There is often an idea that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects are incompatible with art and history. Art museums talk about art, history museums talk about history, and science museums talk about science. This is not to say there is absolutely no overlap, but one would be hard-pressed to go to a major fine arts museum and find an engineering-based activity. STEM can seem scary because it might be thought of as outside of the museum’s mission or as too technical and ‘science-y,’ but STEM doesn’t always mean doing a full-scale chemistry experiment in the galleries.
Instead of siloing these subjects in our museums, we can think about them with another acronym: STEAM. You may have heard of it before, but it’s the idea of incorporating art with STEM concepts. For instance, one could think about the chemistry behind mixing pigments for a painting, or explore the aesthetic design process of an engineering project. To think about ways to incorporate STEM and STEAM into your museum, I find the following article by Tom Vander Ark and Mary Ryerse, 12 STEM Entry Points, to be helpful. Although the article does not strictly discuss incorporating STEM and STEAM in museums per say, they do mention museums and the ideas they present are just as valid. They can even provide your museum with a welcome challenge, like adding a makerspace or challenge-based learning to your activities. If you are looking to diversify your museum’s subject matter and educational reach, check out their article!