By: Shemika Berry
Last month, the Accokeek Foundation published a blog offering various ideas to museum, traditional, and non-traditional educators on ways to enhance their programs. Continuing in this vein, let’s discuss the importance and benefits of museum partnerships.
During a workshop a few years ago, Accokeek Foundation staff were challenged to answer this question: “If you could do anything you wanted in the next five years, how do you see impacting the mission of the Accokeek Foundation?” At the time I was a part-time first-person museum educator. I had only been on staff for about a year and was just finding my way in the museum world. I wrote, “I would find ways for the Accokeek Foundation to collaborate with other museums in the DMV (District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia). We are so close to the Smithsonian, Mount Vernon, and other places of interest that it’s a missed opportunity [if we don't] work together to enrich the community”. Now, five years later as the Outreach Specialist, I’m doing just that.
Partnering with museums in the same region gives all involved the opportunity to learn and grow their impact on visitors. When museums view each other as fellow collaborators and partners, and visitors as a collective community to educate together rather than “our museum’s visitors,” we have much broader reach. Our collective work helps each piece of the history puzzle to fit together and create a clearer picture of the community they live in or visit.
Last October, this kind of collaboration was realized during a tour called Twilight Tales. For the first time, instead of focusing solely on Maryland legends and tales, our autumn tour highlighted historical figures around the region--from Mount Vernon, Virginia, across Prince George's County to Piscataway Park, Fort Washington, and the Surratt House. Having the ability to incorporate history from multiple venues in the area allowed visitors to get a fuller view of the area and see how close these sites are to each other. Instead of reading just a sentence or paragraph, now the whole book is available to be enjoyed.
Visitors and communities are not the only ones who benefit. Educators and staff are afforded the opportunity to network, brainstorm, and gain deeper understanding of how their work impacts the community as a whole.
Museum partnerships are invaluable and can only help revive the museum community, enhance the museum experience, and enrich the lives of the visitors and overall community.
For more information about upcoming events, visit www.accokeek.org. Museum educators who are interested in collaborating with the Accokeek Foundation, please contact the Outreach Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.