Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jessica's Summer 2015 Exhibit Development Project

After spending several wonderful years of my life working and volunteering in museums while getting a formal education in museum work I have come to the conclusion that “museuming,” a term I have affectionately created for the work that I do (and should not be taken too seriously) consists of two priorities. The first priority is to preserve and protect the artifacts the museum houses and the second is to interpret and present the artifacts to the public through exhibits, therefore museums should constantly strive as much as is practical to develop exhibits. Continuous exhibit development is a fundamental part of museum work.

This summer I did extensive volunteer work at Delta Gateway Museum in Blytheville, AR. The mission of this particular museum is “To tell the story of Blytheville and the surrounding area by interpreting the land and its impact on the people.” This mission encompasses a long timeline beginning from the Native American cultures that were the first inhabitants of the area to modern times. The Farming and Rural Life and the Native American Archaeology exhibits are two exhibits that I did extensive work on this past summer. Volunteering for a local institution is a great way to develop your skills and contribute to your professional experiences.

With the Native American Archaeology exhibit I cataloged, put on display, and helped create labels for a new case that has been filled with the loaned collection of a private local collector who lives in the area. His collection represents hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of Native American artifacts from Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. The most crucial and tedious task was the initial cataloging. I documented, photographed, and cataloged over sixty artifacts. After they were cataloged I did a rough sketch of how they should be placed in the case and then put them in a display case.

The Farming and Rural Life exhibit presented fascinating research and discussion on how to display the artifacts in the exhibit. I helped move the artifacts into place, researched them, and created labels for them.

This is a unique specimen. It is a nutting stone. Usually nutting stones will be much smaller and have one indention. This stone is fairly large and has several indentions.

Notice the two smaller, more typical nutting stones in front of the larger one.

These two photos of pottery are close ups of objects in the case.

I thought these pieces should be grouped together because of their uniqueness.

This is the case after the development was completed. Notice there is a mirror in the back of the case. Mirrors can be helpful to the display because patrons can see the backs of the artifacts. This is very interesting with pottery.

Upon researching this hat I found out it was a men’s boater hat from the 1920s. On the inside of the hat there was the insignia of a haberdasher, Mead’s Men Store. Researching in the museum’s library and archive showed that Mead’s was the predecessor to what is now Day’s Men’s Store. Mead’s was in business on Blytheville’s Main Street from 1912-1971.

Ms. Leslie Hester, the museum’s director and I discussed how to organize the Farming and Rural Life exhibit. We came to the conclusion that when patrons arrive at the beginning of the exhibit it should feel like they are walking into a farm house. When they go further into the exhibit area they should feel like they are walking outside and at the end of the exhibit they are walking into the Main Street area.

Some artifacts present questions. This rocking chair is very interesting. I analyzed it thoroughly and could find no identifying markings. It looks like it could be homemade.

One of the most rewarding things about working in museums is that you learn something new every day. There was one artifact that I came across that I found very interesting. It was a photograph of cotton chopping geese. I have heard stories about cotton chopping all of my life, but I had never heard of cotton chopping geese. This photograph was taken around 1930 and shows geese that were used for chopping cotton. The geese would eat the weeds, etc. that would normally be chopped with a hoe by people.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Caryn's Summer 2015 Internship

My name is Caryn Guth and I am currently a second year M.A. in Public History student with an emphasis in Heritage Education. This past summer, I was given the incredible opportunity of living in Estes Park, Colorado and interning at the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center. Specifically, I worked in the Lula W. Dorsey museum and I was the museum education intern.

Going into this, I really was not sure what to expect because I had never officially taught historical education classes and really did not have a formal education background, but as it turned out I was much better prepared than I was giving myself credit for. My special project was one that lasted all summer and it consisted of me taking the eleven predetermined day camp themes and writing an interactive and fun lesson plan for each different week that was related to the YMCA of the Rockies specifically, the YMCA in general, or Colorado history and then teaching those lessons to day camp kids grades Pre-K through 8th grade. The eleven different themes were Disney, Nature, Careers, Space, Holidays, History, Superheros, Around the World, Water World, Books, and Color Wars.

For example, these are some of the lesson plans that I created:

Week 1: Disney - A Disney themed scavenger hunt where kids were given a list of Disney movies, which varied for different age groups. Then, they had to go in the museum and look on the museum grounds (there were three historic cabins as well) for artifacts that they thought could relate to the listed Disney movie. Examples would be finding the ice saw to match with Frozen and mice (fake, of course) to match with Cinderella.

