Faculty at the Winterthur Program strive to help Fellows become as comfortable as possible with engaging the public. Fellows practice this engagement through: guiding tours in the Museum, presenting on their research, and sharing their ideas online.
In order to graduate, each Fellow must complete twelve guiding shifts for the Winterthur Museum. Fellows are trained to guide the Introductory Tour, the Yuletide Tour, the Spring tour, and speciality tours of Winterthur’s exhibits. Recently, Winterthur students were able to guide “The Costumes of Downton Abbey,” and “The Look of Love.”
Winterthur Fellows benefit immensely by giving tours as they hone their presentation skills and learn about how the public interacts with the collection. Guests enjoy the specific knowledge that Winterthur Fellows bring to the collection, while students learn more about the collection from guests as members of the public pose questions that students may not have previously considered.
The Montgomery Prize
Every year, the Winterthur Program organizes the Montgomery presentations. Each Fellow is given a budget of $75 with which to purchase an object they believe to be significant. The student’s task is to successfully pitch their object to a cultural institution, and to present this pitch to the Winterthur Program and Museum faculty. This exercise is meant to give students practice in advocating for objects they believe to be culturally significant.
For this project, Fellows are paired with a conservation students in Winterthur’s sister program, the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Students then meet to discuss the object, and the conservation students provide the material culture students with an object condition report that the material culture students uses in his or her presentation.
Students have a strict time frame, ten minutes, to provide details about the object they chose (including its condition) why it is significant, and why it is best suited to their chosen cultural institution.
Topics in the past have ranged from a “nude” color crayon, to a tailor’s shears, to a World’s Fair map. See below for an example Montgomery presentation, in which Natalie Wright, a member of the Class of 2015, pitches her Honest Ed’s sign to the Canadian Museum of History:
At the end of their two years at Winterthur, graduate Fellows present on their thesis research during their graduation ceremony. This event is open to the public, and features talks from Winterthur Program faculty and the graduation speaker of the class’s choice. In fact, the Society of Winterthur Fellows allocates money every year to help the Fellows bring in whomever they choose as their speaker.
Similarly to the Montgomery Prize, Fellows have ten minutes to explain their research. This is an exercise of synthesizing, as the Fellows condense months of research into a clear and accessible presentation. Members of the public, representatives from cultural institutions, family, and friends alike all enjoy the chance to hear the innovative ideas that Winterthur Fellows generate.
Online Public Engagement
See: Digital Humanities