Museum Interpretation & Visitor Engagement

WAM Collective

The Weisman Art Museum offers many opportunities for students to get involved, whether through the student tour guide program, the WAM Collective, employment as student staff, or internship opportunities. This spring semester, I am rounding out my coursework with an internship at the Weisman in museum interpretation and visitor engagement. After a semester of reading and researching interpretation and engagement strategies, observing visitors to the museum, and implementing different trial strategies at WAM, I will be presenting my findings to the Weisman’s staff.

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Right now I am in the research observation phase of the project and have been reading about everything from the history of museums, to studies on the demographics of visitors, and texts on different approaches to visitor engagement and education. The best part of this process is taking everything I have learned and applying it to the galleries.

One tactic for increasing visitor engagement and creating lasting impact…

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New Semester, New Me?

First week of Spring semester update!

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New year, New me is a common mantra that many people speak beginning the new year, however true it may or may not be. I can tell you all with confidence that a week into school “New Lauren” is struggling to stay on top of the game. But what I’m here to tell you today is that it isn’t the fact that you aren’t making resolutions at all. What matters is that you are trying. As long as you are trying you will keep progressing, even if it may be slowly.

This semester I want my grades to be better, I want to dress up more, and I want to be more involved in school and in Minnesota. Obviously my New Year’s Resolutions apply as well. Four days into school restarting and I am exhausted but boy oh boy am I doing my best but I didn’t do everything I wanted.

With that being said, that doesn’t matter. The fact that I missed one meeting that I wanted to attend matters so much less than keeping up with all of my homework, catching up with an old professor, getting some tour guide training in, and being able to march this weekend. I have kept to working out and dressing up and making all my meals at home and it is a start and baby steps are better than no steps, amirite?

This week went well and next week will go even better.

Image taken in Germany

New Year’s Resolutions

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This is my first year as a twenty-something and I feel like twenty-somethings should have different goals and aspirations than as the teens that we all just were. After looking at my life and what I want out of the next year, I realized that that is ridiculous and as a teenager I wanted myself to do these things as well ( mostly ).

Anyway here is my list of resolutions that will help me take advantage of this year and the rest of my life ( hopefully ).

  1. Take my medication – all the time, not just when I feel like I need it.
  2. Work out at least three times a week – this is a variation on the basic resolution “I’m going to be healthier this year!”
  3. Blog more – ideally three times a week but at least once a week depending on how school is looking and whatnot.
  4. Take advantage of the opportunities college has to offer – academics are obviously first and foremost, but I would like to be more engaged and involved on campus.
  5. I want to read thirty books this year (follow my progress on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/30932485-lauren
  6. I want to learn how to surf – I think everyone should have one resolution that is something they have always wanted to do but never got around to. This year I am going to get around to surfing.

I have a billion things I want to do in 2017 but I think these are a great place to start!

 

 

Photo creds – pinterest user

 

Ways to Take Care of Yourself

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This time of the year has been stressful for everyone. Whether you have midterms, or are looking for a new place to live or just following the election cycle. This has been a rough month for all of us so far which is why it is more important than ever to take care of yourself.

We all know the “you can’t pour water from an empty cup” saying. I know that I need to make sure I am not burning myself out trying to do too much and I know many others in this same boat.

Instead of just suffering here are some ways to help yourself.

APPEARANCE:

Get up early to look extra nice. I’m talking hair, makeup, AND your favorite outfit.

Paint your nails.

Take a long shower or bath, shave or don’t whichever empowers you. Exfoliate and moisturize, your skin will thank you.

Change your hair. Sometimes the smell of the dye is enough to make you feel better.

RELAX:

Take a killer nap.

Get cozy and watch a movie or some Netflix.

Take an hour phone-free to read a book.

Make some tea and sit outside or just look out the window.

Build a blanket fort. Who can be sad in a blanket fort?

DO:

Go for a run or walk.

Make a nice meal for you or a friend.

Crafts. There isn’t anything you can’t fix with glitter and yarn.

Call a friend or family member.

Cuddle a pet.

GIVE:

Give your friends hugs.

Donate to your favorite charity.

Volunteer with an organization you support.

Write a thank you note to anyone.

