Preparing Museum Professionals:  New Approaches for Changing Times

Presenters:

Tina Olsin Lent, Chair
Maurice Davies
Paul D’Ambrosio and Dana Carlisle Kletchka
Martha Morris

Thursday,
30 April 2009
3:45-5:00 p.m.

Preparing Museum Professionals: New Approaches for Changing Times

“…tomorrow’s museums cannot be operated with yesterday’s skills.”  Stephen E. Weil

Session Overview:  This session focuses on educational innovations occurring in the U.S. and the U.K. that reflect a rethinking and reconfiguring of two critical aspects of museum professional training:
•    the pedagogical essentials required to prepare a new generation to meet entry-level professional standards, and
•    the continuing educational opportunities needed to enable mid-career professionals to develop new skills for leadership.

Session Objectives:
•    first, using case studies we will identify gaps we have perceived in current educational practices and describe our work to redress them;
•    second, moving to a roundtable format, we will ask the audience to suggest areas they have identified as needing change, thoughts they have had on how change could be implemented, and deficiencies they have experienced in the preparation for their careers.

Relevance:  The experimentation, innovation, and risk-taking that make museums relevant, responsive, and real to the public rest on museum professionals who have been educated in current skills and who have access to ongoing training throughout their careers.

Rochester Institute of Technology

College of Liberal Arts
92 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York 14623-5604
585-475-2444  FAX:585-475-7120

Tina Olsin Lent
Professor and Chair, Fine Arts Department
Coordinator, Cultural Resource Studies Program
College of Liberal Arts
585-475-2460
tnlgsh@rit.edu
http://www.rit.edu/cla/crs

Session Title:
Preparing Museum Professionals: New Approaches for Changing Times

Presentation Title:
“Museum Studies Moves into the Mainstream Undergraduate Curriculum”

Thursday,
30 April 2009
3:45-5:00 p.m.

“Museum Studies Moves into the Mainstream Undergraduate Curriculum”

Overview:
This paper focuses on educational innovations that reflect a rethinking and reconfiguring of the pedagogical essentials required to prepare a new generation to meet more rigorous entry-level professional standards.

Key Points:
•    to implement curricular innovation in the discipline of museum studies, new pedagogical essentials had to be identified through literature review and interviews with museum professionals

•    the key competencies identified as lacking in current programs included skills in business, information technology, and communication

•    museum professionals agreed that these skill sets must be situated within the ideological framework of the museum’s public mission and ethical standards

•    and, they cannot displace either the traditional museum studies core, a disciplinary specialization, or the internship component

•    this becomes a logistical nightmare for a traditional two-year graduate program

•    one solution is to expand the traditional two-year graduate museum studies curriculum into a four-year undergraduate program

•    this is facilitated by developing the program within the context of an educational institution that has a century-long history of providing professional and career-oriented undergraduate education and is committed to experiential learning

•    the Cultural Resource Studies program, debuting in the College of Liberal Arts at Rochester Institute of Technology in fall, 2008, has two tracks:

o    the museum studies track combines a 10-course museum studies core, a studio art and art history sequence, and a disciplinary minor, with a business core, a management information systems track, and numerous electives to allow for further study in business and communication
o    the art conservation track combines a 7-course museum studies core with an extensive studio art sequence, an art history minor, and two years of chemistry

•    the program also requires students to complete at least 200 hours of internship and to write a senior thesis

Learning Objectives:
This paper identifies gaps in current museum education and training and proposes a newly configured curriculum.  It also queries museum professionals about their views and experiences regarding the preparation of museum professionals.

Relevance:
This paper is relevant to the core mission of COMPT and to the theme of the conference.  The experimentation, innovation, and risk-taking that make museums relevant, responsive, and real to the public rest on museum professionals who have been educated in current skills and who have access to ongoing training throughout their careers.

Maurice Davies
Deputy Director
Museums Association
London, UK
020-7426-6970
maurice@museumsassociation.org

Session Title:
Preparing Museum Professionals: New Approaches for Changing Times

Presentation Title:
“Museums and Universities Working Together to Improve Entry-Level Training and Workforce Diversity”

Thursday,
30 April 2009
3:45-5:00 p.m.

“Museums and Universities Working Together to Improve Entry-Level Training and Workforce Diversity”

Overview:
This presentation will describe some training schemes that have been developed in the UK as alternatives to stand-alone graduate-level university courses.  It aims to demonstrate in particular the value of work-based training at entry level.

