Now that fall is starting to get under way (sorry to say), we’d like to put out a call for any students or museum professionals who might want to write a guest post for this blog! Whether you have a vague idea of a topic you are interested in, you have something already written and are looking for a place to make it public, or you’re somewhere in between, we’d love to hear from you! You are also more than welcome to take something you have written for class and transform it into a post. You do not need to be a professional writer to contribute to the blog – Jess and I are happy to help with editing. From one time posts to recurring series, we are open to ideas.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, please email Colleen and Jess, your trusty co-editors, at tuftsmuseumblog[at]gmail[dot]com.
Throughout the spring and fall months we have many holidays honoring members of the military, both active duty and veterans. Many museums already partake year round, offering some sort of reduced rates for members of the military who provide a military ID.
But what about families? Particularly during the summer, when school is out and parents are looking for something to do with their children. Enter the Blue Star Museums program. This national program, which guarantees free museum admission for active duty military members, including the National Guard, and their families, runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It is a collaboration between the Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Department of Defense (not to mention the more than 2,000 museums that take part!). Many museums that offer this program extend the length of their free days, either through the length of their open season or year round.
This is a wonderful way for museums to offer their collection and educational resources while honoring the service of our military men and women. Whether you are a museum who wants to sign up for the program, or you want more information on the program, visit their website for more information and a map of all of the Blue Star museums in your state.
One of the (many) ongoing debates in museums concerns the definition of what is educational. At first glance, you would think that this would be fairly simple: an activity that teaches or imparts information in some way. In reality, it is far more complicated. Where do we draw the line between education and entertainment? Many museums struggle with finding the correct balance of fun and learning without straying into the realm of “edutainment.”
Enter the City Museum in St. Louis. The Museum has been around since 1997, when the International Shoe Company was converted by designer Bob Cassily into the current Museum. Arguably, the best way to describe it is as a gigantic playground for adults and children alike. Visitors are encouraged to explore a humongous 10 story slide (as opposed to the less humongous 5 story slide), a huge ball pit, realistic underground caves, and planes to explore. If you haven’t had a chance to check out what their museum offers, I would suggest you visit their website or check out this video.
So what is the educational value of the City Museum? Is it merely an amusement park dressed up as a museum? Cassily, founder and designer of the Museum, believes that the point of the Museum is not to have people “learn every fact;” rather, the purpose of the Museum is to instill a sense of exploration and discovery that is not place-specific. To Cassily and the City Museum staff, if the Museum is effectively educating, it sees itself as helping its visitors take what they practice in the museum and use it to navigate the outside world.
If we consider what the Museum is doing as more entertainment than education, what does that mean for our children’s museums? Is it a slippery slope? Or is it an effective way to bring in visitors and to give a fresh face to what is generally seen as the stuffy, closed off world of museums?
If we consider it to be education, and not merely entertainment, what kind of a precedent does that set for other museums or institutions providing educational resources and activities? Is it an equally slippery slope?
What do you think?
One thing is for sure – educational or not, I’ll be visiting the next time I find myself in St. Louis.