Monthly Archives: August 2017

Eclipse Moments

Many moons ago—literally, I was privileged to share the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse with family in Vermont. The media had mentioned it and people would be able to view it if there was not cloud cover in their area, but it didn’t receive the media frenzy of this solar eclipse. Looking back on August 21, 2017, it seemed as if “Everyone under the sun” was anticipating the eclipse. Media coverage was along the path of the total eclipse that was passing through the United States. Stadiums and large venues held eclipse viewings and people flocked to the total eclipse areas to share in this phenomenon. Eclipse gatherings of all sizes in all places were happening and warnings to “avoid looking directly at the sun” were posted and repeated constantly.

As I drove north on Friday, there were large flashing roadwork signs along I-75 N between Cleveland and Knoxville Tennessee that warned “Do not park along this road during the eclipse!”. Radios continued to reiterate that no one should look to the sun without proper ISO approved glasses…which at this point were nearly impossible to find. Welder’s helmets #12 and up were approved as a backup viewing device and Harbor Freight was selling out of those quickly.

America was in a frenzy and the excitement leading up to the big event was growing. Teachers didn’t want their students to miss this opportunity and glasses were donated to some schools by sponsors. Libraries even wrote grants months in advance to get a bundle of glasses to hand out free weeks before the eclipse. Websites were being updated on who had glasses left in stock, and recalls from Amazon on unapproved ISO glasses hit the news.

This event was huge and important. The eclipse was so big that people of all races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds came together to view it. It was a moment in time (actually several minutes from start to finish) where everyone was in awe and peace was present. Why not? There were no sides to take — like a football game or boxing match. It was an event that was going to happen whether you believed it would or not. Some people were just not caught up in the hype and posted so on Facebook. Yet, I believe that they too partook in the event, there was no way around it. Even if you dismissed this eclipse, you were still affected by it. The shadows of the moon passed over them too.

My Mom hosted a little gathering of just family. Moon pies and Sun-chips were among the spread that day. She received her glasses on Friday from a last minute order and she was like a kid in the candy store. All this was coming together for her and she was going to make the best of it. Now we weren’t in the path of the total eclipse, Ohio was getting approximately 80% coverage, but just being part of something bigger was exhilarating! Sharing it with her children and grandchildren and making memories was worth the extra expedite shipping charge, and it was worth every moment to be there.

As a nature lover and naturalist, my experience was a bit different. How you ask? I observe things differently. We went outside well before the eclipse was to start and we gathered the glasses and lawn chairs. It was a “normal” day in my Mom’s backyard. The birds were singing and chirping as they were eating at the feeders, the rabbits were at the edge of the shrub line eating clover, squirrels were chattering up in the trees. Then the moon’s path began across the sun and the color of the sky dimmed making the surrounding area seem like a storm front was coming through. At that moment, the silence was deafening! Birds were no longer at the feeders, rabbits and squirrels were gone….nothing moved and there was absolutely no nature sounds. Even the breeze that rustled the leaves earlier stopped. The hush that took over was overwhelming and I was in a backyard neighborhood. I wondered what it would have been like sitting in a meadow or the woods surrounded by wildlife. Would the silence be as deafening? I mentioned it to those around me and they even noticed that the bees had left the flower beds. Erie? Strange? Amazing? The experience was all of these things.
We weren’t in a stadium with thousands of others surrounding us. We didn’t cheer as the moon darkened the path of the sun. We stood in amazement, awe and wonder at the beauty around us and above us. It was a “once in a lifetime” experience that was shared and one that will never be forgotten. Where will I be “God willing” during the next solar eclipse on April 8, 2024? In Ohio, with my family making more memories under a total eclipse. I can’t wait to see the 360 degree sunset and listen for the stillness then.     Photo from NASA

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Categories: General | Leave a comment

Interpretive Opportunities Involve Risks

Just as in life, we need to not be afraid to take risks in our profession. Without taking risks interpreters cannot learn how to best reach our audiences.  Now is an exciting time to be an interpreter.  Society is becoming more interconnected than ever allowing for us to reach people who may not have considered a visit a museum or historic site in the past.  Now, through the use of technology, educators can meet these individuals on their terms to provide an interpretive opportunity.  Since interpreters are blazing new territory by engaging potential using technology, think cell phones and apps, some ideas may work better than others.

One idea I read about recently on MuseumNext’s website was a museum got on Tinder to engage people.  Tinder?  Yes, Tinder.  For those of you who do not know what is “Tinder”, it is a dating app where people can swipe left or right depending on the profile of an individual in front of them.  The Royal Ontario Museum’s Digital Engagement Coordinator put their T. Rex on Tinder in order to engage individuals.  People on Tinder do not typically go to museums, so what an excellent way to engage people on their terms.  Think about it for a moment, you are swiping through an app then a T. Rex pops up on your screen.  Who doesn’t swipe right to match with them?  Seriously?!  Once you have sparked interest, you can start a dialogue in order to engage them with a one on one conversation and possibly bring them into your site.  The author was focused on getting more visitors to a special Friday night program held a handful of times throughout the year.  How are they doing on Tinder?  Here is a quote directly from the article:

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Think an 18th century Swiss soldier could use Tinder?

We’ve been running this pilot since May 12, 2017. Tonight, June 2nd, 2017 will be Teddy’s fourth time on the platform. We only engage with people during #FNLROM which runs from 7-11pm on Fridays.”

