Tags: aam, aquarium, maker, professional development, smithsonian, theater
I have a feeling that this is the sort of conference that gets exponentially more busy each day, so today I’m going to stick to bullet points: my top 3-5 reactions, quotes, ideas, or experiences from each session. (You can expect me to go back to some of these ideas in later posts instead.)
Session 1: Stories Alive: The Power of Theater in Conservation Education
- I respect people who start professional conference sessions with puppets. Seriously, way to grab attention when half the people in the room haven’t got their caffeine yet because the conference center Starbucks was overwhelmed.
- This was an interesting balance to yesterday’s session, because it included examples of different kinds of (mostly larger) theater programs, and also discussion of evaluation and figuring out lingering impact and message effectiveness.
Session 2: General Session – Education, Stories, Museums: Transforming Lives, Keynote Speaker Dr. Freeman Hrabowski of UMBC
- Instead of ‘what did you learn today,’ ask ‘did you ask a good question today?’ Encouraging curiosity leads to great thinkers.
- Experience in the arts, even if you are not excellent, makes you realize and appreciate what it takes to be excellent.
- The fundamental purpose of museum and of education is to help people dream.
Session 3: 3D Printing from the Smithsonian
- I feel like museums need to go talk to people at Pixar and Weta and some of the other fields where they’ve been doing more with 3D scans and imagery, like those laser scanned reproductions of various actors for their character busts and replicas. Because there are cool ideas out there we could be using.
- I like the idea of reproduced models of archaeological digs and virtual dinosaur bones for study.
- The Smithsonian has a real advantage in testing out these new techniques given that they have 19 museums and 9 research centers to play around with a range of ideas.
Session 4: Maximizing the Nation’s Common Wealth: Museums and Parks in Partnership
- Sitting in the same room with the Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Deputy Director of the National Park Service is a little like attending a museum equivalent of a rock concert.
- The strategic plans (with an emphasis on education for each) are supposed to be available in the session notes on the AAM website. They sound/look like an interesting read.
- For all that they have significant and impressive visitation figures, both institutions suffer from the same issues regarding diversity and relevance that almost all traditional museums are currently facing and attempting to change. It will be interesting to see what works on such a large scale.
Session 5a: Museum Marketplace: Exhibit Labels competition
- Definitely a lot of labels that privilege descriptive writing over the purely didactic. Makes for an interesting read that has either a conversational or reflective cadence.
Session 5b: Museum Marketplace: Education showcase
- Always nice to see what other folks in my field are up to! Reading blogs is interesting, conversations are even better.
- Fun and interesting thoughts about Maker spaces and their uses with school programs.
- Cool cooperation happening between Smithsonian museums for interdisciplinary approaches to exhibits, especially art & science. Always nice to see that happening.
Expo Showcase 6: Augmenting Dinosaurs – Augmented Reality Installations
- I appreciated the opportunity to hear from museum staff, computer/media designers, and the paleontologist whose research led to the animations used in the augmented reality interactives. The range of perspectives made it more useful and interesting than a vendor-only session would have been.
- T-Rex shook its prey like a crocodile does and Allosaurus did the dip and rip move that small raptors like kestrels do. And they can tell that based on skeletons and the way the muscles would have had to attach to them. Amazing.
- Augmented reality seems like a reasonable thing to explore for enlivening the natural history elements in the Art & Nature Center–but I wonder, what would make it compelling for the Art half of that equation?
After Hours Fun 7: Wonders of the Undersea World at the Baltimore National Aquarium
- Great staff, very personable and willing to answer questions on practically any topic. Beautiful building, not unlike Boston’s NEAq (and the central tank was apparently designed by the same person)
- They have dolphins–7 of them. I am very jealous.
- I loved the rainforest exhibit, including the opportunity for visitors to hold a stick with live crickets over the archer fish tank and watch them spit water at the crickets to knock them into eating range. That was highly entertaining, if unfortunate for the crickets.
- I will never understand aquarium catering being okay with serving seafood, no matter how tasty the crab dip.
Tags: aam, conference report, museum, professional development, theater
Today was my first day ever at an AAM conference, and it started off brilliantly. It’s going to be a busy several days, according to the amount of orange highlighter decorating my conference booklet, and if all the sessions are even half as interesting as the first few, it’ll be time well spent.
