Museum Education

Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.

In This Issue

Are You Taking Advantage of All the Educational Opportunities Open to Your Museum?
Small Museum Pro!
Instructor Spotlight
Featured Course
February 2017 Online Courses
March 2017 Online Courses
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Are You Taking Advantage of All the Educational Opportunities Open to Your Museum?
By Karin Hostetter
Everyone is Part of the Education Department
New knowledge constantly bombards every one of us. Everything which enters any of our senses is feeding information to our brains and changing what we think and understand. Is your museum taking advantage of this?
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
When most people think of "museum education," they think of the formal classes, special programs, and grand exhibits which they design for groups of visitors. While these certainly comprise a large portion of time and resources in educational endeavors, they might not have the farthest reach or leave the most lasting understanding. Many educational opportunities are overlooked and yet are available to more people and on a more frequent basis. Here are some examples:
Membership Brochure: Typically, these feature information on costs and benefits, but add one quick fact with each membership level about how much it takes to feed a specific animal for a year, to offer a field trip for one school classroom of students, or to curate one piece of art and potential members feel good about joining and might join at a higher level, not to mention they learned something in the process.
Gift Shops: Take a step back and look at the overall view of the items the way a visitor sees it. Do you see inexpensive items geared to getting a child to say "buy this" or items unrelated to the mission and exhibits of the museum? While these might be merchandising techniques, they also leave an educational message of "all you want from me is my money." Be sure that what is sold in a gift shop is quality, even if inexpensive, and supports other efforts of the museum.
Web page: Wow, so many opportunities exist here. Can you have a page which features an item in the collections which is never on exhibit and change the featured object monthly? What about a short piece each month from a staff member/curator on current research or special museum related interests? If you have a special exhibit on view, you can supplement the information of the exhibit text or guided tours by having one or a series of mini essays on different related topics of the exhibit and background information.
Donor letters: Besides saying thanks for the money, a little "did you know" fact at the end about some item in collection can be fun. The ideas mentioned above associated with membership also work here. After a training I did for all staff at a zoo, the Director of Development came to me and said she totally redid her donor letter and immediately received calls back from people stating they liked the informative thank-you letter. She had never received a "thank-you" for her "thank-you" before.
Class descriptions: These are generally written to peak interest and create a bit of mystery. Including one fun fact adds an element of education even if people do not sign up for the class. For example, "Did you know 75% of the earth is covered with water? Come explore the watery world at our museum. Look for animals living in water and find out how water gets into our homes." Or "Did you know that cream at room temperature churns into butter better than cream out of the refrigerator? Join us for a class on pioneer cooking with recipes, tasting, and a lunch you cook yourselves on our wood burning stove."
Take a close look at all the ways you reach out to the public. Read the brochures carefully, explore the entire website, examine donor letters. Where can you enrich your message to recipients by adding a small educational tidbit?
Karin Hostetter has over thirty years experience with museum education. With a career that includes natural history museums, cultural history museums (including first person interpretation), nature centers, and zoos, Ms. Hostetter is experienced in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and staff and volunteer training. Ms. Hostetter is owner of Interpret This, a consulting company specializing in interpretive writing, program and curriculum development, and volunteer program management. When she is not consulting with other museums, she likes to volunteer and contract teach at them with a special love for preschool and family programs.

