Adapting to a changing World – with some assistance from MHC
by Geoff Giglierano
One of the realities that historical sites and museums have been dealing for the last several decades, is that there have been significant changes in the circumstances under which we work to provide creative educational opportunities and unique learning experiences. This “different world” that we are dealing has changed even more drastically in the last few years, thanks to the pandemic and other social trends and technological and economic developments. These changes have encouraged organizations like French Colonial America (FCA) to experiment more and more with new educational elements and forms of programming that connect with specific components of our audience, including carefully structured and themed interactive possibilities, and online exhibits and presentations.
In many cases, we are applying different technology to old creative ideas, such as exhibits and first-person living history performances. We have already begun working some fairly modest examples of taking such an approach, including developing an online exhibit about the story of colonial-era people of African descent in Upper Louisiana – both enslaved and free – and a video tour of our historic properties, conducted in French, written and presented by Louise Heron, a summer intern from Ecole de Louvre, who worked with us earlier this year. But exploring this process of experimentation of course brings up the issue of finding the resources to underwrite the expenses of that technology to carry it out. Fortunately, when we began exploring the idea of collaborating with HEC TV and some of their affiliates several years ago, to create a pilot project involving video presentations utilizing some of our most experienced living history specialists who regularly work with the public on our museum campus in Ste. Geneviève, Missouri, Missouri Humanities Council made the effort possible with an award from its “Mini-grant” program.
The French Colonial History Virtual Interpretation Pilot Project involved production by HEC of an initial series of three historic interpretive presentations with content related to Missouri’s unique French Colonial era history. The presentations were developed and executed by FCA living history staff, and is being made available online by HEC to augment learning materials for schools, homeschooling groups, and families. The videos are available on the Educate Today website which averages between 2,500 to 3,500 visitors per month. In addition HEC will do an E-blast in the near future that will include information and links for the videos; this will go to their e-mailing list of approximately 10,000 individual addresses.
Work on the video shoot could not commence until the weather improved in early 2022, but while we waited, our time was put to good use as the three presenters refined their scripts and did multiple practice runs. These were videoed by volunteers so that we could review the presentations and make adjustments before HEC sent its actual video crew to Ste. Genevieve: this saved time for the 3-person video crew and helped reduce the cost for HEC to hire them. After the HEC team shot the actual footage to be used, they also took secondary “B roll” footage to augment the videos of the presenters; this was then edited over the summer into the final form, which was then reviewed by FCA. The process took considerably longer than we had expected, and next time such a project is undertaken, adjustments will be made in structuring the schedule.
Meanwhile, HEC successfully published the videos on their Educate Today website as part of the new videos section for the month of October and became available for students and teachers to use. In order to target the videos to both elementary and middle school students, two copies of each were placed on the website. One copy is part of the resources available for grades 3-5 and the other copy is part of the resources for grades 6-8. Here are the direct urls for each of the videos:
- Samuel the Englishman–https://educate.today/edvideos/living-on-the-american-frontier-meet-samuel-the-englishman
- Joffrey Boyer–https://educate.today/edvideos/living-on-the-american-frontier-meet-joffrey-boyer
- Jean Baptiste Maurice dit Chantillon–https://educate.today/edvideos/living-on-the-american-frontier-meet-jean-baptiste-maurice-dit-chantillon
- Samuel the Englishman–https://educate.today/edvideos/french-colonial-living-history-on-the-frontier-meet-samuel-the-englishman
- Joffrey Boyer–https://educate.today/edvideos/french-colonial-living-history-on-the-frontier-meet-joffrey-boyer
- Jean Baptiste Maurice dit Chantillon–https://educate.today/edvideos/french-colonial-living-history-on-the-frontier-meet-jean-baptiste-maurice-dit-chatillon
French Colonial America’s board, staff and volunteers are very grateful to HEC and MHC for partnering with us to carry out this experiment. Hope the presentations will be well received by educators and students and we will find opportunities – and collaborators – to carry out additional projects in the future.