Tag Archives: Museums

Arts & Culture in a time of Social Distance

I love visiting museums, watching theater, listening to symphonies, and seeing guest speakers discuss engaging topics. Now that we are ordered to stay home, my tickets for events scheduled these upcoming months have been rescheduled or cancelled. Despite these cancellations, closings, and rescheduling,  I will continue to engage in various arts and culture activities remotely.  If you are looking for more arts and culture to add to your daily listening and screenings, here are six websites that allow you to connect with these experiences.

  1. Google Arts & Culture is a great place to explore. My daughter and I spent a week exploring The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks in Utah, Alaska, Florida, New Mexico, and Hawaii. Each place allowed us to listen to interviews with park rangers, explore amazing places in the park with a 360 degree virtual tour, and see other magnificent videos of wildlife, flowing lava in Hawaii, and more. There are art collections and even space travel on this website arranged by themes, virtual tours, collections, and street views.

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2. In New York City the 92nd Street Y has offered so many wonderful programs, lectures, speakers, classical music, and readings. Unfortunately this center is currently closed, but you can still access some of their archived arts and culture events. This past week I listened to interviews with the cast of Schitt’s Creek and another interview with Lizzo. Check out the 92nd Street Y archives for lots more.

3. I miss Broadway theater so much and I have found that you can watch Broadway online. Some shows are streaming on Netflix like American Son, Sweeney Todd and Shrek the Musical,  others like SpongeBob Musical and Fiddler on the Roof on Amazon Prime, and a few classic productions are on BroadwayHD like the King and I, Cats, and Les Miserables. For a complete list and links, check out this article fromBroadway.com. If you just want to hear the music, BroadwayWorld partnered with Broadway performers to launch a series of “Living Room Concerts” to bring video performances direct to you from the living rooms of Broadway performers. The first video is from Jagged Little Pill’s Kathryn Gallagher, performing “You Learn.”

4. All of our museums are closed but that does not mean you cannot view current exhibitions. You can follow many of these museums on social media or visit museum websites. The Getty Museum in California wrote an article “How to Explore Art While the Getty Galleries Are Closed” for virtual visits and to keep people’s spirits up. There are podcasts, online exhibits, books, and resources that anyone can access to learn, view and interact with art, art history, and culture. In fact, if you haven’t seen or heard about the Getty’s art challenge for people at home, check it out on Twitter and get involved. Here is the challenge: Recreate a work of art with objects (and people) in your home.

The images people have shared have been amazing.

5. Open Culture is another resource that provides free movies, audio books, online courses. You can even find book recommendations from all different people who are known as experts in their fields like Carl Sagan, Henry Miller, and feminist reading lists. For example, Neil DeGrasse Tyson lists “8 books Every Intelligent Person Should Read.”  I now have a few more books to add to my to-be-read list.

6. We Are Teachers has provided “The Big List of Children’s Authors Doing Online Read-Alouds & Activities.” So many amazing authors, illustrators, and artists are sharing their work online. Some are reading aloud and others are offering writing prompts and drawing lessons. You can watch them all at once or take them in small bites. Those of you who grew up with Reading Rainbow, remember host and creator, LeVar Burton. Well, his podcast LeVar Burton Reads” is a collection of stories from all different authors and for all different ages. I cannot wait for him to read aloud Jason Reynolds’ Look Both Ways this spring.

Bottom line, there are so many amazing resources at our fingertips to keep us engaged with arts, culture, intellectual conversations, and rich experiences. Stay curious, be well, and be safe.

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Museums Tell Stories: Behind the scenes of AMNH

Last night I had the amazing opportunity to go behind the scenes of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was early evening and the museum was closed to the public. My tour guide was a writer for the museum and she talked about finding the stories in exhibits.

Today, a writer’s job is not just to list the facts. Rather, people are drawn to stories and personal connections. The details presented on the exhibit walls are snippets of stories about our history, our world, our environment. The museum has more than 33 million artifacts and specimens in its collection and only a fraction are on view for the public. To learn more about some of the amazing stories about the artifacts behind the scenes of the museum, you can visit the AMNH blog Shelf Life which offers videos detailing the rarely seen items in the American Museum of Natural History.

