Online Course: Museum Education and Outreach

At their heart, regardless of type or size, museums are engaging, dynamic places of education. This AASLH online course, Museum Education and Outreach, is about how we can facilitate visitors’ meaningful and memorable experiences in the informal environments of museums.

COURSE DATES: October 8 - December 3, 2018

COST: $195 AASLH Members / $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: August 8 - September 28, 2018; 30 Person Limit

Register Here

Course Logistics

FORMAT: Online, weekly-paced course

LENGTH: 8 Weeks

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Bi-weekly (every-other-week) real-time online chats; weekly assignments; final course assignment

MATERIALS: One required text

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Description & Outcomes

This course requires regular check-ins, sharing and commenting on peer work, and participation in scheduled live chats. Various assignments are made throughout the course to allow for regular feedback and dialogue. While work can be done at your own pace, meeting deadlines is encouraged to maximize the experience.

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • describe the characteristics and learning needs of various museum audiences
  • summarize what we know about learning in museums
  • assess the strengths and weaknesses of interpretive techniques and program approaches
  • utilize a system for planning, operating, and evaluating museum educational programs
  • access resources to assist you in future development of effective learning experiences

Sample Curriculum

  • Week 1: Defining the Museum / Museums and Memory
  • Week 2: Interpretation Strengths, Weaknesses, and Best Practices
  • Week 3: Audiences and Identifying Your Key Ones
  • Week 4: Education Program Planning, Management, and Evaluation
  • Week 5: Organizing of Museum Education and Outreach
  • Week 6: Community Partners and Funding
  • Week 7: Leading Staff and Volunteers
  • Week 8: Action Plan for Future Programming at your Museum

Texts Used


Anna Johnson, Kimberly A. Huber, Nancy Cutler, Melissa Bingmann and Tim Grove. The Museum Educator’s Manual: Educators Share Successful Techniques (2nd ed). The text is NOT INCLUDED with your registration. You must order the book separately from the book seller of your choice.

Who Should Attend this Online Course

This course is a beginning level course designed for professional staff and volunteers of historical organizations and libraries with historical collections who have little to no experience with developing education programs and goals for museums.

Register Here  


Tanya Brock is one who tends to take leaps and jumps rather than the straight path. Her career has spanned museum education, visitor services, exhibit planning, historical research, and community partner liaison. Whether teaching food preservation classes or designing and running the nation’s first functioning historical brewery or running a brewpub co-op, her passion has always been centered on food—its power to unite and act as a storyteller for communities.

Her education is a patchwork of cultural anthropology, food preservation, heritage interpretation, and museum administration. This background has built a foundation of various perspectives from which she draws from when designing programs. Over a 20-year period she has worked with audiences of all sizes, ages, and backgrounds yet believes at the end of the day, it is the guest who drives the conversation and the experience.


Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week

The American Alliance of Museums has declared the week of August 8-15 as the fourth annual "Invite Congress to Visit Your Museum Week."

During the August recess, members of Congress are looking for ways to connect with their constituents and the institutions they value. State and local public officials are always interested in connecting with their communities, and what better way to help them do this than to invite them to your museum? A visit from your elected officials is a great opportunity to advocate for the importance of cultural institutions in Congress, as well as a chance for them to learn more about the communities they represent.

AAM has assembled a number of online resources to help you participate, including templates for invitations, talking points, and suggestions for making the most of a visit. There are also tips for compiling educational and economic impact statements so you can discuss your museum's contributions and outcomes with your representatives. “We know what museums do in their communities every day – teaching school children, providing a welcome learning space for those on the autism spectrum, opening their doors to military personnel and their families,” said former AAM President Ford W. Bell. “And this is just a small sampling of what goes on at museums around the country. It is up to us to invite legislators in and show them all the ways that museums are essential. I hope every museum will use these tools to invite Congress to visit your museum today.”

You can follow the campaign on Twitter with #InviteCongress. Even if you can't schedule a visit that week, pledge to reach out to your representatives in 2015 and advocate for your museum as a place worth visiting, funding, and supporting. This is especially important this summer as Congress considers proposed funding cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

A Congress that visits museum will be a Congress that supports museums, so we challenge all our members -- museums, historic houses, preservation societies, historical societies, and others --  to invite your state and city representatives to your site. Call your mayor, city councilmen, and state representatives today, and start your advocacy work by making sure your city’s elected officials know how important you are!

Ask FSA: What is Outreach?

History organizations often wonder about what effective outreach is. The business literature is full of a dizzying number of examples. To simplify I often suggest that there are four types of outreach people often describe to me: (1) simple customer service, (2) product and service placement into another’s facility, (3) relationship building, and (4) capacity development. While the first and second probably cannot be defended by business literature, people I work with will still think of these functions as types of outreach. Ultimately, outreach exists between a provider of outreach and a user of outreach.