Enough — WAM Collective

Last year the WAM Collective had the privilege to work with local dance collective Kelvin Wailey for our performance intermission at the 2016 Design Showcase. One of Kelvin Wailey’s members Leila Awadallah created the following video piece this week in response to the violent islamophobic and racist vandalism that occurred across the University of Minnesota campus last week. […]

via Enough — WAM Collective

On Wisconsin

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Because I do, in fact live in Wisconsin, and have my entire life (up until going to college) I consider myself a bit of an expert on what to do while you are in the land of cheese. For me, August has been full of all sort of fun Wisconsin things making the best of my last month before going back to Minnesota. These adventures include but aren’t limited to races, festivals, fairs, state parks, and campgrounds. Not a bad way to spend the summer and everyone knows I love sharing adventures and tips to anyone who will read them.

If hiking is your jam then you’re going to want to grab your favorite wilderness explorer and head over to Devil’s Lake State Park like Steph and I did. It’s located near the Dells and if we can find it so can you. It only took us two and a half hours to drive there, but it took us almost twice that time to figure out where the lake was and how to hike there. One thing we would have done differently is parking, I suggest you take a good long look at a map before you follow your GPS because it would have been more beneficial for us to park by the lake and then hike up the bluffs, instead of having to find our way to the lake from a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Also remember to by a state park sticker so you don’t get a parking ticket. I think it would have saved us a lot of trouble.

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If paddling is more your style you’re not out of luck. On August 6th, the second annual Half Moon Dragon Boat Festival was held in Eau Claire, and boy was it a good time, most of my family participated and we picked up a few last minute team members. The Dragon Boat race was a great way to spend some time in the sun, get some exercise and work on some team building. If you aren’t into being so competitive, but still want to hit the water, the Wisconsin River (also located near the dells) is always there for you. When the Gengler family embarked on that journey we put in at Sauk City and picked a campsite on one of the many sand bars to have a nice fire and enjoy each other’s company. It was not quite the same pace as the Dragon Boat race but still a nice was to get some sun.

Of course, Wisconsin has a lot to offer that isn’t so much work to do. Throughout the summer there are tons of music festivals, including: Summerfest in Milwaukee, Rockfest and Countryfest in Cadott, Country Jam in Eau Claire, and of course Eaux Claires, which I am still mourning even though I’m in Europe right now.

If you’re in the Milwaukee area you can always go cheer on the Brew Crew, even though we lost Lucroy we still have Scooter and that is equally fun to say. The State Fair in August is also a great way to kill some time, this year a group of adolescents were singing Hamilton and I don’t think I’ve run to a stage so fast in my life. What I’m saying is that even if Wisconsin isn’t the coolest place in the world, it doesn’t have to be the worst. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have some good company.

Summer Reading

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If you’re looking for a fun summer pastime you have come to the right place. Reading is something I will never get sick of, and like many other people out there, I have a summer reading list. Because June is over, meaning that summer is quite underway, I have already gotten through a couple of the books and I will hopefully get through the rest before I move into my new apartment in August.

The list is as follows:

  1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  2. The Knockoff
  3. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are
  4. Summer Days and Summer Nights
  5. The Unexpected Everything
  6. The Cuckoo’s Calling

I know, I know, this list doesn’t seem unattainable. It probably isn’t but I would like you to keep in mind some books are series (The Girl Who Played With Fire / The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), sometimes I add books as soon as I find out they exist (The Unexpected Everything ), and sometimes books I feel like I need to read to get better at something in life (The Photographer’s Eye / Unofficial Guide to GoPro).

 

I have made a bit of progress in my list so far. I’ve finished Stieg Larson’s first of the trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and I’m halfway through the second book. I actually tried to read this series once before in high school but couldn’t get into it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This time around I finished the first book in two days. I get why they were so popular a few years ago, these books are intelligent and well written. I can’t read them fast enough. Larson is a genius.

Also in my done pile is Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza’s book, The Knockoff. There were a couple reasons I didn’t love this book. I think number one might just be that I read it in the wake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and may have been suffering a bit of a book hangover. The other reason I had kind of a qualm with this one was it seemed to demonize technology and make millennials out to be a little bit crazy. I might be biased though because of my millennial tendencies. Needless to say, this was no Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I’m about half way through How to Be Parisian…, it kind of took a back seat once I started the Millennium Trilogy.

