SHA visits the Past, Present, and Future

Guest Post by K. Allison Wickens, National Postal Museum

The second week of SHA has been marked by journeys to the past, present, and future.

Past (Duck Pin Lanes, Busted!, & Connor Prairie):

Nothing like Duck Pin Bowling to build the nostalgia for a time I don’t even remember. SHA took over the lanes of Atomic Bowl in Fountain Square for an evening of 1950s fun.

When it came time to do a class photo, we dutifully took our professional looking one…

But then went back in time to pose in the Indiana Experience’s “Busted!” Exhibit for a little 1920s flair (hats provided by IHS).

Our week ended with a trip to the Connor Prairie Interactive History Park and we traveled back in time again to the 1836 “Follow the North Star” program and 1863 “Civil War Journey.”

Phew!  That’s a lot of time-travel.

Present (Birthdays, Census, and the Power of Children):

Luckily our week was not only about the past and we also got to live in (and learn about) the present. 

What a treat!  Both Kim and Rachel celebrated their birthdays on Thursday.  Along with singing happy birthday multiple times, the group got to enjoy balloons, pizza, cupcakes and smiles to celebrate all day long.


Our class time, on Thursday, was spent with Susie Wilkening of Reach Advisors and Conny Graft, of Conny Graft Research and Evaluation.  They shone a spotlight on the present with their work in audience research and visitor evaluation.   Susie illustrated museum-going trends and national demographic data with using the powerful resource of the current US census and the research they’ve been doing with museum going audiences.


Conny focused on how we can use research now to change our practice and that the act of thinking evaluatively can actually change our process in the present.

Friday we took a trip to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and spent time in “The Power of Children” exhibition which featured the stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White.  Although their stories were in the past, the exhibit did an amazing job of connecting their lives to the present and providing relevance for our lives today.  

Yes, the exhibit in this museum with the dinosaurs climbing into it had our class living up to its reputation of being the “crying-ist” class in SHA history.  We were bawling after experiencing the live performances and sound and light shows in object-filled rooms like this one of Ruby Bridges’ 1st Grade classroom.

Future (uh, everything):

All the sessions we’ve had over the last two weeks have asked us to think about how we’ll apply the material we learn in the near future.  As the days progress, topics such as community engagement, radical trust, entrepreneurship, and the potential of authentic objects to provide transformative  experiences* start weaving together and forming our future practice.

It’s a safe bet that everything we learn in our 3 weeks at SHA is about the future.

*Susie Wilkening, after teaching us about her research on Transformative Museum Experiences, poses with Bumblebee, the Transformer (Jeanette and her clever wordplay gets credit for this photo-op moment).

Thanks to my roomie Heather for checking my spelling!

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Posted on November 10, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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