Monday, January 23, 2012

Museum School Partnerships

Can you help me? 

In March I’m presenting a talk titled “Working with High School Students—Benefits and Pitfalls” at the Museums Association of Montana’s annual meeting. The talk, which could equally have been titled "Beyond Fieldtrips," focuses on how to create successful museum-school partnerships. 

The idea is that in a true partnership, the students can gain valuable experience and make a genuine contribution to their communities. I'm talking about how:

  • in Great Falls, students in the Gifted and Talented program curated an exhibit on the history of area schools. It was displayed at the Great Falls History Museum which brought many visitors (e.g., the students' relatives) to the museum for the first time. 
  • in Roundup, students copied, captioned, catalogued, and archived historical photographs from the Musselshell Valley Historical Museum, to allow the public greater access to the images while protecting the originals.
  • in Chester, students worked to get two buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places
  • in Columbus, tenth-graders created a booklet, The Crow Tribe’s Influence in Stillwater County, which complements an exhibit at the Museum of the Beartooth and is being distributed at the Museum.
  • in Red Lodge, students in the middle school computer classes transcribed oral histories for the Carbon County Historical Society.

If you’ve been part of a museum-school partnership (whether effective or not), please email me. I’d love to visit/correspond and collect more examples of what works—and what doesn’t. 

Below is the session description: 

Museums across Montana have partnered with schools and students to improve their collections and exhibits, while instilling a commitment to community and sense of stewardship in the upcoming generation. Museum-school partnerships take time and planning to be successful, but at their best, they can
  • offer students the opportunity to engage in “authentic” work for “authentic” audiences—not just for a grade; 
  • help connect students to their community and give them the chance make a contribution to its well-being 
  • provide opportunities for students to engage in original research 
  • provide willing workers for museums
  • create a new audience for museum exhibits and local history

Learn how other museums have engaged high school students in meaningful work, the steps you need to take to create successful projects, and both the promises and pitfalls of cooperating with schools and with individual high school students.

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