The List!

100 new things to try!

Note that I’m going to do the things on my list in whatever order strikes my fancy. 
If the whole item is a hyperlink, that means I have already done it, and you can click to see what I wrote about it!

1. Take a class or a workshop in Playback Theater or another interactive, responsive theater technique. Responsive theater seems to be onto something in terms of connecting with people’s experiences, and I’m interested to learn more so I could apply some of their ideas in museums or public history. Plus, it sounds fun.

2. Go to the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont. I read about it a while back and it sounds up my alley, but I still haven’t been. I’m especially interested in museums of technology now that I work in one.

3. Attend a meeting of a local community development board, zoning board, or something similar. I want to know more about how decisions are made in my community.

4. Read Alchemy of the Soul, the exhibition catalog to the installation of the same name by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons at the Peabody Essex Museum. I bought myself this book on a whim yesterday. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a museum exhibition catalog cover to cover, but I really enjoyed the exhibit of art inspired by the landscape of largely-defunct sugar refineries in Cuba. It's parallel text in English and Spanish, and I am poking at learning Spanish, so I'll read it in English but look at the Spanish as well.

5. Do some work for the History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust project. I have been meaning to try participating in a crowdsourced history project, and this one is new and looks really worthwhile.

6. Go to a museum with a friend’s kid. I teach field trips at museums, and used to teach third and fifth graders on field trips regularly, but it's been a long time since I've explored a museum with a kid one-on-one, where the kid was taking the lead. Probably since my now very grown-up brother was young!

7. Julia S. suggested “Learn to travel/transport yourself in a new way.” I really like this suggestion, but I struggled at first to figure a travel or transportation method I could try that would be interesting for me to blog about. Rollerblading? I’ve never successfully done it, but I’m not sure what I’d say other than writing an essay on falling a lot and humility. Then, I noticed myself dismissing the possibility of going to a free jazz concert because it’s more than a mile from the T (Boston subway). There are plenty of buses, but I tend to avoid them because I find them inconvenient. So, I’m going to spin off of Julia’s suggestion, and challenge myself to spend three weekend days exploring parts of Boston that are only served by busses. This will take me into areas that are demographically and economically different from where I live, and that’s a good thing.

8. Be a research subject for a learning study. I think I might learn something about learning while I'm there!

9. Matt K. suggested “interview a docent or other interpretive staff person at a museum you like to get their take on museum / visitor experience issues that are of interest to you. Then we can read the interview!” I like it. Now I just have to decide whether to interview someone at a place where I’ve worked, or somewhere I’ve only been a visitor.

10. Do a genealogy project. I know a bit about the methods of genealogy, but I've never really sat down and traced my family's roots. I have family members who have done this, so I might go outside my immediate family, but either way, it would be fun to try this as it's so many people's first and only experience with doing historical research.

11. Take a guided tour of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I prefer wandering a museum on my own or with friends over guided tours, so despite the fact that I am a devotee of the ISGM and used to volunteer there, I've never taken a guided tour. Their tours are given by volunteer "museum teachers," who have taken a higher level of training than the volunteer docent program I was in. (I considered applying to be a museum teacher just because the training is so well regarded, but I knew I didn't have the time to commit to more volunteering). It's high time I take a tour!

12. Read Drifting on a Read: Jazz As a Model for Writing by Michael Jarrett. I picked this up in a used bookstore, and it just looks so intriguing, even though it also looks a little heavy on theory for my taste.

13.Andrew K.R. suggested “Learn to code, if you haven’t already.” I have a bit of a background in both Java and C, but I’ve been meaning to take a class or do a workbook in SQL for a while now. While I don’t think it will ever directly be useful in my job, I work with relational databases a fair bit and it would be great to get a better understanding of how they work, even if I’m not allowed to go in and tinker on the back end.

21. Read some publications from one of the urban youth writing programs in the Boston area, like 826 or WriteBoston. This would be a way to get to know perspectives from members of the community I rarely interact with.

22. Lynn T. suggested “explore the intersections between museums and archives,” which I think I’ll do by attending some workshops or meetings for archivists, and comparing to my experiences in museums.

23. According to a summary of the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study, a third of people in greater Boston are religiously unaffiliated, and the most common religious affiliation at just under a third is Catholic. Most of what I know about Catholicism is from the media and literature, and visiting cathedrals as a tourist, so to get to know my city a bit better, I'm going to go to a few Catholic services. I will do this as a respectful guest and earnestly try to get to know the community life of the church I visit, and be careful not to use it as cultural tourism.

24. Vik F. suggested watching the documentary “Art and Craft,” which is about an art forger. I find anything to do with the world of fine art to be fascinating and bizarre, so close to my world of history museums and yet so very, very different, so I imagine I'll enjoy this.

25. Revise a paper I wrote in college to submit for publication. There's nothing like working with old writing to see how far you've come, but the real reason I want to do this is that I find that editing my own work, especially when editing is a challenge, helps me with my writing skills. I will tell you all whether it's as painful as I am half-expecting it to be.

26. Get to know a little bit about Brazilian-American culture. According to the Immigration Law Center, Brazil is one of the most common countries of origin for immigrants in Massachusetts, but I don't know much about Brazil or Brazilian-American culture.

