Snapshots from Student Group Working With WHM

Week One:
Our first week at the museum has been nothing less than fantastic. The team was immediately welcomed to the work environment as we were introduced to the many members of the staff. Vanessa Bumpus, the exhibition coordinator at the museum, was even gracious enough to show us through the museum’s current exhibits in addition to Salisbury Mansion (pictured above). Through these tours, we were able to view the museum’s current interactive exhibits offered to children and families. To help give the staff of the WHM a better understanding of our project, we also provided a brief presentation about our intentions for the next seven weeks. Meetings with individuals such as Clare Nadolski (an educational consultant for the museum) were helpful in establishing connections to meet with local schools.

Week Two:
Author: Eric Corriveau
On Tuesday and Thursday of this week, we had the opportunity to meet with first and second grade student groups. These groups took a field trip to Worcester Historical Museum to mainly visit the Alden Family Gallery, and the children had a wonderful time there! We had the opportunity to observe the children play in the replica diner, the Salisbury Store, the factory, and in other parts of the Gallery.During their lunchtime, we were given the opportunity to ask the children a few questions about their experience at Worcester Historical Museum that day. For example, we asked which part of the museum was their favorite and why, which parts of the history of Worcester they were most familiar with, and what about mini-golf they enjoyed the most. We had written out a set of questions to ask along with a process to follow at this event, but we had to go a bit off-script at times (in accordance with how a semi-structured interview is done) in order to accomplish our defined research objectives for this event.To begin, we showed a few pictures of artifacts from around the museum on the projector screen in the auditorium, and we asked that they raise their hands if they could identify the artifact. Surprisingly the children were able to identify the majority of the pictures, and even some were able to identify the relevance to Worcester history. Every child was able to identify such items as a monkey-wrench, the smiley face, and the Salisbury Store. They tended to struggle with identifying specific people such as Robert Goddard and Harvey Ball, however they were able to recall these individuals’ names when given hints (such as, “His first name is Robert!”).The next exercise consisted of asking children what exactly they like about miniature golf. The second grade group was much better about answering these questions than the first grade group. From this group, we were able to learn that children like miniature golf courses that have things such as tunnels, multi-platform holes, lights, and sounds. The children seemed very excited about being able to play miniature golf course at Worcester Historical Museum. Finally, we took a few minutes to speak one-on-one with a few children to ask a few more questions that we were looking for answers to. The children were happy to talk about their experiences with the museum and miniature golf.While our group definitely has enjoyed speaking with teachers and those familiar with Worcester’s history, speaking with school children was a wonderful change of pace. Not only did it cause us to approach our project differently (in the sense that we had to adapt to interacting with children) and it allowed us to break away from the ‘technical’ aspects typical to work done at WPI, but most importantly it let us focus on those who we hope the miniature golf course will appeal to. In addition, getting to walk around the room and directly ask some of the children, “What do you like most about miniature golf?” was enjoyable because it gave us a quick, yet direct one-on-one interaction with the kids. Lastly, seeing the entire room of around fifty children raise their hands in response to the question, “Would you want to play on a miniature golf course about Worcester’s history?” was wonderful.
Week 2: Second snapshot
Author: Eric Corriveau
We were well aware that the miniature golf course that we are developing must comply with the regulations and standards mandated by the American Disabilities Act (ADA), but it wasn’t until our meeting with Carol Manning and Michelle Brown that we fully understood the meaning of Universal Design. Carol Manning works as a Physical Education teacher and Michelle Brown works as an Occupational Therapist at Norrback St. Elementary School. The concept of Universal Design is important because it ensures that a facility is useful to whomever tries to use it, no matter what disability they may have.In this meeting, it became very apparent that we did not previously consider any amenities other than access for individuals in wheelchairs. Mrs. Manning suggested that we also look into amenities for people with visual and hearing disabilities. She suggested that we find a way to even engage those with more severe disabilities, such as those that struggle to open and close their hands. She has seen children who are disabled who would love the opportunity to be engaged in a sport that typically they are excluded from. This was very eye-opening because we take for granted the ability to move our hands and hold objects.We developed a concept that would allow for these individuals to play miniature golf alongside the rest of their classmates. Rather than a golf club, they would drop a ball down a chute, and this would shoot the ball onto the golf course and into the hole. This chute would be designed such that it could be moved from hole to hole, with adjustments on the chute for each hole. This would give them the opportunity to play the miniature golf course with everyone else.We have not figured out the technical details to this concept, but we hope this is something that can become a reality in order to include a group that has been previously ignored by the miniature golf community. And most importantly it will give them the opportunity to have fun at the Worcester Historical Museum!

