Rowman & Littlefield Museums & Archives New Professional Books for 2022
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Late last week I received the R&L 2022 Museums and Archives catalog. There are any number of excellent books either on the shelves or on their way. Below, I highlight a few that really caught my eye. Click the photos for more information.
Equal parts autobiography, cautionary tale, and actionable recommendations, this book is as candid and vulnerable as the author insists all seekers of justice be when they embark on a full-scale DEAI initiative anchored in anti-oppression.
Since the beginning of her professional museum journey, Cecile Shellman—like many who have been marginalized by systems ill-prepared to support them—has had to engage in cultural realms in which she was not fully represented and where she was sometimes misrepresented or understood. It’s difficult being the “only one in the room,” while trying to build relations and succeed in your chosen career. Ms. Shellman shares personal relatable stories that explain how harmful inattention to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion can be to individuals and to the group dynamic. This rare peek behind the curtain of museum culture leaves no holds barred.
The telling is done in an entirely approachable, if humbling way. Poignant illustrations and vivid verbal descriptions are designed to take you further into the author’s experience as well as providing moments of reflection and humor. Tales from the field—anonymized stories describing microagressions, discrimination, barriers, and roadblocks in the field—are accompanied by questions to spark dialogue and engender empathetic responses. These anecdotes refer to those who share the author’s identity and circumstance as well as those who don’t. As with all stories, lessons and messages about culture and patterns are told as a point of caution. What might you do if you were participants in these events? How can you build your emotional intelligence to a desired level for your current museum and personal needs?
Finally, there are calls to action at the personal, interpersonal, organizational, and systemic levels. True transformation requires complete reassessment of norms bolstered by a broken society. This book provides strategies for implementing change.
Nosek, Elizabeth. Interpretative Master Planning: A Framework for Historic Sites.
Interpretative Master Planning: A Framework for Historical Sites begins with the basics of any planning experience: why do an interpretative master plan (IMP) and is your institution ready to undergo such a process? These chapters are followed with straightforward guidance on how to go about organizing the necessary funding to pay for an IMP’s development, the core members of your planning team, choosing stakeholders, hosting focus groups, and using all the information gathered to develop an engaging interpretative master plan that is unique to your museum, historic site, or organization.
The book features five case studies highlighting organizations that have undergone the interpretative master planning process. Each case study offers a unique point of view about the process and provides the organization’s conclusions as to what they would or would not do again if they had the choice. The end results showcase the wealth of useful information that can be garnered from an Interpretative Master Planning experience.
Interpretative Master Planning: A Framework for Historical Sites offers a complete framework complemented by real-world examples for creating a blueprint that will strengthen any organization’s interpretation.
If food is nourishment to a person, money is sustenance for most nonprofit organizations. Yet many small organizations rely on one-off efforts and get-rich events in place of real fundraising strategies. Just because an organization is small, or volunteer-run, or located in a rural area, does not mean its leaders can’t professionalize their fundraising, establish effective processes, and build genuine relationships that will lead to the ultimate goal: people giving to people.
Beyond the Bake Sale: Fundraising for Local History Organizations meets organizations where they are, cutting through all of the assumptions and mumbo-jumbo, taking professional fundraising strategies and scaling them to an accessible level. Designed specifically for small cultural heritage organizations, this book is written with their unique challenges in mind. From caring for objects-based collections to succeeding with minimal (or no) permanent staff to grant writing for those who’ve never written grants, this book is for local history organization leaders doing critical work to care for our shared history.
Complete with explanations, examples, and thought-provoking questions, this book challenges local history leaders to brainstorm, communicate, experiment, and plan. Blank worksheets encourage readers to put ideas down in writing and establish processes to build upon. Whether read cover to cover or used as a reference text for specific topics, users will find material that begins with a broad overview before narrowing to focus on tips and tactics that will help grassroots fundraisers feel more comfortable, confident and confident in their efforts.
Above all else, this book is grounded in the idea that fundraising is an intentional, people-focused process built on genuine, personal relationships. This philosophy should be as accessible to leaders at small cultural heritage organizations as to anyone else doing important nonprofit work in their communities.
Words are everywhere in the museum. They swarm amidst all the visual exhibits, and throughout many non-exhibition areas, talking to a vast swath of people in ways that visuals cannot. Signage at the information desk, visitor material, scripts for tour guides, scripts for exhibition videos, education plans, posts, blogs, membership brochures, audio scripts for smart phones, apps for in-depth information, and store labels. In a multi-screen world, where information explodes in every corner of the field of vision, clarity comes from the presence of words to organize the feast of visuals and help all audiences feel at home.
