April 29, 2010

How to create a museum program for university students

As a university museum, the Burke has the privilege and responsibility of finding ways to incorporate the museum into campus life. Many may wonder: how do you reach out to a campus with over 41,000 students?

It may seem like a daunting task, but our staff works hard to help University of Washington students connect to the Burke as both an academic resource and as a place to have a social experience. These two different ways students can engage with the museum blend together in the student-only event called After Hours @ the Burke. Every quarter, the museum hosts this evening event that involves special activities, exhibit access, food, music, and the opportunity to speak with Burke Museum experts about the topic of the evening. This quarter’s program happened last night, April 28.

We began the planning process for After Hours @ the Burke by deciding to focus on the collaboration of both art and science in the exhibit Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway. We came up with a program that invited students to help re-create a Ray Troll mural from Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway, make their own fossils out of modeling clay based on the forms of real fossils in the Burke’s collections, talk to experts in the gallery… and eat dinosaur cake!

The next challenge was to figure out how to get the word out to students on campus that this event was happening. We experimented with some new ways to advertise on campus and also used techniques that have worked well in the past. We created and distributed posters, sent e-mail invitations, placed ads in the campus newspaper The Daily, and installed 80 paper ammonites on lawns around campus with sandwich boards advertising the event.

Social media sites have also been a very helpful way to communicate with UW students. The Burke Museum’s Facebook and Twitter pages help us reach out to students on websites they use daily.

In the end, 160 students came to the museum for about 2 hours last night and everyone seemed to have a great time. All of our hard work paid off!

Posted By: Andrea Barber, Communications