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Museum Studies in Motion Spring 2012


Be at the center of things.


Volume 4, Issue 2


Sustaining Places Project Launches

The Museum Studies Program seeks partner sites for future project activities. Could your museum, historic site, or archive use a volunteer team of Museum Studies graduate students for a few weeks? Or perhaps a workshop for museum professionals could take place at your institution? Sustaining Places--our IMLS-funded intiative with the Tri-State Coalition of Historic Places--will offer professional development opportunities, student assistance, and equipment loans to museums and historic sites in the mid-Atlantic region. (See page three for a project update by Dr. Kasey Grier.) If your institution is in Delaware, northern Maryland, southern New Jersey, or southeastern Pennsylvania, and you are interested in getting involved, please email In the meantime, registration is still open for the inaugural Sustaining Places workshop, "Uninvited Guests: Integrated, Preventive Pest Management for Museums, Historic Properties, Libraries, and Archives." This two-part event will take place March 31 and April 21, 2012 at the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum in in Bristol, PA.

Small Museum Association 2012 Conference Report by JESSE GAGNON

In this issue... Sustaining Places, pg. 1

This past February the Small Museum Association (SMA) Annual Conference was held in Ocean City, Maryland. The theme of this year’s conference was "Adapt & Reuse: Fresh Ideas and New Approaches." This was both my first time attending a conference and first time presenting, and it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I met so many people and was exposed to great new ideas which will come in handy as I enter the job market in the future. At the conference I co-presented a workshop with the Executive Director of the New Castle Historical Society (NCHS), Mike Connolly. (con't, pg. 4)

The Museum Studies Program welcomed two new graduate assistants this semester: Kelsey Ransick and Della Hall. They will help coordinate the Sustaining Places initiative.

SMA Conference, pg. 1

Auburn Heights Project, pg. 2

History by Alumnus, pg. 2

Director's Message, pg. 3

Auburn Heights A student participant reflects on the January 2012 volunteer project. by DELLA HALL, This winter’s Sustaining Places Museum Studies student volunteer project was held at the Auburn Heights Preserve in Yorklyn, DE. The Auburn Heights historic house and T. Clarence Marshall Steam Museum contain all of the house’s original furnishings and Tom Marshall’s childhood collection of model trains and his famous collection of steam cars, so we had the opportunity to work with large and small-scale objects in both museum and historic house settings. In the house we described, catalogued, photographed, and marked a variety of objects, from couches to sets of china, and this data was then entered into PastPerfect. We did not complete cataloguing the entire house, but we did finish the entire first floor and even moved up into the second floor hallway, a feat we did not think possible on the first day! We established a system that the staff can follow so they will no longer have an uncatalogued collection. We used the same process to catalogue the entire collection of model trains and accessories in the museum, as well as every Stanley steam car

Della Hall (right) and Kelsey Ransick enjoy the wooden train attraction at Auburn Heights.

in the collection. The entire photograph collection was scanned and digitized, numbered, placed in protective sleeves, and entered into PastPerfect. The benefit for the students was that we gained hands-on experience working with different types of collections and working closely with PastPerfect. Auburn Heights now not only has the majority of their collection catalogued, but also has a starting point from which to create school programming, research guides, and an internship program. It wasn’t all work, though – we took a tour of the historic paper mill, took a ride in a Stanley Steamer, ate far more cookies and brownies than we needed, and played daily with Pippin, the Executive Director’s adorable basset hound puppy!

MSST Alum Writes Local History Kevin M. Brown has co-authored a book on the Brandywine Guards. A stroll through a cemetery near West Chester, PA inspired Kevin Brown (MA '08) to co-author and publish a history of the Brandywine Guards, a Civil War reserve unit comprised of young men from the area. Entitled A Small Company of Faithful Ones, the book follows these men, sharing human stories of their experiences in the war and their lives afterward. Kevin was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book. He noted that his training in both history and museum studies at the University of Delaware was "invaluable" to him as he carried out this public history project. He also works as an archivist at W.L. Gore. Q. How did you first get interested in West Chester history? A. I can't speak for Amy [King], the co-author, 2

but honestly, I was not particularly interested in West Chester history, or even Chester County history, until researching this book. In my mind, my initial focus for the book was the life of Captain Mott Hooton [who commanded the Brandywine Guards], which later dovetailed into a project about the entire company. As far as West Chester went, it was just West Chester, the place I grew up; hard to think anything important or interesting ever happened there. I quickly saw how wrong I was. People, of course, don't exist in a vaccuum, so in researching the lives of the individual men, I was exposed to the history of the county. I can't tell you how glad I am that that happened because now I can drive through West Chester or out in the neighboring townships and have a real appreciation for and perspective on what happened in those areas long ago. (con't, pg. 4) Museum Studies in Motion - University of Delaware - Spring 2012

Director’s Message KATHERINE GRIER, PHD On December 1 our IMLS grant for Sustaining Places officially began. We received three years of funding through the 21st Century Museum Professionals initiative. Working with our project partner, the Tri-State Coalition of Historic Places, we will spend the spring semester launching two of the most important activities: our workshop series for paid and volunteer staff from small historical organizations in our region and a curated website that pulls together a wide variety of resources for historical societies, historic sites, and local history rooms in libraries. The workshops will focus on three areas that our prior research indicated were of particular interest to small historical organizations: topics in developing and caring for collections; growing strong volunteer programs, including better boards and alternative formats for volunteering; and instruction in simple new media projects such as podcasting.

