ITP+ Museums Opening Up Ideas for Learning: Sharing Experiences (Suruchika Chawla, ITP 2018, India)
Written by Suruchika Chawla, Researcher, Siddhartha Das Studio (ITP 2018, India)
Hello everyone and greetings from India! Yesterday on the sunny morning of 28 March 2019, the ITP+ course themed on Museums and education started with full fervour at the CSMVS, Mumbai in collaboration with British Museum, London. The very enthusiastic and energetic museum educationists came to a platform where they are sharing the experiences and projects they have done – and are continuing to do – to cater to young audiences, especially children.
The sessions in the morning were initiated with brief introductions by the Directors of the two organisations, who shared their experiences on how the idea of ITP+ with this theme was born. Mr Sabyasachi Mukherjee (Director, CSMVS) and Dr Hartwig Fischer (Director, British Museum) welcomed all with their brief introduction that focused on the collaborations and works that these organisations have done in the past and hope to continue in future.
Then the heart of this legacy project, the International Training Programme, was very aptly introduced by Neal Spencer (Keeper, Department of Egypt & Sudan) and Claire Messenger (Manager, ITP) who focused on the effectiveness of this growing phenomenon and how it is bringing ideas together with positive outcomes.
It feels so amazing to see that there is so much scope of dynamic thinking that motivates these educationists throughout the world, and that makes their contribution to museum education more meaningful. They are using museum spaces and resources to make a simple museum visit into an interesting and fun learning process. The way they target children through various creative ideas, it inculcates a sense of respect and belongingness for the heritage of their various countries. There were different representatives of museums who shared their case studies through presentations and interactive talks throughout the morning. I would like to highlight the key elements of their talks.
• Bilwa Kulkarni, Assistant Curator of Education, CSMVS presented on the theme Children’s Museums: Relinquishing ownership. Her talk had a very interesting exercise describing how children contributed in a space where they will be spending their time learning. So why not to make them act as budding curators, as they definitely know the taste and preferences of their fellows? This was put into practice by CSMVS, in its new upcoming Children’s Museum.
• Ronan Brindley, Head of Learning, Manchester Art Gallery presented on the theme Making the Museum Useful. His talk – about collaborating with health services to offer mother-baby health checks at the gallery – was inspiring as it made us realise that museum spaces can collectively bring and contribute to social change, and in case of children, the age doesn’t matter. The experiential learning since their infancy can make them sensitive towards museum spaces and encourage more visits as they grow up.
• Tim Corum, Director, Curatorial & Public Engagement, Horniman Museum and Gardens, presented on the theme Working with young people – embedding their input. His talk had the focus on how a youth forum can act as a promotion and creative force for a museum and add to the learning team whether it’s art activity, theatre performance, capital projects or even involvement in governance. All the partnerships enhance the educational aspects and thus make museum reach wider audiences in effective ways.
• Fadzai Muchemwa, Curator for Education and Public Programs, National Gallery of Zimbabwe presented on the theme of An Analysis of the ‘First Fridays’ Project. They had introduced a nice concept of sensitising young people about museum spaces and breaking the barrier so that that museums are more welcoming than before. Adding recreational facets to museum visits – such as late opening events in collaboration with a youth organisation – made their project a successful one.
• Joanna Mawdsley, Head of Learning, V&A Dundee presented on the theme Engaging audiences without a Museum. She had a unique talk as, during the period before the museum opened to the public, their organisation used design ideas rather than objects to make children think out of the box and contribute to an exhibition held in a popular shopping centre.
These interactions and brainstorming brought new things to light for different education experts who observed how a certain geographical or institutional size variation affects programmes. The way they use various media of promoting museum education was remarkably fascinating and highly motivating. I wish all these people best of luck for these endeavours as we know that children are the most energetic lot to tackle when curious or excited about the concept they are about to unfold or learn.
Thank you ITP for this enriching experience! Looking forward to hearing more ideas in next two days!
And a big thank you from the ITP team to British Museum Photographer Saul Peckham, whose images we will be using to illustrate blog posts throughout the workshop.