From Emily Kubota, Lead Tour Guide
In Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki’s Education Division, we find ourselves ending conference season. This year I had my first opportunity to attend several conferences, including FASA (Florida Association of School Administrators) and FRA (Florida Reading Conference). I attended both of these as a vendor and learned all the tricks of the trade when it comes to preparing a booth, building our background displays, and setting up our table of freebies. Thanks to Florida’s wet season, I also learned how to rain-proof an open bed truck (or attempted to at least). Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was nervous. There is a lot of planning, packing, and unpacking that goes on, as well as meeting some really interesting people and getting the word out about our museum and the opportunities we provide for schools with different needs.
I also got to attend NAI (National Association of Interpreters) but I went as a member, not as a vendor. It was held in St. Paul, Minnesota during the month of November. As a girl from the north, I didn’t think the cold would get to me. But Florida’s climate was definitely something I had gotten used to. For this conference instead of packing collateral, I packed sweaters, scarves, and boots. We spent the first day at the pre-conference workshop where my co-workers Diana Stone, Pedro Zepeda, and Greg Palumbo were presenters. They discussed what it was like working for a Native American tribe and some of the unique challenges we face here at the museum. We heard from other people who work with Native cultures and also from some of the local tribal members, like David Larsen, a Dakota elder. It was a great experience and I learned about the contemporary problems tribes face today. Throughout the conference, I was able to attend a wide variety of workshops, like how to interpret slavery, interpreting nature, and even how to interpret Johnny Cash’s hometown. There were lots sessions going on throughout each day, so attendees could pick and choose which sessions to attend. NAI was unlike any conference I had been to before and I am definitely excited to go again next year.
As conference attendees, we took several field trips. We went to historic Fort Snelling, which is located just outside of the city. This fort was built in the early 1820’s and was later site of an Indian concentration camp where they kept the Dakota people waiting to be moved to reservations further west. We also went to the Science Museum of Minnesota, where we got to see dinosaur skeletons and learn about natural disasters. They offered a trolley tour of historic St. Paul where we learned all about the city’s past and its people. Last but not least, we had time to squeeze in a trip to the Mall of America, where I got a head start on some Christmas shopping.
Luckily for me, I am back in the warm Florida weather and have put my heavy coat away for now. Life at the museum has been busy, with hundreds of kids coming every week. Going to conferences is good way to explore ideas and hear about how other museums do things a little differently, which can help us expand our programming and grow as a division. And with all of our visitors this time of year, there is no better time to improve as interpreters.