museum full of artifacts

Education is seldom limited to the classroom, as learning experiences have the potential to happen at any waking moment. Many school systems around the world adopt this philosophy and often utilize field trips to provide students hands-on education, or real-time in the “field.” There are many possible destinations that schools can choose from, whether it be an office building, a museum, or the theatre. These unique trips allow students to not only grow in terms of their knowledge, but the exposure to different situations and ideas can cultivate them as an individual as well. Museums are one such location that is constantly visited by students, and for good reason. Museums allow students to enrich their learning in various fields, gain experiences in a new environment, and provide a unique setting for educators to teach students a wide range of topics.

The Role of Museums in Cultivating Minds

According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), there are currently 55,000 museums worldwide. Washington D.C is one specific area that is a hub for museums, housing the likes of the National Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of Natural history. Many of these museums are free, which is beneficial to schools that are cost-conscious and may not be able to afford admission costs. One important aspect of museums is the environment and setting they create. In 2012, an extensive study completed by The Museum Group, noted that, “Museums, with their real artifacts, dioramas, and immersive exhibitions provide a uniquely positive environment to foster learning by young children.” While the study cites young children as an example; visiting an environment with a vast collection of stories and artifacts from many different cultures can do well in enriching the minds of any age.

How Museum Environments Create an Experience

In September of 2015, ArtNews.com compiled a list of the ten most visited exhibits in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Treasures of Tutankhamen" ranked first, with the “Mona Lisa” coming in as a close second and "The Vatican Collections:

The Papacy and Art" finishing third. What all these exhibits have in common is their historical significance and the one-of-a-kind experience that the visitors are immersed in. “Treasures of Tutankhamun” features 55 objects from the King’s tomb, such as precious stones, his famed solid gold funeral mask, as well as furniture. To read or hear about the artifacts is not the same as viewing them in person; which can be a life-changing experience. “Mona Lisa” is another work of art with immense value. Standing face-to-face with such a famed work with one’s own eyes can instill a new sense of understanding for students and other viewers alike.

How Museums Aid Educators

In the classroom, educators can present information to students many ways, whether via lecture, video, or readings. Field trips can not only entertain, they also serve as a supplement for material discussed in class. Physically surrounded by elements that they have previously been taught allows students to connect the visual with their class experiences. When both iterations of the same information are merged, a complete understanding of the subject matter is more easily achieved by the student, allowing them to successfully further their education.

Museums and Technology

As museums are rooted in history and happenings or artifacts of the past, it has been a difficult task for them to stay current with the emerging technologies of today. Chief Digital Officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (The Met), Sree Sreenivasan explains, “Our competition is Netflix and Candy Crush,” rather than other museums. Museums such as the Met have chosen to integrate technology into exhibits, opting to incorporate smartphones rather than shy away from them. Wifi allows the guests to download the museum app, which serves to enhance the exhibits. This example displays that while despite technology’s growing hold on the world, especially with our young populations, there is still the desire for a genuine museum experience.

Stevenson University’s Community-Based Education & Leadership master's and post-baccalaureate certificate are programs that empower educators and equips them with the skill-sets needed to adapt to different educational settings and backgrounds while providing enriching learning experiences.