Laura Sears is the Volunteer and Public Programs Coordinator First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL. The U.S. Army’s First Infantry Division comes to life within within the museum, sharing the proud history of the the group, nicknamed “Big Red One.”
Laura attended our first Audience Development Boot Camp and took her new hack skills back to her museum.
Laura has had a great post-boot camp experience. She left our workshop with concrete tools specifically for her institution that could be implemented as soon as she got back to Illinois.
“The best part for me was that boot camp wasn’t where it ended.” – Laura
A military museum can often include difficult subjects, so creating fun and engaging tours can be difficult. At the First Division Museum, they often discuss these issues by focusing on individual stories. With the training from boot camp, Laura was able to create a new tour that focused less on what the traditional tour can be — full of battle stats, facts, and figures — and instead brought those stories to life.
“The program I developed from the Boot Camp training is called “Cool Story BRO.” It’s an unconventional look at conventional warfare.”
Cool Story BRO, BRO in all caps playing on the First Division’s nickname, came directly out of boot camp. Her newly minted hack skills helped when inspiration struck within the veteran community in Illinois, who often share amazing (and funny!) stories from their time with the Army. Laura designed an unconventional tour about conventional warfare.
Using stories and engagement techniques, visitors undergo an immersive storytelling experience. From Tank Tales stories from the boss to Battle Buddies, Laura was able to create activities that promote critical thinking and engagement that incorporate the powerful content and soldiers’ stories.
One of the craziest stories that visitors re-enact throughout the tour is a tale from PFC Daniel R. Edwards:
“Edwards crawled alone into an German trench where an artillery shell exploded near him which left him dangling from the trench wall by his shattered right arm. When he heard several German soldiers approach, he severed his arm below the elbow to free himself. He killed four of them and took the remaining four men prisoners, forcing one to carry his severed arm. While taking the prisoners to the rear lines, one of the enemy was killed by an explosive enemy shell which also completely shattered one of Private Edwards’ legs. Naturally, he made the remaining POWs carry him the rest of the way.”
Laura says when she tells this story using a faux arm as a prop, most visitors end up carrying the arm throughout the tour beyond Edward’s stop.
Laura wrote to us saying her program has been getting great reviews and she’s even had teachers request that the museum turn this into a field trip for students.
“Not sure how to do that YET since we talk about rampant STD’s in WWII, segregation in WWI, and soldier slang…which is pretty graphic. Anyway, I wanted to thank the whole team for their support and positivity.” – Laura
Want to supercharge your storytelling and gain the skills to bring to your museum? Check out our Boot Camp for Museum Professionals.
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