To learn more join Karin for her MS236: Museum Education starting February 6, 2017.
Small Museum Pro! Online Courses in 2017
Northern States Conservation Center is please to host American Association for State and Local History's Small Museum Pro! online courses in 2017
Collections Management
Instructor:Dyani Feige
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
March 20, 2017 - May 15, 2017
This eight week course will introduce participants to the professional principles and practices in the management of museum collections. Topics will include collections development, registration and record keeping with an emphasis on the development of Collection Policies and Procedures and what it means to be intellectually and physically responsible for museum objects. By the end of the course, participants will:
  • Develop a detailed draft of a Collections Policy
  • Develop of identify a collection of objects
  • Develop a standardized set of registration records and forms including inventory, catalog, accession, and loans
  • Learn about various registration numbering systems and how to mark objects appropriately
  • Discuss issues related to collections strategies, mission, purpose, and scope of collections
  • Develop a broader understanding of legal and ethical concerns of managing collections
Museum Education and Outreach
Instructor: Tanya Brock
Trowulan Museum, East Java
June 5 to July 31, 2017
Details TBA
For more information check for the course posting on the AASLH website at:
Instructor Spotlight: Tom Bennett
Tom Bennett , Museum Manager at the Heritage Museum at Wells Fargo in Anchorage, Alaska, has worked as a professional museum mount maker for 25 years. He attended the University of Victoria British Columbia, Heritage Preservation Program's basic mountmaking course and learned the rest of his skills on the job. His mounts appear in the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska State Museum, the Museum of the Aleutians, the Washington Historical Society, the Monterey Historical Society, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, the Port of Seattle (Seattle-Tacoma Airport), and National Park Service and US Forest Service visitor centers. He has worked for five different museum exhibit design and fabrication firms as well as being the former director of the Alaska Museum of Natural History. Tom Bennett works in a variety of materials, including Plexiglas, brass, wood, and polyethylene foam.
Tom Bennett teaches two of our courses.  Please join him for one of these and learn about Exhibit preparation:

MS238: Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts
MS233: Matting and Framing
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
For our course list or to sign up:  
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at

The Early Bird Discount deadline for March 2017 courses is February 5, 2017
Featured Course: Opening and Closing Seasonal Museums

The seasonal closure of a museum presents unique challenges and opportunities for collection preservation. This is an introductory-level conservation course exploring simple collection preservation methods for seasonal museums. The target
audience for the course is curators and other museum personnel, volunteers, site managers, maintenance personnel. No prior conservation training necessary. Participants will learn about the challenges and opportunities associated with caring for collections in seasonal facilities. They will learn about the risks to collections and how to mitigate them through closing and re-opening procedures, as well as throughout the winter season.

Join Fiona Graham for this interesting and very informative course  MS219: Opening and Closing Seasonal Museums beginning February 6, 2017. 
February 2017 Courses 