27. Read a book that was a bestseller 100 years before I was born. Literature is a great way to access history, but we generally only read older books if they were are classics or "high literature." A year's bestsellers usually include some books that stand the test of time, and others that don't but are still a window into that year in some way.

28. Andrew C. suggested “Take a small child (under the age of 5) to a non-kid-focused museum (so not The Children's Museum or the Museum of Science). See what they see, engage with what they engage with.” I like this, it's a different way for me to look at both learning and museums.

29. Jess C.H. suggested I read "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson. Most of what I know about the Great Migration, or movement en masse of African Americans out of the South over several decades, was what I needed to know to define it on a US history test in high school, so I'm curious to learn more.

30. Attend a meeting relating to the MBTA. Boston's public transit system is... complicated? Struggling? The source of a lot of frustration and the target of a lot of jokes, that's for sure. There are plenty of public meetings about them, and I imagine I'd learn a lot about people and my city while I'm there. Update: my post about those meetings ended up being about labor unions. Go figure. 

31. Do some volunteer transcribing for the National Archives. See #5 above for my reasons why!

32. Complete someone's board on Pindex, on a topic that relates to my goals for this blog. Pindex is a new "Pinterest-style" site for collecting educational videos. They have a feature where you get completion awards for watching all of the videos in one collection. It's designed to be a teaching tool for teachers and just for learners who want to share.

36. Meet with an elected representative as part of a state or national museums advocacy day. Museums advocacy days are designed to raise awareness of what museums do for their communities in terms of education benefits, tourism dollars, and more, and raise awareness of how the government can support independent, non-profit museums.

39 and 40. Two items in one: Sarah J. suggested I read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere and Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks, both of which are modern classics of educational theory. The latter is in many ways a response to the former, so I'm listing them here together although they will be two list items. Both of these are available as free PDFs online, but I don't know whether either the authors or the publishers authorized this, and in my preliminary research haven't been able to find out, so I don't know whether they count as publicly accessible resources.

41. Emmett H. Suggested, "Spend a significant amount of time (a few hours or a full day) in places where you don't share a language with the majority of the people around you. For example, you could go hang out in a restaurant in East Boston, which is majority Hispanic. Or find a Haitian Creole restaurant. I don't know what languages you speak, but I'd be interested to read your reflections on something like this, especially because this mirrors the experiences a lot of immigrants and English language learners in schools have all the time -- being surrounded by unfamiliar language." I love this idea! I have had a little of this experience while traveling, but I imagine it's different in my own town, and also different when I'm really paying attention to the experience of language. English is my first language and I'm somewhere between proficient and fluent in French, but I know from living in Boston that that's not enough to understand Haitian Creole, by a longshot. I'm learning Spanish but very slowly (using Duolingo) so both are options.

42. Visit the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. This famous and grotesque museum of medical oddities is very different from the medical museum where I work, which focuses on medical history and innovation, but I feel silly being a medical history person and not having been there. 

43. Read The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer or watch the PBS documentary. Gil D recommended this book to me while we were talking about the history of thyroid cancer. I remember the splash it made when it came out, but I haven't read it.

44. Visit the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. This art and natural history museum has recently begun to focus some of its interpretation on themes of innovation, and I'm curious to see their work in person.

46. This year for NaNoWriMo, I hope to write the first draft of a YA book on doing historical research.

47. Phoebe R. recommended the 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge, which is like NaNoWriMo except for very short (1-page?) plays, and it traditionally takes place in August. This seems like a "safe" way to try out writing educational, nonfiction scripts, as well as play around with some other ideas.

51. Visit the African Burial Ground and its associated National Park Service visitor center in New York City.

52. Learn more about Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean American culture and history. Many of the people enslaved at the Royall House and Slave Quarters were brought there from Antigua; some had been born in Africa and others were enslaved at birth in Antigua. Others were born in Massachusetts to Afro-Carribbean parents on the Royalls' estate. I think I would understand their lives a little better if I get to know Afro-Caribbean culture, in their time and my own. Update: In trying to meet this goal, I found it too broad, and wrote about why.

53. Learn some American Sign Language. I am drawn to ASL in part because it's a language native to my country but I only know a few words. I make no pretense that I'll be able to converse with fluent speakers a after a course or two -- it took me years to learn a second language and I don't know if I am committed to a third -- but I'd like to learn a little.

54. Read A History of Archaeological Thought by Bruce G. Trigger. I was with my friend Laura H., an archaeologist and educator, when I considered picking this book up, and she told me I should go for it because it's one of the essential introductions to the field. So, I'm crediting her with having suggested it to the blog!

55. Read From Stonehenge to Las Vegas: Archaeology in Popular Culture by Cornelius Holtorf. This book seems to be about public archaeology, in the sense of how archaeology is consumed and perceived. I love fields that are related to public history-- in fact, I very nearly did my graduate work in Brown's Public Humanities program.

56. Try out a sport that was either much more popular at least a few generations ago, or had a different set of rules at least a few generations ago.