Week Three:
Author: Kurtis Banville
This past week the team conducted a focus group at Trombetta Farms, an indoor miniature golf course within the town of Marlborough. We decided that as 14 children played through the golf course, 2 of us would ask questions with the children and 2 of us would conduct a focus group with the parents. Christina and I were responsible for talking to the kids. Although I was excited to interact with the kids, I was still a little nervous to be responsible for the questions and to have to speak with so many children at once. Speaking one-on-one last week with a second-grader was less of a challenge because it only involved interacting with one person. I’m usually pretty quiet, so this was new to me to take charge and speak to so many people.When I first saw the amount of people that Christina and I were responsible for, I’ll admit, I was a little bit overwhelmed. As we approached the first hole I wasn’t sure how I should approach asking questions based upon each hole. We knew that we wanted to ask what the children liked and disliked about each hole, in addition to if they enjoyed the difficulty level of the hole, however we also planned on asking questions based upon each hole’s content. This meant that we had to come up with questions on the spot. To start, I began by introducing myself and asked questions based upon what we had prepared. Christina also provided a good backbone for me, asking questions that sparked some of my own ideas. As more children arrived late, I noticed that we would have to break off into smaller groups. Christina would speak with one group, and I would speak with another.As I began asking the children about their personal experiences, I began to warm up to them, and they warmed up to me as well. It became easier for me to ask them what their favorite elements of the current hole were, what they disliked about the current hole, and more generally, if they had even played miniature golf before. The children just seemed excited to be there, playing miniature golf on their Sunday and answering a few questions along the way. I even was able to draw some other information out of the children, such as how school was going for them and what their favorite subjects were.When we finished playing through the 18 holes, we were led to a back party room where we would finish up asking our questions. Being more comfortable after leading the children through miniature golf, Stone and I took the lead with Christina backing us up. Through IQP I can definitely start to see myself changing from the quiet type that I used to be in a business atmosphere, to getting my ideas known through interaction.

Week Four:
Author: Stone Cleven
Early this week we had the incredible opportunity to see Worcester Historical Museum collections.  The day before our tour of the collections, it was brought up that we had seen all of the museum’s exhibit halls, but had yet to see the collections in the basement.  The museum staff was enthusiastic to show us and the next morning we entered rooms normally under lock and key from the public eye.Guided by Holly and Vanessa through the temperature controlled halls, we began in a room filled with furniture several centuries old, humbly named, Room A.  While we weren’t allowed to take pictures of any collection pieces not filed into the museum’s official records or database, we still had many pictures by the time our tour was over.  Holly tells us when she arrived, the collections were disorganized and she has been working to organize and classify every piece of the collection for about ten years to bring it to where it is today.The next room, named the Military Room, appropriately contained military uniforms (some old, some new), assorted military gear from wars, a variety of headwear from past time periods and a range of trinkets and jewelry.  Among the rack of military garb was a dress and suit made entirely of newspaper, originally worn by Mrs. Booth and her husband.  Mrs. Booth’s father was the owner of Worcester’s newspaper, now the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.  The outfits were made for a party at the newspaper’s office.  In the corner, there also happened to be a short stand containing a great assortment of elegant canes (some of which Vanessa tells us may contain concealed swords).  Holly showed us a mix of items ranging from old combs to wallets to bifocals.  We were also shown some brooches and lockets which apparently contained locks of hair from people who had passed away, apparently an old, mildly creepy practice.We then moved on to a small room with samplers, or alphabets and text sewn into cloth by children for practice.Next up was the Costume Collection room, fitted with tall sliding shelves brimming with countless (well, not really because they are all on file and sorted) sets of clothing and outfits.  Among the garments was a dress worn by Elizabeth Salisbury in her youth.  There was also a wedding dress (not worn by Salisbury) of the colors blue and red which was interesting to see compared to today’s almost always white dresses.

We then arrived at the Industry room housing mixed collection pieces.  Some of the most numerous items in this room were old patent machines and various other things with difficult to recognize origins.

The tour’s finale, Room B, held an assortment of old toys, home items and a wall of weapons ranging from rifles to spears to swords.