Research bears out the need for a range of learning tools and it’s not just visitors who benefit from verbal cues; donors, educators, community partners and volunteers will all engage more effectively with the museum that explains its brand mission with good writing. Whether written by administrators, staffers, freelancers, or interns, words must be delivered by your museum with the confidence they will connect meaningfully with all audiences. Your story is told everywhere, with every narration opening your doors wider.
Walhimer, Mark. Designing Museum Experiences.
Museums are changing from static, monolithic, and encyclopedic institutions to institutions that are visitor-centric, with shared authority that allows museum and visitors to become co-creators in content creation. Museum content is also changing, from static content to dynamic, evolving content that is multi-cultural and transparent regarding the evolution of facts and histories, allowing multi-person interpretations of events.
Designing Museum Experiences leads readers through the methods and tools of the three stages of a museum visit (Pre-visit, In-Person Visit, and Post-visit), with a goal of motivating visitors to return and revisit the museum in the future. This museum visitation loop creates meaningful intellectual, emotional, and experiential value for the visitor.
Using the business-world-proven methodologies of user centered design, Museum Visitor Experience leads the reader through the process of creating value for the visitor. Providing consistent messaging at all touchpoints (website, social media, museum staff visitor services, museum signage, etc.) creates a trusted bond between visitor and museum. The tools used to increase understanding of and encourage empathy for the museum visitor, and understand visitor motivations include: Empathy Mapping, Personas, Audience segmentation, Visitor Journey Mapping, Service Design Blueprints, System Mapping, Content Mapping, Museum Context Mapping, Stakeholder Mapping, and the Visitor Value Proposition.
In the end, the reason for using the tools is to empower visitors and meet their emotional and intellectual needs, with the goal of creating a lifelong bond between museum and visitor. This is especially important as museums face a new post COVID-19 reality; only the most nimble, visitor-centered museums are likely to survive.
Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K–12 Audiences: How to Connect with Teachers and Engage Students is the first book in more than a decade to provide a comprehensive look at best practices in working with this crucial segment of museum visitors. With more than 40 contributors from art, history, science, natural history, and specialty museums across the country, the book asks probing questions about museum-school relationships, suggests new paradigms, and offers creative approaches. Fully up-to-date with current issues relevant to museums’ work with schools, including anti-racist teaching approaches and pivoting to virtual programming during the pandemic, this book is essential for both established and emerging museum educators to ensure they are current on best practices in the field.
The book features four parts: Setting the Stage looks at the how museums establish and finance K-12 programs, and how to engage with the youngest audiences. Building Blocks considers the core elements of successful K-12 programming, including mission alignment, educator recruitment and training, working with teacher advisory boards, and anti-racist teaching practices. Questions and New Paradigms presents case studies in which practitioners reconsider established approaches to museums’ work with schools and engage in iterative processes to update and improve them—from evaluating K–12 museum programs to diversifying program content, to prioritizing virtual programming. Solutions and Innovative Models offers examples of programs that have been reimagined for the current landscape of museum-school collaborations, including practicing self-care for teachers and museum educators, investing in extended school relationships over one-time visits, and highlighting the stories of enslaved people who lived at historic sites.
Vanderwarf, Sandra and Bethany Romanowski. Inventorying Cultural Heritage Collections: A Guide for Museums and Historical Societies.
This two-part text opens with an argument few collections practitioners would contest: Regular inventories are central to meaningful, sustainable, and ethical collections preservation and access. But Vanderwarf and Romanowski argue that in practice—some 25 years working with diverse collections between them—inventories are uncommon: instead of functioning as a commonplace feature of collections care, they tend to be evoked as a last resort when a museum has lost control of its collection.
Part I offers a flexible project management framework that illustrates strategies for reining in control of collections now. From identifying objectives that best serve the collection in question to securing stakeholder support and planning time and resources, Part I eliminates some guesswork around what may be an unprecedented and intensive project. To maintain the benefits of a project-style inventory, the authors then encourage practitioners to embrace inventory as an ongoing, evolving collections care function that reflects changing professional values and expectations from the communities museums serve. By centering computerized databases, barcoding, and digital collections, the authors further acknowledge these technologies as permanent, evolving features of collections and inventory practice that merit increased resourcing.
Part II gives voice to practitioners around the world through case studies that affirm the vital role of inventories in regaining control of collections. Some of these inventories occurred during the course of everyday work, while others were responses to natural disasters and armed conflict. Still others may be seen as expressions of social justice. As much as the authors offer a guide to performing inventories, thereby filling a longstanding gap in the literature, they invite cultural heritage institutions to rethink how the stories held in collections can be better told and preserved through enhanced inventory practice.
The book will benefit seasoned museum collections practitioners as well as those who lack access to formal museology education and training. The book targets stewards of cultural heritage and material culture collections with varying resources
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