Museum Education and Museum Educators by Anna Johnson
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CHAPTER 1 Museum Education and Museum Educators Anna Johnson
Museum educators are responsible for making the museum experience meaningful to all visitors. Where the curator is responsible for the integrity of the subject, and the designer for creating a dynamic environment, the educator strives to present the material in appropriate ways so that everyone can come away with a higher level of understanding. —Rebekah Y. Brockway, exhibit designer, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
Author's Comments Twenty-five years later, I realize how lucky I am to have been able to combine my love of history with the flexibility of education and a very creative process!
Museum education has become so important that some institutions have eliminated education departments and instead reorganized to emphasize the idea that education is so important to museums that educators should be present in all museum departments rather than separate from curators. Museum education offers a variety of formats, structures, and applications to aid in the presentation of information, such as instructional, tour, and interactive. Museums are now open to the public, and their ability to provide a personalized and meaningful experience to their audiences is paramount to their success. TOURS provides visitors with user-friendly information to give them a new learning experience and make their visit enjoyable.
Special Programs and Events These special programs are aimed at specific audiences and are often offered at set times throughout the year. Running an event involves planning, organizing and coordinating with many people to run the event, often requiring licenses, vendors, contracts and entertainment. Exhibition openings, holiday events, or informational events are some examples. An event can contain thousands of visitors in a compact period of just a few hours.
MUSEUM THEATER Includes live history as well as performances, life plays, vignettes and reenactments. Classes/Workshops This special program includes lectures, performances, classes and workshops. They often target different audiences based on age, interests, or cultural diversity. The subject matter should (ideally) be connected to the exhibits in the museum and add depth to the information provided in the exhibit. Running this type of program requires coordination, maintaining contact with presenters and performers, drawing up contracts, setting up rooms, and coordinating scheduling of other programs and activities. There is also visitor registration and class registration. Lifelong learning is an important goal for many adults, and this type of program often meets this need.
Computer-Based Programs We develop online programs, lessons and activities for use by those unable to visit school classrooms or museums, as well as programs for computer stations in exhibition halls, always keeping in mind the project's learning goals and objectives.
Putting the visitor experience first is the essence of museum education.
Educators need the flexibility and freedom to take risks when developing new programming if they are to continuously improve the museum's learning environment. It is the duty of educators to inform supervisors, present the museum's message, and encourage supervisors to visit and comment on educational programs. Supervisor involvement and support, including ongoing communication, is critical to institutions and educational programs. Elements inherent in program development should be those that enable educators to sell ideas not only to the public, but also internally to museum curators, board members, and peers.
Tim's Story I unexpectedly fell into the field of museum education. I worked in graduate school for a history degree with a focus on public history. On the recommendation of a friend, I went for an informative interview with the education curator of the National Portrait Gallery. Until then, I didn't know that most museums had a school board. That interview led me to a part-time position on the education staff and the realization that although I love doing research, my personality calls for a job that requires much more direct interaction with people on a daily basis. My passion is to share my interest in history with others, and museum education has allowed me to do that.
Learning in museums is an informal style of learning in which individuals choose where, when, and what (if any) they learn, as opposed to formal or structured instruction, which often takes place in the classroom. This learning takes place in the context of the museum's focus and discipline (history, nature, art) within its buildings, exhibits, exhibits and mission. The museum educator's job is to design programs within a context that entices visitors to learn, engage, and stimulate their desire to know more.
Educators can learn a lot from effective techniques used in the classroom, but they need to learn more in the museum environment. Museums are places of informal learning, where people learn when they want, when they want. This intrinsic learning is internal, and people choose what to do based on not only intellectually interesting information, but also emotional decisions, such as feeling connected to a subject in some way.
Myungja Anna Koh