Museum Education: An Origin Story

Golden Books 002“How did you get into museum education?” It is probably the 1st question I get asked when I start explaining my work. I’m sure I’m not alone and many of my Museum Ed colleagues talk about inspiring teachers, memorable internships or a “need a job” that turned into “found a career.”

My narrative spins from a love of history to not feeling like classroom teaching was the right fit and ends with a flyer I saw posted on during a college visit for a “Museum Education Minor.” At least, that is how my museum education EDUCATION narrative goes.

Really though, my “origin story” goes back to stuff. Old stuff, historical stuff, stuff that connects you to the past.  That was brought into sharp relief as I opened the two boxes my Godfather had sent down for my son. Inside were rows of Golden Books, inscribed with his name and dates from the late 1940s to the mid 1950s. I got so excited getting to touch those books that…well…I sat down and wrote about it!

This is the history I am drawn to, the one represented through objects. Where better to immerse yourself in that then museums? I know I’m not alone. So many visitors to museums go there for the stuff.  Some because it reminds them of their own experiences, some because it is the clearest way for them to connect with something they don’t understand and others because just being close enough to (theoretically) touch the objects is a thrill.

I get that! I am like that too…and I think it makes me a better museum educator. I can use that spark when I am writing and teaching programs and help guide reluctant museum goers towards a personal experience with objects.

I think knowing WHY you “got into” museum work is key to helping you create stronger experiences for others. Whether it is because you can share their thrill and build off of it, or be on the lookout for your own bias and preference. Continue to explore new ways to connect with visitors, incorporate the new media and teaching methods and keep up on the latest research…but also trust that what makes it exciting for you is probably whey some of the visitors are there in the first place.

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1 Response to Museum Education: An Origin Story

  1. Yep, it’s all about the ‘stuff’. I love it when visitors get excited about objects.

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