Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Category: Museums Gone Viral (Page 2 of 2)

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.

Museums Gone Viral: Snapchat at the LACMA

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.


Art history. Take a moment to think about the images and associations that are conjured up by that term.

For those of us not already interested in the subject, art history might bring to mind dusty lectures with endless slides of facts and staggering stacks of notecards. If you’re anything like me, you probably balk at terms like “abstract expressionism” and “impasto.” I’ll admit right off the bat that I am not an art history enthusiast, and that I usually find interpreting art with others to be confusing and anxiety-inducing. (My co-editor, Jess, on the other hand, is getting her masters in art history and museum studies – so she will probably take exception with my views on the subject.)

Then I found the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) on snapchat – more on their account later. You’re probably thinking “snapchat? Why would a museum ever join snapchat? What’s the point of that?” And at first, I agreed. With so much out there for museums to keep up with – facebook, instagram, twitter – not to mention their own websites, why add another form of social media to the mix?

So I started digging a little deeper into who actually uses snapchat. As it turns out, snapchat has over 82 million users between the ages of 13 and 25. And rather than sending inappropriate content, many snapchat users send photos and videos that they find funny. According to users, the appeal of snapchat lies in its ability to disappear – the short, immediate nature becomes an art form in itself with mandatory comedic timing built in. When you only have 10 seconds to get a joke across, you have to be right on, and that usually leads to people sending something ridiculous or silly. Not surprisingly, that time constraint makes the app more “fun” according to respondents in a survey about how they use snapchat. (The survey information is available here and here, along with a lot of fascinating information about snapchat in general.)

That 13 to 25 year old category is one of the key demographics that museums sometimes struggle with reaching. Snapchat might just be a great way to reach that generation. Technology changes so quickly, and as we leave that age demographic, the use of technology (not to mention the corresponding terminology) starts to come more from study and less from pure osmosis. The only problem is doing it right. If you try too hard, your snaps (the term for the images and videos sent through the app) can come across as outdated or lame. So make sure that you understand what terms and pop culture references you are using. As Lucy Redoglia, the social media manager for LACMA, says, it’s not necessarily easy. She spends portions of her day searching online for popular phrases and terms, as well as lots of examples for how these phrases are generally used. Remember also that you don’t need to use popular terms at all. You can make your collection accessible without needing to use different terminology.

As a snapchat user myself, I find that the LACMA snaps are funny and bring me closer to the art – even though I live across the country and may never have a chance to visit. If the snap is particularly good, I find myself thinking about it afterwards. Things like, “we might see that as a ‘dad bod’ now, but I wonder what the artist thought when they created that?” I think many museums would be very happy to have people becoming familiar with their collection, not to mention thinking about it beyond their 10 second image. (Although I am in grad school right now, and in a museum education program, so there really isn’t a whole lot of time that I’m not thinking in depth about museum-related things!)

Some people might argue that the format of snapchat takes away from the respect that the art deserves. However, consider that co-editor Jess’s response to my desire to write this post was “honestly [the LACMA snapchat is] a very accurate depiction of how my art historian friends with snapchat act in museums.” Also consider that many snapchat users are at an age where they might need to build the tools to look closely at art and appreciate it on a deeper level. If some of your snaps bring those users into the museum to look closer at the “eyebrows on fleek,” isn’t that half the battle? Once visitors choose to come to the museum, or look at your website, it’s up to you to help them build the skills to look more critically.

Take a look at some of LACMA’s snaps below (found in this interesting article). They make use of the short timing and silly nature of the app, along with much of the terminology that is popular with people who use snapchat.




The LA County Museum of Art is on snapchat under the handle @lacma_museum

New Series: Museums Gone Viral

Starting next week, we will be introducing a new series titled “Museums Gone Viral.” These periodic posts will look at different ways that museums are using the internet and social media to create innovative ways of enhancing education, discussion, and awareness. If you come across something that you think is particularly interesting or effective, let us know!  If you’re interested in writing a guest post about something that your museum does on the internet, we would also love to hear from you. Jess and I can be reached at tufts.museum.blog[at]gmail[dot]com.

Keep your eyes open early next week for our first post in this series!

Newer posts »

Spam prevention powered by Akismet