Let’s get to work in the museums! Interactivity is key.
Update 9th of September 2021
The educational value of museums cannot be denied. The institutions serve as containers of knowledge and bring normally difficult to get information closer to the public. However, some of them rely too much in passive-learning. Normal audiences go there, see and many times do not know what to do with the info they have gathered. This learning outcome is then in danger of being forgotten. A good alternative to solve this issue could be organizing practical activities, such as workshops, the main topic of today’s post!
Behind the scenes workshops
Have you ever wondered about how a museum actually works? It is not just displaying the exhibit, there are a lot of people involved whose job is normally unknown for the public. Explaining what is actually going on and what is the day to day behind the scene activities that happen can be the starting point of many workshops to be done not only in museums, but in every cultural institution. This workshops would serve two main purposes: first, they would attract people, since it is always interesting to learn about other people’s realities, such as their jobs; secondly, it would recognize proffessionals, which might serve as a motivational boost.
Some examples we have come up with of this “behind the scenes” workshops are the next ones:
Curators are in charge of a collection of exhibits in a museum or art gallery. Their job is to build up collections, often in specialist areas. But how do they actually do that? How do they choose the items that would be displayed? What criteria do they follow to design an exhibition? All this questions, as well as the ones participants might have, could be answered in workshop form.
A cool activity we came up with could be having the participants organize a quick exhibit with daily objects or even small samples provided by the museum. Participants would have to explain why they chose this specific objects, displayed them as they did, for how long this exhibit could work and why would audiences actually go… Once everyone has presented it, the curator itself could make a quick explanation of how s/he takes this decisions and give participants some tips. Finally, participants would have to make the changes they consider to their previous exhibit, taking into account the proffesional’s advice.
Click in the image to learn more about another curatorship workshop example!
How do researchers know how old objects are? This is a common question that often comes to mind when people are in front of a sample, specially the older ones. A workshop whose objetive was to teach how do researchers actually know that would be really interesting and educational. It can be done with almost every sample, by teaching different techniques, however the next activity is aimed to museums with archaeological remains.
Archaeology has the advantage of being very popular in culture, there are many movies, books,…; related to the topic and it is very impressive. Museums could take advantage of it by organizing a fake-search. The institution should dispose a space in which daily life objects have to be searched using archaeological tools, of course, guided by a proffessional so that participants have a glimpse of how this tools are used. After, dating simple experiments could be carried out. The learning objective is for participants to learn how to use researching tools and techniques.
Art is something catchy, even people that not consider themselves experts enjoy it due to its relaxing aspect. Artistic workshops have also the advantage that it can be facilitated by non-artist, specially if the focus is not put in the final product of the workshop but on the process itself. That means, in this type of workshops the objetive should not be for the participants to end up doing a very impressive piece, but to create a bond with the organizing insititution and develop their creativity. Some examples are the following:
It is really nice to feel inspired by the samples of a museum, what story is behind it? It would be really nice to share it. However, a good story-teller also needs to be a good researcher, you need to really understand the sample in order to create a good story from it. In this workshop, participants would be encouraged to visit the museum, really pay attention to its details and choose a sample. The facilitator should then explain a little more in depth the samples participants have chosen so that they are able to create a story inspired by the sample itself.
The positive aspect of this workshop is that the artistic outcome can vary. Participants can be asked to develop a story, but it would be as fun to ask them to make a painting or write a simple song, the possibilities are endless!
Painting workshop, charades
This workshop can be understood as a game as well. Participants would participate in pairs or groups, one of them would be given a card and would have 5 minutes (however the time depends on the size of the museum) to represent one sample by paint – no words allowed -. After the painters’ time finishes, their partner or group would have another five minutes to find the correct sample.
Just as with the previous workshop, this one has a lot of possibilities. Participants could be ask to explain with words the sample or to represent it with their body, it would be up to the facilitator to choose.