The other three books I picked based on past reading material. Summer Days and Summer Nights seemed like a great summer read, first of all. Secondly, I really loved the My True L0ve Gave to Me Christmas short stories put together by the same person, the lovely Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss. I chose The Unexpected Everything because Morgan Matson is the bomb.com. She has never once disappointed me, even when I doubted the future of YA literature. If you pick up Second Chance Summer, Amy and Rodger’s Epic Detour, or Since You’ve Been Gone you will not be disappointed. I am very excited to read this one. My last pick is Cuckoo’s Calling simply because J.K. Rowling. I don’t feel as though I need to say more.

So, whether you are just trying to squeeze in some reading on break at work or looking for something to take with you while you sunbathe, I stand by my list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSA WE FOUND A GREAT SCARY MOVIE ON NETFLIX

Have you ever just really been in the mood to watch a scary movie? If you are anything like myself or my little sister the answer to that is absolutely. Many, many times Netflix has disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix. It fills all my comedy sitcom needs but there is a lack of quality scary movies to stream. It’s a serious downfall, but it just may be that the scary movie draught is over.

My dear friend Tessa and I were presented with this conundrum on a rainy Saturday night. Like many deep thinkers, we did not discover the solution right away. We first tried streaming a movie called Stonehearst Asylum but a half an hour in we could tell it wasn’t our cup of tea. It wasn’t freaking us out or holding our attention and those are important factors in a movie. If it doesn’t catch my attention in the first half hour it doesn’t deserve my attention for the rest of the time. When we returned back to the browse horror section our eyes caught on something we previously missed. Hush (2016) was the first movie recommendation and it had good ratings on Netflix. We decided to give it a shot and prayed that we could last more than a half hour with this one.

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This story is about an author who is blind, deaf, beautiful, and alone, the perfect equation for a scary movie. The movie starts with a visit by the author (Maddie’s) friend. But it really picks up after the friend has left when the friend runs back to the home pounding on Maddie’s door. From then on the Maddie, played by Kate Siegel, fights to find a way to survive the man in the mask outside of her house.

Of course there are many scary movies about being trapped in a house, but this is one of the first that I felt was different. A definite extra element was added because of Maddie’s inability to hear or speak. It made the movie much more complicated and suspenseful and interesting. This movie held my attention the entire time. Another nice thing, if you’re one of the scary movie commentators like Tessa or I, is that while we were working things out out loud, everything made sense. It wasn’t one of those where the characters do something that is almost certain to get them killed. It also has amazing special effects, there is one moment where her hand gets injured and boy is that a sight to see. I was so impressed.

Although the special effects were great and the whole movie wasn’t predictable, my absolute favorite part was Kate Siegel’s character, Maddie. I have never cared so much about a character in a horror movie, mostly because a majority of them die. But I would even consider this fictional character a role model, I was hardcore rooting for this woman. She was also #relatable. When her text message popped up on my computer I thought it was mine. I just really loved her.

The next time you have an evening you want to spend with Netflix, I suggest Hush. It was interesting, scary, and fun. I hope you have as good of a time as Tessa and I had last night watching it.

 

 

One Day in Music City

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One of the last days of our road trip was spent in Nashville, Tennessee, and boy, did we have a great time. We rolled into Nashville from Gatlinburg around noon and headed straight for the Grand Ole Opry House to get tickets to the show. It was hot and muggy but we were glad to get out of the car and wander around a bit. It didn’t take us very long to secure tickets and a hotel room for the night. Once we got all the boring, technical stuff out of the way we moseyed on downtown to pay tribute to some of the biggest stars of music history at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Looking at the roots of country music was such an experience. I took tons of pictures of different artist names and songs so I could put together a playlist to accompany this historic stop. What better way to talk about Music City than with music? I was intending to only do one playlist but as I began to chip away at the task at hand, I realized that one singular playlist maybe was not going to cut it. I had to split it into two. Everyone who knows me knows I am a diehard Swifty, so I have a hard time not including her in the playlists. But there isn’t anything I can do about her taking her music off of Spotify. Speaking of Taylor Swift (like I usually am), it was amazing to see some of the pieces of hers they had on display. I just about died when I saw the lyrics to Tim McGraw scrawled on a piece of notebook paper and the sparkling guitar from her first tour brought back memories of my first summers of CountryFest and Jam. I did more than just drool over Taylor, I promise. I tried to look at the artists I didn’t know as much about to diversify my country music knowledge. I really, really enjoyed the Bob Dylan exhibit: Dylan, Cash, and The Nashville Cats. It was amazing to see the influence that Dylan and Cash had on Nashville, they brought in a lot of people to Music City. I had no idea they were so influential in this scene. That particular exhibit is where I drew a lot of the songs for what was supposed to be the first half of the Country Music Hall of Fame playlist. It turned into this playlist. I personally believe that Cash and Dylan are a dream team and I wish I had more than just “Girl from the North Country” to prove it. But I’ve always had a soft spot for Johnny Cash, so maybe I’m biased.

