Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Blog!

If you are interested in HamEd (now HME) please join us on our new blog over here.
We also have a new Twitter feed and Facebook page.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Next Meeting June 18: Planning Session for 2012-2013

Keep your calendar clear!

The next meeting of HamEd will be our annual planning session on Monday, June 18 (location details to follow soon).

These are wonderful sessions, which, if the luck of weather is on our side, include delicious food on a beautiful patio and the generation of great ideas.

On tap for this meeting:

-share any topics you'd like to see covered in the 2012-2013 HamEd year
-discuss the best day/time to hold upcoming meetings
-possibly create a calling list in case of last-minute session cancellation
-and, a very special announcement!

If you are unable to attend the June 18 planning session (location TBA), please do send in any topic ideas, comments, questions or concerns to your friendly HamEd Coordinators:
Nicole Knibb:
Teresa Gregorio:

Thanks for a great year, and looking forward to seeing you in June!

Monday May 28 Meeting: Notes

We had a great turn out this Monday at the wonderful restaurant Agabi in Oakville (thanks for the rec, Natalie!)

What follows are the notes provided by the evening's presenter, Nicole Knibb, Education Officer at the McMaster Museum of Art.

Hamilton and Area Museum Educators After-Hours May 28, 2012
Volunteers/Docents/Interpreters and Recruitment, Training and Retention
Session leader: Nicole Knibb, Education Coordinator, McMaster Museum of Art (MMA)

The MMA is a university art museum and most of our docents and volunteers come from the campus community, specifically undergraduates.  We do have volunteers of all ages, including secondary school students, adult students, community members, university staff, and seniors.  We do have an active docent training program which runs from September to April.  Volunteer positions include helping with our library, some research for exhibitions and the wider collection, special events, and tours.

The MMA volunteer and docent program is also a means of community outreach.  Since we don’t have many tours, the docent program goes beyond touring, public speaking and exhibition information.  It’s a chance for people to get to know the MMA, its collection and functions, as well as build a sense of community around our institution on campus.  Many of our docents are from the Fine Art and Art History programs, however, a large number come from other departments on campus, often students who love art but have chosen to seek their future professions elsewhere.

We do not formally recruit volunteers and docents since we seem to have active interest continually throughout the year. 

Volunteers and docents are required to complete an application and submit it with a resume.  We do check references and require a Police Vulnerable Sector Screening to be submitted, as well as a signed volunteer and confidentiality agreement.  Our volunteers and docents do require health and safety training under McMaster University’s policy, and compliance with AODA standards.

We have a formal Docent Handbook outlining expectations and resources for our docents.  During training, we address topics such as the history of McMaster University, its art collection and special donors who have made significant contributions to the MMA.  We discuss public speaking, touring methods, engaging audiences, different types of museum visitors, learning strategies for all ages, art and art history, and specific information related to exhibitions, of course.

In order to engage our docents further, we have a special session where our Director speaks to them about the Museum’s vision and mission.  Docents are given behind-the-scenes tours of the MMA to gain a greater understanding of the facility.  For each new exhibition, we try to have the Senior Curator and artists themselves speak to the docents as well, allowing them to ask questions.  Docents are encouraged to attend artist talks, panel discussions, and any specific programing surrounding each exhibition.

We offer enrichment activities as well, such as touring the AGH or local galleries to watch a tour in action.  We have art/artist related film afternoons on Saturdays once a month during the academic year.  These enrichment activities are an excellent way to build a team, and get to know each other.  All docent training and enrichment opportunities are open to our volunteers as well, to encourage belonging and community building.

Prior to leading tours themselves, we require docents to do practice tours in front of their peers, which are evaluated.  Docents are also encouraged to follow tours led by Museum staff to see how they are done.

Twice per year, we do a volunteer appreciation event, which is having a nice spread of food and drink during one of our January meetings (the holiday season is also exam time and never worked for our volunteers).  During National Volunteer Week in April, we offer behind-the-scenes tours.

Retaining Docents
This is tricky at the MMA with the majority of our docents and volunteers being undergraduates.  Often they come to us in their third or fourth year, so they are only active for one or two years.  Many find it difficult to juggle academic work, employment and volunteering.

For training:

Falk, John H. Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. California: Left Coast Press, Inc., 2009.

