Museum curator thanks his inspiration: a sixth-grade history teacher

As a museum curator, I have the pleasure of working with lots of volunteers. Most of them are students who are interested in archaeology, anthropology and museum careers. This time of the year, as graduation nears, there is an uptick in requests to come visit with me and ask for information and advice. “How did you become a museum curator?” is a question I hear often. “How long do you need to study?” is another one. One of the first things I bring up is that finding employment in anthropology is not easy. However, it is possible. Moreover, I ask my visitors to suggest one field of study where one would be guaranteed a job upon graduation. I can think of only very few.

Van den Bossche, Gaston

Gaston Van den Bossche, a man who made a difference with his students.

The first question – How does one become a museum curator? – has many answers, I am sure. In my case, there was one elementary school teacher who made a difference, now 44 years ago, to be exact. The sixth and final year in elementary school, my class had a teacher who loved history. He loved the city we lived in too, and it just so happened that city had a very long history.

As the year went by, he organized us into groups and assigned various projects. One involved painting a bird’s eye view of what our hometown would have looked like in the Middle Ages. That required research. It also entailed getting covered in paint as we worked on that assignment. Eventually two different canvases were finished. Much to our delight, they were hung in the entrance to the library. In another assignment, we were divided into five or six groups, each named after a Medieval guild. Some of us were the “coopers” or barrel makers, others the “tanners,” “bakers,” etc.  We were given assignments. To get the answers, we had to visit museums and churches, observe and ask questions. It made us interact with the past, and made this past come alive. It became part of what I got interested in. All because of a teacher.

As time went by, that sixth grade class went on to graduate. I found myself continuing down this path of “studying old things.” This took me from a university in Belgium to a U.S. institution in New Orleans, always pursuing the study of these “old things.” Over the years, that meant studying Roman and Greek history, some Egyptian history, and ultimately the art, archaeology, and history of American cultures, especially the Maya.

Photo by Robin Merrit

Photo by Robin Merrit

I have been very blessed to find a job, and to find myself working at a museum, where I now teach visitors, young, old and anyone in between. Sharing what you have learned about a culture that happens to be the topic of an exhibit is a joy. It is very rewarding to see the light come on in a child, when they “get it.” I love hearing visitors say to each other “I did not know that…” as they walk out of an exhibit. I am indebted to my old teacher for this sense of awe. It never left him. I hope it will never leave me.

Sadly, I recently received news that the man who sent me on my quest, and created that spark in me, had passed. Reason for sadness? For sure. Another reason to keep guiding people as much as possible, and maybe, just maybe, make a difference with one or two people? Absolutely. Next time you see a teacher at a reunion, and you know they made a difference in your life, say so. Give them a hug. They deserve it.

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Horse around with H. Alan Day and wild mustangs April 30

On April 30 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, cattle rancher, cowboy, and author H. Alan Day will tell the story of establishing a sanctuary in South Dakota for unadoptable wild horses previously warehoused by the Bureau of Land Management. After Day successfully lobbied Congress, those acres became Mustang Meadows Ranch, the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary established in the U.S. His entertaining presentation will include the challenges of balancing the requirements of the government with the needs of the 1,500 wild horses and the land itself, and give an update on the sanctuary today. A book signing of The Horse Lover will follow the lecture. Books will be presigned by Sandra Day O’Conner, retired Supreme Court Justice and inductee to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

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Sandra Day. Credit: National Cowgirl Museum

The following is an excerpt by O’Connor from the forward of The Horse Lover, A Cowboy’s Quest to Save Wild Mustangs.

“When my brother, Alan, told me that he had agreed to keep fifteen hundred wild mustangs on his South Dakota ranch, I thought he had temporarily lost his common sense…

For more than 400 years, wild mustangs have existed in the region that is now the western United States. They fared well before the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 reduced their habitat. But even in the last century there were many pockets of public land in the West where they could live free, breed, and multiply. But the pressures of the multiple-use policy of the Bureau of Land Management and the restricted uses of national forest and national park lands meant that many of the wild mustangs would be captured, sold, or destroyed. The wild horse and burro law dictated that the Bureau of Land Management was to capture many of them and care for them until they could be adopted. Sadly, many of them were not suitable for adoption. This opened the way for the project Alan undertook. the-horse-lover-cover-194x300

It is impossible to see a herd of wild horses running free without feeling a surge of excitement and enthusiasm for their vigor, power, and beauty. To watch them run with their manes and tails flying in the wind is to experience a sense of the ultimate freedom of motion. 

This book tells the story of the Mustang meadows project in a way that enables the reader to see and feel that excitement and to glimpse what was and what might have been with these splendid animals.”

Come early to see live mustangs at the museum in the sun dial plaza entrance. These horses from the Little Mustang Program, like those of H. Alan Day,  were also received from the Bureau of Land Management and are in need of adoption.h_alan_day

The Little Mustang Program in our area provides the opportunity for young horsemen to attain ownership of a wild horse (aka a mustang) and create their own positive and educational horse owning experience. This program is organized in accordance with the requirements set out by the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Trainer Incentive Program and the BLM’s National Wild Horse Program. The horses are received from the BLM on a regular basis with a goal of adoption in 120 days. The adoption program is administered by V.E.T.S. Livestock Management Services Organization, Inc. 5340925377258.image

HMNS Distinguished Lecture

Quest to Save Wild Mustangs

H. Alan Day

Thursday, April 30, 6:30 p.m.

Click here for advance tickets.

