Spring has finally sprung! In New England, that means that nice weather is (hopefully) here to stay and we can all enjoy the great outdoors. It also means that you can observe wildlife galore enjoying the spring sunshine, too. Luckily, our friends over at the Museum of Science, Boston Children’s Museum, and Zoo New England have created some fabulous resources for your family’s flora and fauna explorations.
A great place to start your backyard safari is by listening to the Museum of Science’s Pulsar: A Podcast episode on “Observing Wildlife in Your Backyard.” Biologist Colleen Hitchcock of Brandeis University offers tips and tricks for observing and identifying wildlife that you may see around your house. It is also particularly helpful for observing nature in more urban or highly populated areas, as this episode was originally broadcast as a resource for the City Nature Challenge at the end of April. Be sure to also check out some of their fantastic Family STEM Activities, especially Outdoor Explorers and Ecosystem Exploration, and the Museum’s guides to bird flight pattern identification and butterfly watching for more great activities and ideas for exploring nature in your backyard!
And, of course, we’ve got you covered for all of your bird-watching, butterfly-garden-building, and backyard-exploring reading needs — all free, with your library card, through our Overdrive/Libby and hoopa e-collections:
A Boston Globe article from May 6 highlighted a family-friendly quarantine activity that is out of this world: stargazing! The current lockdown has led to a reduction in light and air pollution, resulting in better conditions for observing the night sky. Caity Sullivan, education associate at the Charles Hayden Planetarium of the Museum of Science, outlines some tips and tricks in the article for at-home stargazing with your family, including free star-viewing apps and what to look for in the night sky.
Though you can’t visit the Hayden Planetarium in person, Sullivan and the folks at the Museum of Science have made it possible for the Planetarium to come to you! Check out their Facebook page for Virtual Planetarium events — you can view past presentations and stay informed about upcoming events, including livestreams of what to view in the night sky. If you miss the presentations, take a look at the Museum’s handy May Sky Chart & Viewing Guide — May is a great month to start backyard stargazing as there will be a rare Mercury sighting the week of May 19th!
Want more galactic goodness? Check out these fiction and nonfiction titles for all ages — some of many available on Overdrive/Libby with your library card number — to keep your whole family shooting for the stars:
And for some further space exploration, check out encyclopedic text about the solar system in Salem Press, or take a peek at our selection of Great Courses videos about astronomy and the mysteries of the universe:
There’s no doubt about it: podcasts have taken the listening world by storm. From true crime to politics to self-help, you can find a podcast for every interest and topic. Even some of our favorite museums are getting in on the action and producing their own podcasts in-house! While we can’t enjoy these institutions in person, listening to their podcasts is a unique way to connect with museum collections, stories, and staff.
PEMcast from the Peabody Essex Museum launched in 2014 and is hosted by Chip Van Dyke and Dinah Cardin. They aim to connect the museum and its collections to broader cultural issues through conversations and storytelling. Their dedication to high-quality and engaging content has even earned a Silver Muse Award from the American Alliance of Museums. Episodes cover everything from music to historic homes to the maker movement and public art.
The Museum of Science’s Pulsar: A Podcast, described as a “playground for the mind” is another great museum-created podcast. Produced by the Gordon Current Science and Technology Center of the Museum of Science, Pulsar tackles your biggest science questions, including what it’s like to live in space, how to use technology to preserve our cultural heritage sites, and how Cliff, a 65 million-year-old Triceratops fossil, arrived at the Museum.
All caught up on the latest episodes of your favorite podcast? Maybe looking for a new one to dive into? Check out these awesome, popular titles inspired by your favorite pods and podcasters:
Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
From Overdrive/Libby: “The instant #1 New York Times and USA Today best seller by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the hit podcast My Favorite Murder! Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation. In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.”
Unqualifiedby Anna Faris
From Overdrive/Libby: “A hilarious, honest memoir—combined with just the right amount of relationship advice—from the popular actress and host of the hit podcast Anna Faris is Unqualified. Anna Faris has advice for you. And it’s great advice, because she’s been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she’s learned. After surviving an awkward childhood (when she bribed the fastest boy in the third grade with ice cream), navigating dating and marriage in Hollywood, and building a podcast around romantic advice, Anna has plenty of lessons to share: Advocate for yourself. Know that there are wonderful people out there and that a great relationship is possible. And, finally, don’t date magicians. Her comic memoir, Unqualified, shares Anna’s candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir—including stories about being “the short girl” in elementary school, finding and keeping female friends, and dealing with the pressures of the entertainment industry and parenthood—part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast, Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna’s unique take on how to master the bizarre, chaotic, and ultimately rewarding world of love. Hilarious, honest, and useful, Unqualified is the book Anna’s fans have been waiting for.”