Falk, John H., Lynn D. Dickering, and Marianna Adams: “Living in a Learning Society: Museums and Free-Choice Learning,” A Companion to Museum Studies. Ed. Sharon Macdonald. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2006, pp 323-339.

Grinder, Alison L., and E. Sue McCoy, The Good Guide: A Sourcebook for Interpreters, Docents, and Tour Guides.  Scottsdale: Ironwood Publishing, 1985.

Treacy, M. and F. Wiersema: “Experiences That Matter.” Thriving In the Knowledge Age. Falk, John H. and Beverly K. Sheppard, eds. Toronto: AltaMira Press, 2006, pp 83-105.

Wiginton, Colin: “Museum Education, Looking Back to the Future,” Art Gallery Handbook. Vol 3.   Ontario Association of Art Galleries, 2001, pp 67-87.

To recruit, train, and keep volunteers:

25 Ways to Catch and Keep Volunteers:

1. Volunteers want you to be prepared for them.
2. Volunteers want to feel welcomed.
3. Volunteers want good training.
4. Volunteers want to do interesting work.
5. Volunteers want to know up front how much time the job will take.
Provide lots of options so that you can appeal to a busy soccer mom as well as the retiree who has more time. Think about offering "alternative" opportunities, such as project-based family volunteering and even virtual volunteering.
6. Volunteers want to be appreciated.
7. Volunteers want to be communicated with.
8. Volunteers want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place.
9. Volunteers want to be socially connected.
10. Volunteers want to learn something new.

1.      Problem One: Non-profits are focused on agency goals - not yours.
2.      Problem Two: Non-profits don’t have the resources to commit to you.
3.      Problem Three: Due to Risk Management, you may not be allowed interaction with clients, anyway.
4.      Problem Four: Due to being chronically overworked, few non-profits have the time to enliven a volunteer’s passion.
5.      Problem Five: No one donates money to build the appropriate structure for managing volunteers.
6.      Problem Six: It is very difficult to volunteer these days.

Some Solutions:
FULLY AUTOMATED VOLUNTEER RECRUITING AND SCREENING. Remove time and personnel barriers by making everything from recruiting and screening to job assignment and evaluation automatic.

CONNECT THE ORGANIZATIONS OBJECTIVES WITH THOSE OF THE VOLUNTEER. Acknowledge what the volunteer wants to do (which will be all the wrong things, of course) and start there. (What they want isn’t what you need, but start there anyway.)

TASKS AND ASSIGNMENTS PERFECTLY SUITED TO INDIVIDUAL VOLUNTEERS. You’ll only drive yourself nuts looking for the perfect volunteer, so build jobs around the people that show up. (If you look long and hard enough, you can find something close to the perfect volunteer, but it’s always too little, too late.)

ATTRACT THE BEST VOLUNTEERS, AND KEEP THEM. The most destructive part of most volunteer programs is treating everyone the same. Giving everyone equal say, equal privilege, equal leadership and equal recognition is a recipe for disaster. You will overwork the best and bore the hell out of the most promising.

LIMITED STAFF ARE REQUIRED. Re-write the job description of every staff member you have. In order to run an excellent volunteer program your staff must see themselves as facilitators of volunteers rather than “bosses” working to get a job done. Staff makes it possible for volunteers to do the work, not the other way around.

A SUPERIOR VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT PROCESS. I know you have a ‘primary audience’ with whom you work, whether it be diabetics or homeless youth. Your mission has got to include the broader population (stakeholders, if you want). You need them to buy in to your cause and push for long term, societal and political changes. Volunteers are as much the recipients of your good work as the ‘clients’ with whom you work.

Professional Development:

Mohawk College offers a diploma in Volunteer Management:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Presenter update: Paul Thistle

Paul Thistle presented analysis of typical museum archaeology excavation simulation sandbox trowelling programmes and identified a more accurate and effective alternative based on the theory of simulation and proper professional archaeology excavation practice to the Hamilton and Area Museum Educators - Peer Learning Circle, 18 April 2011.

This presentation was expanded into an article "Archaeology Excavation Simulation: Correcting the Emphasis" that will appear in the summer 2012 Journal of Museum Education.

