Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

What is a museum – and what goes in it?

As students and museum professionals, we are constantly revisiting the question of, “What is a museum?” We ask it of ourselves and of the visitors we serve – a quick search on Youtube, for example, yields such entertaining videos as What is a Museum? from The Brain Scoop and Ask the Kids: What is a Museum? from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

I gathered a few more answers to the question this week as I taught summer camp at the Dallas Museum of Art. Titled The Museum of ME!, this camp introduced children ages 6-8 to different museum jobs and how exhibitions are created (thanks for the inspiration, Tufts course on Exhibition Planning!). By the end of the week, campers took on the roles of curator, designer, conservator, registrar, preparator, and educator as they developed and fabricated their own mini museums.

To start us off right, our very first activity was a big camp brainstorm to come up with a collective understanding of, “What is a museum?” Each camper and teacher drew a picture of something they believed “goes” in a museum, which we then taped to a big butcher paper drawing of an imaginary museum. You can see some of the responses below – each is a tiny representation of our museum interests and priorities. A few might even make you laugh.

Unsurprisingly, my contribution was… summer camp!

What might you add to our museum? What is a museum to you?

2 Comments

  1. Barbara Silberman

    August 6, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    A sad state of affairs when nothing close to history is mentioned.

  2. Barbara, I might mention that the campers are children who have grown up in a city with strong art and science museums and their responses reflect that! Dallas doesn’t have the same wealth of history-focused institutions as Boston does.

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