Do Museum Educators Still Have Time to Read Books?

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While many of you may immediately be thinking “heck no … I never have time to read,” the answer is actually YES.  And to prove it, is launching a new Online Book Club.  As educators and museum professionals, keeping our head buried at our desk or constantly busy in programs can only get us so far.  And I know that many of us (including myself) struggle to carve out the time to read the publications coming out each month or even the classic texts of yester year.  Perhaps we’re all too busy reading blogs (not entirely a bad thing). Not only is it hard to find the time to keep up with the reading, it may also be a challenge to find ways to make certain theoretical or academic texts relevant to our own practice and professional work on a day-to-day basis.

So let’s bring back the books!  This summer, connect with current thinking and museum colleagues through a series of Google Hangout Book Club conversations that will bring a variety of ideas and questions to key publications in the field of museum education (past and present). These discussions will not simply “review” the book at hand, but focus on how what’s on our bookshelf can inform our practice. How do ideas forwarded by certain authors and scholars connect with our day-to-day programs and work in museums?  What new ideas might be sparked from the pages of current or classic texts in museum learning?

golding-coverThe inaugural Online Book Club was held on July 8th at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) focusing on the recent book Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections, and Collaboration (2013) edited by Viv Golding and Wayne Modest.  For this discussion, partnered with The Incluseum blog to take a deep dive into this collection of essays that explore the complex issues arising from recent approaches to collaboration between museums and their communities.  The authors of this book outline a range of critical pedagogies and present important case studies that “challenge us to move beyond shallow notions that both elide the complexity of community identities and make simplistic claims to engagement by museums.”

As Viv Golding states in her introduction, this book explores best practice examples in detail to highlight how these provide “a better model of community collaboration” (3).  In the chapter by Wayne Modest on youth participation and co-curating with teenagers, he addresses core thought-provoking questions such as:

“Who benefits from engagement, the museum or the community? How can we engage communities to their benefit?  Who drives engagement, communities or the museum?”

Please view the video archive for this Hangout below — a great discussion about how the essays and case studies featured in its pages might connect to the work we’re doing on the ground in our museum or community.

To learn about future Google Hangouts and Online Book Club discussions hosted via, you can join the Art Museum Teaching Google Community or follow me on Twitter (@murawski27).

Have ideas for other books we could feature in future Online Book Club discussions?  Let us know in the Comments section below, and we’ll try to pull together a few more before the summer is over.  We have some great ideas, so we’ll have more information available soon.

Read on!

Note: Thanks to everyone who participated in the July 8th Online Book Club Hangout. Here is a link to the video archive:

We look forward to continuing this exciting conversation as well as this series of Online Book Club discussion! Stay connected with the Art Museum Teaching Google Community to learn about upcoming discussions. And, as always, if you have any ideas for a future Hangout or online get-together, let me know and we can work to schedule here within the community.


23 thoughts on “Do Museum Educators Still Have Time to Read Books?”

    1. Thanks, Kris! And that book sounds great (I have not read it, as I am guilty of not being able to find the time to keep up — but I’m hoping that this Online Book Club will motivate me to connect with some of these great reads).

  1. At the suggestion of the very smart Emily Holtrop, Director of Learning and Interpretation at the Cincinnati Art Museum, I instituted a monthly “Reading Day” for the Education Department at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. We block off a whole day once a month and go offsite to read for the work-day. In the morning, we all read the same thing (an article or book chapter), and then discuss it. We break for lunch and then each read our own work-related things in the afternoon. We come back together at the end of the day to share what we’ve learned, but we also find ourselves interrupting each other throughout the afternoon to say, “Hey, listen to this!”

    We’ve only done it twice so far, but it’s been great. Wonderful to get out of the office, and a great way to make time to think theoretically about our work when we are usually much too busy with the day-to-day to do so. I encourage everyone to do this. It’s very worth the time to keep staff morale up, spark new ideas, and think critically about what we do.

    1. Hi Becca! And Yes, Mike, this is a great idea — I have it on my calendar and I hope to join the conversation. I’ve needed an excuse to do some more reading too!

  2. Those of us who write books and journal articles do want to encourage more book reading. For anyone interested, I have two recent books: Attention and Value: Keys to Understanding Museum Visitors (Left Coast Press) and The Social Design of Museums: The Psychology of Visitor Studies (MuseumsEtc). These books include summaries of a lot of our visitor research over the years and offer the attention-value model of visitors. The model examines how exhibit objects capture, focus, and engage visitor attention and provides evidence that a cost-benefit view of “value” is a major motivator of why visitors engage.

    Stephen Bitgood
    Professor Emeritus of Psychology
    Jacksonville State University

  3. Hi, I got all enthusiastic and went to Amazon to order, but then found the book is quite expensive and would not arrive in time to read it. Anyone else had this experience? Would there be an alternative online article to read for July 8 and then a later date for the book discussion? Or an online chapter of the book we could access? I’d order it if I knew there would be time to read it before discussing. This is a great idea in general, though. Thanks for starting it.

    1. Gretchen (and everyone): it does look like this book is now less available then when we proposed this Online Book Club initially — perhaps we even created a rush of demand for this text, which would be cool. So I do apologize to those who just cannot get a copy before our discussion on July 8. We’re taking this into account for all future Online Book Club selections. I’m not able to send scans or copies of chapters due to copyright, but I hope people still enjoy the discussion (and perhaps it can help inform your decision about purchasing this book once it becomes restocked from the publisher).

  4. Wonderful 🙂 On my calendar! will be happy to join you from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston!

  5. Thanks to all who participated in the launch of the Online Book Club. The video archive is available at the bottom of the post above. And it turns out that museums educators have some time to read, but not much ; )

  6. I forgot about the book club! SO sorry to have missed it. I have been reading the book. Alas, July 8 was the first day of our weeklong teacher institute, and I got home and was fried. I forgot all about the discussion! Hope we do it again.

  7. A suggestion for future reading – Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and its Treasures During World War II. Excellent, well-researched (true) story but also an opportunity for reflection on the timeless commitment of museum curators and administrators to their profession and the issues involved in protecting art. More info is at

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