The Country Music Hall of Fame is home to many talents, both new and old. I’m so happy I got to explore it even though country music isn’t necessarily the first station I check on my way to work.  To represent this lovely experience, I made a playlist. I know, I know. You’re all thinking ‘Lauren, cool it with the playlists, this is why it takes you seven years to talk about one day’. If you are thinking that you are absolutely right, it is why I took so long but I thought it would enhance the reader experience.

You might also believe that my musical experience peaked at the Hall of Fame, but that’s not how Music City works! After the Hall of Fame we went to the mall so I could find a sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Unfortunately, the mall did not have a bookstore or electricity! Okay, so parts of it had electricity but it made it hard to purchase food (they could only take cash). I still haven’t gotten that book.

After that we rolled on over to The Grand Ole Opry House where I was more than pleasantly surprised with the show. Going in, I didn’t recognize a whole lot of the names and I wasn’t sure sure how long it would take to get through all those artists on the line-up but the Opry has quite the system. It was three songs per artist with an announcer and a couple miscellaneous activities to break it up. It was an excellent show with some very engaging acts. My absolute favorite was Flatt Lonesome, a lovely bluegrass band. I tweeted at them (and everyone else at the Opry) but that wasn’t the end of Flatt Lonesome for my night. Another amazing act was Drew Baldridge, who played at CountryFest the same day we returned. Baldridge was making his Opry debut that Wednesday night and for his final song on stage he covered a personal favorite by Josh Turner. What do you know, Josh Turner himself walked right on stage to sing with him. I was amazed. After the show wrapped up and we were headed out the door, Mr. Baldridge himself was right behind us. He shook my grandparents’ hands! It was crazytown.

Even though it was late, our night didn’t end there. Grandpa and I were hungry after the Opry because we had become accustomed to have to search for hours after a regular meal time because we can never find a restaurant. Our initial choice was Bob Evan’s, but that was closed, and thank goodness it was. We turned our attention to The Cracker Barrel. After I ordered corn and sweet potatoes, Grandpa returned from the restroom and pointed out the table on the other side of the restaurant. It was the band. In that moment I knew what I had to do. I went out to the car to retrieve the program and a pen, then went right up to their table and asked Flatt Lonesome if they would autograph it for me. They were super sweet and very funny. They claimed the only thing they have ever been asked to sign was a speeding ticket. Between their catchy tunes and pleasant attitudes, I was very happy to try and find another venue to see them at and I’m already looking forward to seeing them in East Troy in the fall. If you want to check out their music, my grandpa really likes “You’re the One”.

All in all, I had an amazing time in Tennessee. I am happy that I was able to make these memories with my grandparents. It was an experience I will never forget.

Days Three and Four: Holy Smokes!

“I can’t believe we slept so late!” was one of the first things I heard on the morning of our third day. It was only 8:30 a.m. After our “late” start, we went right to the visitor center for Smoky Mountains National Park, Sugarland. Since then, I think we have been back three times in the two days? Anyways, Grandpa poked around to find out what we needed see, while Grandma went to the museum section and I headed straight for the stickers. I just really love stickers. After we watched a short informational film on the parks, we headed back to the truck to get to Clingman’s Dome. Our first visit to the visitor center was fairly short.

Clingman’s Dome was an essential stop and I’m so glad we did it. How could we not go to the highest point in Smoky Mountain National Park? However, trying to park was an adventure in itself (this happened many times during our stay in the Smoky Mountains, it is a busy place). Once we got there we started the hike to the observatory, it was only half a mile, but it was pretty steep so Grandma and her knee surgery had a hard time with it. We all made it up to the observatory. The view was fantastic, it might have been a little bit better without all the fog. But hey, that’s what makes the Smokies the Smokies and after I hike like that I don’t want to complain about anything. I was really happy I got to see some of the Appalachian Trail because someday I would like to hike the whole thing.

