Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Community Engagement: Is Your Museum Plugged In?

As I write this blog post, there is a lot going on in Richmond, VA. This Saturday morning, 40,000 (yes!) runners will make their way down Monument Avenue in the annual Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K race. Also on Saturday (and hopefully again on Monday!), Richmond's own VCU Rams Mens' Basketball team will be competing in the NCAA Final Four (Monday would be the Championship)! This made me start thinking, are the museums in the Richmond region plugging in to the enthusiasm (and FOOT TRAFFIC!) that this weekend will surely bring?

When the VMFA opened it's renowned Picasso exhibit recently, businesses around Richmond responded and plugged in immediately, offering Picasso-themed menu items, discounts to folks bringing their Picasso ticket stubs, and more. Clearly, when a business person sees an opportunity to bring customers, he or she takes advantage!

Can we say the same for our museums? With Richmond in the spotlight this weekend, what will your museum do to make sure it shines your way - at least just a little? Will you engage with the community? There are a lot of opportunities here for creative (and even not so creative!) community engagement. The lead article in our Winter 2009 VAM Voice Newsmagazine focused on museums innovating to survive - and it highlighted creative programming and partnerships that museums have forged throughout Virginia to remain relevant and to become active players in their communities. I'd love to add to our list of great innovations some ways that Richmond-area museums are plugging in to this weekend's "madness" or ways that museums in other parts of the state have done the same when community opportunities present themselves. If you have an example to share, please leave us a comment!

- Heather

Heather Widener
Communications Director
Virginia Association of Museums

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Museum Employee Song (lyrics)

by Scott Harris
(With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, though they’re dead anyway)


I am the very model of a Modern Museum Employee,
I have a very nice gift shop and charge a small admission fee.
With grants I pay the staff and all the bills for the utilities,
If the South had won the Civil War, instead of “Grants” we’d apply for “Lees.”

When I became a Director I worked all day and never tired,
But now it seems most all the time that with minutia I am mired.
With deficits and budget cuts I worry that I might get fired,
But if I’m canned at least I won’t have “other duties as required.”

When children come from local schools they run amok and shout with joy,
They don’t bring many chaperones and so my staff they do annoy.
Because they don’t read “please don’t touch” it’s no use trying to be coy,
For the last time I’m telling you, THAT CANNONBALL IS NOT YOUR TOY!


For the last time I’m telling you, that cannonball is not your toy!
For the last time I’m telling you, that cannonball is not your toy!


I cite places, dates, and facts, and other things historical,
And I know waistcoats, corsets, spats, and other terms sartorial.
Show me two Picassos and I’ll tell you which of them’s for real,
Because I know precisely what is meant by “CURATORIAL.”

I think Margo, Jennifer, and Heather to VAM heaven sent,
They run this conference, hold workshops, and make sure our dues are well spent.
The Council watches over all and makes sure nothing’s turbulent,
Joe Gutierrez just might be the handsomest VAM President.

When I’ve learnt that a replica of a chamber pot never really sells,
When I present the budget and the trustees don’t have fainting spells,
In short, when I’ve a got smattering of elementary SOLs,
[“elementary SOLs,” hmm, that’s tough—GOT it!]
You’ll say that Museum Employee should have a job just like Ford Bell’s.


You’ll say that Museum Employee should have a job just like Ford Bell’s.
You’ll say that Museum Employee should have a job just like Ford Bell’s.


For my knowledge of museums, though it’s still imperfect all can see,
No one has a finer cabinet of curiosities.
And while I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to join the cast of “Glee,”

(download a .pdf version to keep forever)

Thank You to All Who Exhibited at Conference 2011 - If You Missed the Conference, Check out this Virtual Exhibit Hall

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Message from Our President

The following message is from Joe Gutierrez, VAM's president. It will appear in the upcoming VAM Voice member newsmagazine (release date will be Monday, March 14th):

Dear friends and colleagues,

The National Advisory Council on Continuing Education reports more than twenty-three million adults participate in continuing education annually. According to some sources this represents as much as 13% of the United States workforce. Reasons for participation are diverse, but studies indicate that maintaining and enhancing job skills, career advancement, and personal satisfaction are prime motivators. The world of work has changed dramatically in the last century. One source notes that in 1900 only one out of every 10 workers was in a professional, technical, or managerial occupation. By 1970 that had doubled and today these types of jobs account for nearly 1/3 of our workforce.

How does this relate to museums and in particular to the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM)? The mission of the VAM is to serve as the resource network of the Virginia and District of Columbia museum community through education, technical assistance, and advocacy. VAM has a long history as a leader in providing opportunities for continuing the development of professional skills of all levels of museum practioners. When I began my career the workshop series and the annual conference were tools that helped me see and understand the successes some institutions had. It was very clear to a new professional that the knowledge, skills, and abilities of a museum’s staff were the reason for success. Today, as the world has changed, so has VAM and there are more tools than ever before to help you.

Among the most popular are:

• Virginia Certificate Programs for Museum Professionals

• Workshop Series

• Technical Assistance Program

• Annual Conference

Experienced staff and colleagues just starting on a career may chose to participate in the Certificate in Museum Management Program. Utilizing workshops sponsored by VAM, SEMC, AAM, AASLH, college and university partners, as well as independent study participants provide the opportunity to learn the “ins and outs” of museum operations through a structured and systematic process.

For those interested in the specifics of selected operational issues, VAM also offers an annual workshop series for professionals in the field. These workshops conducted by successful practioners, develop new and strengthen existing skills. From conservation to special events these workshops provide principles and successful models which can be replicated.