Capacity development is typified by five attributes by those providing outreach: (1) transfers information, often technical, (2) builds a network of like efforts, (3) provides access to resources, often financial, (4) identifies leaders within the network to which to distribute the work load, and (5) fosters consistent decision making across the network.

Capacity development builds a trusting relationship by operating under three principles: (1) the outreach worker must recognize and take steps to mitigate the inherent power differential between provider and user, (2) the direction for capacity development must originate with the user, and (3) the outreach worker’s advice must be tailored to the unique time and place of the user.

Creating an outreach initiative needs to consider what you mean as outreach. If you truly mean to improve the capacity of those in your community to do the work of history, then you must think through how your proposed activity addresses the three principles first. After considering how your activity might complement the existing work of “history doers” around you, then you need to decide which of the attributes your activity will embody and which of them you might need to emphasize before engaging your community.

David M. Grabitske is the Manager of Outreach Services for the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, MN.

Ask FSA is a blog series where members of the Field Services Alliance (FSA) share issues and questions they come across in their daily work. FSA is an organized group of individuals, offices, and agencies that provide training opportunities, guidance, technical services, and other forms of assistance to local historical societies, archives, libraries, and museums in their respective states or regions.

Our Fifth AmeriCorps Team at the C.H. Nash Museum!

The C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa is currently hosting the River Two AmeriCorps NCCC Team – our fifth team in the past 3 years.  Over that period the AmeriCorps Teams have proved an integral part in our museum operation and outreach to the surrounding community.  Each eight-week team hosted at our museum participates in three types of activities:

  • Service to underserved veteran and elderly homeowners in the community surrounding the C.H. Nash Museum.  This activity primarily consists of assisting with major landscaping clean-ups and light to moderate repairs to the exterior of homes.  This past month the River Two Team painted and refurbished the home and grounds of a disabled Vietnam-era Veteran.
  • Service to the nearby T.O. Fuller State Park.  Here the River Two Team painted outbuildings, built a bridge, and performed maintenance on the six miles of nature trails.
  • At the C.H. Nash Museum the River Two Team finished construction on a 30-foot square pergola and built a second rain shelter on our nature trail.  They will end their round in Memphis by performing a complete upgrade to our hands-on archaeology lab.
River 2 AmeriCorps NCCC Team
River 2 AmeriCorps NCCC Team

For the small museum, AmeriCorps NCCC Teams can be a great way to “Get Things Done,” as suggested by their solution-oriented motto. I can walk through our museum and point to the boxes of artifacts they have helped process, the shelving units they built in our repository, the replica prehistoric house they built on our grounds, the ghost house atop of our prehistoric mounds – after three years, the list seems endless!

However, the AmeriCorps Team value far exceeds the tangible evidence of their participation that they leave behind.  AmeriCorps Teams also serve as mentors to youth who visit our museum.  The Teams also work with area youth in schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and at community centers in after hours projects.  The AmeriCorps Teams have proven an essential link between the surrounding community and the museum.  A tradition has developed over the past three years here in Memphis that demonstrates this link.  Each year the AmeriCorps Team creates a banner that they present during the annual Veteran Day celebration in the underserved community of Southwest Memphis.  This simple act is greatly cherished by everyone attending this annual celebration.

The AmeriCorps NCCC Teams are a fantastic way for the small museum to complete small to medium-sized construction and other types of projects where the materials are available but the skilled labor is too costly or assistance is needed.  But most importantly, the AmeriCorps Teams bring an infectious enthusiasm and commitment to any museum or community setting.

River 4 AmeriCorps NCCC Team members presenting banner to veterans at Annual Celebration.
River 4 AmeriCorps NCCC Team members presenting banner to veterans at Annual Celebration.

For more information about the AmeriCorps NCCC program visit their website (

The Historical Society of Michigan Receives Kellogg Grant

AASLH Member Since 1995

2012-State-Conference-flier-LoResThe Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to achieve its project “Expanding the Story: Engaging Michigan’s Urban, Minority, and Underserved Communities.” This $300,000 grant will allow HSM to accomplish two significant objectives: 1) to continue the work of its original Kellogg Foundation grant to more fully engage Michigan’s minority and underserved communities in the appreciation of state history, and 2) to begin a new initiative to re-launch Michigan History for Kids magazine. The grant period will be from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016.

“We are very happy that a major element of this grant will enable us to bring back Michigan History for Kids,” said Larry J. Wagenaar, Executive Director of the Society. “Besides being an important tool for the study of history for elementary-age children, this magazine will feature lessons in history that reflect the diversity of our state.”

Geared toward students in the third and fourth grades, Michigan History for Kids will be launched in several stages. “We will be working from the ground up on this magazine,” continued Wagenaar. “From hiring a new Education Outreach Director and Editor of Michigan History for Kids who will oversee the project to developing content that reflects the stories of all Michigan peoples, Michigan History for Kids and its related efforts will be a huge undertaking, but one we are looking forward to bringing to fruition.”

