AcWriMo2018 Results and Updates

DqTKz0pX0AIy4Q2.jpg-largeAt the end of October I set up (rather ambitious) goals to take part in AcWriMo2018 (Academic Writing Month). I was inspired by Katy Peplin, PhD who organized a bunch of us with the hashtag, slack channels, writing retreats, and more wonderful (FREE) resources. Check out her website at katiepeplin.com, or on twitter at @KatyPeplinCoach and @ThrivePhD for all kinds of great advice, coaching, support, and encouragement from grad school through to writing that manuscript. If it wasn’t for seeing her tweets and info about AcWriMo, I don’t think I would have done near as much as I did. That, combined with the support and checking in of friends and colleagues, digitally and through twitter, got me through the month with almost all of my goals completed!

Here are my goals, as stated November 1:

12 blogs- 6000 words
1 professional blog – 1000 words
Research notes – 250 words, 5 days a week (can roll over) – 5000 words
Book proposal – ? – submit by 30th
Statement for conference – 500 words
Co-authored article (maybe) – 5000 words – email with potential co-author on an outline/timeline for this
Total Words: Over 17,000

Here is what I completed:

10 blogs – 6433 words
1 professional blog – 806 words – Available here: https://www.mummystories.com/single-post/KatieStringerClary 
Research notes – 5321 words –  I am surprised I met this; and didn’t think I did until I just added them all up
Book proposal – 3493 – SUBMITTED TO SERIES EDITOR!!!!
Statement for conference: Instructions didn’t come through, but I did submit to 2 other conferences, and have another in the works!
Co-authored article – have some plans in the works, but no words to show for it really;
Bonuses: see details below – appx – 2500 words
Total: Over 18,533 words

Honestly, getting up to write this this morning I didn’t think I’d met all of my goals, and I still felt pretty good about myself. Now that I know I’ve done it (even if not in exactly the way I had planned) – how exciting!

601995_3f6bc50a97f74403b3104f3650174d54~mv2The big thing was the book proposal, and I’m so thankful to all of you who looked over it and made incredible comments and just let me bounce ideas off of you and think out-loud via text. More to come on that in the future.  I know blogs don’t really “count” for anything, but I made them a goal to get myself just writing words and typing things out and getting them out of my head; and it worked! They were also a great way to feel like I was accomplishing something when other projects were stalled. The submitted blog was originally going to be something completely different until I woke up one morning thinking about the incredible Mummy Stories project by Angela Stienne. It was so fun to research Neskhons, the mummy who started me down all these various paths, and I hope he manages to make his way into my book.  Research notes were the hardest part of the process, since I’m working through my outline and manuscript at the same time. I still read some great articles and got ideas out into a doc, so that is what is most important.

sourceThe Bonuses I got done worked out to be: 2 abstracts for presentations at a Death Conference, abstract for a chapter proposal submitted, proposal to museums conference submitted, kept caught up on grading, discussions and putting out feelers for an edited volume with an amazing group of women, making progress on a collective of death studies individuals working towards radicalized death studies, got Zotero all set up for the new project, posted all of my student blogs (check them out at www.ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com), and just generally keeping up with the holidays and end of the semester.

giphy-2So final thoughts on this: no way would I have gotten as much done as I did without community and support from friends and colleagues (shout out to Twitter, for real). Having people just text and say, “are you writing today? let’s do a pom,” or listening, or sharing stupid gifs made a word of distance. Second, actually writing out these goals  (and rewards, which I haven’t gotten around to yet – tragedy!) and making a planDUH. I tell my students this all the time, and finally got around to practicing it, and lo and behold it actually works. Third: keeping a chart and spreadsheet to calculate that these goals are happening, other things I did, reflecting on the practice. Like I said above, who knew I actually met these goals! My spreadsheet did, and now I do, too.

Now: to keep up the momentum and keep setting and sticking to my goals. Get it!

 

New Research Projects, Travel, and… Death?

Lately I’ve contemplated where my research will take me following the publication of my manuscript on accessibility for people with special needs, the publication of a chapter on accessibility in education in The Manual for Museum Learning, 2nd Edition, and continuing my work towards truly accessible museums.

I’ve decided to take a new track based on the historiographical work I did in my dissertation on museum history and the use of human bodies and human remains in museums. My previous work focused on living humans, often billed as “freaks“, in museums and other exhibitions; now I want to focus on the corporeal remains that we still see in museums today: mummies, bog bodies, medical specimens, skeletons, relics, shrunken heads, and so much more.  What laws (aside from NAGPRA) govern the display and collection of human remains? What are the ethics involved here? How does the public react to these remains? These are just some of the questions I hope to answer as I embark on a new research plan.

