From Game Design to Scheduling: JMM Interning is More than Meets the Eye

Posted on July 11, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM intern Justine “Ellie” Smith. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Over the course of the last five weeks I have gained valuable knowledge about the inner workings of programming and education at the JMM. Before coming to the JMM I had no idea about how much planning it took for museums to host events and create successful educational opportunities. So much goes into putting on a program and the small details really make a difference.

For the opening of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, we transformed the lobby space into a cocktail area. We set up a buffet and bar as well as seating areas. Each of these areas was then decorated to fit with the magic theme. We built houses of cards that adorned the tables and crated flower arrangements with magic wands that we placed throughout the space. To add to the ambiance of the space we hung the concept art for the exhibit on some of the walls. To give the space some more visual intrigue we created a mobile with playing cards and suspended it above the buffet area. These small details really made the night special.

For the Magic of Jonestown Festival we worked to create interactive magic themed crafts that children could create at the JMM table. After some experimenting we figured out how to make magic wands with smoothie straws, construction paper, and electrical tape and how to make magicians hats out of paper. The kids who came to the table really seemed to enjoy the crafts and it was something special for them to take home.

Before starting this summer, I thought programming was just speakers and book signing but it is so much more than that. It is all about creating experiences that connect people with the museum and offer them something different. I have been working on programming for Stitching History from the Holocaust which will open in the spring and it is a lot more challenging than I expected. The process of finding the best fit for our events is challenging but completely worth it. After seeing how popular the Houdini programs have been I cannot wait to finalize the program ideas for the spring and I can only hope they will be as popular.

The education department here at the JMM works very hard to connect to schools, camps, and other groups. We are not only working to education children but also their teachers. We host the Summer Teachers Institute which focuses on Holocaust education. This year we are focusing our attention on primary sources in the classroom. Teachers learn valuable skills which they can take back to their classes which creates a higher standard of Holocaust education. We are in the preparation stage for this event currently. We are creating schedules and emailing confirmations to those who have signed up.

Closer to the event we will have a lot of other preparation to do such as folders and gathering materials to share with the teachers. The Summer Teachers Institute was one of the main reasons I wanted to work at the JMM. Holocaust education is extremely important but is often ignored or glossed over in the school system. By providing teachers with resources and lesson plan ideas we can makes sure this important topic is discussed in classrooms.

The education department also hosts school and camp groups. We have educational activities to do with the kids. The first school group that came in was here to learn about the Holocaust and to hear from a survivor. We did an activity using pictures from our collection and asked the kids to explain what they thought was happening in the picture. The kids loved interacting with the primary sources and were able to be creative when coming up with their answers.

For Houdini we created the vanishing elephant game. Kids are put into group and each child is given a question (which are based on the Houdini exhibit). The kids then come back together and the answers reveal a code. They then have to break the code and reveal a secret message.

Our first camp group did an excellent job but it was clear that if we had younger kids this was not going to work. So we got to work on creating a version of the game for younger children. We changed some of the questions and eliminated the code breaker books. This new version allows for us to host a larger range of age groups. Seeing kids go through the exhibits and ask questions is what makes it all worthwhile. Knowing that we are providing a memorable and educational experience to these groups of kids is extremely rewarding.

I never thought that crafting, game design, and program creation would be part of my summer at the JMM but I am grateful that it is. Through this internship I am getting to see everything that goes into the program and education departments. It may be challenging some days but it is necessary. We are providing unique experiences for all patrons, the youngest to the oldest, and that is what a museum is all about. We are connecting to people on a deeper level through our programs and educational opportunities. These connections create lasting impressions and memories that will last a lifetime.

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