Twelve students contributed 600 hours of volunteer work to this important historic site.

From top to bottom: (1) The Small Museum Association honored Dr. Kasey Grier with the 2012 Hunter Burley Award during the costume banquet at its conference. (2) Student Danya Pilgrim worked with the silver collection at Auburn Heights. (3) Student Christopher Chenier helped catalogue antique cars. (4) The Auburn Heights project team poses in front of the historic house.

Our first grant-supported activity was our 2012 project at Auburn Heights Preserve and the Friends of Auburn Heights, Inc. in Yorklyn, Delaware. Twelve students, including two undergraduates, participated in collections management projects over two weeks, contributing 600 hours of volunteer work to this important historic site. The grant will keep our small office plenty busy over the next three years, and we wouldn’t be able to do the work without the addition of two more graduate assistants for the duration of the grant. Della Hall will be with us through the summer; she will be responsible for managing project communications and helping to plan the workshops. Kelsey Ransick will be with us through the academic year 2012-2013. She will be our project webmaster and media guru. If you would like to keep up with Sustaining Places activities, please sign up for our email list or write to

Museum Studies in Motion - University of Delaware - Spring 2012


SMA Conference Report, con't from pg. 1 The title of our workshop was "Turn it Up! SelfProduced Audio Tours for Your Museum," an idea that sprang from an internship I participated in at NCHS this past summer. Our presentation was really well received, in part I think because Mike and I attempted to present the steps to planning and orchestrating an audio project, different possibilities in terms of equipment and software, and a detailed looked at a particular open-source resource, Audacity, in a way that gave our audience all the tools they would need to pursue their own type of audio project. Presenting aside, the SMA conference offered numerous opportunities to network in the Museum Resource Hall, to see old friends, to attend sessions, to dance away at the banquet, and to hear speakers such as Sarah Brophy discussing environmental sustainability or Cinnamon CatlinLegutko discussing her "Small Museum Toolkit." Nomi Dayan, Director of Education at the Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor, gave the best presentation I attended. She discussed ways to harness every inch of space in your museum and to explore out-of-the-box initiatives to create fun, yet informative, educational programs for children and families. The SMA conference was a great experience, and I hope to attend more often in the future. To learn more about Jesse's work, visit her web site! Brandywine Guards Book, con't from pg. 2 It gave me a much greater appreciation for the place I live. I think that's one of the real values of local history. Q. Did you have a favorite document, one you found particularly interesting? A. Reading letters from the beginning of [the Brandywine Guards'] service to the end, I could actually see how the war changed them and the toll it took on them both physically and emotionally. In the beginning, their letters are full of excitement and bravado, as if they were embarking on a great adventure filled with glory and honor. By the end, their letters become more tame and fatalistic. The lust for battle all but disappears and they just want their time to be done. There is one passage from Captain Hooton's diary from May 31, 1864, the day they were set to leave the front to be discharged. One of his men, Benjamin Jenkins, had been killed in a battle the day before (a cruel twist of fate to die just one day before his 3-year service was up). In the diary, Hooton describes the burial. He talks about the inconsolable grief of Jenkin's brother, cutting off a lock of "poor Ben's" hair, and ends the passage saying: "We laid him under an oak tree... we laid him down in his last sleep, the wind singing 4

a requiem to the dead soldier." This passage struck a chord with me because it was so human. In any other account of the Battle of Bethesda Church (where Jenkins died), Jenkins would have been just a number in a cold statistic, but here you can really see and empathize with the fact that every loss that occurred was an intensely personal and painful event for somebody. Q. What message do you hope readers absorb? A. One of the goals we had in writing the book was that we never wanted to lose our focus on the men as people. We did not want to re-tell the Civil War and plop these guys randomly into a larger history of the war. We purposely kept a lot of the bigger context of the war to a minimum, only what was required to orient the audience in the big picture, so our audience could see the events as the men saw it. The reason for this is something I've already alluded to, and that is that history can seem so abstract and distant to people, but when you start getting into the heads of historical figures, particularly average, everyday, people, you begin to understand them and they become more tangible. Times and circumstances may change, but human nature is fairly constant, so there is always something that we in the present can relate to. We wanted people to be able to empathize with these young men and in so doing perhaps gain a more personal and visceral insight to a major historical event. The second goal, which is related, is that we wanted people to realize that history is everywhere, even in their own backyards, and everyone has a story to tell. Knowing the history of where you live can connect you to your home in larger way. It's no longer just the place you hang your hat, rather it's a place with a dynamic past whose ongoing history you are a part of as much as those who lived there before were.

Contact Us

The Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware 77 East Main Street | Newark, DE 19711 (302) 831-1251 Katherine (Kasey) Grier, Director Tracy Jentzsch, Staff Assistant Kate Duffy, Graduate Assistant Della Hall, Graduate Assistant Kelsey Ransick, Graduate Assistant

Subscribe to MuseWeekly, our email update with conferences, internships and job oportunities. Follow us on Twitter. Friend us on Facebook. Link up with our LinkedIn group. Museum Studies in Motion - University of Delaware - Spring 2012

Museum Studies in Motion: Spring 2012  

Articles feature the new Sustaining Places project, the Small Museum Association conference, the January student volunteer project at Auburn...

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