57. Kara H. suggested, "Read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, a 1985 dystopian novel that specifically depicts a 2nd wave feminist dystopia. A great way of understanding what second wave feminist thought specifically feared and valued -- it illustrates a different angle of second wave feminism than is typically seen by reviewing nonfiction."

58. Sit in on a college sociology course. I have been exposed to a lot of the ideas of sociology but not in a formal way. I think it would be fun to sample learning it more formally in an environment where many of the people are encountering sociological thinking for the first time.

59. Interview some people of a different generation about how they learned history. I think this would provide inside insight into what has worked for people and what hasn't.

60. Buy something inexpensive and unfamiliar from an antique store and research its story. I have a bit of background in researching material culture, but I have never just found an object I don't know a thing about and looked into it.

61. Do an architecture coloring book. It seems like it would be a fun way to learn to recognize architectural styles, and from the tiny bit of architectural information I know, I've gathered that looking at buildings is a fun way to spot the marks of different periods of history in a city.

62. Watch "Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North." This documentary follows a family of white Americans researching and confronting the history of their ancestors who were the largest slave-trading family in United States history. Some of the people from that project went on to work in slavery education, and I have taken a workshop with them I quite liked.

64. Tom L. recommended the book The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition, a recent release by Manisha Sinha. This critically-acclaimed book looks at abolition in a broad context.

70. Explore a variety of the webinars available on Teaching tolerance is largely but not exclusively aimed at classroom teachers; it's an excellent resource that is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

71. Do something to further explore and support the work of The Slave Dwelling Project. I have attended one of their events in which historian Joseph McGill and others slept overnight at an extant slave dwelling, but I would like to do more.

72. Visit Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT. I'm a transplant New Englander, having grown up in lake-rich but landlocked upstate NY, so even after having fallen in love with and worked at the USS Constitution Museum, there's a lot to maritime history that I don't know and haven't seen. 

73. Visit the Whaling Museum at the Nantucket Historical Association, for similar reasons.

75. Speaking of my childhood, I am interested in interviewing one or more of my own K-12 teachers about how their teaching practices have changed over the years.

76. In college, one of my poetry teachers, Olga Broumas, sometimes had us take a poem we had written and cut the number of syllables in half. It was an interesting exercise, and had different results from cutting down the word count or other measures of length. She focuses a lot on the sound and musicality of poetry; the exercise is probably ill-suited to working towards the final draft of a piece of prose, but I'm interested to try it out. So, I will take a piece of prose I’ve written and cut the number of syllables in half.

78. I'd like to do a walk that follows a historic route. I can't tell you how many tourists think that the Freedom Trail in Boston is the route that Paul Revere took during his midnight ride -- never mind that the ride was to spread news from Boston to suburban Lexington, which was considered out in the country back then. I don't know if Revere's route is the one I want to trace, but I'll come up with something. P.S. The Freedom Trail is actually the trail that connects 16 sites related to the American Revolution and the country's early history.

80. Read Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle. This is the book that sparked a food safety movement, when it was intended to fuel interest in the well-being of low-income workers, particularly immigrants (it reminds me of present-day debates about sick leave for restaurant workers). I hear it's not well written, but it's quite the historical document. Sinclair famously said, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

81. Do the research to determine whether I'd be eligible to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, or a similar ancestry-based organization. I had a great-aunt who traced one branch of my family back 11 generations and I know I have at least one relative who was here before the American Revolution, but I don't know their involvement. I know very little about these organizations, and this would be one way to learn more.

83. Read Queer Matters: Queer Representation in Museums, by Xander Karkfruff recommended by Margaret M. It's a Master's thesis the author has made available online, and it is one of the more comprehensive resources on the subject.

85. Go on a museum tour led by a third party not affiliated with that museum, like Museum Hack or another company.

86. Do sound design for a play. I am fortunate to be involved with a couple of great community theater groups, and I would like to use theater to practice creating experiences that use many different senses. 

87. Along similar lines, I'd like to be involved with set design for a play. 

88. Read Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman. I haven't read many serious graphic novels, and this award-winning holocaust story is one of the most famous.

89. Visit the Worcester Art Museum. Not much to say about this one, except that I hear it's good, and I haven't been.

90. Work through some of the University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence's collection of exercises on developing a teaching philosophy. It's designed for classroom teachers, but I think it will be interesting to apply it to museum education and history writing.


  1. Tegan, I'm loving this! A few more suggestions: eat a food that seems, at first glance, weird or disgusting, but is a favorite food in a culture different than yours; try mapping your emotional responses to a museum or exhibit; and relatedly, if you can, try Art-o-mancy; not just spend time observing in your gallery, but then also in a library to see what's the same and different. I look forward to keeping up with you!

  2. Tegan - I'm really enjoying following your adventures. I endorse #29 on your list - Warmth of Other Suns takes you on a memorable journey. You already have a lot reading here, but I'd also suggest Neurotribes by Steve Silberman, a detailed but well-written history of autism. Like Warmth of Other Suns, it really made me think differently about a lot of stuff. Thanks for taking us readers along for the ride - looking forward to future posts. - Carol

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the recommendation of Neurotribes -- I've heard good things about it!


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