My favorite episode so far is Episode Eight: The Voyage of a Giant Squid which describes how a giant frozen squid was transported from New Zealand to the United States. To get the giant squid through customs, it had to be identified as frozen seafood and sushi in order to be brought to the museum for research purposes. The references to giant squids in mythology and classical literature like Jules Verne’s 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea are brought to life when we see an actual giant squid or gargantuan size exhibit at the museums and listen to the tales told by scientists and paleontologists.

The museum also has an App that offers snippets of stories and backstories to the museum’s more famous items on display. To view the giant whale being cleaned or to learn how the giant sequoia tree was brought inside the museum, the app offers more photos and videos to the questions you want to know more about.

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Whether you live near New York City or are on the other side of the country, the American Museum of Natural History has resources available to ALL teachers and students with curious minds on it’s website. There are curriculum materials, online seminars, and professional development material connecting with the Common Core Standards that any teacher can access to learn more and to discover fascinating stories to share with our students about our world past and present.

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West Coast Treasure: Resources for Adventure, Discovery, & Wonder

I have just returned from a week long vacation in San Francisco with my family. The benefits of my children having a teacher for a mother is that our vacation will be a fun filled adventure filled with discovery, wonder, and learning.  Hence, our trip to the west coast included jam packed days for exploration and inquire about the world. Below are the places that we visited and the array of resources that all teachers and parents can utilize online or in person that encourages science inquiry and an interest in American history.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods – Muir Woods National Monument is a sanctuary of Redwoods and ecological treasure. The ginormous trees are breath taking with the tallest tree is Muir Woods over 250 feet. Some of these trees are over 1,000 years old. This destination offers scientific facts about the California Redwoods, the role of Fog and Fire, the anatomy of the trees, and the history of the National Parks Service that protects this forest.

California Museum of Science

California Academy of Sciences – This Museum in Golden Gate Park is an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum. With hands on exhibits and virtual programs, the museum promotes science in both theory and everyday experiences. There is a host of programs and curriculum available online for educators.

de Young Museum of Fine Arts – Another great museum in Golden Gate Park, this art museum boasts a collection of Modern Art from around the world. The Marcus Garden of Enchantment is playful and mysterious and encourages people to explore its different pathways, structures, artworks, and natural features. Don’t forget to take the elevator to the top of the tower for a 360 degree view of all of San Francisco if you visit the museum. Online you can find an abundance of curriculum resources for educators covering teaching guides and lessons.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz – My 10 year old son would tell you that this was the best part of the vacation, visiting the island and listening to the stories of those who experienced Alcatraz as guards, inmates, and families. Alcatraz has a broad history from first being established as a fort during the civil war, a prison from 1859-1963, occupied to make a political statement for Native Americans, and now an ecological preserve. It is amazing to go inside the prison and hear stories from an array of people who worked there before it closed as a prison. There was also a unique exhibit on the island titled “Portraits of Resilience: Children of Incarcerated Parents” that brings to the forefront the impact of incarceration on families today. The NAACP reports that there are more than 2 million people in prisons. Criminal justice is a critical topic in education that plays a role in teaching history and literature. Books like Jason Reynold’s The Boy in the Black Suit and Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore paint a different picture from the Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. Whereas the image of the gangster in the 1920s brought a romanticized picture of outlaws, over crowding in jails and racial bias in our prisons today offer a very different image worth exploring.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium – I know so many people who wanted to be marine scientists when they were younger. Monterey Bay Aquarium would be a dream job for many. Where else can you see so many differently kinds of Jelly Fish or Sea Stars in one place? This aquarium is an amazing center that specializes in researching and educating about marine life in order to co exist and sustain our oceans. The educator’s tab on the website offers an abundance of curriculum materials for all grade levels addressing current exhibits.

All around us are amazing cultural centers that promote learning, science, history, and an appreciation for nature around us. You do not have to take a trip to San Francisco to experience all the great resources that abound the city. Online one can take virtual field trips and peek into an ant colony, swim with the sea otters, or be inspired to write a poem about the beauty of the photographs of national landmarks.

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