The museum was originally going to move to a new, larger space, but couldn’t because of all the awesome things in collections.  A new space would mean everything in collections would have to be moved along with the rest of the museum in a time-consuming process.  Due to the already grand size of collections, this move would be more trouble than it’s worth.

The whole group was impressed with the sheer amount of items in the collections and it was an awesome experience to see everything the museum had behind closed doors.  As an Interactive Media and Game Development Art major, I am always interested in the designs of anything from furniture to weapons to clothing and everything in between, making this tour a treat.  I hope to indirectly learn more about general design through my IQP experience.

Week Five:
Author: Christina Aiello
Yesterday my project group had the opportunity to volunteer at the “Teddy Bear Tea” event at WHM. This was an event in which children could do arts and crafts, watch a puppet show, participate in a relay race, eat lunch (sandwiches, hot chocolate, cupcakes, and cookies), all while being accompanied by their teddy bears (or other stuffed animals). Teddy Bear Tea is an annual event that WHM holds, and each year children dress up and participate in the activities provided for them. We arrived a bit before 9:30 and left around 2:00pm, and we helped with setup, running the event, and cleanup.I had the opportunity to dress up as Mrs. Claus, read the children a story, and stand alongside Santa Claus as he spoke with each child who was there. When the story was finished I had to stall the children for a bit before Santa arrived, so I had the opportunity to go “off-script” and speak with the children. I asked about their favorite Christmas songs, and then I asked all of the children to sing “Jingle Bells” together. I had a microphone with me from reading a story to the children earlier, and I let a little girl use the microphone while she sang.

When Santa arrived to talk to the children, one boy (who was around the age of five, I believe) said something wonderful: When asked what he wanted for Christmas, he said, “Christmas is about giving, not getting.” Santa commended him for saying such a wonderful thing and then asked the boy again if there was anything a nice boy like him was hoping to receive for Christmas. He then said, “I want to be able to buy a tie for my cousin. All my cousins are old, and I want to buy one a tie.” I was incredibly surprised at how thoughtful this young boy was, and I was very happy to hear a child say such a sweet, insightful thing to Santa. From what I observed, the answer didn’t seem forced either: it seemed like a truly genuine answer.

Final Snapshot:
Authors: Kurtis Banville, Eric Corriveau, Christina Aiello, and Stone Cleven
For the past seven weeks, our project group dove headfirst into the city of Worcester’s history with assistance from Worcester Historical Museum (WHM). Our project was to design a portable, nine-hole, historically-themed miniature golf course for WHM as an interactive exhibit. We conducted focus groups, interviews, and surveys, in addition to doing field research and data analysis.
To begin, our project group met many teachers from many different disciplines. We had the opportunity to meet and interview two second-grade teachers from two Worcester schools, in addition to a physical education teacher and an occupational therapist from a third Worcester school. Each teacher was able to provide different perspectives for our project, which gave us numerous ideas to consider when designing the miniature golf course. Not only did we have the opportunity to speak with teachers, but we were able to speak with children as well. We conducted focus groups with many friendly children who seemed excited about our project. We also interviewed many friendly course designers and owners, individuals who were incredibly enthusiastic about our project and our interview questions. We even met a WPI alum from the Class of 1985! Through all of this research we gained a greater understanding of how to conduct interviews, focus groups, and surveys, which will certainly help us with future endeavors.
Not only do we have a better understanding of conducting research, but we have a much greater understanding of Worcester’s history as well. The four of us certainly have a greater appreciation for the city of Worcester after having completed this project. Many fascinating and wonderful things have happened in Worcester.
While learning about Worcester’s history for the past seven weeks, our project group certainly became close with WHM staff. Spending four days a week at the museum gave us an opportunity to have frequent conversations with staff, in addition to simply greeting each other in the morning, at the end of the day, and whenever we passed by anyone in the hallways. Not only did we work on our project during IQP, but we also volunteered at various events that WHM attended and held as well. Our project group hopes that our project will help WHM become a more prominent part of the city of Worcester.
Lastly, our project group would love to stay connected with WHM. Whether we volunteer to help at events they hold, attend events that take place at WHM, assist with developing new ideas to help WHM bring in more visitors, or simply keep in touch via email or phone call, we would definitely like to stay in contact with the wonderful individuals whom we met at WHM.