February 6 to March 3, 2017
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
The United States has more than 17,000 museums, we can only guess at the world's total. While most people think of a museum as a well-staffed, professionally run institution, the vast majority of museums are started and run by people with little or no basic training in museum studies or preservation. Introduction to Museums is designed to change that. The course introduces basic concepts, terminology and the role of various staff members, including curators, registrars and directors. Introduction to Museums is aimed at staff members, board members, interns, volunteers, as well as anyone interested in becoming a museum professional or learning more about the profession.
MS 208: Applying Numbers to Collection Objects
February 6 to March 3, 2017
Instructor: Helen Alten
Applying Numbers to Collection Objects covers the materials and methods of object numbering: registration, handling, labeling and marking, number placement, documentation, health and safety, transponders and barcodes, surface marks, inks, paints and barrier coats. Each participant receives a Northern States Conservation Center collections labeling kit and performs experiments using its contents. Participants learn to determine what pen, ink, barrier coat or tag is appropriate for each object and storage or display situation.
February 6 to March 3, 2017
Instructor: Fiona Graham
The seasonal closure of a museum presents unique challenges and opportunities for collection preservation. This is an introductory-level conservation course exploring simple collection preservation methods for seasonal museums. The target Audience for the course is curators and other museum personnel, volunteers, site managers, maintenance personnel. No prior conservation training necessary. Participants will learn about the challenges and opportunities associated with caring for collections in seasonal facilities. They will learn about the risks to collections and how to mitigate them through closing and re-opening procedures, as well as throughout the winter season.
February 6 to March 3, 2017
Instructor: Victoria Montana Ryan
Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.
February 6 to March 3, 2017
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
The world of museum education is as varied as the imagination. From school field trips to online blogs, from 2-year-olds to senior citizens, and from formal programs to volunteering, it is all part of the educational delivery system of a museum. In Education in Museums, survey the education programs offered at your site. Determine what exhibits and collections need better representation through education. Develop a long term plan of education program development for your site that you can use to improve services to your community.
February 6 to March 17, 2017
Instructor: Tom Bennett
Sprucing up your exhibits with safe, effective, inexpensive mounts can be easier and more fun than you thought. With a few tools, good technique and a bit of practice, you will be well on the way to presenting your objects in their most interesting light, with an eye on long-term safety and security. Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts presents the basics of mountmaking for the small to medium-sized museum including tools, techniques and materials. Be prepared to construct mounts during the course. Students will be sent a list of materials and tools to acquire before the course commences. Come along and exercise your creative side while doing the collection a world of good.
March 2017 courses
March 6 to 10, 2017
Instructor: Helen Alten
To get anything done in your museum, you often need to get other staff to support the idea. All too often, preservation is left to one or two staff members and others believe it doesn't apply to them. For example, it is hard to successfully implement a pest management plan without full staff support. Everyone must buy into the notion of preservation. But how? Readings will introduce some ideas and participants in this course will brainstorm with Helen about what works, what might work - and what doesn't.
MS 108: Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs
March 6 to 31, 2017
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Volunteers are essential for most non-profit institutions. But good volunteers aren't born -- they are made. Even though they don't get paychecks, it takes time and money to have effective volunteers. Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs teaches the basics of a strong volunteer program. Topics include recruiting, training and rewarding volunteers, as well as preparing staff. Instruction continues through firing and liabilities. Participants will end up with sound foundational knowledge for starting a new or strengthening an existing volunteer program based on a nine-step process.
March 6 to 31, 2017
Instructor:  Helen Alten
Is your collection stacked, packed and stressed? Museum Storage Techniques has the solution. The course builds on its sister course, Museum Facilities and Furniture, which looks at the bigger storage environment.. The Museum Storage Techniques course emphasizes the needs of individual objects and collection groupings. Guidelines for specific materials are provided. Participants learn about storage materials and mounts and the most effective use of trays, drawers, shelves and cabinets.
March 6 to 31, 2017
Instructor: Diana Komejan
Archaeological finds come out of the ground fragile - and they often stay that way. Yet archaeologists and museum professionals have few clear guidelines for handling, moving, storing and displaying such materials. Participants in Care of Archaeological Artifacts From the Field to the Lab learn techniques for safely lifting and packing artifacts, safe transportation and temporary and permanent storage. The course also covers a broad range of excavation environments, including the Arctic, wet sites, tropical and temperate. Though Care of Archaeological Artifacts is not intended to train archaeological conservators, it is designed to help participants understand what can and can't be done to save the artifacts they unearth

Regional Workshops
Where you can find some of our instructors in 2016:

Stevan P. Layne

  • February 6-7, 2017, Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA

Conferences and Meetings
California Association of Museums, Sacramento, CA
March 29-31, 2017
Texas Association of Museums, Abilene, TX
April 4-7, 2017

Museum Store Association, Pittsburgh, PA
April 21-24, 2017

Museums Association New York
Museums, Saratoga Springs, NY
April 2-4, 2017

Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, Boulder, CO
April 20-22, 2017
American Alliance of Museums, St. Louis, MO
May 7-10, 2017
Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, Rochester, NY
June 9-13, 2017
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Denver, CO 
June 18-24, 2017

Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, Eugene, OR
June 22-26, 2017

Society of American Archivists, 2017 Annual Meeting, Portland, OR  
July 23-29, 2017  

American Association for State and Local History, Austin, TX
September 6-9, 2017

Southeastern Museums Conference, 2017 Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA 
September 11-13, 2017 
International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, New Haven, CT
September 17-20, 2017

Western Museums Association, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
September 20-23, 2017

New England Museum Association, 2017 Annual Conference, North Falmouth, MA
October 25-27, 2017
National Association for Interpretation, Spokane, Washington
November 14-18, 2017

Society of American Archivists, 2018 Annual Meeting, Washington, DC
August 12-18, 2018

Western Museums Association, Tacoma, WA
Dates TBA 
Southeastern Museums Conference, 2018 Annual Meeting, Jackson, MS
October 8-10, 2018
National Association for Interpretation
Dates and location TBD
November 2018
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, Colorado
November 12-16, 2019

Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to .  
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 
Have a comment or suggestion?   
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager