Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Museums in the News: The New York Historical Society’s Citizenship Project

This article is by Taylor Fontes, a first-year student in the Masters of Museum Education program. 

A trending issue in a vast number of museums today is keeping visitors engaged and creating conversation with the collection. Educators and professionals are always creating new studies to find out what the daily visitor wants, what they spend time looking at and for how long, etc. The list for conversation problems will always be an issue that museums will look to fix, the historical society has been working to create more engaging programs to benefit their community of visitors. Being placed in New York City the historical society has many people to serve but also an opportunity to expand outside of the “museum norm” and take chances to bring in the population that does not typically visit the museum. The Citizenship Project is a perfect example of how the historical society is bringing a new visitor into the museum and creating conversation.

The New York Historical Society Museum has created some discussion in regards to their free program for immigrants looking to take the naturalization exam to become United States citizens. The Citizenship Project is a class that immigrants can take with the New York Historical Society to learn more about the United States and questions that will be on the exam. The class is discussion based around pieces of art that pertain to important points in American history, including the darker parts of the Nation’s past. The museum pushes for participants to try and relate the images to themselves personally through conversation and to find a personal relationship to make the concepts that will be on the exam stick.

The museum is expanding their reach to visitors who are looking to become productive members of society and are also learning about the history of the country that they are about to become citizens in; another point is that many of these people taking the citizenship course may have not felt inclined to visit the museum prior to hearing about this opportunity so the museum is also reaching out to a new inclined visitor as well. The New York Historical Society is welcoming in new aspect of community involvement and engagement with their programs, whether free or otherwise.

The programs that the historical society has create conversation and allow for a broad audience to visit the museum and find a topic in which people could find interest and possibly a personal connection. The issue of creating conversation within the museum is one that the New York Historical Society has been trying to incorporate more into their programs. Creating programs for immigrants, family programs, children’s programs, as well as lectures and gallery tours are just a few ways that the historical society has been working to tackle their problems.

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