Session Info

9:45-11:30am: Storytelling Session 

The Whats, Whys and Hows of Telling a Story

John McNiff, Park Ranger, Roger Williams National Memorial, National Park Service

It is not just content that makes a story compelling. Knowing who you are speaking to and what they need can make the difference between a boring lecture and something to remember. 

Tips for Successful Telling

Len Cabral, Storyteller

Learn the tools and techniques to engage listeners, be they children or adults. Hear about where to find stories, how to practice them, and the importance of setting the stage before taking the stage.

12:15-1:00pm: Keynote 

How to Stay Uncomfortable in Your Comfort Zone

Katherine Ott, Curator, Division of Medicine and Science, The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

Museums are on the front lines of the changes taking place in the United States. We are expected to be relevant, present reliable knowledge, and interpret new scholarship, all while serving a range of visitors. When contemporary events are contentious, it can be hard to adjust to visitors who are looking for new interpretations of long-standing exhibitions or asking for fresh takes on familiar objects. Curator Katherine Ott will discuss some of the benefits of welcoming the discomforts of change that every docent has encountered.

1:30-2:30pm: Breakout Session 1

Session A: Creating Inclusive Spaces: The New Bedford Whaling Museum High School Apprenticeship Program

Bob Rocha, Director of Education and Science Programs; possibly James Russell,  Executive Director, New Bedford Whaling Museum, alumni of program,

For the past 7 years the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s high school apprenticeship program has provided low income, academically motivated students access to resources and experiences that deepen community engagement, promote personal and professional development, and cultivate college and career success. What happens when 18 high school students learn and grow in a museum? Come to this presentation to find out!


Session B: Dreamnight at the Zoo: A special evening sponsored by Hasbro Children’s Hospital at Roger Williams Zoo

Mary Fournier PT MS PCS, CNDC Program Manager, RI Hasbro Children’s Hospital;  Maura K. Taylor, PT MBA, Administrator for the Children’s Neurodevelopmental Center, Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital

Dreamnight is an international event that provides a way for children with special healthcare needs and their families to enjoy the wonder of zoos.  This session will explore the history and execution of this event, now in its 14th year, as told by the staff who work to ensure that this evening is a safe and wonderful time for everyone who participates.


Session C: Body Language: How much are you saying without moving your lips? 

Michele Brunelle, Assistant House Manager, RIHS

80% of communication is nonverbal so how can we read what others are saying and refine our own body language. Becoming more observant of, and learning to understand, non – verbal communication can increase our emotional intelligence and expand our ability to communicate with others.  

3:00-4:00: Breakout Session 2

Session D: Race in Museums

Pam McDonald, Center for Reconciliation
Soni Stokes, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society

This session will address the challenges of interpreting slavery through walking tours and historic sites, along with the new wave of efforts to decolonize museums and make them more racially inclusive spaces.  Interpreting slavery and learning how to facilitate conversations about race with visitors at museums and historic sites will also be discussed.


Session E: Getting Ready for the spike in older visitors…to everyone’s benefit

Hannah Goodwin, Manager of Accessibility, MFA

More than 50 % of the population over the age of 65 have disabilities, and that population is rapidly expanding. With proper planning and inclusive practices, visitors can continue to participate in museums across their lifespan, and as their abilities change. Come and learn some key areas to think about, and have some fun with some interactive activities.


Session F: SensAbilities: Creating Access for Visitors with Autism

Sarah Carr, Education/Programs Manager; Ann Conway, Museum Director, Museum of Work & Culture

Learn how the Museum of Work & Culture revamped its exhibits and tours to create a more welcoming environment for visitors on the autism spectrum. Discover what simple tools you can offer to provide better access for the All Ability community and hear about the latest expansion of the Museum’s award-winning special outreach program.