Program Researcher – High School+ Underground Railroad Program

Site:  African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI)

The African American Museum of Iowa’s mission is to preserve, exhibit, and teach the African American heritage of Iowa. We are located in Cedar Rapids, IA near the NewBo City Market.

Project: Program Researcher—High School + Underground Railroad Program

Journey to Freedom is an annual program of the African American Museum of Iowa. Aimed at elementary-aged students, this is a living history version of the Underground Railroad. Students begin the experience “enslaved,” with a volunteer actor portraying an overseer requiring them to do things like move wood piles back and forth. From there, students are freed by a volunteer actor portraying a “shepherd” on the Underground Railroad. On their guided journey, they learn how to build lifesaving fires and navigate by the stars, as well as receive information about Iowa’s Underground Railroad involvement.

The AAMI would like to evolve this program by adding a version for high school students and older. We have considered making this a realistic experiential program but are looking to discern what other institutions are doing in regard to experiential/simulation programs.

The research intern would be responsible for researching what other experiential/simulation programs are hosted and organized by historical museums and cultural institutions. The AAMI seeks information on cultural benefits and drawbacks of simulations, as well as the best ways to articulate the Underground Railroad to this age group. Research should involve review of museum web sites, interviews with education and curation staff at a variety of institutions, and creation of an annotated bibliography of useful resources about experiential programming. The research intern will provide an informed recommendation of approaches to AAMI staff. If time allows, the intern will evolve some of the ideas toward creation of said program.

Key Responsibilities

  • Research experiential/simulation programs at other historical/cultural institutions
  • Research how to best convey the Underground Railroad to a high school-aged audience
  • Create an annotated bibliography of useful resources related to experiential museum programming
  • Provide options and informed recommendations on how to best proceed and next steps forward

Qualifications and Skills Preferred

  • Experience with primary and secondary research
  • Knowledge of Iowa history (preferred but not required)
  • Knowledge of Underground Railroad history (preferred but not required)
  • Education/lesson planning experience (preferred but not required)
  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively

Supervisor: Sean Donaldson, Museum Educator