Through a targeted approach the engagement is focused towards advertising for a certain program.  Keeping everyone on task.  If this test is judged successful enough, possibly the museum can look at using this as a way to engage potential visitors with even more educational content and get them into the museum.  Maybe even a meet and greet not for others who want a safe place to meet the T. Rex plus others who were charmed by a dinosaur on Tinder.

Putting a museum “mascot” on Tinder can be risky to say the least.  However, look at the potential rewards.  You are engaging with people not typically heading to a museum for fun about an activity they can do on a Friday night through the use of a dinosaur.  While it may not always work, you can learn a great about getting a new demographic of visitors to your site.  You may not use Tinder to accomplish this task, but since we are all creative individuals as interpreters, do not be afraid of pushing the envelope to create the interpretive opportunity we are strive to achieve.

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Pretty sure Charlie would do better than me at getting people to talk to him on Tinder or anywhere else.

 

If you want to read the article: https://www.museumnext.com/2017/06/this-museum-put-a-t-rex-on-tinder/

 

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Summer Reflection

August is here and summer is slooooowly drawing to close. Some of you may be done with summer programming and others may be still working through a few more weeks of camp (schools starts soon, right? RIGHT?!?). As we wind down what is, for most sites, an incredibly busy season, take time to rest, recharge, and reflect. This might mean going on a staff field trip to celebrate surviving the summer or hiding under your desk for a well-deserved nap (for my managers who may be reading, I promise I have almost never done this). Be sure to take some time to think back on camps and/or summer programs. This is your one chance to remember and write it all down before diving into the Fall season! Consider….

  • Which programs/camps worked?
  • Which did not?
  • Why didn’t they work the way I wanted them to? Should I change my parameters (age, space, time) or my focus (the topic rocks but do I need to address it differently)?
  • Why did they work the way I wanted them to? How can I duplicate this radical success next year?
  • Did I remember to lock up all the canoes?
  • How did my totally awesome co-workers support me this summer? How can I plan to support them next year?
  • After I planned for everything, what issues came up that I didn’t plan for?
  • What was the best part of the summer for me? How can I try to replicate this feeling next summer?

Every day(camp) offers a new learning opportunity, even for the most jaded interpretation professional. Take what you have learned, use your experiences, and create something even better for next year!

Categories: Discussion topic, Interpretation tools | Leave a comment

Do you SUBSCRIBE?

So a few of you are aware I’m about ten years behind when it comes to technological tools. A tool I’ve recently adopted (within the past two weeks) is that of a podcast.  For some generations and users this is a tool that’s been around since 2005ish. Yup, I’m late to the party.

Does anyone subscribe to any podcasts that relate to your job or interpretation?

In an attempt to continue to find nuggets to become a better interpreter, manager, Dad, human, I’m always looking at ways to sharpen myself and learn. For me this has traditionally come through articles, books, mentors, and conferences. One night I decided to hit the podcast icon on my phone and see what happens.  Little did I know there are so many relatable podcast topics out there that relate to our field of interpretation.

I personally enjoy leadership tidbits so I typed in leadership. Numerous podcasts with examples of topics and issues I find in the workplace appeared. The next button I hit was SUBSCRIBE.  I did this for three different pod casts and now my morning commute becomes a thirty to forty minute leadership session and a way to start reflecting about my work day and work on me.

For fun, I typed in “interpretation.” Interpreting dreams, interpreting religion, and interpreting language seemed to be the common themes in those podcasts. I then tried “Nature”.  Some fun podcasts came up relating to sounds, birds, philosophy, medicine, and recent science talks at museums. Typing in “Naturalist” will also bring you some great choices with regional relevance.

Whether you’re late to the party or not, I encourage you to give it a try. If you’re looking for good discussion with your staff, share a podcast with them to discuss. If you’re looking for guidance on managerial or staffing issues check out some of the podcasts out there. If you want to listen to the style of other naturalists, or see what’s going on with your regional phenology there’s podcasts out there. Perhaps this tool can help you research and develop your next interpretive talk.  Millions of Americans listen to podcasts monthly, perhaps this is another way for interpreters to sharpen and share our craft.

Categories: General | Leave a comment

All Parks Need a Guy Like Lloyd

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The family and I recently visited Tallulah Gorge State Park in northern Georgia and we had a fantastic visit. We hiked down the seemingly endless steps into the gorge, took in the scenic views, and experienced some stunning waterfalls. It’s a fantastic natural treasure in the state of Georgia.

And some of the people there are treasures too—like Lloyd. As we left the visitors center, I noticed a park employee changing out the trash receptacles. He stopped to ask me if I enjoyed my hike that day. In the space of five minutes, he then asked the same question to everyone that walked by. In some cases he gave directions or answered questions that visitors had about other sights or trails in the area. I saw that after a brief chat with Lloyd, a few people that were obviously weary from hiking up too many steps change their demeanor and break into a broad grin. The thought that occurred to me was that all parks need a guy like Lloyd.

Sure, we greet folks at the front counter, hand out maps, and tell them to enjoy their day—but to have an exit survey is a useful tool. Just someone to ask them how their walk went, what they saw, or to let them know what else they can see in the area. It adds a nice conclusive chapter to an otherwise enjoyable day. I know it’s not easy today with reduced staff levels and budget cuts to have a person at the exit, but it sure goes a long way to have someone who can acknowledge visitors and their experience at your facility. Good job Lloyd.

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