Looking Back / Looking Ahead

2013-collageAs the second year of the ArtMuseumTeaching site wraps up, I thought it would be good to post a brief review of the past year as well as some thoughts as we look ahead in 2014.  Not that we need any more end-of-the-year lists or calls for resolutions, but I think it can be meaningful to take a minute and look back at some of the issues that have been on our minds this past year, and imagine a bit about what is on the horizon.  From 3D printing and hacking the museum to MOOCs and the value of museum field trips, there have been a lot of interesting and sticky topics that we’ve discussed here on this site.

Through its second year, the ArtMuseumTeaching community has continued to grow.  Doubling the number of authors, adding 39 new posts, starting a new Google+ Community, and now reaching readers in 143 countries, interested contributors and readers have pushed this site to new heights in 2013.  I hope that the online community and conversation around this site will continue to grow, include more diverse perspectives, and be a space of exchange where we can connect on issues of teaching, learning, and community engagement that matter most in museums.

Looking Back: Most Read Posts of 2013

While I always hate the popularity game of “most read,” it can be fun to look back at the year and see what people seemed most interested in across the board.  Here are the Top 5:

hazel-jackson-pollock“Is This Art? Tales from 3 New York City Educators” (June 2013): Rachel Crumpler, Jen Oleniczak, and Shannon Murphy got together and shared with us the most common “Is this art?” situations they’ve encountered — from grumbles and snarky looks to “pfft, that’s disgusting” and “my four-year-old could do that.” Great tales we can all relate to, and some excellent strategies for tackling these awkward (yet extremely teachable) moments.

MH_WALL“What is Museum Hack?” (December 2013): Museum hackers Mark Rosen and Jen Oleniczak recently described how a group of renegade museum lovers can get people really excited about museums.  Leading creative and thought-provoking tours at the Met, Museum Hack is certainly getting museums and museum educators to ask some interesting questions about what we do.  Jen and I connected via a tech-challenged Google Hangout before the end of the year, and were able to address some of the questions about ‘hacking’ museums for positive change (see video archive embedded in the post).

bookpile“Do Museum Educators Still Have Time to Read Books?” (June 2013): In an effort to ‘bring back the books,’ ArtMuseumTeaching launched its Online Book Club this summer.  Far from MOOCs, the two book club discussions were intimate exchanges that focused on books that have not popped to the best seller list: one very meaningful new volume entitled Museums and Communities (edited by Viv Golding and Wayne Modest) and a classic text re-examined, George Hein’s  Learning in the Museum (first published in 1998).  While it is always a challenge to carve away time to read, I hope we can continue the Online Book Club in 2014.

fieldtrip2“What’s the Value of an Art Museum Field Trip?” (September 2013): It is important for us to remember that 2013 saw the first-ever large-scale, random-assignment experiment of the effects of school tours of an art museum — thanks to the incredible research team pulled together at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  Anne Kraybill shared with us the results of this significant research; findings which help to make a more rigorous case to administrators, policy makers, philanthropists, and educators that there is significant value in a field trip.

bradford2_2“Teaching for Independence: Empowering Learning in the Art Museum” (May 2013): For me, it is still always important to see ArtMuseumTeaching as a site where we can share our own daily teaching practice — since this is where the blog started for me, personally, back in February 2012.  I was excited to share an experience I had with a group of Portland State University students, thinking about how an educator can empower visitors to learn to begin to see looking and learning with art in a more active, participatory way that also allows for shared authority around knowledge and interpretation.  The post was also a collaboration with Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR), a peer-populated teaching resources site begun by Michelle Millar Fisher and Karen Shelby that promotes discussion and reflection around new ways of teaching and learning in the art history classroom — a collaboration that I know will only grow in 2014.

Looking Ahead

As we look ahead to this new year, there is so much potential and possibility.  In addition to the great posts and contributions already mentioned, 2013 was a great year for collaborations and partnerships.  ArtMuseumTeaching has been connecting with so many other exceptional blogs, online communities, and digital networks, and I know that is going to grow and expand in the year ahead.  We’ve also been experimenting with using Google Hangouts as a way to connect people, and I hope to push that a bit farther in 2014 (perhaps even experimenting with connecting our gallery teaching practice via Hangouts or video connections).

For 2014, I am also excited to be working on ArtMuseumTeaching’s first-ever “gallery teaching marathon” that will happen during the National Art Education Association national conference in San Diego this year.  So if you’re interested in experimenting with a new teaching strategy or just seeing some great museum teaching, please stay tuned.  As soon as we have all the details confirmed, I’ll be sharing this with everyone!  And if you’re interesting in helping coordinate this, definitely let me know — I think we’ll need a few hands on deck to make this work.

The year ahead certainly promises a whole new set of challenges, success stories, and new ways of thinking about both the theory and practice of art museum teaching.  If you would like to share the projects you’re working on or the issues and challenges you are grappling with, please add your voice to this growing community (and just send me a tweet at @murawski27).  Happy New Year!

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