Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Digital Media (page 1 of 2)

Reflections on Reopening from Nick Pioppi, Senior Educator at the New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium, along with many of Boston’s other cultural institutions, reopened on July 16th with pandemic-specific precautions. The Aquarium now has a one way path throughout the building, reduced capacity, additional sanitation stations, and requires visitors to wear masks. Now that the Aquarium has been open for almost a month, I checked in with Nick Pioppi, Supervisor and Senior Educator at the New England Aquarium, about the process of reopening.

Nick Pioppi conducting a virtual visit to the New England Aquarium.

How have things been at the Aquarium since reopening?

“Things have been very good. We feel very confident that we have established a safe, fun, and engaging experience for visitors. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some things that we’ve worked on or refined in terms of our process. We always come up with ways to become more efficient or make the process run a little bit more smoothly so we’ve definitely tweaked things as we’ve gone along.”

When the aquarium was closed, what were some strategies you used to reach your audience?

“We took a look at what we offered virtually and came up with some strategies to create new virtual content that was fun and engaging and kept people feeling connected to the aquarium, but also continued to foster and promote our mission. I think that was really important because we wanted people to understand that there were a lot of things that were still going on, like animal care and research efforts. We wanted to work hard to put those out front and use those as a way of connecting with visitors.”

With reopening, what are some challenges you’ve found with running educational programming?

A California sea lion reminds visitors to social distance.

“We are not leading any of our normal presentations on microphone. We are trying to avoid elements of an experience that might cause people to crowd and have difficulty maintaining physical distance from each other. Any sort of educational content or interpretation is happening on a one-on-one basis. We have staff that are stationed throughout the building with the primary goal of providing a logistically smooth and safe experience for visitors, but we’re slowly starting to integrate points of interpretation.”

“We’ve really had to just be a little bit more selective about that and focus more on safety and logistics and making sure the one way path is being followed. We’ve even had to close down elements of the aquarium, like the touch tanks or one particular exhibit called “The Science of Sharks” that is very interactive, just out of an abundance of caution.”

Speaking to the animals, how are they adjusting to having visitors again?

“For the most part, we are not noticing significant differences in behavior of the animals. Most of their daily routines were still going on during the closure. They were still getting fed regularly and the life support systems that keep them comfortable were being maintained. If they aren’t particularly reactive to our presence outside of their tank, then things are the same for them. There are a few exhibits that we’re noticing some subtle differences. To prepare the penguins, a week ahead of time we placed speakers around the exhibit and played crowd noise to get them accustomed to visitors again.”

Do you have any advice for museum educators during the pandemic?

“From my own experience, now is the time where it’s important to remember a lot of the basics of education, such as the customer service element and providing a nice alternate experience for visitors than what they’re having any given day. But this is also a time where innovation and trying new things out can be really beneficial. Trying to think of new ways to connect to people.”

“I think for institutions, it’s probably really scary to innovate and experiment because you’re worried about losing what little you have right now. But I think now is just a good a time as any to be innovative and stand out. Provide something that other museums and institutions aren’t necessarily providing.”

The New England Aquarium highlighted the work of the aquarists and researchers during the closure.

Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?

“I think the community of educators is so important right now. I think it’s important right now to think about ways to connect. Connect with teachers that are struggling with virtual learning in the fall. Connect with people who may have been laid off from an institution because of budget cuts. Connect with people who might be educators but are doing a type of interpretation that’s really different from you. We can all learn from each other and support each other.”

Thank you so much, Nick, for meeting with me to chat about the Aquarium’s reopening. Follow the New England Aquarium’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for tons virtual content and updates. Also, the Aquarium is still fighting for COVID-19 relief funding, so use this link to contact your representative about providing crucial funding for both animal care and operating costs.

Memorial Day and Museums Reopenings

I suppose for myself, as a History major, museums signify places of remembrance that offer more vivid understandings of the past. Of course, this is the purpose of Memorial Day as well, as we remember our service members and oftentimes hear their stories. It is only fitting, therefore, that museums should play a significant role in remembering those members of our nation’s military who died serving our country.

But what does Memorial Day in a museum look like in the midst of a pandemic?

Many museums around the country have already begun to reopen in some capacity. For example, the National World War II Museum reopened yesterday in a limited capacity, in terms of both a limited staff and a limited crowd. 25% of the museum’s normal capacity was allowed to enter and 82 of its approximately 300 member staff were laid off. The museum’s reopening required careful planning to maintain the proper safety measures: guests had the option to purchase tickets online in advance, social distancing was maintained, and cleanings happened with more frequency.

Other museums that were not in a position to reopen, even in a limited capacity, resorted to other measures to commemorate the holiday. For example, volunteers at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, California painted the American flag on the back lawn of the property. The flag took 45 gallons of paint to complete and measures 137 feet long and 78 feet tall. Once it was completed, trumpeter Fred Ashman performed “God Bless America” and “Taps” as a tribute.

