November 26, 2008

Top 3 things about working with museum visitors that they don’t teach you in a classroom

Guest writer: Laura Crisp, Museology graduate student

You might think that as a student in the Museology graduate program, I would have had my fill of museums. But after spending about 15 hours as a Burke 101 student in the Pacific Voices gallery this quarter I have learned a lot about museum visitors and museum education that I would not have learned in a traditional classroom.

Here are my Top 3 from Burke 101 gallery sessions:

1. A teddy bear makes everything better. We had a hard time attracting visitors to come try their hand at making a button blanket, until we found a teddy bear wearing a button blanket! After that, kids were much more likely to approach us and make their own blanket. Somewhere in Seattle, there are some very well-dressed stuffed animals!

2. Everyone has a story to tell. It was awesome to not only teach visitors about Native art of the Pacific Northwest Coast, but to learn from them as well. I had the privilege of talking with a glass artist, many third-graders, and many Husky fans on their way to the stadium.

3. Seeing the real object, instead of just a picture in a book, is an invaluable experience for many visitors. This was especially true with the large Nuu-chah-nulth mask, “You mean, people actually wore those, and danced with them on?!”

Mask from the Burke Ethnology collection. Nuu-chah-nulth style, Euro-American Made by Bill Holm. Material/Technique Carved, Painted, Wood Motif Head. 1973.