HCIP Profile: Jean Middleton

HCIP Travel grant informs museum’s approach to family learning

With the Alberta Aviation Museum’s in-person programming grounded through the early months of the pandemic, lead interpreter Jean Middleton has been working on the museum’s interactive online experiences.

Jean Middleton photographed by Nicholas Mather

A recipient of HCIP Travel funds through the Fall 2019 intake of the program, Jean visited Ottawa and Gatineau for a symposium on the value of play in museums. With Canadian Children’s Museum | Musée canadien des enfants as an example, Middleton’s experience is addressing some of AAM’s most pressing needs.

“My major project, which started before COVID-19, has been to put together a strategy for our programming for children and families,” notes Middleton.

“Not only did the symposium speak to family learning in museums, it also emphasized inclusion and the value of letting children lead their experience.”

As AAM reopens this month (July 2020), visitors of all ages can do more self-guided exploration. Given physical distancing guidelines, confining interactive experiences to specific areas (which Jean and the team were already looking to move away from) is even more impractical.

Jean notes that providing visitors the tools to focus on specific areas of interest and to explore at their own pace helps maximize AAM’s resources. “By letting children explore, we are giving over some of the facilitation to families themselves. It was completely aligned with what I was doing and continue to do.”

Jean Middleton photographed by John Liddle

“Museums are often seen as these keepers of knowledge, but we want to say you can trust yourself to explore heritage as well, in a way that speaks to you.”

The Alberta Aviation Museum’s online presence gives visitors the opportunity to connect with images and stories of its impressive aircraft, the informative Blatchford Tales Oral History Project, and more.