Monday, January 3, 2011

Notes to the New Year

Notes on stickies, book margins, receipts, business cards, and even napkins suggested the idea for this blog. These notes keep track of ideas, people, websites, definitions, things to do, museums to visit, books to buy, and articles yet to read. Some are half-thoughts to complete. Others are resources for museum I work with. Culling through this year’s notes, are five that point to interesting possibilities for the coming year.

  • A Conversation about Educational Leadership In Museums in the Journal of Museum Education; Vol. 34, No. 2.  Author Leslie Bedford calls Mark H. Moore’s ideas of public value “The Big Idea.” She highlights Mary Ellen Munley’s and Randi Roberts’ work to adapt his ideas to help museums shift from activities that benefit individuals to action that benefits communities. 
    • Note: With this and Carol Scott’s work, public value becomes a workable framework for museums to push harder on making their contributions to their communities valued and recognized.
  • Investing in Children Summit presented by Louisiana Children’s Museum and Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, New Orleans, LA. The Summit focused on community-based projects in several US cities and Reggio Emilia (Italy). Each effort reflects its community. All are ambitious and complex, relying on extensive networks, robust relationships, varied perspectives, and aligned and shared resources related to children’s well-being and community vitality.  
    • Note: The work in Reggio is both an inspiration and a challenge to US projects. Unfolding over 60 years, it has produced positive and enviable changes for Reggio and its children through an approach that views children as strong and competent; values childhood; appreciates complexity; and side-steps standards, school readiness and metrics.
  • Learning from the Edges, Moving to the Middle a dynamic session at the Visitor Studies Association Conference. Three visitor studies panelists positioned at the edges of the room represented three contexts: performing arts, art museums, and nature‐based settings. A facilitated discussion among them explored parallels, intersections, and differences of audience and visitor studies in the demographics, motivation, experience, benefits (and more) of the three contexts.  
    • Note: This innovative session format succeeded in making the relationship among ideas visible across context perspectives and space.
  • Twin Cities Museum Collaborative. For two years museum colleagues have been exploring ways to strengthen mission-related services to new and existing audiences by working collaboratively. We hope to build on audience research and local audience data; explore the learning value of TC museums; and pilot strategies to increase and sustain the engagement of more diverse, including younger, audiences.  
    • Note: Collaboration is a methodology and a structure and, ultimately, a shared perspective that evolves with time.
  • The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon. Nina sets participation in the context of a museum’s mission and vision and find ways to encourage greater participation from any starting point an enthusiast or museum might start. The principles of participation and varied examples in both her book and Museum2.0 blog make the possibility of engaging the public feel exciting, right, and necessary.  
    • Note: Exploring ideas and learning with others power the intellectual and creative work of museum educators, exhibit developers, designers, and evaluators. Participatory projects, programs, exhibits, and museums have great potential to bring this remarkable opportunity and its benefits to visitors.  


  1. Hi Jeanne,

    Can you expand a bit more on how the "Learning From The Edges ..." VSA session was conducted?

  2. Thanks for the question, Paul, since the set-up really was interesting. Participants sat in a kind of horseshoe formation with the 3 panelists, Jessica Luke (ILI), Joe Heimlich (OSU Extension @ COSI), and Jennifer Novak-Leonard (WolfBrown) on 3 sides of the room among the participants. Each represented a different context: art museums, nature-based settings, and performing arts (respectively). John Fraser (ILI) posed questions about demographics, motivations to participate, benefits, etc. and the panelists responded based on what is known from visitor and audience research in each context. The discussion's movement back-and-forth and across contexts demonstrated almost physically how what's understood in one context intersects or diverges with what's known in the other context(s). Very well informed panelists and a fine facilitator (who, I understand, was recruited at the last minute) also made this work. I hope this helps.