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After our first hike of the day, we headed over to the New Found Gap, which wasn’t really a place to hike, it was a place to look. It was a great view, which resulted in some great pictures. Also, this guy had a 16 year old, bald chihuahua! The man said it was mean though so he held it’s head while I pet it so it wouldn’t bite me. I’m glad I got to pet it even though it was mean.

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The Grotto was the next destination on our agenda, we put the pick up in at the Trillium Trail trail head by Rainbow Falls. Grandma, Grandpa, and I set out with our backpacks and water ready for our next hike. We had little mix up trying to figure out which direction we were supposed to go to get to the Grotto, but we were optimistic. After 15 minutes of up and down and stepping over exposed roots, Grandma decided her newly operated on knee wasn’t ready for this kind of nonsense. She turned around and Grandpa and I forged on. It wasn’t until Grandpa thought he heard a deer that we realized that we had been paralleling the road almost the entire time and what he saw was a car. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that meant there was another trail head farther up the road. We both tried to call Grandma to tell her to meet us and hike the rest of the way with us, or at least pick us up after but cell reception in the mountains is spotty at best. By that time we had realized that we had gone more than the 1.3 mile estimated hike, but we had to go farther to get to the falls so on we went. On our way, we only saw two other people and one cool looking snake. We also saw a whole lot of bear poop, but no bear. I am happy we didn’t get attacked by a bear but after all that poop I felt like I deserved to see one.

This hike actually turned out to be a great opportunity to see some wildlife and to practice some wildlife photography, a hobby of mine. Anyway, Grandpa and I reached the trail head we were supposed to put in at 2.5 miles after we started. We were sweaty and thirsty and a little worried that Grandma would never find us so we turned around and walked back down the road to where we had originally parked. We vowed to return the next day to conquer the 1.3 miles we didn’t do to reach the grotto. It was while we were walking back that I was able to get roughly 5 feet away from a beautiful doe. She didn’t seem to be very frightened by me or any of the noise of traffic. After I got some good pictures we went on our way, eventually returning to the truck, hungry and tired, but very excited to come back.

Day four started with us making our way right back to where we should have started the day before. We followed the exact same path up until the road closed sign. It was a disappointment to say the least. After getting over it and some new navigation, we went on to the road to Cade’s Cove. On the way we stopped to hike Laurel Falls, which ended up being better for Grandma anyway because it was paved. I also got to do a couple easy climbs which was nice because I have not had much practice since getting out of school and, boy, do I love to climb things just to do it.

Up next on our agenda was Cade’s Cove. Our original plan was to check out the village around Cade’s Cove and reserve bikes for the next day. But it didn’t exactly happen that way, the cove was very out of our way as it was, and the weather was looking like rain. So the executive decision was made to not bike the loop in the morning. I actually really did want to do that, but somethings you have to set aside for the next time you come back. Next time, I will bike the loop. We did drive the loop, though, or at least part of it. It was so crowded that we were at a standstill for a very long time. Apparently, everyone in front of us got to see a bear, but we still weren’t lucky enough. We were bored and tired and we cut out of the loop as soon as we could. You win some you lose some.

As much as was packed into days three and four, the evening of day four felt like a vacation. We wandered around Gatlinburg and really just got to do what we wanted. I bought some vegan ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, we went over to the aquarium, and did some shopping. Aquariums make me sad because of captivity and whatnot, but I do enjoy spending time with my grandparents so I pet the jellyfish like every other tourist. When we got out of the aquarium, Gatlinburg was experiencing what one would call a downpour, so we bought rain ponchos, and ran from store to store until we reached Ol’ Smoky Moonshine Distillery. Don’t judge, they had a super cute coffee mug I wanted to bring home.

Once we reached the distillery the rain was letting up. Grandma and Grandpa went to sit outside while I searched for the coffee mug of my dreams. When I found my grandparents after my purchase, they were sitting in rocking chairs listening to a family band. The evening was peaceful and relaxing. I left the mountains with a few new stickers and only one blister.