I have organized a roundtable at the National Council on Public History meeting in 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada to present preliminary findings and bring together a fascinating group of women who study these questions. Our presentation, “Death and Display, Bodies and Boundaries” will explore our own work and also encourage participation from our audience. I’ve invited my former college roommate, Shelby Judge, a modern funeral director; Laura Anderson Barbata, artist and activist; Dr. Trish Biers, osteoarchaeologist at Cambridge University museums; and Kristen Semento from Winterthur Museum and Gardens.

As I planned my most recent trip abroad, I knew I would have the opportunity to visit international museums that are working with these issues. What I didn’t know was the amount of opportunities that would present themselves on my trip. My future blogs will detail some of the places I visited and some of the remains I encountered in Ireland and Scotland.

The first stop on my trip to Ireland was the Irish Museum of Modern Art. I had just arrived in Ireland, my hotel room was not ready, and my husband and I needed to get out and see the sights while we waited. The only problem was: I don’t think I have ever been as exhausted as I was on this museum visit. I was jet-lagged. I was running none hour of plane sleep. It. Was. Awesome.

Image result for living need light dead need music

You may have read my thoughts on art museums in the past; in short, I’m not their biggest fan. IMMA was in a great historic building, and there were some interesting exhibits while we were there. However, there was one exhibit in particular that spoke to me through my sleepy haze and has stuck with me. It also set the tone for my exploration into death and bodies.

In the back of the museum, in a quiet, dark room with benches (the initial attraction, let’s be real), I encountered a film installation. The piece, titled The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music by The Propeller Group is probably the best video installation I have ever seen.  Their description reads:

The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Musicis a visual and musical journey through the fantastical funeral traditions and rituals of south Vietnam. It attempts to engage in dialogue with funerary traditions that pulsate in the same vein throughout the global south. The film merges documentary footage of actual funeral processions with stunning re-enactments that bring the film into the realm of the abstract, poetic and metaphorical – a rumination on death and the lives that pay homage to it.

I encourage you to watch the video in its entirety if you can. It is so fascinating, beautiful, disturbing, scary, and amazing all at the same time. The fact that I was almost at a hallucinatory stage of tiredness only heightened by appreciation for the piece. However, it stands up even as I re-watch it today.

So that’s it! I’m on a new program of research, and I’m so excited to have already been welcomed with open arms by so many Death Historians and Death Academics. Thank you, and I can’t wait to let you all know more about my research!

My book is out!

How did I let a month go by without posting this immediately?  A sign of the life of a museum director, I suppose.  In this week’s adventures, my assistant found a squatter set up on the back porch of our secondary historic home. Playing Xbox.

Anyway… without further ado…

That's my name! On the front of my book!

That’s my name! On the front of my book!

In case you haven’t followed the story of publication and proposals and writing and so forth, here is a short description:

Programming for People with Special Needs: A Guide for Museums and Historic Sites will help museums and historic sites become truly inclusive educational experiences. The book is unique because it covers education and inclusion for those with both intellectual and learning disabilities.

The book features the seven key components of creating effective programming for people with special needs, especially elementary and secondary students with intellectual disabilities:

  • 1442227605Sensitivity and awareness training
  • Planning and communication
  • Timing
  • Engagement and social/life skills
  • Object-centered and inquiry-based programs
  • Structure
  • Flexibility


In addition, this book features and discusses programs such as the Museum of Modern Art‘s Meet Me program and ones for children with autism at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn as models for other organizations to adapt for their use.

Its focus on visitors of all ages who have cognitive or intellectual disabilities or special needs makes this title essential for all museum and historic site professionals, especially educators or administrators, but also for museum studies students and those interested in informal education.

I already have two reviews of the book, too!  Here is what my esteemed colleagues had to say about the book:
Programming for People with Special Needs is an invaluable manual with clear, concise examples of how museums benefit when they open their doors, exhibits, and programming to all audiences in a community. A commitment to common-sense universal design principles opens the dialogue about what matters in our history and culture to every citizen, thus enriching our communities through better education and community engagement.
— Carroll Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee University, and Tennessee State Historian

Programming for People with Special Needs is an important new resource for any museum or historic site serious about expanding their current audience base and preparing for tomorrow’s visitors. While the ADA already requires us to accommodate visitors’ physical needs, it is equally important that our programs consider the needs of visitors experiencing various forms of learning and intellectual disabilities, including memory loss, especially since their numbers are expected to increase dramatically over the next several decades. This thorough and practical volume can help your institution accomplish this goal and, in turn, become a museum or historic site better prepared for the future.
— Karen Graham Wade, director, Homestead Museum, City of Industry, California

I hope that if you work at a historic site, historic house, history museum, or small museum that you will encourage your supervisor or staff to read this book.  I really did approach this topic with real-world implications in mind.
You can purchase the book from the publisher on their website.  I suggest hardcover. 😉
Thanks everyone for their support throughout this project, especially my parents, my Charles, Dr. West, and my publisher at R&L Charles.