I liked this book. Sally Mann is wickedly intelligent, and I appreciated her honesty. Or is it honesty? Of course, anyone writing a memoir chooses carefully what they include, and...
Inspired and Rejuvenated by “Takin’ It to the Streets: Successful Models for Education Outreach”
On January 21, the American Alliance of Museums offered a webinar, “Takin’ It to the Streets: Successful Models for Museum Outreach.” The program showcased several education outreach programs and projects from across the nation, all of which were designed to increase community investment in and use of local museums. I attended at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Bristol VA/TN), one of 26 face-to-face sites across the US, all convening in cyberspace to share ideas and discuss the challenges and successes of offering excellent outreach programs. Many thanks to the BCMM for hosting us!
As part of their education committee, I attended the webinar to support the BCMM’s effort to provide this kind of programming to the community at large. As an independent professional practitioner of educational outreach, I also gained some important insights into how other museums are designing educational outreach programs that meet actual needs and generate interest in their holdings. I came away from the webinar feeling inspired, encouraged, and ready to continue creating new programs for my clients.
I gained two major benefits from “Takin’ It to the Streets.” First, it gave me a number of new ideas for specific programs that will serve the needs of several of my clients. I came home with many notes and ideas in the margins of my handout and a few new connections to boot. The second benefit is that I came away reassured. “Takin’ It to the Streets” reinforced ideas that already undergird my practice. When you’re in business for yourself, it’s always encouraging to see more evidence that you’re filling a need and that there’s demand for your services.
To sum up the most important ideas I garnered from webinar:
- CUSTOMIZATION IS KEY. This is one of the reasons why I established Appalworks. I like working with organizations and individuals to design programs and presentations that meet their unique and particular goals and objectives. The one-size-fits-all approach just isn’t as effective as designing a program that focuses specifically on a client’s needs.
- COLLABORATION IS ESSENTIAL. Good outreach programs cannot be created in a vacuum; museums and other institutions must work with teachers and communities to design programs together. That’s why I listen carefully my clients and work with them in all stages of design to ensure that I am on track with their particular objectives and needs.
- OUTREACH CREATES COMMUNITY INVESTMENT. Outreach build community ownership and investment. One of the most webinar’s compelling examples noted that only about 21% of the people in a community will visit inside the four walls of a local museum. In communities where museums had vibrant and effective outreach programs, however, even citizens who didn’t visit the actual site recognized the value of the institution to their community and were likely to vote for funding to support it. That’s a sound reason to engage in outreach if I ever heard one.
- THERE’S A NEED FOR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS LIKE ME. In post-webinar discussions, a number of the representatives form museums and historic sites noted that, unlike the example institutions shown onscreen, many institutions in our region have only one staff member (if that) whose primary responsibility is education outreach. As an independent consultant with a broad, interdisciplinary background, I can fill the need for a variety of custom-designed programs, and I’ll go out and present them as a representative of the client, freeing the staff to handle other tasks.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to network with others and collect new ideas and inspiration. I hope the BCMM will soon offer more webinars like this.
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