Key Points:
•    For ten years the UK Museums Association’s Diversify scheme has offered training to people from underrepresented minority-ethnic groups. The majority of trainees have undertaken a combination of work-based training and a university masters course (often part time or by distance learning)

•    We observed that people tended to get better jobs if their traineeship included a substantial amount of work-based training. The combination of work-based training with a university course seemed particularly effective

•    This led us to investigate entry-level training more broadly. We concluded that museums need to play a bigger role in entry-level training and that universities should work more closely with museums

•    There is an ambition to increase the diversity of the museum workforce and this requires paid traineeships available to people without a masters qualification and without extensive museum experience. It also needs a change of mind-set by museums about who they recruit to entry-level jobs and the amount of support that individuals will need in their first few years in post

•    Some museums are now showing interest in more accessible entry routes. There is growing interest in non-university-based training such as apprenticeships and vocational qualifications

•    The Museums Association’s Diversify training scheme has been extended to include traineeships for deaf and disabled people and we hope to extend it to people from poorer backgrounds

•    We have also began to offer management-level traineeships for people from minority-ethnic backgrounds who have management experience from other sectors and wish to work in museums

•    Alternative training models, that involve museums and universities and so combine work-based and academic training, can prepare people better for museum work and can increase the diversity of entrants to the workforce

•    The presentation will explore these points, powerpoint slides and a handout will include a small amount of data and give sources of further information

Learning Objectives:
This paper identifies gaps in current museum education and training and proposes a new approach based on work-based training at entry level.  This is particularly effective for reaching underrepresented minority-ethnic groups.

Relevance:
This paper is relevant to the core mission of COMPT and to the theme of the conference.  The experimentation, innovation, and risk-taking that make museums relevant, responsive, and real to the public rest on museum professionals being drawn from diverse populations who are not being reached by traditional university-based graduate programs.

Paul D’Ambrosio
Vice President and Chief Curator
Fenimore Art Museum & The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY
607-547-1413
p.dambrosio@nysha.org

Session Title:
Preparing Museum Professionals: New Approaches for Changing Times

Presentation Title:
“Museum Studies and Virtual Worlds: The Second Life Experiment”

Thursday,
30 April 2009
3:45-5:00 p.m.

“Museum Studies and Virtual Worlds: The Second Life Experiment”

“…tomorrow’s museums cannot be operated with yesterday’s skills.” Stephen E. Weil

Premise – Key Points
•    Technology is rapidly changing modes of communication and revolutionizing the process of learning.

•    Museum professionals of the future need to be extraordinarily adept at a variety of communication technologies and their accompanying patterns of behavior to make their museums relevant to new cultures of education.

•    Virtual worlds (MMUVEs, or Massive Multi-user Virtual Environments) are a key component of this technological revolution, and offer great potential along with significant challenges for creating and sharing content.

•    Second Life is the most developed and most populated global virtual world, with 20 million registered users and 1.4 million active users, and is the virtual home of numerous universities, libraries, and museums. It is also the only 3D virtual world of any scale built exclusively by its users and offering extensive tools for content creation.

•    Museum Studies graduate students cannot learn about virtual worlds by exploring them; they must participate in the culture of content creation and connect to existing or nascent communities.

Process
Led a group of eight graduate students in an American Art course in the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies in a four-month project in Second Life culminating in the creation of an art exhibition in the Fenimore Art Museum’s SL museum in Second Life New England.

The project included: registration; creating an avatar; orientation to basic movements and communication techniques; exploring a variety of simulated environments; building, texturing, and scripting to create virtual artworks; layout and design of exhibition; installation of artworks in virtual museum; attending a virtual lecture; and hosting a virtual reception for an online community.

Students then evaluated the project by answering the following questions:
•    What were your preconceptions of Second Life?
•    How would you judge the appropriateness of this project for a museum studies curriculum?
•    How would you characterize the potential of Second Life?
•    How would you characterize its challenges?
•    How would you compare the Second Life experience to other forms of social media?
•    How could the experience have been improved?
•    How did the experience meet your expectations?

Summary of Results
•    Students found that Second Life had much more potential than its public image would suggest.

•    They also identified a number of key challenges in both technology and social interaction. Several felt that the experience requires extensive training in the user interface for finding and participating in programs and activities as well as basic content creation. Some were concerned about the difficulties they encountered in trying to avoid mature content.

•    All experienced professional growth from the experience.

•    Several felt that Second Life helped them personally with non-technological, interpersonal skills.

•    All saw the experience as essential to their preparedness for entering the field; many noted virtual world skills and experience listed in current job listing requirements.

•    All felt that the virtual world experience created a group cohesiveness and identity and connected that group to an existing community eager for museum content.

•    All saw the Second Life experience as filling a gap in their professional training and strongly encouraged the program to offer similar projects in the future.

•    The original ambition of creating an online version of the Fenimore Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition “America’s Rome” as a preliminary test case for the real exhibition proved too complex for a group of new SL users. They opted instead to present an existing FAM exhibition of historical quilts for the project.

