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The Stewardship Stories project is a collaboration between the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center and WPTZ News Channel 5 (WPTZ) that will prototype a museum-media partnership that combines the interpretive expertise of a science center, the mass public appeal of a television news channel, and the accessibility of a community-driven Web site to engage audiences to take environmental action in their local communities. By creating a new conservation correspondent position producing weekly news segments, the project will provide authentic examples of community members taking responsibility for stewardship of the natural environment while the museum adds tangible 21st-century solutions for meeting the rapidly evolving social and educational needs of audiences.
In partnership with the North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will work with a software developer to prototype a state-of-the-art software application that will enhance and make more meaningful the museum experience for visually impaired and blind visitors. The application, based on one developed for hotel environments, will provide detailed way-finding maps and enhanced exhibition interpretation. The application will be made available for other museums to adapt for their own environments.
San Diego Society of Natural History will use popular technology, social software, and digitized natural history collections to reconnect the public with nature. NatureSpace addresses the challenge of making digitized natural history collections, which are traditionally not designed to be accessible to the average person, more engaging through a new user-friendly front-end interface. Working with volunteer organizations interested in interpreting three local natural areas in the San Diego region, the museum will prototype 18 user-centered tools such as scavenger hunts and interpretive walks for the NatureSpace mobile application. The final products will be openly shared with the museum community.
The Chabot Space & Science Museum will produce Random Acts of Science, a pop-up science education program for underserved neighborhoods in Oakland. Inspired by, and in partnership with, the Oakland Firefighter’s Random Acts (a philanthropic outreach organization of Oakland Firefighters), the program will pair trusted and respected firefighters with astronomers and science educators, arriving by fire engine to communities whose members are least likely to come to the Science Center. Chabot will use mobile technology and equipment such as a traveling telescope, computer hookup, and large portable screen. The combination of portable astronomy equipment with the excitement of a fire engine has the potential to serve as a model for science education community outreach programs.
Natural History museums have identified a need to transform their traditional spaces into vital forces for science education. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) will implement “Seeing as a Scientist,” a design-based research initiative to develop and test gallery interventions that have the potential to increase scientific observation skills for family groups. Working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE), CMNH will pilot a series of quick changes and additions to dioramas and outline expectations for each. Visitors will be observed to measure the degree of engagement in scientific observation (deliberate looking in order to understand visual evidence)--an essential skill for learning across scientific disciplines. The four most promising interventions will be evaluated to determine which are most successful in providing the necessary support for families to establish shared focus and two-way, science-based conversation. The project will include a blog to share information and to disseminate the results to other museums.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) will test the effectiveness of both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology in tracking visitors carrying smartphone devices as they move throughout the museum. This anonymous data will enable them to see where a person is located in the gallery, how they move around, and how often they return to the museum. The museum will also provide visitors with location-based collection content, accessible via smartphone, based on their location within the galleries. To accomplish this, IMA staff will develop software for collecting and analyzing visitor data and will enhance TAP, an open-source tool for building mobile tours, to provide location-based content. With such data, museums of all types will have the ability to better understand their visitors and provide more personalized and engaging experiences for their audiences.
The UC Davis Arboretum will address the challenge of effectively managing increasingly complex museum projects that involve multiple teams, communities and outside partners through a project to rapidly prototype, test, and evaluate the use of low-cost cloud-based collaborative tools that can help museum staff reduce the stress of managing their inboxes while improving efficiency and effectiveness. Museums across the U.S. are in the midst of transforming their institutions to support 21st century skills, yet their own back of house operations often rely on outdated technical tools; many museums still use email as the primary tool for managing tasks, collaborating on documents, making and tracking group decisions, coordinating schedules, communicating ideas and idea development, and for overall project management. Although individual museums will need to devise their own strategic approach to collaborating online, UC Davis will produce a roadmap and white paper as a valuable resource to guide the museum field along the first steps toward replacing emails with online collaborative workspaces.
The African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum will use its grant for the training of museum staff and volunteers in the interpretation and management of historic sites. The goal of the project is to provide the necessary skills to lead tours of twelve United States Colored Troops sites in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Once trained, the staff and volunteers will then lead tours for local teachers, who will have the opportunity to attend a special workshop that provides a certificate of completion and continuing education credits. Project content, including video of each site, will be available to the educational community, and to the public, on the foundation’s website. The training component will be sustained as a required, self-paced, web-based training program.
The Evansville African American Museum will partner with university, library, and non-profit community service organizations to make its museum exhibits and programming more accessible and engaging for diverse audiences by focusing on community engagement and outreach efforts. The museum will develop four exhibits and five traveling trunk exhibits for schools and community groups. Project activities will include staff and volunteer professional development in the areas of diversity and inclusion best practices, leadership skills, and museum operations. Staff will create policies and written procedures for program planning and development, audience development and tracking, communications, resource development, and evaluation tools and assessment procedures. Staff and volunteers will benefit from professional development and training, and the general public will benefit from increased access to museum resources and the museum’s further development as a community anchor for the city of Evansville, Indiana.
The Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) will undertake a two-year project to develop a traveling exhibit and public programs to illuminate cultural traditions of giving in African American communities and the history of black philanthropy through artful photography and insightful first-person narratives. The library staff at JCSU will begin working with key local partners to design, curate and fabricate the exhibition as well as create collateral educational and marketing materials in print and online. The exhibition’s touring schedule at college campuses and cultural museums and institutions, primarily throughout the South, will include robust community programming during each four to six week exhibition period.