Alice Isn’t Dead: A Novel by Joseph Fink
From Overdrive/Libby & hoopla: “From the New York Times best selling coauthor of It Devours! and Welcome to Night Vale comes a fast-paced thriller about a truck driver searching across America for the wife she had long assumed to be dead, performed by the voice of the Alice Isn’t Dead podcast, Jasika Nicole, with an exclusive essay written and read by Joseph Fink. “This isn’t a story. It’s a road trip.” Keisha Taylor lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country. Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job as a long-haul truck driver and begins searching for Alice. In pursuit of her missing wife, she will stumble on a forgotten American history of secret deals and buried crimes, an inhuman serial killer who has picked her as his next target, and an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system—uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.”
Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
From Overdrive/Libby & hoopla: “From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live. Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge. Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “KING CITY” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels. Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it. Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “KING CITY”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.”
Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry
From Overdrive/Libby: “Serial only told part of the story… In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. Syed has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, has always believed him. By 2013, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in hopes of finding a journalist who could shed light on Adnan’s story. In 2014, Koenig’s investigation turned into Serial, a Peabody Award-winning podcast with more than 500 million international listeners. But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State’s case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence — among many other points — and she shows how fans of Serial joined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan’s Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters. Chaudry, who is committed to exonerating Adnan, makes it clear that justice is yet to be achieved in this much examined case.”
Sadie by Courtney Summers
From Overdrive/Libby & hoopla: “An innovative audiobook production featuring more than thirty voices, Sadie explores the depth of a sister’s love — poised to be the next story listeners won’t be able to pause. A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial—like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister, Mattie, in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him. When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late. Courtney Summers’ Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep listeners riveted until the last chapter.”
Many museums, including some of our museum partners, historical societies, libraries, and the like have preserved their collections in digital archives that anyone can access from the comfort of their own home. These archives contain the rare, important, illuminating, and sometimes just plain weird documents that tell our collective story.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the primary archive of all documents relating to the life and work of President John F. Kennedy and his administration. It is also the primary repository of the papers of Ernest Hemingway. Visit their website to view some of JFK’s personal papers and photographs from his life, and listen to audio of his speeches and oral histories from those that knew him best.
The Cape Ann Museum has put together an entire online archival exhibition, Unfolding Histories: Cape Ann Before 1900, exploring the early history of Cape Ann, in addition to their thorough list of digital resources for continuing research projects from home. You can even try your hand at creating your own archival content during this moment in history, with some advice on creating oral histories with your family members.
The Museum of Science Collective Memory archive tells the fascinating history of the museum through staff discussions, photographs and artifacts, and quizzes! Be sure to check out the Junior Explorers Bulletin from 1945, their collection of animal photography, and invertebrate glass models.
The Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum is also a wonderful resource for documents on the cultural heritage of Massachusetts. Through a new digitization initiative, some of the Phillips Library’s extensive collection of manuscripts, photographs, maritime journals, and even documents from the Salem Witch Trials, are now available online.
And if you’d like to do more, many institutions welcome volunteers to transcribe documents to make them more accessible. All it takes is a computer, patience, and time!
By the People from the Library of Congress is a crowdsourced effort to transcribe and tag digitized content from the Library’s collections, including letters to Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman’s writings, documents from the Women’s Suffrage movement, and more.
The Smithsonian Museum’s Transcription Center is also full of interesting transcription projects, including Sally Ride’s papers.
Atlas Obscura has also compiled two lists of various ways to volunteer remotely, such as tagging photos of America’s scenic byways for the National Archives, transcribing science fiction fanzine from the 1930s, and fixing transcripts from public broadcasts, including a conversation with James Baldwin. Check out more of their ideas here and here to get started today!
You can also visit the Abbot Public Library’s own digital archive, featuring articles from the Marblehead Messenger and Marblehead Reporter!
And over at the Institute of Contemporary Art, check out their guide for eco-dyeing fabric for crafting using fruit and veggie scraps and other kitchen materials. Interested in more great activities? Their Art Lab at home has everything from DIY flip books to virtual quilts (maybe made with all that fabric you just eco-dyed).
After you’ve tried these awesome activities, work on those kitchen and nutrition skills with this curated list of cookbooks for junior chefs:
Part craft and activity book, part how-to and cookbook, master chef Barton Seaver’s National Geographic Kids Cookbook teaches you how to start a kitchen garden, host a family cooking competition, and everything in between.
On hoopla & Libby:
The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefsby America’s Test Kitchen Kids
From the pros at America’s Test Kitchen come over 750 kid-tested and approved recipes for all skill levels with the goal of empowering young chefs to feel confident in the kitchen.