•    All saw the experience as showing the benefits of virtual world presence to Fenimore Art Museum, both in educational outreach to remote audiences and in monetary donations.

Dana Carlisle Kletchka
Curator of Education
Palmer Museum of Art
The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
814-863-9188
dck10@spu.edu

Session Title:
Preparing Museum Professionals: New Approaches for Changing Times

Presentation Title:
“Building a Virtual University Museum in Second Life”

Thursday,
30 April 2009
3:45-5:00 p.m.

“Building a Virtual University Museum in Second Life”

Overview
This presentation describes the rationale and process of developing and building a virtual university museum in Second Life  and the professional and pedagogical implications of the project and broader field of museum education.

Key Points
•    Museum educators have long been expected to facilitate interaction and dialogue between their institutions and their communities.  Recent and rapid developments in technology have drastically changed the concepts of engagement, interaction, education, and community.

•    In the summer of 2007, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State and the eLearning Institute of the College of Arts and Architecture embarked on a partnership, under the auspices of a Faculty Engagement Initiative in Virtual Worlds grant. The grant specifically encouraged exploration of the pedagogical possibilities of constructing a virtual Palmer Museum of Art on the new Penn State Isle in Second Life .

•    Second Life can foster constructivist learning, virtual teamwork, and exploration.  Social presence is built into the learning environment—participants are there and have a stake in what happens.  Because the space is persistent, virtual field trips, museums, and replicas and simulations of real-life places are all possible.

•    My professional participation in this project required both practical and theoretical research.  I had no knowledge or understandings of virtual worlds or SL before this project was proposed, and therefore had to spend time in the world, participating in events, meeting avatars, and visiting a variety of cultural and educational sites.  Similarly, this was unfamiliar terrain in terms of how I conceptualized art museum education and I did a fair amount of thinking about the pedagogical spaces that a virtual experience could open up in terms of connecting with a global audience.

•    While I researched information on the educational culture of SL, collected label text, and investigated the copyright status of works of art, while the eLearning Institute staff constructed the building, found appropriate textures to represent architectural elements, prepared images for the walls, and “installed” the work in our virtual galleries.

My presentation will be a live walk-through of the virtual museum in SL, and end with some of the lessons I learned that are applicable to other mid-level museum professionals, namely that keeping current in technology and educational theory is crucial.

Martha Morris
Associate Professor
Museum Studies Department
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
202-994-7146
morrism@gwu.edu

Session Title:
Preparing Museum Professionals: New Approaches for Changing Times

Presentation Title:
“Mid-Career Training for the Museum Professional”

Thursday,
30 April 2009
3:45-5:00 p.m.

“Mid-Career Training for the Museum Professional”

Overview:
The mid-career professional has been singled out as a group in need of professional training in response to several surveys in the non-profit field, such as Daring to Lead (Casey Foundation, etal, 2006) Ready to Lead (ibid, 2008) and Who’s Next? (Museum Association of New York, 2006).  Efforts are being made by many museum associations, museum systems, consulting groups and university programs to fill this need. This presentation will address the work being done by the George Washington University Museum Studies program to provide mid-career training.

Key Points:
The GW Museum Studies program has been in existence since 1976 and has provided training in a multi-disciplinary format to over 800 individuals. Students receive either a master’s degree or a certificate in museum studies. The primary strength of the training has been close partnership with the Smithsonian and other local museums which provide adjunct faculty and internship opportunities; a variety of courses focussed on collections care, curatorial practice, exhibition development, and management and leadership; and academic coursework in a discipline of the student’s choice. In response to a need to work with museum professionals around the country, the faculty recently created a distance learning Certificate in Collections Care. Close to 80 working professionals have completed the training. In addition, a series of short leadership workshops have been offered to meet the needs of working professionals including alumni of the program. A key focus of the workshops is to serve the emerging professional and mid-level employee.

The presentation will cover the market research done to define the needs of the mid-career student, the nature of the training offered in response to that need, and the evaluation of results to date. Focus will be on content, training methods (pros and cons), and outcomes feedback from students. As an example, the distance education program provided practical collections care training applied immediately to the student’s workplace. As a result students raised the need for learning to implement best practices with colleagues throughout the museum. Therefore workshops on “leadership skills for collections professionals” were developed and offered at various regional and national meetings.

Learning Objectives:
This paper identifies the continuing educational opportunities needed to enable mid-career professionals to develop new skills for leadership.

Relevance:
This paper is relevant to the core mission of COMPT and to the theme of the conference.  The experimentation, innovation, and risk-taking that make museums relevant, responsive, and real to the public rest on museum professionals who have access to ongoing training throughout their careers.

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