Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
…Wolins  who notes that, ‘although many museum educators admit that the lecture approach often is undesirable, they continue to invite curators to walk docents through the gallery… thereby encouraging docents to emulate the very teaching behaviors they find ineffective with museum visitors’ ”, — Grenier, R.S. 2005. Proceedings from AERC ‘05. Do As I Say, Not as I Do: A Case Study of Two museum Docent Training Programs. Athens: GA.
Individuals, families, children, connoisseurs and the curious all visit museums for reasons stemming from universal motivations. “Millions of people, young and old, alone and in groups, have some kind of museum experience every year,” (Falk, 1992, p. 2). Whether exploring, focusing or scrutinizing a collection, the participation of this experience contributes to the museum’s collective universality, which only contingently exists due to visitors’ presence. For inspiration, education, further interpretation and illumination, visitors take time to visit museums as cultural institutions and, while aware or not, contribute to the legacy that museums are and should be displays and educations for peoples.
Encompassing purposes such as the animation of abstract ideas or the exploration of multiple interpretations, one paramount role that museums offer to their visitors is, among others (e.g. entertainment, reverence and remembrance,) education in a unique space, verbalized through a unique voice with an exceptional language. The educational possibilities existent within most museums vary exponentially and always will; audience research, cognitive theory and cultural impetus should always guide approaches to this role. The works inside museums come, “alive generation after generation,” through our personal as well as guided interpretive experiences in these galleries, (Burnham & Kai-Kee, 2011, p. 66).
Where museums face complex challenges, a shift is beginning, if not already midway momentum, towards understanding museums and their visitors holistically; this approach may bridge expectations of what museums may offer their visitors as well as what their visitors may offer the institution. To speak of the evolutions of museums, in the broadest sense, coerces discursive and critical approaches in the study of and the opportunity to impact, create and initiate change, whether social, political, cultural, etc.
While education has become a primary priority of museums, next to ubiquitous acquisition and funding, the specific role of collective displays and interactive programming should come into focus by inquiring not just what the collections are presenting but why and how the visitor may play a deeper role in this process. With curatorial display influenced by breadth and theme, a visitor may analyze, interpret and leave the museum’s doors with inspiration to say something, do something and/or create positive change.
Museums should feel responsible for staying contemporary and relevant, whatever their institutional interpretation of this may be. In our age of exponential change and growth, from a digital sense to a demographic sense, museums have a unique vernacular of articulating history, whether ancient or just a decade past, in which we, as visitors, learners, users and participants in the collective human experience may ask, ‘where have we been, where are we now and where shall we go from here?’ Museums should continue to uphold “… the promise that critical inquiry leads to truths about the world for the benefit of human progress…” (Cuno, 2011, p. 112-113).
Whether it is a specific exhibition of objects that speak to a global issue or an endowment exhibiting a loose yet unifying theme connected to a local issue, museums must maintain a connection to the everyday, their every-visitor in order to progress.
DECO JAPAN: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945
— Opening July 13, 2012 @ Ringling Museum of Art
From Metal Origami to Cubist Kimonos, See the Highlights of “Deco Japan” at Japan Society | Artinfo
I’ve been thinking a lot about neuroscience’s increasing presence and incorporation into education, on understanding the nature of cognition and especially critical thinking. I have been particularly thinking about this in relation to art; I wonder if brain imaging would show different appearances when an individual is learning versus interpreting a work of art. Now, yes, one could/would/should argue that these two things are inseparable when encountering a work of art or an art experience. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if and how these are two, albeit similar, but different schools of thought that sometimes do not overlap (gasp!) So, what is the significant difference? Breaking from protocol, I plan to revisit my initial questions after some light reading of work of Rex Jung.
Happy 82nd birthday to Jasper Johns!
From our website: In the 1950s Jasper Johns developed a distinctive painting style that would help lead American art away from the then-dominant movement of Abstract Expressionism. The exact correspondence of figure and ground in his work challenged the traditional distinction between an object and its depiction. At the same time, variations on each theme dissolved the “natural” link between the symbol and its meaning. Johns thus questioned the basic underpinnings of our representational system, and specifically the mechanisms of fine art.
Pictured: Jasper Johns, Flag (1960-1969)
A major congratulations to my peers and colleagues in the 2012 MAT program!
Last week, I watched and listened as my colleagues presented their Masters of Arts in Teaching Theses. One particular presentation of a friend near and dear to me presented a research topic on “Contemplative Museum Practices” and it was truly a generous contribution to both field of art education and museum education.
“George Hein writes that it is possible to ‘argue that teaching is not required for learning to take place [in the museum]’”; this has followed me all week. Here in this topic we are deeply considering the role of the viewer’s experience and connection with works of art in museums.
And so, is teaching required for learning to take place in the museum?
(Contemplative Art Viewing at The Hammer Museum.)
above the fog: The Getty -
Getty to trim 34 jobs in its museum division!
This is scary considering I work for an art museum; including the Education Department when I’m not busy with events. Naturally the Getty’s Education Department is the hardest to be hit.
The J. Paul Getty Trustannounced Monday that it was…
I am so honored in beginning a new chapter with the Ringling Museum of Art this summer, as a temporary member of their Education Department! : )
Speaking on a feast of friends, with one special visitor (my mother!)
Pierre Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881, Oil on Canvas, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
At first I thought we were looking at the work of art. Then I realized the work of art was looking at us, — (Burnham & Kai-Kee, 2011, p. 63).