I Am Joining the AMNH & What’s It To You

As I posted recently, on October 5th I will step into my new position at the American Museum of Natural History. Located within the Education Department, becoming the Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives, will allow me to bring my dozen years working in youth development and nearly twenty years working in new media to support the AMNH to advance its mission. And what is that mission? “To discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research, education, and exhibition.”

I can hardly believe it. When I was a kid, the Hall of Gems was like a mysterious dark cave for my sister and I to explore. As a teenager, asserting my independence, my friends and I would take in the LIRR to catch late night showings of Laser Floyd in the Rose planetarium. In my twenties, the museum became quite literally a giant board game in scavenger hunts I designed for my friends. In the past decade, it became an exciting professional partner, as my work at Global Kids brought me into contact with AMNH’s remarkable staff time and again. And now, as a father, the museum has become a place where my children can now experience the same wonders I first felt exploring that dark room hunting for gems.

When my oldest boy was about a year and a half, my wife and I told him we were going to spend the day at the museum. He was so excited. He took up a chant that continued all the way from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side. It sounded something like “Moosha Moosha Mooshme. Moosha Moosha Mooshme.” We thought we knew what it meant. He already had a relationship with the museum and couldn’t wait to return. When we exited the subway, however, and went straight to lunch in the museum cafeteria, his face fell. He became nearly inconsolable, convinced (we later surmised) that we had not actually gone to the museum. The chanting continued, now forlorned, “Moosha Moosha Mooshme,” as if he were looking for a lost friend. After lunch we went to the planetarium and the light returned in his eyes. His excited chanting returned as well, as he realized we had finally arrived at the place he had been attempting to summon all day (and as we finally put two and two together): The Moosha Moosha Mooshme, or, as we like to call it, The Museum of Natural History.

Recently, as he prepared to enter first grade, he could not have been more excited to learn his dad would be working at the Moosha Moosha Mooshme. The first thing he asked was whether that meant we could now get a discount, and if the apps would be for free. Then he said, referring to my new job, “If you do that on your own that will be a lot of work.”

But of course, I won’t be doing it on my own. When I started at Global Kids, there were only three computers connected to the Internet, through an AOL dial-up account. As I start at the museum, in stark contrast, the museum has been an educational leader in the use of digital media for some time. Youth learn about evolution by designing their own creatures and setting them loose in virtual worlds. They create their own sky shows and project them in the planetarium. How cool is that? I have so much to learn from the innovative paths already taken by the museum. And the innovations are in a variety of sectors, such as Education, Exhibits, and Online. I can’t wait to start meeting and working with so many different people from throughout the institution.

So, what will I be doing exactly?  While there are more details still to be worked out, I do know this:

  • Digital Media and Learning practices matter to the AMNH, and they are already a leader. So what do their next step look like? What are its edge points? And how can I help them strategically navigate them?
  • My home-based at the AMNH will be Youth Initiatives, the part of the museum’s Education Department which serves children of all ages in educational programming on-site at the museum. However I will be tasked with collaborating with educators and scientists on effectively communicating a bottomless well of scientific concepts and sophisticated practices with audiences of all ages, thinking and working with various departments through the institution.
  • While I have been immersed in DML theory and practice during my time at Global Kids, I am less familiar with the world of STEM and museums. What are the crucial communities for me to join, voices to hear, and projects to learn from? And what is missing that I can help coordinate?

As questions are answered, details become clearer, and new questions are formed, I hope you will follow along with me. While at Global Kids I had one twitter account I used for everything personal and professional, I will now keep that for the personal and begin a new one (@MMMooshMe) for the professional. At GK we created a blog to post about our work and our reflections on it. At the museum I would like to continue talking about the work, but do so with a more personal take, which I will do at this new blog: MooshMe.org.

I have a lot to learn and look forward to hearing what you have to share. Please follow my Twitter account and keep visiting my new blog to join me on the adventure.

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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