Wisconsin Virtual Commemoration

Finally, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison held a virtual Memorial Day ceremony. Many local politicians appeared in a video to commemorate Memorial Day: Governor Tony Evers held a moment of silence and Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Mary Kolar suggested that viewers pay their respects by flying a flag or lighting a candle at their homes.

A recruitment poster for the Coast Guard SPARs program. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Many other museums have made their exhibits available online, as was mentioned in a previous post on this blog. Some virtual exhibits that are relevant to Memorial Day include the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s World War I-focused exhibit, “We Return Fighting.” The National Air & Space Museum offers an exhibit focused on Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) during World War II, while the National Women’s History Museum offers content on women who served in the Coast Guard during World War II in the SPARS program.

These are just a few of the exhibits and content that I found particularly interesting (I had never heard of the SPARS before!). Many museum exhibits have become available online during this unprecedented time for museums — and for us all — and this has already shaped the manner in which we commemorate holidays such as Memorial Day. So while it was definitely an unusual holiday, at least we are still able to keep learning and remembering and honoring the past.

15 1/2 Museum Studies-Related Podcasts

I don’t know about you all, but now that I am busy with graduate school and work, I don’t have a lot of time to read for fun like I once did. I spend a lot of time watching TV that inspires me, but maybe isn’t teaching me anything new. Feeling cerebral while also being relaxed is one of those small joys in life, and I find those moments through podcasts.

With this post, I hope to introduce people to podcasts about museums and by museums and museum professionals, but also about history, art history, and education, which are the three disciplines associated with the Tufts’ Museum Studies program. The disclaimer is I haven’t listened to all of these podcasts, but if anyone has a special review of one, please leave a comment so we all know which ones are worth checking out. Also, this just a taste of what’s out there, so feel free to share ones that interest you, too. 

Hopefully, this list has some podcasts that will entertain you for many weeks to come. Also, I hope this demonstrates what museums can do to further educate and entertain the public and what museum professionals can do to help each other.

  • The British Museum Podcast: The British Museum has over 2 million years of human history and culture, and this podcast looks at the stories that shaped that Museum.
    • The British Museum Membercast:This is a monthly series that has part of the exclusive Members’ lectures held at the museum. The comedian and podcaster Iszi Lawrence hosts this show.
  • Service on Celluloid: The official podcast of the National WWII Museum. They look at films portraying WWII from the past 70 years with experts and lively guests debating the historical merits of the films.
  • Spycast:The International Spy Museum in D.C. offers us a look into the world of espionage. The podcasts include interviews with ex-spies and intelligence experts.
  • Historically Yours: The University of Iowa’s Special Collections investigate the letters in their archives, peering into the lives of those past.
  • History of Art at the University of Oxford: This series covers medieval architecture to modern Chinese art. Over fifty associated staff discuss their research from backgrounds in anthropology, classics, history, etc.
  • Department of Education of the University of Oxford: These episodes feature public seminars held at the school. Oxford has been contributing to the field of education for over 100 years with a fantastic reputation.
  • National Gallery of Art: Their notable lectures held at the museum can be found by searching their main website or Apple Podcasts. There are over 300 episodes to choose from discussing art and major events surrounding art from historians, curators, and well-known artists.
  • Museum of Lost Objects: This podcast found on BBC Radio’s website discusses antiquities and landmarks destroyed or looted in Syria, Iraq, India, and Pakistan.
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class: HowStuffWorks presents a podcast about global history through the ages finding the fun nuggets that make history nerds swoon.
  • History, Bitches: This podcast discusses women through history, giving a fresh perspective on their classic stories.
  • The Modern Art Notes podcast: Tyler Green hosts this weekly series that discusses a work of art with guest artists, authors, and art historians. 
  • 99% Invisible: This podcast discusses all the things we don’t think about or take for granted in this world. It’s a deep dive into cultural tidbits that is fascinating. It includes episodes about art, history, technology, design, and more.
  • National Public Radio: You knew this would probably show up. It’s not just your grandpa’s radio show anymore. There is a whole section about education in this ever-changing world filled with technology.
  • Museopunks:Suse Anderson hosts this show that investigates the museum world’s personalities. This podcast looks at hot topics surrounding institutions, best practices, and the new ideas in the field. The AAM’s Alliance Labs hosts this site.
  • Museum People: This is a NEMA podcast that hasn’t updated recently, but it’s intriguing to look back through their archives. Their podcast examines New England museums behind-the-scenes, individuals connected with the museum field, and trends. 

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 https://vimeo.com/206170037/e58dc40f31 or at the link www.westonmedia.org.

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 info@spellman.org.  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 tufts.museum.blog@gmail.com. We would appreciate your input!*

« Older posts

Spam prevention powered by Akismet