Perhaps the most important aspect of VAM’s commitment to those of us in the field is the technical assistance program. Just by filling out a form, VAM can match your institution with an available advisor with expertise in one of many key areas of museum operations. Essentially this provides a one-to-one training program focused on a specific project that small museums in particular can benefit from, and the support can last up to six months.

From my perspective, perhaps the greatest resource for staff development is the annual conference. Hundreds of professionals from all areas of the Commonwealth converge to share successes and challenges, to inspire and communicate, and help one another. We all experience similar challenges and more than one career has been helped by learning what did and didn’t work at another institution. If you didn’t make the conference this year, I urge you to make it a professional priority in 2012. Learning can be fun, and that is particularly true at the conference.

I hope as you read this newsletter, you will carefully consider all the professional resources available through VAM. Take time to carefully read the information online at Also consider where our field might be without VAM’s voice and what would be missing. I also hope you will continue to financially support VAM and that you might find an opportunity to give back more than the membership fee. VAM is a critical partnership not only in professional development but in educating decision-makers about the importance of museums. We need your support.


Joe Gutierrez, President
Virginia Association of Museums

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Virginia on iTunes U and Apps for Learning

Through iTunes U for K-12 education, students, teachers, and other interested users can “learn on the go" by downloading audio and video content onto an iPad, iPod, iTouch, or iPhone from any computer with Internet access. The Virginia on iTunes U portal is part of a larger effort by the Commonwealth to harness the power of digital media and mobile devices to expand and supplement classroom -based education. “Mobile communication devices are an integral part of the lives of thousands of Virginia students,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Patricia I. Wright. “We can choose to ignore them or we can leverage them as powerful, personal learning devices.”

To access Virginia on iTunes U directly:

Virginia on iTunes U may be accessed at here if iTunes is downloaded on the computer (PC or Mac). A free download of iTunes is available.

As of March 1, 2011, the following list of courses is available on Virginia on iTunes U:

A Moment in Time
Academic Literacy
African American Trailblazers in Virginia
BackStory with the American History Guys
Civil War in Virginia Series
Creative Learning in the Classroom
Data Driven Decision Making
Discovering Jamestown
Diving Deeper
Dr. Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent
Economics and Personal Finance
English as a Second Language
Family Connections Pre-K
Focus on Virginia: The James River
Fun with Physics
Highlights from George C. Marshall Foundation
Internet Safety in Virginia
Introduction to Comics
ITRT Connection
Jamestown: A Fruitful Soil
Learning without Boundaries
Making Waves
McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence
Net Files
Net Safety
Parent Involvement: Keys to Success
Reading Comprehension Strategies
Shaping the Constitution: Resources from Library of Virginia and Library of Congress
Shaping the World: Conversations on Democracy
Share the Skies
Shortie Awards: Student Film & News Festival
Teachers and Teaching
Teaching Mathematics
Tech Tutorials
Technology Integration
Teens in Between
The Empire of Mali Series
The Forest Files
The Story of Virginia
Thinkfinity in Virginia
Three Countries You Ought to Know About
Virginia Currents
Virginia Holocaust Museum
Virginia Pathways
Virginia Trekkers
Virginians at War
With Good Reason

Previous Background Information on Virginia Department of Education

(Press Releases Related to Apps for Learning)
Superintendent Announces SOL Apple Apps Challenge Seeking Apps to Enhance Learning in History, Civics &; Geography

SOL Apple Apps Challenge Winners Announced: Apps Designed to Enhance Learning in History, Civics and Geography Apps for Learning

With nearly 350,000 apps—over 25,000 in the Education category—available in the Apple App Store, the Office of Educational Technology at the Virginia Department of Education is leveraging these mobile technologies to expand learning opportunities for students and families. Mobile devices are an integral part of children’s lives and the majority of children in the United States have access to a mobile device. Virginia is tapping these devices to deliver standards-based, engaging content to meet the specific needs of Virginia’s learners.

Several initiatives are adding to the growing collection of apps. A Virginia Mobile Learning Apps Development Challenge has been conducted for the past two years focusing on social studies and mathematics. Based on the Standards of Learning (SOL) and an analysis of student performance by question test data, apps on key social studies and mathematics priorities have been developed to motivate students and enhance their learning. Internet safety apps have been developed to complement the Professor Garfield Internet Safety and You lessons. Competitive grant recipients through the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program have used a portion of this funding to develop apps to promote student-directed learning and enrichment beyond the classroom. Finally, the Beyond Textbooks initiative is resulting in apps that challenge our thinking about textbooks.

All apps are available as free downloads from the Apple App Store.

Early Jamestown
Beyond Textbooks 2010: American History Games
Beyond Textbooks 2010: American History Test Prep
Beyond Textbooks 2010: World History Games
Beyond Textbooks 2010: World History Test Prep
Westward Expansion
Pass the Past
C2C! (Coast to Coast)
European Exploration: The Age of Discovery
Nation Creation
Number Line
Freddy Fraction

Fraction Factory


Math Stacker
Professor Garfield - Cyberbullying
Professor Garfield - Online Safety
Professor Garfield Fact or Opinion
Professor Garfield Forms of Media
Computer Carl
Grammar Dragon
Opposite Ocean
Same Meaning Magic
Same Sound Spell Bound
Sticker Shop
History Line
Spelling Cat

Beyond Textbook Initiative

For additional information, please contact:

Betsy S. Barton
Specialist, History and Social Science
Office of Standards, Curriculum, and Instruction
Virginia Department of Education