I am in the process of building a learning model for what could be the first ever model-building-as-doctoral-comprehensive-examination course in academic history. The end result of this partnership is the digitization of museum artifacts, and the creation of exhibitions and curation of materials by students. That happens through constructivist teaching where teachers set up the classroom as a space for creation, collaboration and criticism, and that kind of teaching environment happens through a professional development program instituted by museums where faculty become accredited museum educators by interacting with real and digital content and understanding the informal missive of the museum as a place of education.
I’m still working out the synopsis.
The earliest museums were designed as places of education. Museums were not open to the public, but rather private clubs where scientists and theorists met not only to collect and preserve items of cultural and historical significance, but also to debate topics and ideas, as well as provide a sounding board on issues. This is reflected in James Smithson’s missive for the $500,000 donation he provided the American government for “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” The popularity of museums grew in the late 19th Century, in large part due to a rising interest in ethnography, and most museums became public institutions. Museums focused their resources on artifact collection and exhibition, but not on the knowledge centers related to the artifact or its cultural/historical significance. 100 years later, museums are lamented as the place to store and exhibit dead stuff, with a number of organizations working to change this dominant paradigm. My postulate: in order to do that, museums need to refocus on their educative mission, and that might need to start with an overhaul of how museums look at education…the museum is an informal learning environment, so why throw formality on it in any way, shape or fashion?