To address institutional and industry questions about how best to engage families in a history museum exhibits, the USS Constitution Museum initiated the Family Learning Project in 2004. We explored low cost, replicable techniques that led to enjoyable, informative, and social experiences for all ages in a prototype exhibit called A Sailor’s Life for Me?.
In July 2009, we opened All Hands on Deck, the permanent exhibit based on our successes with the prototype exhibit, and set out to disseminate our findings through the online Family Learning Forum, the predecessor to this website, and at professional development workshops across the nation.
Workshops & Conference Sessions
We traveled the country sharing tested techniques and successful strategies to engage families in exhibits and programs at history museums. Participants stated that, “tons of great and practical ideas were presented in an engaging and manageable manner” and, “this is a session [from which] I can bring back a host of ideas to implement at once for very little money!” Access archived presentations and videos through the links below.
- Family Learning Across the Nation – April 18, 2011, Nashville, TN; March 4, 2011, Columbus, OH; April 26, 2010, St. Paul, MN; May 17, 2010, Portland, OR; May 19, 2010, Seattle, WA; and January 30, 2009, Jacksonville, FL
- One Size Fits All? Engaging Families in Exhibits! – November 15, 2010, Boston, MA
- Engage Families! Build Audience, Repeat Visitation & Enhance the Bottom Line – September 24, 2009, Boston, MA
- Kids + History + Exhibitions = Possibilities – American Association of Museums (AAM) Annual Conference, May 01, 2009, Philadelphia, PA
- Hands-on Minds-on Exhibits for Everybody – Council of American Maritime Museums (CAMM) Annual Meeting, May 7-9, 2008, Pensacola, FL
- Opening Your Doors to Families & Building Institutional Buy-In – New England Museum Association (NEMA) Annual Meeting, November 7-9, 2007, Portland, ME
- Family Visitors are the Bottom Line! – American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Annual Meeting, Semptember 2007, Atlanta, GA
- Family Learning Roundtable: Successful Strategies for Engaging Families – June 14, 2005, Boston, MA
Our interdisciplinary team drew from the USS Constitution Museum’s Curatorial, Exhibition, Education, Library, and Administrative departments. Beyond our areas of specialty, we each made daily discoveries about the nature and characteristics of family engagement and learning. What to know more about the project? Contact current staff members (in bold) through our online contact form.
- Anne Grimes Rand, President (Project Director)
- Robert Kiihne, Director of Exhibits (Project Manager)
- Sarah Watkins, Director of Collections & Learning
- Jon Christensen, Media Manager
- Marilyn C. Solvay, Family Learning Project Coordinator
- Kristin Gallas, Director of Education & Interpretation
Steering Committee Members, Designers, and Contributors
- Minda Borun, Director of Research, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA
- Joanne M. Curran, Assistant Dean, Division of Education, SUNY, Oneonta, NY
- Lynn D. Dierking, Sea Grant Professor in Free-Choice Learning, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR (previously Associate Director, Institute of Learning Innovation, Edgewater, MD)
- Cathy Donnelly, Exhibit Developer, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, IN
- Daniel J. Freas, Director of Museum Programs, Conner Prairie, Fishers, IN
- Gail Ringel, VP of Exhibits and Production, Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA
- Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, Director, Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, NY
- Eric White, Director of Programs & Events, Boston Society of Architects, Boston, MA (previously Director of Education and Public Programs, Old Sturbridge Village, MA)
- Argyle Design, Brooklyn, NY
- Heather Hogue, General Contractor, Boston, MA
- Wondercabinet Interpretive Design, Inc., Lexington, MA
- Paul Orselli, Paul Orselli Workshop (POW!), Baldwin, NY
- Burt Logan, Executive Director & CEO, Ohio History Connection, Columbus, OH (previously President, USS Constitution Museum, Boston, MA)
The Family Learning Project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
- 2004 National Leadership Grant
- 2005 Museums for America Grant
- 2008 21st Century Museum Professionals Grant
The Family Learning Project was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
- 2004 Planning Grant [GM-50198-04]
- 2007 Museums Implementation Grant [MI-50056-07]
Fabrication of the prototype exhibit A Sailor’s Life for Me? was funded in part by the Sunfield Foundation.
Research on the life of Constitution’s 1812 crew was funded in part by the Charles Hayden Foundation.
Research on the life of Constitution’s 1812 crew was funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.