My Career is Cooler than Yours

I mentioned when I restarted this blog that I want this to be a place for museum professionals but also for people aren’t in museums at all. Today, I’m going to explain to you what the heck I do.

Since I was in seventh grade, I was set on my future career. Twelve year old me finally settled on a career after spending my childhood years being convinced that I would be a clown, then a dancer, a DJ, maybe a veterinarian, most certainly a fashion designer — oh and later an architect.  Like many pubescent youth, I finally figured it all out. I was going to be a teacher. Eighteen year old me started undergrad as a history major and secondary education minor and ended up graduating a history major with no teacher certificate but a whole new passion (more on that later).

I’ve had the privilege of being a  museum educator for a few years now. Still it’s a bit difficult to quickly summarize what I do. I usually end up saying “I’m a teacher at a museum.” That’s not too far off actually. Allow me to share with you some of the responsibilites of a museum educator.

Things a museum educator might do:

  • Programming; for almost all museum educators this is what your job mostly entails. “Programming” in the museum world usually means scheduled activities that usually have some educational component. Art wokshops, lecture series, and other museum programs need someone one to come up with ideas to engage visitors, plan it out, and make it happen.
  • We work with our oldest and youngest visitors. Sometimes educators work with a special age group at an institution.
  • Museum educators might also design, book, and/or lead field trips.
  • They may work part-time or full-time.

Things I’ve actually done before:

Ok,  this is actually what being a museum educator has meant for me for me time to time. These are real things I’ve done.

  • Waking up at 3 am and deciding to write a list of all the little details I need to get done for that program or event next week.
  • Googling the weirdest combination of things part because you need to accurately explain this to kids and part because you’re too curious not to. A few things I’ve Googled for my job:  “how old is the earth”, “how to make a cloud”, “what are highland games”, and so on.

    working

    I’m working!

  • Writing lots of label text so I hope you’re reading those little signs in the galleries or online.
  • Tried making an art zine with a bunch of teens.
  • Met awesome people like Wendy Red Star when planning and moderating a sweet photography panel. *name drop*
  • Traveled to New York City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix for work including nerdy museum conferences.
  • Turned to a mad scientist over time. Did I mention I can make circuits now? Did I mention I’m a history major? I made a circuit with dinosaur toys and LEDs — just for kicks.
  • Designed more things than my non-graphic design self has ever imagined. You want a flyer, a Facebook event cover, a brochure? I got you!
  • Came into work with a bad attitude and, by the end of a program, had an adorable 8 year old hugging my legs then thinking “Yep, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Pretty cool, right? I know what you’re thinking: “How do I become a museum educator?” Far be it from me to think I’m some expert on making it happen but I can give you some advice — but you’re going to have to wait till next for PART TWO *cliffhanger!*

Hey, here’s an idea: maybe you should follow this blog for updates. Seriously, thanks for your views and likes. I hope to keep it coming.

Museum educators, chime in and tell me what you do. Tell me the weird stuff.

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The Optical Telegraph and Industrial Education

My apologies for being away so long but I’m back with new content! With graduation on the horizon (roughly 4 months away), currently I’m enrolled in a public history and “new media” course. Honestly, the term “new media” is…well…new to me. I was not familiar with the term till a few months ago. New media is beyond radio, magazines, or television programs. It is what encompasses much of what is happening in contemporary American today; video games, websites, and everything in between. New media seems to be everywhere and has been praised and critiqued for what it means for psychology, sociology, politics, education, and history.

What I’m interested in here is what new media has to do with the practice of public history. In particular, I have a personal interest in its meaning in museum education because I hope to be that field in the future. In New Media, 1740-1915, editor Lisa Gitelman makes the argument that all media was new at some point and the articles that follow her introduction demonstrate that old media used to bring up similar issues to the ones we face in the present-day.

The third chapter, Children of Media, Children as Media: Optical Telegraphs, Indian Pupils, and Joseph Lancaster’s System for Cultural Replication (a hefty title) written by Patricia Crain explores a nineteenth century educational media. In the mid to late 1800s, Joseph Lancaster, a former Englishmen turned American, changed his pedagogy designed for the London poor into missionary-style system for educating Native Americans. His pedagogy, influenced by a Eurocentric colonialism, provided American schools with a manual to mass educate while at the same time supporting acculturation in Indian boarding schools. His methods were highly visual and the teacher was merely there to dictate repetitious and standardized tasks for students. Lancaster’s pedagogy also called for the use of the optical telegraph.

The optical telegraph is not actually a telegraph it is a set of mechanized signs to alert people to do a task, it usually a flags or something similar. The telegraph was used to alert students to their scheduled task through the visual signaling system. The factory like setting of mass classroom with a rigid schedule that encouraged mimicking and decreased privacy had a modern feel not so unlike computers. Public historians and educators alike have begun to use computerized learning. In my opinion, the Lancasterian system, which also rewarded students with tokens for gifts, is not that unlike video game. Furthermore, Lancaster was not particularly interested in books for classroom learning but the use of over-sized posters. While education outside of books has its appealing aspects you could hardly say that Lancaster’s system was beneficial to the majority of students, particularly non-Western people like Native American children with a very different understanding of identity and knowledge. Perhaps the newest media can help present-day children and the larger public in a way that Lancaster couldn’t — on an individual level with cultural sensitivity.