Monday, March 16, 2020

Book Review - 101 Museum Programs Under $100: Proven Programs that Work on a Shoestring Budget

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For those of you that follow us on Facebook, you'll know we enjoyed a bit of book buying over the past year or so thanks to some amazing sales. And you might even recognize this title since we profiled it on Facebook as well. It hasn't been in our reference library as long as most of the other books, but it has been a popular one to borrow. 

If you're like me, collections is what attracted you to museum work. So coming up with ideas for programs, let alone developing and implementing and evaluating programs, can feel a bit daunting. Laura Hunley's book, published in 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield, aims to help. She notes in the preface that budget cutbacks at her museum meant that many programs had to be put on hold. She "began looking for other innovative and inexpensive museum programs to adapt, and the deeper [she] looked, the more [she] realized a few things: (1) Museum professionals are creative, resourceful, and innovative. We do so much with so little; and (2) [She] couldn't be the only one looking for these types of programs. Thus, 101 Museum Programs Under $100 was born." How great is that? What a perfect example of the sharing nature of our profession. 

The result of her efforts, aka this book, is essentially a catalogue of options. This is a very quick and easy read. There are only six chapters - programming for today, for children and families, for teens and young adults, for adults, and for multigenerational audiences. The final chapter talked about adapting, expanding and implementing programs. As appendices, Hunley offers up program planning checklists and worksheets, as well as the contact information for all the museums that contributed program examples. If you liked what you read but want to learn more, you can easily reach out. 

If you want to develop a new program, tweak an existing one, or are just interested in seeing what else is going on in museums, this is a good place to start. The examples are American but are very transferrable. Each example is shared as a profile, outlining target audience, attendance, overview, budget, interpretive components, staff time requirements, audience time requirements, scalability, and an analysis. In the analysis, Hunley often offers suggestions on how to adjust the program to work in different sized spaces or to accommodate smaller or larger audiences. 

This is the sort of book that will speak to different people in different ways. Using Hunley's terminology, it is very scalable. As I read, I encountered programs that I've helped to develop and deliver, ones I've participated in, ones I've heard about, and ones that I would love to see in our museums. Some are pretty traditional in nature and have been delivered for decades, and others really embrace the ideals of community service and engagement and would likely make some traditionalists very uncomfortable. 

I often share quotable quotes from the books I read. This time around, I'd like to share the programs that jumped out at me. These are not in order of preference, but simply in the order they appear in the book.

1. Summer STEAM: Signal Flags and Semaphore - kids learn some signals and create their own flag messages. Pretty applicable to our maritime province.
2. Teddy Bear Tea - a formal tea party for kids and their stuffies. So many museums in Nova Scotia offer teas as part of their programming, so why not extend this to younger audiences?
3. Teen Corps - a volunteer program for teens, where they get to help out with various museum initiatives, gaining transferrable skills and experience, and giving them the chance to share their local knowledge and perspectives. 
4. Words on Canvas - a writing competition for college students, where they are asked to write a piece of poetry that was inspired by something in the museum's collection. Submissions become bonus interpretive text/labels for their associated objects. I've seen this done and it is VERY effective.
5. Member Preview Day - open house for members only, to launch new exhibits. Perk for members and a way for the museum to test out the flow and effectiveness of the new exhibit. Win-win. I've worked these events and you can definitely learn a lot by watching how people interact with each other, the space and exhibit.
6. SPARK! Cultural Programming for People with Memory Loss - for people with early to mid-stage memory loss and their caregivers, participants do basic activities that help with cognitive functions and maintaining motor skills, and talk about community history and old photos.
7. Culture Me Mine Date Night - something for couples, but could easily work for pairs or small groups. A scavenger hunt, game show-style quiz, and craft activity make this a fun night out. 
8. Poetry N' Rhythm - a monthly open-mic event where musicians, artists, storytellers etc. are invited to share their talent. Anyone else think this sounds a lot like some Celtic Colours events?
9. Nicole Carson Bonilla: A Cowgirl's Legacy - a personal storytelling of one family's western experience. Hunley says it best, "every community contains characters with unexpected and even surprising stories. These life histories provide commentary and new viewpoints on historic narratives and changing community cultures."
10. Echoes of the Past Cemetery Tours - costumed volunteers portray people who are interred in the cemetery and share their life stories with participants. I've played one of these characters and also hear about this happening in multiple NS communities.
11. Star Parties - community stargazing! As simple or as complex as you want, provided someone can help people read the sky, and come up with a few simple activities and/or challenges. 
12. Veterans Day Program - similar to the cowgirl legacy above, this program invites veterans to share their stories and experiences, and create their own personal shadowbox exhibit.
13. Yule Log Hunt - a community scavenger hunt, where people solve local history riddles to find the hiding spot of the log. The yule log could be swapped out for almost any sort of identifiable local item.

So those are my highlights. I hope they sound interesting. 
If you want to have a sneak peek, there is a preview available through Google Books. 
If you want to borrow this book from us, click here

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