Welcome New Museum Studies Students!

Last night was the orientation for the incoming Museum Studies students. Jess and I tagged along to meet them all and to talk about the blog, and we are so excited about the newcomers! There are a lot of intelligent, enthusiastic and passionate people coming in to the program. There is a wide variety of interests and experiences, which will lead to some captivating guest posts.

We heard from Cynthia Robinson, the director of the program, and many of the Tufts professors (most of whom are working in museums as their day job) about their plans for their courses. There have been some changes to the courses since last semester, so check them out here if you haven’t had a chance to take a look. It definitely made me wish I could take more than four courses a semester!

A portion of the new students listen to Cynthia Robinson, director of the program, as she discusses internship opportunities

A portion of the new students listen to Cynthia Robinson, director of the program, as she discusses internship opportunities

We wish everyone the best of luck with the new semester! We’re both here and available to talk about the blog, about Tufts, or about life in general. If you’d like to post something (or many things!) on the blog you can contact us at tufts.museum.blog@gmail.com – we’d love to hear from you! Remember that you can submit papers that you’ve written for class or reviews of museums that you are already going to in your free time.


Good luck this fall!

Colleen & Jess

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s our weekly roundup of new jobs. As always, they go up immediately on their own page. Happy hunting!


Museums Gone Viral: “Flipped” Field Trips

Many museums struggle with maintaining a good balance of technology – enough to attract (and keep the attention of) younger crowds, but not so much that visitors who go to museums to “unplug” are unable to do so. The best solution is to give visitors options. They can sign up for the facebook and the instagram feeds; they can walk past the video touch screens. Our new series, Museums Gone Viral, brings you real ways that museums have used technology and the internet to reach a variety of visitor groups.

At the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, students are participating in a new type of visit: “flipped” field trips. The term comes from the idea of “flipped” classrooms, which uses homework to teach the basic facts about a topic, leaving the school time for deeper discussions and more abstract thinking (see the graphic below). The Museum, taking this concept, has created a cooperative, long term collaboration between their institution and schools throughout North Carolina called “Artists in Process.”

flipped classroom

Graphic from University of Texas Center for Teaching and Learning
(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Here’s how it works: students are given online access to photos of objects from the collection before they visit the museum. Students can add their own artwork and comments based on certain photos, and eventually place them on a special social media site, revolving around the themes of “identity, place, and storytelling.” One of the truly remarkable aspects of this arrangement is that students are working not only with others in their school, but students from other schools in completely different regions of North Carolina. A large scale conversation is being had before the students even set foot into the museum.

Once they arrive at the museum, they already have a background in the collection, various artistic themes, and how to look at art. Because of this, they can spend extra time looking closely at different pieces, and all without a guide. They are given an ipad, however, in order to photograph different pieces that they would include in their final project: the creation of an exhibition revolving around their chosen theme. Students are allowed to wander the museum and think about how a particular object might fit into their exhibition, and they use sites like Pinterest to virtually create their exhibition. At the end of the field trip, they share their exhibitions.

What I really love about this idea is that it is completely student-centered. Students can pick and choose the objects that hold meaning for them, and because they have an open-ended final project, they are able to consider the art closer, and in different lights than they might if they came for a guided tour. Not only is this project student-centered, but it is long term and community based! Students are able to see worldviews from different areas in their state, and to have a deeper connection with both each other and the museum. Check out this article for how the Museum is evaluating their program and what they have learned from the process.

Further, although teachers reported that students had a hard time sharing their own art and their innermost thoughts, the students were slowly able to begin conversing. Once the ball got rolling, most teachers found that their students embraced the challenge and started sharing more. The fact that the students felt that the community they were working with was supportive helped them to think critically about the art and to discuss ideas about their world. Here is a good article from a third party about the program that includes interviews with teachers who have participated.

It’s an interesting concept, but there are many things to consider, like financial cost, availability of resources like staff time, and evaluation. What do you think? If you are currently working in a museum, do you think this could work for your institution? I would love to hear how different museums (with different resources) think this might work for them.

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Here’s our weekly roundup of new jobs. As always, they go up immediately on their own page. Happy hunting!

Would You Make It As A Curator in 1910?

Smithsonian.com recently published an article describing the tests that curators in 1910 were supposed to be able to pass. If you had the right education and could answer questions about what (and how) you collect things, you were on your way. But curators had to have a little something…more. Other valued skills? Having good “family connections,” along with the ability to ride a horse, steer a canoe, and discuss the correct education and age level that museums should reach. The test consists of 34 short answer questions, like “What do you consider the principal requirements for a satisfactory museum building? (Consider at least five points)”

Some of the questions are still discussed today, such as, “Should a museum receive gifts subject to restrictions posed by the donor?” After all of that, the test requires a 3000 word thesis on the correct organization of a natural history museum. Worried that the test was too simple, allowing just about anyone to become a curator? Not to worry, you should also have a set of personality qualifications that set you apart:

“After the candidate has safely negotiated the above questions he is supposed to be able to pass muster in the following regard. He should have good health, ability to handle a horse and canoe, and be inured to the hardships of camp life and the work of exploration.”

Want to check out other questions on the test? Click here for the test published in Proceedings of the American Association of Museums.