Story 09: Beyond Museum WallsStory | Print | eMail | Related Media | Archives
Written by Dorothy Merrill
Both Teacher Services and Community Services were staffed with experienced educators whose job descriptions fluctuated with opportunities and needs, following one of two tracks: offering workshops, courses and consultations to a general audience, or working on special projects funded by grants.
In 1973 the CS Department had five full-time staff members: a director and four experienced educators: Bernie Zubrowski, a chemistry teacher who had worked in the Peace Corps and the African Primary Science Project; Jeri Robinson a preschool teacher who was active in her Roxbury community; Liz Hastie a British social worker with inner city church connections; and me, an elementary school teacher who had organized a voluntary mentoring program. Part-timers and staff from other museum departments frequently contributed to workshops and events. Their fields included special needs education, Native American and Japanese culture, history, music, natural science. The range of their expertise allowed us to offer a wide variety of high quality activities, and to respond to requests from members of the community as we built up collaborative programs with them. The museum was expanding its cadre of developers—content specialists whose jobs included curating, teaching, generating exhibit content and programs, mentoring floor staff, book publishing, and representing the museum "out in the world." Museum staff became key players on inter-museum committees, teacher organizations, cultural and social service committees, and in local affairs such as the Bicentennial, First Night, and Women's Rights celebrations.
Although the museum divisions worked independently of each other, there was a lot of interaction. Developers had individual desks, but shared workspace with other developers as well as with design and operations staff. There were four or five desks in a large room; conversation—both work-related and social—was easy. CS developers also worked around a big low table that seated a dozen or more people on stools. This was a great place to do preparation, to get help from each other, and to dream and plan about future activities. It also served as our workshop space where the same kind of camaraderie would take place among staff and community leaders.
A weekly developers' meeting brought together staff from the Visitor Center, Teacher Services, and Community Services departments to discuss operational matters such as intern supervision or training issues, calendar coordination, pedagogy, museum concerns (e.g. Should exhibits involve parents? Should preschoolers have their own space? Should text be bilingual?) and current events of city, nation and even the world. The exchange that happened in these meeting was usually quite stimulating—occasionally heated and frustrating—but it was very effective at identifying and solving museum business.