To provide several more images to illustrate the argument and the alternative programme, Paul Thistle has created a web site "Archaeology Excavation Simulation" web site here.
In the interim Paul thistle presented a related OMA Ignite! session on 3 November 2011.  See this site for more .
The abstract for the article is:
Museums offering archaeological programs often attempt to use the "sandbox approach" to simulate archaeological excavation work. However, in light of the definition of simulation and given the realities of actual professional practice in archaeological excavation, the author argues that the activity of troweling for artifacts in loose sand places the emphasis of such programs on activities that are not realistic and therefore actually counterproductive—if not miseducational. The author presents an alternative approach to simulating excavations in museums that is much more realistic and places the program's primary emphasis on the precise skills professional archaeologists actually must carry out in excavating and analyzing archaeological sites.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hi HAM-EDers!

Best museum education book of 2011?

Every year about this time I'm asked by librarians and others who purchase books for museum libraries - what is the BEST museum education book of the year? With my very limited funds, these book buyers ask, what museum education book can I purchase that will entertain, motivate and even inspire staff and volunteers? 

What would you tell them? Which would YOU choose? Please help me out by visiting – and cast your vote!

Look forward to hearing from you.


M. Christine Castle, Ph.D.
Editor, Museum Education Monitor
Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Check out MEM  on

Friday, December 09, 2011

Invitation to share your work on community engagement - Jan 23 in Whitby

Hey HAM-EDers - Still interested in Community Engagement? Here's an invitation to share your work, research, and resources with your colleagues in Durham Region (Just a GO train ride away!).

The Museum and Art Gallery Educators Collective of Durham Region (MAGEC- Durham) is talking about ... engaging our community.

Interested in museums, galleries, historic sites + community engagement? Working on a new project in this area? Doing some research? Got some great ideas you want to test out? Here's your chance to share your thoughts and experiences with interested others by presenting at the MAGEC-D Community Engagement Day on Monday January 23, 2011 from 10-3 at The Station Gallery in Whitby, ON.

MAGEC-D sessions are free of charge and open to all.

Presentations are generally no more than 15-20 minutes followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion and feedback from participants.

Interested in being a presenter? Please share your proposal with Hailey Yates at Station Gallery at or 905 668 4185 by December 16th, if at all possible.

Interested in participating? No charge but you do need to pre-register as there is limited space. Please complete this form

We look forward to hearing about all your projects

You can also check our Facebook page for the event at (You'll need to request to join first)


Julia Fielding Education and Programme Experience Manager Station Gallery 905-668-4185

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thought this might be of interest to HAM-ED folk! Interesting folks speaking on provocative topics. Hope to see you there.

An arts, culture and heritage leadership symposium

When: Monday, December 5, 2011 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Where: Centennial College Residences and Conference Centre, 940 Progress Avenue, Toronto ON (Markham Rd & Hwy 401)
Registration: $50 ($30 students) (includes holiday buffet lunch!)

The students of Centennial College’s new post-graduate program, Culture and Heritage Site Management, are pleased to present Making Culture Matter, an arts, culture and heritage leadership symposium.

Keynote speakers Chris Lorway (Lord Cultural Resources) and John Brotman (Ontario Arts Council) will be discussing key issues surrounding audience development and funding within the not-for-profit sector.

Lorway and Brotman will be joined by a panel of experts including Cathy Blackbourn (Ministry of Tourism and Culture), Cathy Malloy (Markham Museum), Claire Lougheed (Peel Heritage Complex) and Tracy Ruddell (Royal Ontario Museum), as well as student panellists Jansten Labagnao and Onuwa Ogbolu. Featured topics will include a talk from Ruddell on the rationale behind the ROM’s recent decision to lower admission prices, and Loughheed’s arguments on why cultural organizations need to think more like businesses. Panels will be followed by break-out sessions for more in-depth discussions with the speakers.

Culture and Heritage Site Management, the country’s newest Cultural Management program, aims to train emerging professionals in the very particular skillset required to meet the challenges confronting cultural and heritage organizations today. Making Culture Matter will provide opportunities for professional development and networking for both new cultural workers and current sector leaders. Registration fee is $50 ($30 for students) and includes holiday buffet lunch by Horizons Restaurant.

Spaces are limited. To register, visit  or contact us at:

Please excuse cross-postings!