All the places!

In response to the Seuss-inspired prompt, I’m trying to think of one particular place that jumped out at me…..

And I’m having a hard time! Instead of one place sticking out in my mind, I keep thinking of little things that stuck out to me from a bunch of the NPS units we visited. For example:

From Salem Maritime: the superintendent’s point about the importance of languages is not lost on me (and I just bought a sign language textbook and have been practicing! Very exciting business. I was hoping to take a class in the fall, but I don’t think my schedule will allow it. But this book is quite thick and so, should take me a while to get through… )

From Philadelphia: the NPS is way more than individual national park units; there are tons of other programs the NPS runs, and there’s tons of other careers in the regional office that might not be found in an individual park (ie: I thought Michael Liang’s was really cool and fascinating!)

From visiting Longfellow and John F. Kennedy: I think both these sites brought up questions of accessibility for me – especially in light of the Organic Act – how can a park try to be accessible without risking the integrity of the resource? And also in terms of accessibility and visitor services: what is the balance of making visitor feel welcome versus protecting a resource and possibly making a visitor feel excluded? Is there a way of re-thinking or re-presenting a resource to be more accessible to visitors with different needs? All $64,000 questions.

From Springfield Armory: awesome interpretation all the way. I was thinking of too many connections to Lowell at once that my note-taking hand couldn’t keep up. Also, lots of ideas of interpretive techniques to try. ie: I gathered that SPAR’s resource is largely material object-based. I went on a whirlwind tour of the RISD Art Museum last fall, and one of the guides used a technique where she narrated history from the object’s perspective, which I thought was really useful and a cool way to get people interested in seemingly static objects. Being surrounded by so many objects at SPAR reminded me of that technique, which I imagined if done at SPAR would be interesting since their objects also connect past to present, and local to global quite tangibly. I wonder what that technique would come out like if tried at Lowell, which I think of as more story-rich than material-artifact-rich. I’m reading this book now by early American historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (The Age of Homespun), where she does just that – she takes textile or woven artifacts from the 1700s and ties it back to larger narratives, and written-wise, it comes out less dry than other history books. At any rate, even if I don’t use this technique with visitors, I think it’s worthwhile to brainstorm about.

From Saugus Iron Works (and piggybacking off of Philadelphia, too): arts! in parks! who knew! and, not just arts – but using arts to engage with visitors through programming! the iron pour was awesome, and a cool way to tap into visitors’ creative sides. I also like how the iron pour was done mostly by students from the local vocational school – I think having iron pour programs gives visitors a sense of continuity with the park’s history, and, in a way, “authenticity.” In the fall semester, when I took Intro to Public Humanities, we talked about “authenticity” a lot – as in, visitors are always wanting some sense of legitimacy from what they’re seeing, that it’s the “real thing”. When I say that the iron pour was “authentic”, I don’t mean that it left visitors with the sense that suddenly now they can be expert ironworkers; but I think doing an iron pour gives a sense of resonance with the park’s history, in a way that is also localized and rooted in a sense of legitimate place. I mean, plenty of other historic museum-y organizations (ie: Colonial Williamsburg, Old Sturbridge, etc), do demonstrations, but I don’t think these places are exactly rooted in a firm sense of place like Saugus is, for example.

Having the iron pour be participatory, on different levels to visitors and local youth, I think also upped the coolness and enjoyment factor. I mean, we did phonograph demonstrations at Edison a lot, but they were never really participatory. And now I wonder about the potential for the degree of actual intellectual engagement when such demonstrations could be at least partially participatory. How this would happen at a place like Lowell, I don’t know, since there are issues with safety involved with operating looms and such. But hmm….

I think this summer so far has refined my interests in languages and the arts, but has also given me lots lots more to consider, and new interests, like architecture and the design of structures. And there are endless questions! All the places, all the questions!

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One Response to All the places!

  1. Resi,
    My head is spinning just reading your thoughts. So many points about how we provide opportunities for engagement – not just for our audiences but for our employees as well. Thanks,

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