Jennifer Rogers serves as museum coordinator for the Collin County Farm Museum, which provides insight into Collin County’s rural heritage from the earliest settlement through the 1960s.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an educator, traveler, and hobbyist photographer. I started in the museum field as an undergraduate in Anthropology and continued to work in museums for 22 years. I have two master’s degrees. One is in museum studies, and the second is in public administration since my specialty is government-operated museums. Early in my academic career, I decided that teaching in a formal classroom was not my path. I love art, history and teaching, and I believe that everyone learns differently. I prefer teaching informally and working with individuals to figure out how they learn. As a result, I chose a career in museums, which allowed me to develop programs for various learning styles for people of all ages. This belief was fundamental to my upbringing since I am hearing impaired. My mother ensured that I had multiple learning experiences, and museums were our favorite places to explore new knowledge. We often traveled to museums in different states; thus, she instilled in me a desire to travel. I am currently trying to visit all 50 states before I am 50. (I just returned from the New England area and have 12 more states to go.) In my teens, I took to photography, a passion I continue to pursue today.
What brought you to the McKinney area?
The employment opportunity at the Collin County Farm Museum brought me to McKinney. I was looking for a new museum experience and discovered the position with Collin County through their job site. I was originally looking at both museum jobs and government jobs, and it was kismet that Collin County had a government museum job. When I was hired, I spent several months training the educator for my previous post before moving from Rockport, Texas, to North Texas.
What made you want to be a part of reopening the Collin County Farm Museum?
One of the reasons I was looking to move on from my previous museum post was that I wasn’t being challenged in the position. I have a bit of a ‘fix-it’ personality, and once a museum’s operations or programs run smoothly, I start looking around for the next challenge. I knew that managing the Collin County Farm Museum would be a big challenge that would take many years to get operational and contribute to the community. Additionally, I would oversee different parts of the museum, including the exhibits and the collections, rather than focusing solely on educational programming.
What is your favorite part about the programming that the museum provides?
I take tremendous pride in the fact that the museum’s programming has built a community within the museum, its staff and its volunteers. We have many regular visitors and attendees, some of which became volunteers at the museum and my close friends. Because of these community relationships continually being forged, I am always inspired to create and redesign tours and workshops that are interesting, engaging and support the educational needs of the public.
In your opinion, why is the hands-on learning element of the Farm Museum’s programming important?
When I first started visiting museums, most artifacts were secured from visitors behind velvet ropes and glass. This reduced the learning experience to visual input, primarily static and unmoving. Diagrams might be posted to demonstrate the functional components of an artifact. As a result, learning in a museum for many visitors was not much different from opening a fine art textbook or expecting prior knowledge and understanding that a young person doesn’t have. The technology of recent years has helped expand the learning experience by providing videos of artifacts in use, which expands visitor understanding but doesn’t replace the tactile experience. For example, someone with limited sight will better understand farm equipment since they can touch different elements and compare them with other objects in the exhibits.
Additionally, there are a significant number of people who are kinesthetic learners; they learn by doing. These individuals often struggle with translating what they see into replicable actions. They might watch YouTube videos on historic handicrafts, but that’s not the same as physically doing the craft. The hands-on learning aspects we provide in workshops, tours and exhibits are designed to incorporate kinetic learning, as well as visual and audio learning.
What part of the museum are visitors most intrigued by?
Our 1911 Ford Model T is very popular, especially honking the horn. Since a car is something familiar to everyone, regardless of age, there are many comparisons they can make between a modern and historic vehicle. Furthermore, visitors can open the doors and sit behind the steering wheel, which highlights additional differences. To encourage exploration of the Model T, we’ll ask visitors questions:
- Q: Where do you put the gas? (A: The gas tank is under the front seat, as in you have to lift the front seat to get to the tank physically?)
- Q: How do you think you speed up the car? (A: The throttle is a lever on the steering wheel column.)
- Q: How do you make the car go forward or backward? (A: There are three pedals in the car. One pedal makes the car go forward, and one pedal makes the car go backward.)
What is your favorite part of coordinating this museum?
The people are my favorite part of the Collin County Farm Museum. The staff at Myers Park & Event Center, where the museum is located, is very supportive of the museum. The volunteers are dedicated and work tirelessly to restore historical artifacts to working conditions and help with the exhibits, tours or workshops. Finally, engaging with museum visitors and helping feed the inner spark for learning.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My favorite things to do in my free time are to plan or implement road trips and photography excursions. For me, the planning part is equally exciting as the implementation part. I like discovering new places to visit. I also love to photograph while hiking and regularly visit different parks around the state. My next excursion is to walk the Boardwalk at Lake Weatherford, the country’s longest floating boardwalk (just under a mile), connecting the lake’s east and west sides.
If you had to choose a theme song for yourself, what would it be?
I don’t know if I can give myself a theme song, but I consider “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas my anthem.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I am a night owl, so I don’t mind working late at the museum on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I created a safe place. I know what it feels like to be different and judged or belittled for those differences. I hope whoever comes to my museum, whether a visitor or a volunteer, feels comfortable being themselves. I want them to feel accepted for their differences rather than judged or belittled.