show is being aired on a number of local cable outlets and is also available on the web at or at the link

In addition to the narrating the  show, Lukas prepares a monthly almanac calendar featuring many of the stamps shown on the show.  People wishing to obtain a calendar each month should email the Museum at  More information is also available at 617-784-5838.”

Lunch with NEMA: Write to Publish

On Wednesday, September 28 from 12-1 pm, our very own Cynthia Robinson will be conducting a webinar with NEMA titled Write to Publish:

“Writing a blog entry or composing an article for a newsletter or journal are mental operations that yield insights and wisdom; self-development requiring reflection, analysis and synthesis. It is also an exercise in communicating with others, and forces you to consider what your readers know and care about.

Learn about voice, structural components, and formats. We’ll discuss developing ideas, determining the right venue for your work, following appropriate guidelines, and promoting your work.”

So pack your lunch and bring your questions! To register, click here.

*If you are attending this webinar and are interested in writing a blog post in response, please email us at We would appreciate your input!*

Staying Updated on Museum-Related Social Media

Today’s  post comes to you from Colleen Sutherland, recent Tufts Museum Studies graduate and previous co-editor of the Tufts Museum Studies Blog. To read some of her previous work, click here.

Hi there!

I’ve recently been doing some social media culling, trying to stay relevant and on top of interesting things in the museum field. I may have only graduated in May, but it’s remarkable how fast you start to panic that you’re not as on top of it as you were when you had professors and other students to guide you. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, you may feel that way at some point in your career, which is why I’ve compiled this list of other pages and blogs I’ve started following in the past few months. (Obviously this blog is fantastic, but as any museum professional knows, multiple perspectives are important!)

Some, like EMP (Emerging Museum Professionals), are pretty big and you may already know about them. Hopefully there are some new ones on here for you. It bears repeating that my interest lies in education, so some of these are more education-focused. However, I think that all of them can be relevant in different ways, whether it concerns interpretation, creating inclusive spaces, or museum trends in general. I’d encourage you to at least check them out and decide for yourself.

What else is on your list? I’d love to broaden my reading, especially with non-education-specific sites, so let us know in the comments!


  • AASLH – Interesting perspectives from history organizations of all sizes, but most topics are relevant to museums that focus on other disciplines. I especially love their post about the presentation of the role of women in museums
  • Bank Street Leadership in Museum Education – Again, not all about education. A lot about creating safe spaces, introducing inclusive practices, and helping visitors feel welcome while still staying innovative.
  • Emerging Museum Professionals – I find it helpful to follow the different regional EMP groups. Part of that is to see how museums in different regions are responding to their communities, and part of it is because I know I’ll want to move in the next few years, and it’s helpful to know what museums in different regions are focusing on (plus they post local job postings!)
  • NEMA YEPs (Young & Emerging Museum Professionals)
  • Museum Hack
  • Teaching Tolerance – While it may seem on the surface like this site is only about classroom teaching, it actually does a great job keeping plugged in on national events. It has great resources for creating inclusive, welcoming, safe spaces, as well as great ideas for activities and books.


I’m also enjoying the Museum People podcast – check it out if you haven’t already!

And if these aren’t enough, here’s a whole list of 100 best blogs:

P.S. Looking for more ways to stay on top of the field? Check out the What We’re Reading section!

Digital Media Critique: Mobile Guides at the Museum of Fine Arts

Today we bring you an article by Christina Errico, currently a Tufts student in the Museum Education Master’s program. For the Tufts course Museums and Digital Media, students investigate and critique the real ways that museums are implementing a variety of digital media.

Recently, I visited the MFA for the first time and, realizing that I would most likely be overwhelmed by the vast amount of art in the museum, I decided to make use of their mobile guides while I was there. I didn’t mind paying the $6 because I had gotten into the museum for free with my Tufts ID, and I liked that the guide was free for those who really needed it. But if I had to pay the full $25 admission fee, it might have been a little harder for me to justify paying an extra $6 for the audio guide.

The actual device was simply an iPod touch fitted into a sturdy case that had a durable lanyard attached to it. The headphones were standard plastic headphones, nothing fancy, but what I liked about them was that the cord ran up the lanyard and came out where your collarbone would be so that the cord wouldn’t get tangled or caught on anything. As someone who owns an iPhone, I found the device’s interface very familiar and easy to use. The only issue I had with the device itself was that the case didn’t allow you to lock the iPod which meant that it was using its battery the entire time I had it. For someone like me who wanted to use the guide for multiple exhibitions, it became an issue because I eventually ran out of battery. Overall though, I really enjoyed the device itself because it was easy to use, comfortable, and well-designed.

