Talking Grants: Meeting With the Institute of Museum and Library Services

During our trip to Washington, D.C., several members of ELE, myself included, had the opportunity to meet with Twinet Kimbrough of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). At this meeting, Dr. Allison Marsh, Shane, Caroline and I had the opportunity to ask questions about the 21st Century Museum Professionals Grant, which ELE is in the process of applying for. This grant is meant to provide funds for activities that improve the knowledge and skills of museum professionals across multiple institutions. This grant would provide much-needed funding for ELE throughout the remainder of the project.

This meeting was helpful in providing insight about what is needed for a successful application for the 21st Century Museum Professionals Grant. The website and application already provided excellent information about what details are needed, but this meeting allowed us to address some specific questions. One of our concerns was how to include our partner institutions. Because ELE is working with multiple institutions, including a federal institution, the National Museum of American History, it is necessary for ELE to identify clearly the nature of partnerships with other institutions. In our conversations with Ms. Kimbrough, she particularly emphasized the need to make it clear that we are not receiving financial support from the National Museum of American History. This is important because an association with the National Museum of American History could be seen as detrimental if not carefully written; if it is appears as though we are receiving federal funds from them, we would be disqualified from consideration for the grant. However, the partnerships with other museums, the Baranov and the Nantucket Historical Association, are important as it indicates the impact ELE will have across multiple institutions.

Another concern that we addressed was the overall budget which, in itself, is an incredibly important part of the application. For this grant, an organization or institution receiving it has to be able to indicate that it has matching funds; however, these matching funds can be considered in kind, such as the time that graduate students and Dr. Marsh devote to the project. Ms. Kimbrough was able to explain how we can determine the value of the work graduate students perform by recording time spent on ELE and providing background information about the graduate students involved. This information will be valuable for writing this grant as it is the only way ELE can match funds as of now. Additionally, we were able to discuss the ways in which the budget can be used and how ELE hopes to allocate its funds. Overall, this was helpful, but it indicated that ELE, as a group, will need to make important decisions in regard to the budget in upcoming months, before the grant’s due date of March 15, 2012.

This meeting with the Institute of Museum and Library Services was a great experience. This is both for the information that it provided for this particular grant and also more generally for the need to be clear and specific for all grants. This meeting was an important developmental opportunity for my fellow graduate students and myself, but it also gave us a great opportunity to have questions answered that will aid in the completion of the 21st Century Museum Professional Grant.

Caitlin Mans 12-28-2011

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Alaskan Update

Greetings from Kodiak! Celia asked me to write a post about how I have contributed to ELE, so here we have it.

I’ve been involved from the first brainstorming session, when we tried to come up with an innovative way to be involved with American Enterprise. I wrote much of the white paper, which is meant to serve as a foundational document that describes the ELE ethos. Additionally, I wrote a good portion of the NEH planning grant this summer.

As ELE progresses, I will be testing the learning modules in order to develop an ELE exhibit for the Baranov Museum. For the NEH grant, I said that the business that the museum will highlight will be the Alaska Commercial Company. This is still a possibility, although there are many others. I am currently developing a temporary exhibit on the history of whaling in Kodiak, so it is possible to use ELE to develop this topic into an exhibit. But with both of these potential subjects I am confronted with the most basic ELE questions: What constitutes a local business? Would an industry work for the sake of ELE?

In the NEH grant, we focused on positioning the Baranov Museum as more or less the ultimate testing site, since I have not developed an online exhibit before, I have very little html or web design experience, and Kodiak is seriously isolated. There is no possibility of travelling to the state archives to do research, as it is a $500-$800 plane ticket.  Although Kodiak is an extreme example, as you create learning modules I encourage you to consider what challenges other small history museums may encounter as they try to create an exhibit with limited resources.

I am embarking on two long-term projects- a complete inventory and drafting a museum-wide interpretive plan, and as I do both of these I will have ELE on my mind. Local business history seems to have been neglected up until now, with many of the associated objects not seen as valuable enough by past curators to keep. I am changing this and have spoken with current local business owners about donating objects to the museum. I have a meeting with the brewer in a few weeks 🙂

That’s all for now! Happy Holidays!

