Truly “Exceptional & Extraordinary”

I found this article to be one of the most poignant I have read concerning the inclusion of diverse audience members. The article concerns the effort of eight museums in the UK to document the history of physiological differences between human beings and how those difference have evolved into cultural norms and stigmas. Supplementing the medical exhibits, four artists will accompany the exhibition to create pieces inspired by the exhibitions artifacts. According to the author, “In collaboration with experts in medical history, disability and museums – they are currently producing a series of thought provoking new commissions that examine our attitudes towards difference and aim to stimulate debate around the implications of a society that values some lives more than others.” A series of lectures and discussion panels will follow the exhibition to further enhance visitor dialogue.

Field Trips and Teacher Responsibility

Today at the Museum Studies grad student poster session I talked with Courtney Little about the content and activities she developed for school groups as part of her project.  I loved what she did… so much better than the “circle the word” activity sheets some museums use as a substitute for properly planned follow up activities, but it made me wonder in how many schools will her work go wasted because teachers don’t use the opportunity to reinforce information learned at the museum.

This post by Rebecca Herz explores teacher interaction and responsibility and posits that exposure to museum content is not an ending..but a beginning… that teacher’s have to build on that content for students to get the most out of it.  Regarding teacher involvement, interpretation, and follow-up, Herz explains that “in our current educational climate I do not think teachers understand this as their role in a museum field trip. Nor do they always have the freedom or time to do this follow up work back in the classroom.”

In just about every museum, school groups are a huge chunk of the visitor count and revenue total (either by ticket sales or gift shop sales).  Having interesting and engaging pre/post visit activities is crucial and often is given less attention it deserves.  But even if what you develop is outstanding…getting teachers to use it is an ongoing problem.  How can museums address this problem?  Can we manipulate students into pressuring teachers to perform?  Museum interpreter to students: “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to talk to you today about <insert historical topic of choice>, we’ve given your teacher some exciting activities to share with you after your visit here… make sure you ask her about it when you return to school.”

Community Centers

We have spent most of the semester discussing the need for museums to become more centered around the community. This article from the Smithsonian is a perfect example of how a museum can reach out to the community. Understanding the depth with which Prince’s death has affected the community, the Smithsonian had decided to place his yellow electric guitar on display from now until Labor Day. By doing this, the Smithsonian is providing an avenue for the community to gather and commemorate a music icon.

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Branded

I’ve been thinking a bit about branding.  No, I’m not talking about cows… I’m talking about name, and image, and reputation.  I’m talking about marketing (again) and how you can use branding to not only get your institution seen, but to use the rollout of a new branding package as a marketing event.  Recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art rolled out their new brand.  Admitting that everyone calls them the The Met anyway… they embraced the moniker and are now simply that. Read the whole article here.

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Here is another case study involving the New Museum of Contemporary Art and their step by step how-to on rolling out a new branding package.  Both of these are NYC examples… with a lot of money to put into paying 3rd party firms to be creative.  But it doesn’t mean that local museums can’t rethink their image…especially when they’ve out grown their old logos and graphics.  Our speaker from the Scruggs museum illustrated that very point… and I think she did a fine job of reinventing something small into something great.

 

 

Museum Professional Development Day

Museum Professional Development Day (May 23) is a one day conference in Raleigh and its FREE. It’s sponsored by the Dept of Natural and Cultural Resources.  There are topics like Fundraising, Visitor Safety, Informal Education, Social Media, Media Relations… and a workshop on in-house exhibit design.  It sounds like it’s packed with a lot of very relevant information…and could be a good networking opp.  Registration is through May 16…grad students welcome.  Here is the program agenda… and here is the registration page.  If you want a boxed lunch it’s $5…otherwise no cost at all.

Lucas Museum Contraversy

This somewhat adds to the Sailor Moon thread but I thought it was worthy of moving forward in its own post.  Proposed for Chicago is the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art… a highbrow name for “Star Wars Museum”.  Proponents are the mayor of Chicago and some at the Illinois state level, who are eager for the economic boost the museum would bring  in tourism.  Also advocating for (and partially financing) it is Lucas himself… because… well… who doesn’t want their own museum?  Lobbying against the project are city residents concerned about downtown land use, and residents statewide who think there are too many social and infrastructure needs already, and think funds should be spent to address those needs first before considering a new museum.  All of these entities make excellent points… on both sides of the issue.

Would residents offer less resistance if the museum was more historical, or scientific… anything viewed as more educational?  I think so.  And given the economic impact of a Star Wars based museum, do you think resistance is futile?  Wait…wrong franchise 🙂

How To Handle Protests

This article reminded me of the protest most of us saw during the Mass Incarceration Conference. Ever since the Guggenheim has considered expanding to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, labor protests have occurred in the museum. The museum has held meetings with the labor group GULF for the past six years, but claims that such discussions have so far been largely unproductive. What should museums do when faced with such protests? Is there another way to handle the situation respectfully without holding meetings with the protesters?