The afternoon’s first session I attended was a showcase of museum theater programs hosted by the folks at IMTAL, with four different museums (2 science, 2 history) offering up snippets of their presentations. All were family and student friendly, but wildly different in presentation style and a really interesting assortment to hold up against each other. Most included audience participation, all included humor and an emphasis on finding a connection, emotional or experiential.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago presented “Taste Buddies,” with a lead character in a candy-striped vest who employed a lot of puns and a *lot* of energy, including audience volunteers who gamely ate unidentified jelly beans (you need to know me to understand just how brave that seemed to me, but it was definitely a Bertie Bott’s moment). Fusion Science Theater worked up a bunch of excitement over the molecular structure of rubber, of all things, using a pair of apparently identical mystery bouncing balls in a pro-wrestling style show down to introduce scientific method and a lot of the related vocabulary.
The Missouri History Center presented “Dressing from the Inside Out” with a demonstration of changing women’s undergarments over several decades, and made a point of appealing to the audience by relating the garments involved to everything from Pride and Prejudice and the probable dress-damping tendencies of Caroline Bingley to the structure of sports bras–the presenter was clearly very in tune with what would appeal to her current audience.
And my very favorite was “Love on the Range,” a storytelling performance by an actor from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, that incorporated music, dramatic pauses, and a lot of great colorful language and description. I like the Smithsonian’s theater program for a lot of reasons, and this was no exception.
The other session I went to this afternoon concerned the use of reproductions, replicas, and non-accessioned objects in museum situations. Titled “Is it Real? Who Cares?” it featured some of the best interactive discussion in a large-audience panel-format session I’ve ever seen, with lively debate happening about the spectrum of real to fake objects and whether or not those experiences worked. There was a lot of muddy ground in the middle, of course, but some very fun examples of curious uses of reproductions, etc, from the Franklin Institute’s extremely popular walk-through heart to disagreements over reenactors to a very wacky sounding Australian version of Stonehenge. If you are curious in turn, you can check out the panelists’ planning blog.
Tags: art, history, holiday, humor, recycling, theater, video/animation
I’ll save my thoughts on the importance of an educator’s being a ham for another day, but for today I’d like to highlight the magic that is live theater, from playing ‘dress-up’ in your backyard to setting King Lear on the Moon (okay, that I’ve never seen, but wouldn’t you like to?). Here’s a collection of fun and fascinating links for you on theater, puppetry, and the Bard:
Make Your Own:
Jim Henson on making Muppets from things you find around the house.
A lesson plan on making shadow puppets in the classroom.
A video tutorial on making joints for shadow puppets (which has proved very useful for Eye Spy art activities this year!)
A historical make-your-own: 19th century children’s paper theaters on exhibit at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT.
Or try a modern equivalent with one of Robert Sabuda’s Peepbox PopUps.
Make You Laugh:
‘Superclogger’ commits random acts of theater from the back of a truck on LA’s crowded freeways.
A Christmas Carol re-envisioned…in Klingon. (You’ll never appreciate Dickens until you’ve read him in the original…)
Call for Submissions: A Steampunk Shakespeare Anthology (Maybe I’ll get that King Lear on the Moon after all…)
On the fifth day of popcorn, these ideas gave me glee: five puppet theaters, four juicy questions, three chugging trains, two coral reefs, and a pop-up folding snow-bedecked tree…
Tags: art, astronomy, china, geography, history, holiday, multicultural, music, reading, theater, writing
Welcome in Lunar New Year with the spirit of friendship (as represented by the flower arrangement above) and with an arrangement of my own suggestions for cool resources and activities.
History and Culture
A brief but interesting collection of information on the New Year as celebrated in China, from the University of Victoria
A nice resizeable map of China, with or without more detailed information, from National Geographic
Asia-Art.Net, a collection of really beautiful examples from several cultures, organized by medium or by culture.
Why is it Lunar New Year? Observing the Moon, from Science NetLinks
Arts and Crafts
The Smithsonian strikes again! (I love these guys as much as I love National Geographic!) The Sackler and Freer Museums are home to the Smithsonian’s Asian collections, and they have both Chinese centric and Across Asia teacher resources as part of their larger set of Online Guides.
Theater and Music
Two fabulous resources from the Kennedy Center’s Artsedge:
The Sounds of China Pod Page, with music to listen to and connected information and activities.
Also from the Kennedy Center, Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painting
And finally, from Read-Write-Think, which is run by the National Council of Teachers of English, a very cool Fairy Tale Autobiographies lesson plan, which uses Chinese tales but could be adapted for pretty much any culture.
Not enough? Then come celebrate with the Peabody Essex Museum, on Saturday February 27! (Chances are very good you’ll find me making paper lanterns in East India Marine Hall…)