Visiting the NMAH Archives Center

As our fellow ELE members met with the grant administrators for IMLS, Katharine, Celia, and I spent our morning at the National Museum of American History Archives Center. With just a couple of hours to conduct research before rushing off to a joint meeting with the American Enterprise exhibit team, we gambled by devoting our energies to reviewing an uncatalogued collection from the National Cotton Council. Fortunately, luck was on our side. In the very first box we opened, we located just what we were looking for: a detailed photographic record of an upstate South Carolina textile mill during the postwar period. This frenzied trip taught us a few helpful hints for optimizing our time in the archives:

1)      Come prepared. Like many archival institutions, the Smithsonian requires researchers to make an appointment in advance and send a list of requested materials. In preparing for our visit, we searched for potentially useful documents using the online SIRIS catalog (http://www.siris.si.edu/).  Knowing exactly what we wanted to research saved us time and hassle once we arrived on site.

2)      Expect everything to take longer than you think. After we arrived, we discovered that the archivist Katharine had contacted to make our appointment was off duty that day, so we needed to resubmit our request for materials. Along with watching a brief introductory video, placing our belongings in lockers, and getting situated in the research room, set up took more time than we anticipated.

3)      The more the merrier. One reason why our trip was a success was that the three of us coordinated our efforts. By working as a team in scanning the materials, we were much more efficient than researching solo.

4)      Every minute counts. Ultimately, we only spent an hour and a half in the archives. During our brief stint, we were able to find a trove of visually appealing images for our website. Luck certainly played a part, but it goes to show that even small research trips can make a big impact.

Sarah Scripps, 21 December 2011

December 12, 2011 @ 1pm in Gambrell 248

Discussed December 13 meeting at State Museum to see collections with Michelle ______

Discussed Schedule for December 15 trip to DC:

  • 8:40 Plane to Manassas, touchdown by 10:30
  • 11:30:  Arrive in DC
  • 12:00 NEW STUDENTS:  IMLS Grant; Others lunch/work in archives
  • 1:00 Talk with Peter
  • 2:00 Exhibit Team Meeting/can work in archives if desired

Discussed Research

  • Sarah Scripps:  Realizing most information on technology is on pre-1945; very little secondary sources – wondering if
  • Caitlin Mans:  Research at Caroliniana
  • Katharine Klein: Working hard
  • Jennifer Bettsworth:  Willing to do newspaper research – post your research questions here on DevelopingELE.wordpress.com for her to have an idea of what she’s looking for
  • Shane:  General history and background – has identified various libraries for research; hoping to find personal effects and look at Sandborn Maps to see changes in property over time
Question about documenting research:
  • Can do for your own personal use.
  • Once we get to the point where we have objects/images to add to the collection, we will need to work on getting permissions
  • We have already put together a method of cataloging for our project in Omeka, Katharine will post to blog

We discussed that we need a more consistent organization and debated the pros-cons of various resources.  We decided:

  • WordPress Blog:  Post your research at least one or two times per month.  This will be used to update all other ELE members on your work as well as serve as sources for the creation of learning modules.  Be sure to place your post in the appropriate category and tag as needed.  Celia will invite everyone as authors or editors.
  • Hard drive:  backing up research and raw data images.  Caitlin has bought for $53 and we’ll put together a sign out sheet.
  • Digital Dropbox:  Upload documents.  Allison will invite everyone.
  • Wiggio:  Use for emails.

In attendance:  Sarah Scripps, Caitlin Mans, Katharine Klein, Allison Marsh, Celia James, Jennifer Bettsworth, Shane Lesko

Organizing Learning Modules

At the Friday October 28, 2011 meeting, we decided to organize the learning modules as stand alone modules. Thus, instead of thinking of them as linear and writing them as such (i.e. “Now that you’ve done that, do this”), we’re going to conceptualize them as independent lessons that our students (is that the term we want to use?) can pick and choose what they need.

We’ll tweak the naming of the modules from numbered to listing individual modules under topics like “Getting Started,” “Research and Collecting,” “Technology,” “Fundraising,” etc. Another topic we discussed is something like “Public Outreach.”

In individual modules we we’ll strive to have consistent formatting as much as possible. Look to the “Images” module in wiggio as an example. In particular, we will have “suggested readings” at the end of each module.