The Pages of Time Mother Daughter Book Club at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library takes place on the first Thursday of every month, November through May, from 6-8pm. The program is presented as a series, so the experience continues over the 7 months period. This is a multi-user program, and all mothers and daughters must read the books ahead of time. Each meeting starts with an opening ice-breaker activity followed by a discussion of the book by a different mother-daughter pair each month. The multi-modal program concludes with a snack and a fun, playful craft activity that relate to the book in some way. The books used in the program span the same period of history as the Museum’s distinctive collection (ranging from pilgrims to the Oregon Trail).
Staff members lead and facilitate the first month’s meeting as a model for the mother-daughter pairs who will lead subsequent meetings. Hopefully, involving the children and adults in this way this helps staff members to maintain engagement throughout the duration of the program.
Since both the mother and daughter are required to read the book each month, the group has great opportunity for conversations across generations. Staff members encourage the mother-daughter pairs to come up with their questions and talking points for the book discussions together. Adults generally don’t have a problem participating; the moms enjoy these books just as much, if not more than their daughters. Staff sometimes limit adult participation to maintain a multi-generational balance.
Location and Setting
Since this program takes place from 6-8 pm and is after closing hours, staff members have chosen to use a location on their site that is not attached to the Museum. This eliminates the need for any extra security staff during the program and provides accessible parking. There is a parking lot located right next to this building eliminating the need for the typical shuttle that takes visitors from the Visitor Center to the Museum. The one downside of this choice is that they are not at the Museum where the relevant collection pieces are located. To help with that, staff bring over as many authentic objects from the teaching collection as possible and substitute with pictures as needed.
Program Goals and Outcomes
The goals of the program are to help participants develop a fuller understanding of the history of the United States, as well as develop an interest in history and reading. Since the history that the program covers spans the history of the Museum’s collection, staff members are also providing authentic and distinctive background information from the collection. Staff members hope to engage some new families with Winterthur through this program, as well as strengthen the connection with families who already visit the site. Many of the book club participants have gone on to participate in other Museum programs, such as the teen volunteer program.
The program has evolved over the past 9 years. In the beginning there were larger changes from year to year, but now, there is a system in place. New staff members are facilitating the program which is a good way to keep the program fresh. One strength of the program is that staff members allow the mother-daughter pairs to be the facilitators, and in some ways, the content creators. While staff members have chosen the stories ahead of time, there are multiple outcomes because each year the discussion and activities will change. Staff members don’t generally change the books from year to year, meaning that the program is easily replicated from year to year and extremely sustainable. Though this does mean participants usually participate for one year, there have been mothers who return with younger daughters.
Tips and Advice
If other museums are interested in replicating this program, the staff at Winterthur suggests utilizing elements from your other school and family programs. Once you find something that works, stick with it! Another key point in the success of this program is requiring some work on the part of the mother-daughter pairs. It helps if they are invested and committed to the group and to the discussion, as this creates a richer experience for everyone involved.
Special thanks to Megan Millman, Program Assistant at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library http://www.winterthur.org/