Speaking and Workshops
“How to Avoid Museumsplaining and Ask Better Questions”
Plenary Address: Small Museums Conference • 2019
Workshop: National Museum of Natural History • 2019
Workshop: Empathy Lab, Minneapolis Institute of Art • 2019
Focus: This frequently requested workshop advocates a perspective shift away from the idea that museums must be the foremost authority on their chosen content area. Using “essential questions” to frame the content development for programs and exhibitions shifts the museum voice from that of top-down expert to co-learner. Interpretation that shows vulnerability and openness is more likely to receive that openness from visitors in return.
This workshop can be done in a quick introductory format or can be longer to meet the needs of a particular project.
“Creating a Rubric For Your Brand of Customer Experience & Employee Experience”
Workshop: Arts on the Block • 2018
Focus: This non-profit arts organization is venturing into the world of retail as they plan to conduct daily mosaic workshops for the public in a new space. Helping them to create a rubric for the customer experience (that included things like social bridging, emotional connection, and inclusivity) informed everything from architectural plans for the new space to teacher-artist training.
After the workshop, they fully adopted an “experience mindset” and invited me back to help them design another rubric for the daily life of employees and apprentices. Everything by design is more purposeful!
"Relevant Museums Ask Better Questions"
Conference: Small Museums Association • 2018
Focus: Introduction to the concept of framing content using "essential questions" - questions that invite visitors to bring their own experiences and value systems to bear in conversations about a museum's content. Emphasis on dismantling the one-way flow of information from museum to visitor. Presentation included examples of using essential questions to frame content in both programs and exhibits. A mini-workshop gave participants an opportunity to practice mining essential questions from content.
"Best Practices for Coaching Interpretive Staff"
Training for Education Staff Managers
National Museum of the American Indian, DC
(Smithsonian) • 2017
Focus: Education Managers learned evidence-based strategies that help interpretive staff to embrace learner-centered, active teaching methods.
"Using Creative Practice for Effective Museum Activism"
Conference: New England Museum Association • 2017
Co-presenter: Rainey Tisdale
Focus: This session was designed to help museum workers apply the tools of creative practice to their museum’s goals for activism and social justice in order to make any resulting initiatives more effective and meaningful for public audiences. Included was a mix of conceptual grounding, inspiration, hands-on activities, and group reflection.
"Museum Education in the 21st Century"
All-Staff Enrichment Presentation
Wisconsin Historical Society • 2017
Focus: Participants are given envelopes with projected data on American life in 2040 (based on Museums 2040, Center For the Future of Museums). Given this data, groups evaluate whether or not their own planning strategies should change.
“Pay Attention, Connect, and Participate: The Magic of Experience”
Conference: American Association of State and Local History • 2017
Co-presenters: Laura Allcorn, Dan Shockley
Focus: What value do museums have when limitless information is available through technology? During this session, we explored the value of meaningful, in-person experiences that make visitors feel something -- wonder, togetherness, purpose. A specially designed immersive experience was created and staged just for this session. Attendees were welcomed into the room as visitors to a vigil for a 500 year old poisoned tree. They then participated in an unconventional effort to save the tree. Afterwards we deconstructed the process of experience creation and discussed implications of prioritizing experience over information dissemination.
"Using Essential Questions to Guide Program and Exhibit Design"
Educator Enrichment Workshop
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History • 2017
Focus: Participants read and synthesized scientific research from an upcoming exhibit on Narwhals. Working in groups, they wrote and tested essential questions that inspire curiosity and organize complex content.
"Designing for Peak Experiences"
Wisconsin Historical Society, Museums & Historic Sites Annual Retreat • 2017
Focus: Participants from across 12 historic sites participated in an excerpt of an experiential program and then deconstruct the 4 ingredients of Peak Experience so that they may apply principles to their own projects.
Wisconsin Historical Society, Museums & Historic Sites Annual Retreat • 2017
Focus: The word "relevance" is bandied about regularly, but what is it? How do you achieve it? Participants took part in activity that brought them along the journey from familiar content to unfamiliar content while learning concrete relevance-building strategies.
"Best Practices: Friend or Foe?"
Conference: American Association of State and Local History • 2016
Co-Presenters: Elee Wood, Trevor Jones, Rainey Tisdale, Benjamin Filene
Focus of my portion: Challenging current best practice of creating school programs around curriculum standards
"Hacking the Visitor" Docent Enrichment Workshop
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History • 2016
Focus: 6 "hacks" that will help docents create meaningful learning experiences
"Power of the Play"
Conference: American Alliance of Museums • 2016
Focus: Using museum theatre to create immersive learning experiences
Co-presenters: Elizabeth Pickard,
"Designing Immersive School Tours"
Conference: American Alliance of Museums • 2015
Focus: A pre-conference extended session that allowed participants to experience a portion of the "Fight For Your Rights" school program at Atlanta History Center, and provide concrete steps for creating this kind of experience in another museum.
"Museum Simulations and 21st Century Skills"
Conference: American Alliance of Museums • 2014
Focus: The power of simulations to help students improve 21st Century Skills like empathy, critical thinking, and decision making.
Co-presenters: Anthony Pennay, Trystan Poppish, Alissa Whitely, Gina Hall
Writing and Publications:
Peak Experience Lab Blog • 2016 - present
"History Makes Climate Change More Personal and Relevant" NCPH History@Work Blog • 2016
"Green History: Reframing Our Past to Save the Planet," Journal of Museum Education • 2016
"What is the Relationship Between 'Community Need' and Museums?" Museum Questions Blog • 2016
"Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Freedom Fighter?" Interpreting African American History at Historic Sites and Museums,
Edited by Max van Balgooy • 2015
"All Hands on Deck: Towards the Experience History Museum" History News • 2014
"Guerrilla Interpretation, Mall Edition" Uncatalogued Museum Blog • 2013
Publications That Feature My Work
Museums in Motion (updated version) by Edward and Mary Alexander • 2017
"Schools and Museums: Can Museums Teach Content to School Groups" Museum Questions Blog • 2015
Environmental Sustainability at Historic Sites and Museums, by Sarah Sutton • 2015
"How Will You Make it Through the Winter?" Bay Journal Blog by Whitney Pipkin • 2015
"Schools and Museums: Interview with Andrea Jones" Museum Questions Blog • 2014
Creativity in Museum Practice by Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale • 2013
Ever listen to "The Moth" on public radio? Storytelling shows are an increasingly popular form of entertainment here in DC. After attending a show put on by Story District in 2014, I posed a personal challenge to myself to face my fears and get on-stage and give it a try. I took SD's 5-week class. And after my first show, I was hooked. Although this new interest of mine lands squarely in the entertainment category, the skills required to hold the attention of a live audience and to structure a compelling narrative are actually quite similar to my day job -- but with alcohol and saltier language.
In July 2016, I was given the opportunity to perform for one of Story Districts biggest shows of the year: "Out/Spoken"
In front of a crowd of 400 people, I performed this story. [warning: adult content]
Thanks to a generous grant from the Human Right Campaign, our show hit the road. In October 2016, I performed in my hometown Atlanta!