I’m Erin Harding, and I’ve just celebrated working one year at Caramoor. I currently work in the Development Department as the Special Events Assistant, helping to plan our benefits and tea programs for the year, and this past fall I deepened my appreciation of Caramoor while interning with Roanne Wilcox, Rosen House Director.
Outside of work, I am currently working on my M.A. in Museum Studies through Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs, and to complete my program, I needed to intern at an historic location. I couldn’t think of any place better than the Rosen House, and I’ve been lucky enough to dedicate some time each Friday to my internship for the past four months!
Over the course of my internship, I’ve had three main projects I’ve been working on: creating a social narrative for students who have autism and attend the Rosen House with their schools, compiling items to create a sensory backpack for visitors with autism that everyone can benefit from, and developing a thematic Renaissance tour of the House. Pictured here are some of the materials I’ve created along the way.
The first project I was able to complete was the Rosen House Social Story for students with autism. Individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulty understanding others’ perspectives and understanding social cues to respond appropriately to their situation. A social story walks readers through an experience and prepares them for it by modeling appropriate interactions. Using this method, I created a walkthrough of one’s experience of coming to the Rosen House for a school visit. You can check it out here and share it with first time visitors to use when they come to Caramoor too!
The second project I completed was the development of a sensory backpack that’s equipped with the list of items below. I selected items that would help visitors with autism navigate and control their environment in a variety of ways so that they don’t get overwhelmed by their experience at Caramoor, a space that is unfamiliar to them.
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Stress ball
- Fidget toys
- Soft clay
Lastly, and most complex, I created a new type of tour to experience at Caramoor. Instead of just listening to facts about the family and objects of the house, participants engage in a guided exploration, prompted with curious questions by the tour guide. Throughout the duration of the Renaissance tour I designed, participants are steered to learn about the social and political context at the beginning of the Renaissance, as well as the defining characteristics of Renaissance art and architecture. They are taken into six spaces to discover disparate but thematically connected objects collected by the Rosens. These spaces include the Music Room, Spanish Alcove, Burgundian Library, Lucie’s Bedroom, Walter’s Bedroom, and the New Wing. Their context may not be obvious until you discover this theme!
While on the tour, visitors are also prompted to think about why the Rosens included Renaissance objects in their home and what these objects may suggest about who the Rosens were, what they enjoyed and valued, and why they may have selected certain objects and artworks to be in their home.
It’s been an exciting opportunity to work at the Rosen House and create new tools that will help all of Caramoor’s visitors enjoy their visit, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to have this experience. Interning at the Rosen House this fall has allowed me to apply what I’ve learned in my M.A. program so far, and moving forward I will be able to share this experience with the other individuals in my program for us all to learn from. Throughout this process, I’ve been able to experiment with engagement strategies to learn more about how to effectively involve visitors in meaning-making, and this is something that I will continue to work on in the future. I hope that you too may benefit from these new tools and tour, and I welcome your feedback on whether they have helped your visit have more meaning!