The Education Outreach Director and Editor of Michigan History for Kids will also assist with education outreach by developing curriculum, in tandem with teachers, that ties together school requirements with content from the magazine, the Michigan History Day (National History Day in Michigan) competition, and other educational initiatives of the Society. The re-launch for Michigan History for Kids is expected to include the debut of a digital version that children will be able to access over the Internet. A print version will also be available. Limited availability of Michigan History for Kids is expected in the fall of 2014 as HSM undertakes a “soft launch” with select schools to allow for feedback and improvements in preparation for larger scale availability in 2015.

The grant will also continue the work of HSM’s original Kellogg Foundation grant, “Exploring the History of All Michigan Peoples,” which ended December 31, 2013. This round will see support and increased services for Michigan’s minority and underserved communities through a multitude of channels.

First, HSM will extend in-depth field services and professional consulting to organizations that are focused on preserving and interpreting minority history so that they become sustainable institutions within their communities. Second, outreach to communities with high populations of minority students will continue so that more children will be able to participate in the Michigan History Day competitions. There will also be opportunities for after-school clubs and schools to receive additional support in order to partake in the Michigan History Day program. Third, HSM will continue to offer diverse content in every facet of its publications, conferences, and workshops.

For more information on HSM and its programs, visit

The Historical Society of Michigan is our state’s oldest cultural organization, founded in 1828 by territorial governor Lewis Cass and explorer Henry Schoolcraft. A nongovernmental nonprofit, the Society focuses on publications, conferences, education, awards and recognition programming, and support for local history organizations to preserve and promote Michigan’s rich history.

The Historical Society of Michigan

5815 Executive Dr.
Lansing, MI 48911
Phone: (517) 324-1828 • FAX: (517) 324-4370

Nancy Feldbush
Communications Manager
(517) 324-1828
[email protected]


Engaging the Public: Seven Rules

Steven Lubar, Director of Brown University's Public Humanities Program has recently posted "Seven Rules for Public Humanists."

Without losing meaning, one could easily swap the words "Public Humanists" for "Public History" or "History Organizations" or "History Museums," &c.

Lubar's Twitter profile photo, an adaptation of the famous Charles Willson Peale self-portrait.
Lubar's Twitter profile photo, an adaptation of the famous Charles Willson Peale self-portrait.

Here are his rules. Read the full post for his take on each of them.

  1. It’s not about you
  2. Be a facilitator and translator as well as an expert
  3. Scholarship starts with public engagement
  4. Communities define community
  5. Collaborate with artists
  6. Think digital
  7. Humanists need practical skills

Steven has articulated some core principles that should drive all of our work.

As my good friend and mentor Kent Whitworth says, "Stewardship is an open hand, not a closed fist. It's, 'What are your needs and how can I/we help you get there?'"

What do you think of these principles?

The Visitor's Eye

One of the many duties and pleasures of a historian is to create timelines of things.  At Intel Corporation, a maker of microprocessors, or chips in Silicon Valley, we have produced timelines for computers, integrated circuits, key corporate innovations, personalities, products and sayings.

by 2008, the 1995 Pentium processor chip is many times larger than the chips on this processed silicon wafer. The smaller chips contain 407 million more transistors than the Pentium processor chip.

The most beautiful timeline the Intel Museum has published, in my opinion, is the timeline of Intel chips, microprocessors from 1971 to today.  Starting in 1971, the earliest microprocessor is an actual photo wherein the lines and functional areas resemble a city – the photomicrograph definitely looks like something from under a microscope – the real thing.  As time goes on, the functional areas become more and more delineated as the number of transistors grow with each generation.  The memory areas resemble irrigated fields and the functional areas resemble city blocks and parks.  As line widths (the electrical circuitry of a chip) shrink and keep shrinking, the microprocessors are photographed with colored lighting to pick up the patterns, and finally are colorized to capture the circuitry.

By 2006 the lines etched into the silicon chip are impossible to see with the naked eye at 65 nanometers.  By 2010, as interest in what chips “look like” becomes a feature in Intel advertising while lines on the chips themselves are only 32 nanometers wide.   Microprocessor images are now full color graphics, still accurately showing the chip layout of functional and storage areas and mapping out what they would look like under super magnification.

Lessons learned:  Visitors to the museum repeatedly pointed out to staff how fascinating the chip images are, and we realized we could combine museum visitors’ two favorite things in this timeline: beautiful and unusual visuals, and “did you know” information about each chip.

In addition, we sized it to be  folded and included as a freebie in the back of another brochure on how chips are made, and the folded size  (8.5 x 11”) makes it much more convenient for visitors to take individual posters with them. This poster remains the most popular souvenir of our company museum.

Jodelle French is the Corporate Historian for the Intel Corporation.