I decided to start with the “Class Distinctions” tour and I have to say that it really enhanced my experience in that gallery. As someone who has an interest in Dutch painting but not a lot of knowledge about it, I really appreciated how they included the curator in almost every tour stop. The curator was very down to earth, engaging, and never condescending. She pointed out interesting things about the context of each painting rather than simply describing what was going on or the techniques used to paint it. Almost each stop had a “Going Deeper” section and what I loved about these were that they often focused on a different painting that was right next to the original one. These were then compared to show what the differences and similarities were and what themes were present in Dutch painting as a whole, making the entire guide seamless with the exhibit. I also liked that it usually gave directional cues on where to go next or where to look. Many of the stops had videos which were very interesting, and I appreciated how the guide would tell me exactly when to look at the screen for a video and when to look back at the art so that I never had to worry if I was missing something.

While the audio guide as a genre is not the newest idea in the museum world, I think the way the MFA handled it still made it fresh and new. By including a “Going Deeper” option, they allowed the visitor to have some choice on how much they wanted to explore rather than locking them into a specific time frame. I also liked that they brought in different voices like the curator and a poet, for instance. I additionally appreciated that, by including secondary artworks in the “Going Deeper” tracks, the audio guide actually covered most of the paintings in the gallery. For me, I felt that the “Class Distinctions” audio guide really met its learning goals of helping the visitor to slow down and learn a lot about the paintings in the greater context of Dutch art, culture, and history.

Overall, the benefits of the MFA’s mobile guide greatly outweighed the few drawbacks. I thought that it was absolutely an appropriate and almost essential use of digital media given the size of the museum and huge amounts of art. The small, personal size of the device did not take away from the art or the museum experience and the headphones didn’t bleed sound into the galleries. The MFA’s mobile guide was well-designed and well-executed and I would definitely go back and use it again.

Digital Media Critique: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Today we bring you an article by Christina Errico, currently a Tufts student in the Museum Education Master’s program. For the Tufts course Museums and Digital Media, students investigate and critique the real ways that museums are implementing a variety of digital media.

As I made my way through the tapestry room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I noticed one small, unassuming black stand with an iPad. The visitor had three options from the main menu of the iPad: to watch a video detailing the cleaning and restoration process of one of the tapestries, to scroll through slides that told the story of five of the tapestries collectively, and to scroll through another set of slides that discussed the acquisition of the tapestries by Isabella Gardner herself. But as I explored the entirety of each option on the iPad, I found myself conflicted about whether or not I found this use of digital media successful. What I did like about it was the video explaining how the tapestry was restored. I felt like I was getting a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one aspect of the conservation process. The slide show about the acquisition of the tapestries was also nice; however, there were only three slides with basic information and I wanted a bit more insight and some interesting or notable facts about the acquisition process.

The slide show about the five tapestries in the room that collectively told the life story of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, was what I struggled with the most. For each of the five tapestries there were 1-2 slides describing the scene from the tapestry, and while the content of this slide show was quite well done and informative, the way in which it was delivered was what I believed to be the problem. The tapestry room itself is quite large and it is hard to see the details of all of the tapestries at once. Each tapestry has similar colors and because the slides only showed certain parts of each tapestry and not the entire piece, it became difficult to identify which tapestry the slide was discussing without walking over to each tapestry and looking for the recognizable image from the slide. Although the slides showed the tapestries in the order of the story, all of the tapestries were out of order on the walls and interspersed with a totally different cycle of tapestries. I found myself confused as I tried to compare the images from the iPad to the images in the tapestries because I had assumed that the tapestries were hung in order. I personally felt that, for this slide show, the use of digital media was not necessarily successful. Because the slides were not videos, they could easily have been put onto laminated sheets of paper and placed in front of each respective tapestry. This would make it easier to be looking at the slides and the respective tapestry at the same time, and the sheets could have the corresponding number of the tapestry on them so the visitor could view them in order. The museum already uses laminated sheets of paper to label works of art in every other room, so the sheets would not look out of place. For the rest of the digital media (the acquisition slides and the restoration video), however, I thought the use of digital media was absolutely appropriate.

In terms of the aesthetics of the iPad, I felt that since it was very small and discreet, it didn’t compete with the grandeur of the room itself or the art inside the room. The iPad was installed inside the black stand so all the visitor saw was the screen, which made the screen seem more streamlined and like it was part of the exhibit. It was not something that you would immediately notice upon entering the room and I enjoyed that I had the choice of whether to participate or not, instead of a glaringly large screen playing the videos and slides on repeat which would have distracted from the art and my experience. The iPad was very easy to use and I also enjoyed that there was the option to take a short survey because I felt that the museum truly cared about how this digital media installation worked and wanted to use my feedback to make it better. Despite the drawbacks of the Cyrus the Great slide show, I think the iPad complemented the non-digital elements and was a good used of digital media in the Gardner Museum.

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