Sunday, February 5, 2017

Learning Together: The 2017 Mentees

Once again, my annual call for participants in my small mentor program resulted in the chance to get acquainted with a number of you who made the effort to reach out and submit an application.  My thanks to all of you who shared your questions, your work, your ideas and more.  I'm pleased to announce this year's two mentees.

Tania Said is Director of Education at the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, IN.  She's had a varied career bringing her to this point--at the Smithsonian, in positions from an internship to Community Services Manager, at the Smithsonian's Center for Education and Museum Studies.  She worked at AAM and as Director of the Bead Museum in DC, but has now returned to where she did her undergraduate work.  Tania's questions revolve around ways to increase community engagement and ways to be an advocate for a more diverse workforce.

I loved her description when I asked an exhibit she had found interesting in the last year:
“What Lies Beneath” is a conservation exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I found it especially interesting because of my 12-year-old son and his friend’s reaction to it. They immediately dove into the answering the question of who painted the work of art in question, donning lab jackets, exploring the available tools, reading the docket, and writing their responses. While they skipped the introductory video, they clearly thrilled in finding out about the underlying painting by using and learning about x-ray and infrared scanning tools. The children’s reactions contrasted with the more typical response of watching me enjoy an exhibition and enduring any conversation I may want to have about it; instead, they were self-motivated. I believe this was not just how the exhibition was organized, but the diversity of information providers, and the excellent design presenting all of the opportunities for interaction. Adults visiting the small exhibition (less than 400 sq. ft.) seemed equally curious and willing to explore by not just reading and seeing works of art, but discussing it as well. 

The second mentee is Hannah Hethmon, currently familiar to many of you in the history museum field as Membership Marketing Coordinator at the American Association for State and Local History. Hannah came to the museum field from gaining a Master's degree in Viking and Icelandic Studies at the University of Reykjavík, Iceland, and previous experience as a marketing coordinator for Granite Grannies, Inc and a freelance copywriter.

Hannah wrote, "At the moment, I'm really interested in the ability of new technology, particularly social media, to democratize the museum invitation and become a powerful tool for letting more diverse (racially, economically, socially) audiences know that museums are for them as well."  That interest extends to her key questions for the year:
How can I help AASLH's emerging professionals create meaningful connections within the field without requiring physical attendance at costly conferences? And how can small museums use technology to become a valued part of their community member's lives before those people ever step foot in the building?

Secondly, I am trying to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to learn new aspects of the museum trade, participate in projects (or discussions, like the NCPH 2017 working group on "Community Engagement in a Digital World" I've joined), and make meaningful connections to others in the field from whom I can learn and with whom I can discuss ideas and strategies.
Again, thanks to all who applied.  And to Tania and Hannah, I look forward to a great year of conversation as I know I'll learn as much, or more, than I share.

Top Image:  women shipyard workers, Beaumont, TX,  by John Vachon, 1943, Library of Congress collection

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