Week 4: Space - We read different Native American creation stories about constellations and then kids got to create their own constellations using marshmallows and pretzels, which they could eat at the end of the lesson, name it, and write their own story about it.

Week 10 - Books - We made homemade paper! It was a lot of work, and quite messy, but very fun and the kids absolutely loved it, which was what mattered most!

There are not nearly enough words to describe how much fun I had during my internship this summer, and how much I learned that I would be able to take with me throughout the rest of my education and hopefully into future careers. Coming into this internship, I was really not quite sure what to expect or what exactly my duties would be. I quickly became overwhelmed when I learned that I would be creating 11 different lesson plans for kids ranging from PreK-8th grade, and I was basically doing it all on my own. However, my supervisor Carie was such an amazing lady and mentor and a huge help to me during my time here. There were also many different times when I had to act independently as she was gone many of the weeks over to the sister YMCA camp, Snow Mountain Ranch, where she is also the association historian. It boosted my confidence to know that she had faith and trust in me that I could do this, and it felt great to prove her right!
I learned a lot about writing lesson plans, which was something I had never done before, and even more about teaching them to kids. After working here for 14 weeks, I can safely say that if this was the job I would have to do for the rest of my life as my career, I could not be happier. While there were days that proved to be difficult, I came away from this internship overall feeling very happy and proud of myself. The relationships I made here are ones that will last forever, and the experience was once in a lifetime and certainly one that I will never forget.

My amazing co-workers at the museum who I quickly became lifelong friends with!

The back of the museum grounds with the three historic cabins

Yes, it snowed the day after I moved in...

Elk checking out our historic tents at the museum

I had free time on the weekends to hike with some of my friends too!

View from the front porch of the museum - a place I spent lots of quality time when not teaching

I finally saw a black bear!

View from the front of the museum

YMCA of the Rockies

I also had a chance to do fun Colorado things like go white water rafting - I definitely recommend it if you like adventure!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Laura's Summer 2015 Internship

Hello All!

My name is Laura Williams and I’m a second year graduate student in the Public History program at Southeast Missouri State University. This summer I completed an internship at the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. I worked under the supervision of the District Archaeologist (and distinguished SEMO HP graduate), Heather Carey. Mrs. Carey’s job duties, as one of only two cultural resource specialists on the SNF, proved to be extremely diverse, providing me with a dynamic experience in the public realm of public history.

I worked a variety of properties including both the built environment and archaeological sites. For example, as part of the regular monitoring of significant properties on FS land, we visited 10 remote Native American sites to check for any kind of illegal activity or destruction. On the above ground side, My major project was to document the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, a historic church located on FS property. I performed background research using land and tax records from Pope County, Illinois and from the FS archives. My research culminated in a complete Evaluation and Determination of Eligibility, which was subsequently submitted to and accepted by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office.

I was also able to gain some experience in heritage education working with kids. A group of Native American youth from the Absentee Shawnee Tribe in Oklahoma visited the Forest for a week to learn about their ancestor’s migration through Southern Illinois. We took them on a tour of some of the major Native American Sites in the forest, including Millstone Bluff. I also helped Heather and some of her FS colleges teach at a youth day camp through the University of Illinois Extension Office in Anna, IL. We focused on the Trail of Tears, which passes through the region. I gave a short lesson on the basic principals of archaeological stratigraphy. The students layered ingredients from a buffet of sugary treats to create a tasty visual aid.

My favorite part of the internship was monitoring (checking up on) a collection of historic homesteads that make up what was once an antebellum community of free slaves called Miller Grove. Although what is left of Miller Grove today is mostly stone foundations and chimney falls, archaeological research has yielded valuable information and interesting insights into what life was like in this rare town. I also really liked that no day was the same as the one before, and the only thing I could absolutely count on, was that the next day would be different too.

Reflecting on my woodsey adventure now, I truly wouldn’t change anything. I feel incredibly grateful that I was able to work one on one with such a successful cultural resource specialist in such a beautiful natural environment.

Thanks for Reading!

Laura Williams

Kids eating their stratigraphy

Site monitoring

Sometimes we got to play with toys!

Survey in the wilderness

Touring Mill Stone Bluff with the Absentee Shawnee