Monday, March 5, 2012


A recent webinar stated that in order to get recognition and money for the things museum collections need, people need to feel connected to the collections.  Here at the Virginia Living Museum, the live collection takes center stage and few know that we even have a non-living collection as well.  Hidden away behind closed doors, with limited access by the public, makes us invisible and we were missing out on connecting with people in the same way that our live collection can.  After all, it’s hard to compete with warm, cute and fuzzy animals.
The local environmental science magnet elementary school, Deer Park ES, contacted the museum looking for ways to connect the kids to the museum and have them learn about job opportunities in the museum field.  Here was the perfect opportunity to connect these kids to a collection that they were going to be studying in school- rocks and minerals.  So the idea of Kids Caring About Collections was born. 

Every Wednesday a group of eight fifth graders enthusiastically leave their school and walk the two blocks to the Virginia Living Museum to work in the museum as part of this program. Combining learning with work, the students arrive about 9:30 and have a short lesson then they work for the next 20 minutes rehousing the geology collection in a classroom near the Collections storage area. They carefully remove all of the boxes of specimens, determine what size acid free box they will need and then carefully move the contents of the box from the old box to the new one, making sure that they also move all labels and tags in the box.  This may seem scary to most Collections Managers, but these kids are hand-picked from many kids that apply for this opportunity. We also insisted that the school provide two adult volunteers.

With our staff and the teacher, that ends up being one adult for every two students, a great ratio. While the students are rehousing the objects, they are also learning about the rocks and minerals, where they can be found and sometimes even that they have unique properties.  At the end, I ask them to tell me about their favorite rock or mineral or to look up an exotic place they have never heard of that was listed on a tag. Among their favorites was purple and yellow fluorite, the green malachite and the sparkling Herkimer diamonds.

Jody Ullmann
Collections Manager (aka, Queen of the Dead)
Virginia Living Museum
Newport News, VA

1 comment:

Lisa Wright said...

Great job Jody!--Lisa