Lessons I Learned From Working in Museums

Hey friend – welcome back! Today, I am going to tell some of the things I learned from volunteering in a local history museum, working in a children’s museum, and through my virtual internship with History Colorado. I learned so many lessons and I’m excited to share them with you! Let’s get started! πŸ™‚

Stillwater Museum of History at the Sheerar: 2017-2018

I volunteered at the local history museum in Stillwater my senior year of college (2017-2018). I helped design flyers and helped facilitate Saturday programming for kids. I learned to be patient and how to set up an event in whatever space is possible (no matter how small that space may be). The museum was small and we didn’t have a lot of room…

Here’s a link to an article with a picture of me volunteering! If you have the time and resources, I totally recommend volunteering at a local museum. You will meet so many cool people and learn a lot of new things!

Oklahoma WONDERotirum: 2018-2020

For those of you who don’t know, I went to graduate school at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Go Pokes! While in graduate school, I worked at the Oklahoma WONDERtorium – a local children’s museum that drew visitors from all around the state and the world. 

I was a part-time staff member. But the Oklahoma WONDERtorium was a small museum, so we all wore a bunch of different hats and kind of filled in wherever we were needed. Programming was my favorite and I loved getting to help design and facilitate programs in the museum and in the community.

The museum’s exhibits were built with play-based learning in mind. The kids would come in and learn through play. There was an art station, water table, diner, doctor’s office, nursery, treehouse, theater stage, space exhibit, a mountain, wind tunnel for scarves, and big blue blocks! The exhibits were created to inspire hands-on learning which allowed the children to try new things every time they visited the museum. It was so fun seeing their imaginations run wild! I couldn’t tell you how many plays we watched on the theater stage, how many castles were built using the blocks, or how many times I had pretend birthday cake at the diner. It was so much fun!

There was also a Wonder Room that had different activities each month! The room often had different types of board games or crafts. We even put a woodworking shop in there one summer! Keep reading to hear more about that one! πŸ™‚

My favorite thing I participated in was the Wonder Workshop in the Summer of 2019. We set up a literal woodworking workshop in the Wonder Room. I got to be one of the foremen in the shop and helped build so many projects! We had a little bit of everything and it was so fun to see what the kids dreamed up to build. My motto was if you can draw it, we can build it – and build we did! It was so fun teaching the museum patrons – children and adults – how to use power tools, hand saws, hammers, etc. The longer the patrons stayed in the workshop the more their confidence grew.

I’ll never forget one grandpa who would bring his granddaughter to the museum every week and they would build things together in the workshop. And one day her grandma brought her and the little girl looked at me and said, “One day when I grow up, I want to be just like you.” This meant a lot to me because this little girl saw me working with power tools and knew that she could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up.

I also got to lead story time for a semester! We would read books and sing fun songs. ‘Baby Shark’ was a definitely a crowd favorite!

Finally, I loved being able to represent the museum at local community events in Stillwater. I was able to take activities to local schools, family events at Oklahoma State University, and summer day camps. I got to meet some really cool people at these events. Summer on the Plaza was a recurring event at OSU and I designed our programming for that event around Minute-to-Win-It games. It was so much fun! (Google Minute-to-Win-It to see what kind of games can be played)

The biggest lesson I learned from working in a children’s museum was to have fun, be flexible, and set a good example for the next generation. Be kind and be patient – you never know what you might learn πŸ™‚

History Colorado: Fall 2020

After finishing graduate school, I completed a virtual remote internship with History Colorado. I interned in the Oral History department and learned so many new things! I learned how to do oral history, transcribe interviews, how to accession items into the collection, and how to do research for interviews. It was cool getting to work with people via Zoom that I probably never would have had the opportunity to work with otherwise!

Oral histories are such an important historical resource! You can find oral histories in most state historical societies and the Library of Congress (loc.gov) has several as well. I encourage you to learn how to do oral histories! This is a great way to capture your family history!

For more information, see the following blog posts: How to Conduct an Oral History and How to Write Your Family History πŸ™‚

Concluding Thoughts

Working in all three of these museums taught me something different and I will be forever grateful for the staff who taught me new things. I still use a lot of the skills I learned from the museums in my jobs today!

I hope you’ll go visit a museum in your area sometime soon. Make some time to talk with the staff or volunteers – you never know what you might learn!

I’ll talk to ya soon! πŸ™‚

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