Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

What We’re Reading: “This Art Museum Hired a Neuroscientist to Change the Way We Look at Art” -Christopher Snow Hopkins

What We’re Reading: “This Art Museum Hired a Neuroscientist to Change the Way We Look at Art” -Christopher Snow Hopkins

Imagine your professional life as a chaotic compilation of meetings, projects, networking, events, and a traffic-ridden commute – not far from the truth, right? Now think about the way your brain focuses in some of these hectic work-life situations? Can you hone-in on the million things that run through your mind or the numerous tasks you have to complete? Probably not to the extent that you would like.

So, now let’s make the metaphoric stretch of this hustle-bustle lifestyle to the salon style presentation of museum galleries. Chances are, if you have ever found yourself in a salon setting you may find it hard to focus on a specific painting or object, or you may feel overwhelmed by the volume of works on display. From here, questions arise as to why and how the human brain can’t seem to focus on too many things at once, or why we might feel overwhelmed in everyday life or museum salons? Or how can museums best present their collections in a balanced manner that does not overwhelm and underwhelm the audience? These questions, compiled with the declining attendance in museums, are what prompted the Peabody Essex Museum to hire Neurological Researcher Dr. Tedi Asher in the hopes of finding a means to display its collection that will draw audiences in and increase the relevance of museums in today’s world. In his article “Neuroscientist to Change the Way we Look at Art”, Christopher Snow Hopkins explores the measure that the PEM is taking alongside Dr. Asher to offer heightened sensory experiences that challenge, but also meet the needs of the audience.

According to author Christopher Hopkins, the aim of neurological research at PEM is to continue to promote museums to the public in a time of declining museum attendance. Dr Asher believes Neuroaesthetics is the key to this mission expansion at the PEM. As described in the article, neuroaesthetics is “the synthesis of neuroscience and aesthetics.

Neuroscience could hold many answers to the problematic relevance museums seem to face today. Perhaps visitors are not being “wowed” enough, or they are being overwhelmed by an exhibit, as suggested in the salon-style example. Thus, neuroaesthetics is a fresh approach that could help improve the visitor experience and intake through our brain connections. Asher claims that a “satisfying experience has this delicate balance of meeting and violating our expectations.” Therefore, in exhibit design there is a fine balance between surprising the visitor and helping the visitor make sense of the content.

Asher is also aiming toward creating rest areas that act as palate cleansers to give visitors a break between art pieces, exhibits, etc.  She also wants to develop spaces that really highlight one or a few objects, but evoke different emotions and sensory experiences within the space to accompany the objects.

It will certainly be intriguing to follow Asher’s progress at the PEM and to view and better understand neurology’s place in the museum experience.

Click here to read Christopher Snow Hopkins’ full article!

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s our weekly roundup of new jobs. Happy hunting!

New England                                                                                                                     

Mid-Atlantic                                                                                                             

Midwest

South

West                                                      

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s our weekly roundup of new jobs. Happy hunting!

New England                                                                                                                     

Mid-Atlantic                                                                                                             

Midwest

South                                                                                                                             

West                                                      

Summer Museum Education Workshop in Portsmouth

The Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden Presents: Reaching for Truth: Exploring the Issue of Slavery in the Era of the American Revolution

Classroom and Museum Educators

Participate in an intensive three day workshop from August 1-3. Investigate slavery in Portsmouth and New England during the Revolution, explore the spaces in which the enslaved and enslavers interacted and discover how a brave group of enslaved men wrote the 1779 Petition of Freedom.

Presenters Include: 

Barbara M. Ward, Ph.D.
Director/curator
Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden. 
Barbara has an A.B. in history from Connecticut College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Boston University in American and New England Studies. She has taught history, decorative arts, museum studies, and material culture at Boston University, Yale University, the University of Delaware, Salem State University, the University of New Hampshire, the Tufts University Museum Certificate program, and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Keith Mascoll
Actor and Educator
Keith holds a B.A. in Theater Arts from the University of Massachusetts.  Keith has worked as an actor in numerous theater and film productions.  He has won several awards and is best known in Portsmouth for his role as Prince Whipple, in two productions of A Chance at Freedom.

Robert Munro, Ph.D
Teacher, Middlesex School
Robert has a Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University.  He has worked as a History teacher at Middlesex School. His primary teaching interests include African and African American history, U.S. history, and the ancient world.

About the Program

Spend three days in Portsmouth exploring the genesis of the Petition of Freedom, slavery in New England and how you can use local resources to explore difficult subjects in your classroom.

The Program Schedule

The first day of the workshop participants will enjoy the same immersive experience within the house that students have had in our pilot program.   The second day  participants will learn about the history of slavery in New England, the material culture of the region, and also visit  sites on Portsmouth’s Black Heritage Trail to provide further context.  The third day we will focus on how to have comfortable discussions on difficult issues of class and race, and how historical context can help to facilitate those conversations.  Teachers will have an opportunity to share their curriculum ideas.
Participants will have the option of staying in Portsmouth for some planned activities and conversation in the evening. Those who are coming from out of town can either book their own accommodation or use the reduced rate we have negotiated at an area hotel.

Application Details

We have ten $250 stipends for secondary teachers who commit to creating a lesson plan based on their experience of this program.  The fee for those who do not want to create a lesson plan is $50 for all three days.  The Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden will post the lesson plans on its website to share with educators everywhere.
Teachers who are interested in this program should answer the question:

  •  Why are you interested in attending this workshop, and what skills or knowledge do you hope to gain from it?

RSVP and Questions

Please email responses and send queries to:
Jennifer Belmont-Earl
Education Coordinator
education.moffatt.ladd@gmail.com
603-430-7968

Journey to the Netherlands: Adventures at the GeoFort

It’s hard to get out of our bubbles. Sometimes we don’t want to. Or we don’t have time. Or maybe we just forget. We can get so comfortable in routine that we forget we’re even in a bubble. Hoping none of you are at that point, I still thought it would be valuable to take this post a little beyond our normal scope and highlight a museum outside the United States.

While we often hear people talk about the Tate, the British Museum, and the Louvre, voices go strangely silent on the many other museums around the globe. It’s not like we don’t care; I think we do. But we get busy. Busy with the museums we work at. Busy with the museums we partner with. And busy with the thousands of museums right here in the United States. So let us help you out. By periodically highlighting an international museum on this blog, we’ll help you add a whole new set of museums to your mental file cabinet while only giving up 5 minutes every few weeks.

Ready to start? I hope so, because today I want to take you to the GeoFort in the village of Herwijnen, in the Netherlands. Winner of the 2016 Children in Museums Award, this museum is a goldmine of adventure. Built in an old fort on the New Dutch Waterline, a defense line, the museum engages visitors with the history and techniques of navigation and cartography. Through exhibitions, quests, tunnels, mazes, and outdoor adventures, GeoFort claims that, “after a day at GeoFort you know how salmons find their way, why the north pole shifts, how an iPhone knows where you are, how maps can lie and much more.”

Since 2011, the Children in Museums Award has been given to a museum that demonstrates innovative spaces and programming for children. The recognition has been provided by a collaboration between Hands On! International Association of Children in Museums and the European Museum Academy. Judges of the 2016 Children in Museums Award stated that, “GeoFort is an active, realistic and enjoyable complex where children learn by doing while having fun. It is an inspiring place and a worthy winner of the 2016 Children in Museums Award.”

To learn more about the many activities offered at GeoFort, click here.

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