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Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 4/27-5/3

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

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Lecture – 5000 Years Of Egyptian History By Tom Hardwick
Tuesday, April 28
6:30 p.m. 
Accompanied by images of artifacts in the Hall of Ancient Egypt, walk through the colorful history of ancient Egypt with HMNS Egyptology curator Tom Hardwick. The new additions to the exhibition will be highlighted. Following the presentation, the program will continue in the Hall of Ancient Egypt.

Lecture – Quest To Save Wild Mustangs By H. Alan Day
Thursday, April 30
6:30 p.m.
Alan Day had the unique opportunity to establish a sanctuary in South Dakota for unadoptable wild horses previously warehoused by the Bureau of Land Management. After Day successfully lobbied Congress, those acres became Mustang Meadows Ranch, the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary established in the U.S. Day will share his tales of the Herculean task of balancing the requirements of the government with the needs of the fifteen hundred wild horses and the land itself, and give an update on the sanctuary today. A book signing of The Horse Lover, A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs will follow the lecture. His book The Lazy B Books will also be available and will be pre-signed by his co-author and sister

Class – Japanese Tea Ceremony
Saturday, May 2
11:00 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
The Japanese tea ceremony tradition dates back centuries when samurai lords were among the few allowed to participate. A demonstration of the ceremony will be performed by Midori Mochizuki-master of Chado, the way of the tea. Tea master Heather Clary will provide commentary during this silent ceremony. A tea tasting for all course participants will follow the demonstration and lecture. Mochizuki and Clary are both members of The Way of Tea Houston. Participants should be 15 years+.

Class – Paleontology Workshop – Invertebrates To Dinosaurs
Saturday, May 2
1:00 p.m.
Go behind-the-scenes in the Museum³ staff training lab where over uniquely specimens are uniquely presented in a hands-on paleontology road map. Learn the basic biological classification of all the major fossil invertebrates and an introduction of the vertebrates through the geologic time scale-starting with the events of the Permian period that lead to the world the dinosaurs inherited. From there we will examine the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods while making connections to global events that affected dinosaur evolution. We¬l address and dispel many of the rumors, myths and out right misinterpretation of dinosaurs. This class includes tours of the Strake Hall of Malacology and Morian Hall of Paleontology. The instructor is geologist and paleontologist James Washington, HMNS staff trainer.

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Treat yourself (or your teacher) to the science of a mocha mask!

  In honor of teacher appreciation week, we’ve got an educator how-to that will make you feel like a million bucks! It’s a great gift for the teacher in your life as they finish up the school year. If you happen to be a teacher, then treat yourself to a 15-minute facial that can revitalize you for those last few weeks of school!Mask Ingredients

  First, grab a few ingredients from your pantry or your local grocery store. For a quick one-person batch, you will need ground coffee (2.5 teaspoons), cocoa powder (2.5 teaspoons), honey (1 teaspoon) and plain yogurt (4 teaspoons).Once you have all the ingredients, combine the ground coffee, cocoa powder and honey in a small bowl. If you are giving it as a gift, seal it up into a container and make a note to add four teaspoons of yogurt before applying it to the face. Don’t add the yogurt until you are almost ready to use the mask.

  When you’ve got 15 minutes all to yourself, add the yogurt to the bowl of other ingredients. Mix it all together and apply the mask to your face and neck, avoiding the eyes. The mask will take about 15 minutes to harden. Once it is hard, rinse your face. It will leave your skin with a radiant glow, and hopefully, this pampering will leave you with a little extra energy for the month ahead.

 

KelseyDemo

It may look a little weird at first…

  Now, let’s talk about some science behind this mocha mask! Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so we need to take care of it. It is made of several layers. The innermost layer is subcutaneous fat which stores your energy and helps control your body temperature. The next layer is the dermis, where you make sweat, create oil, and grow hair. This layer is very helpful because sweat helps cool the skin when it gets too hot, and oil allows our skin to be smooth and waterproof. The outermost layer is the epidermis, the layer we are targeting with the mocha mask! At the bottom, the epidermis creates new skin cells, and throughout the course of a month those skin cells travel to the surface and flake off. The coffee grounds in our mud mask will help get rid of some of our older skin cells. This can prevent clogged pores and harmful bacteria from growing on our skin. With this mask, we say, “Out with the old and in with the new!”

  Now that we’ve cleaned off the old skin cells, we need to make sure we didn’t take out all of the moisture from our skin. With too much washing, our skin loses oil, the natural protection created by the dermis. By adding yogurt to our mask, we are replacing the oil with moisturizers to help protect and hydrate our skin. In addition to yogurt, we added honey to our mask. Although we are using only a small amount of honey in our facial mask, the beneficial properties of honey are of note! For centuries, honey has been used as part of skin care in a number of different cultures. It has been used as an antibacterial and as an anti-inflammatory often to treat wounds. For our purposes, the small percentage of honey works as an antioxidant for our skin that can protect our skin cells from UV damage. It works a little like a natural sunscreen!

KelseyMask

…but it’s actually quite refreshing!

  For those of you looking to make multiple batches as gifts, just keep the ratios for the ingredients. Also, hold off on the yogurt for now. You can make a note that tells your favorite teacher to add the yogurt when they are ready to apply the face mask!

Mocha Mask Recipe:

· Ground coffee – 2.5 parts

· Cocoa powder – 2.5 parts

· Honey – 1 part

· Plain yogurt – 4 parts

  To all of the teachers, we’d like to say a special thank you from The Houston Museum of Natural Science. Enjoy your mocha mask, and remember summer is just around the corner!

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