campus museum week: questions & answers

When I put out the call for opinions on campus museums, I posed a few questions to get the conversation started. The answers were thoughtful and engaging. A few of them are posted below: 

What are the pros and cons regarding campus museums?
Pros: Funding comes directly from the university; Access to a large audience; Smaller staff is highly engaged with their surroundings because of their “umbrella” roles. Cons: Student awareness or interest is not as high as it could be; Smaller collection compared to larger institutions; Lack of awareness and engagement from student audience. – Sarah Ditlinger, Indianapolis Art Center

One of the major pros to campus museums is that they offer serve a niche. On campus, you can include things that the campus community is interested in. This pro ties into one of the major cons – people who aren’t part of the campus community may not be interested in the museum. –Sara Hall, Education in Zion Gallery, Brigham Young University

Pro: They provide a learning/teaching tool for any major within the Arts; Museum Studies, Art Conservation, etc. What better way to introduce “the world of Museum work, Gallery installation, etc.” than in an actual Gallery space! Con: Few may even know a Gallery or Galleries exist on campus, so while there might be amazing work on display, it is never being seen. –Matthew Mickletz, Winterthur Museum

How can campus museums raise their profiles?
First, you need to determine your target market/key public. As a campus museum, this will probably be students and faculty of the university. Something we have done is becoming active in social media, since this is where students are. We have “like” contests and activities that bring the students in. We also have begun working with faculty members who in turn have integrated the Gallery into their class. Depending on the museum’s focus, the museum could help professors teach concepts from their class, etc. –S.H.

What should be done to engage students, staff and faculty, and the community at-large?
I would also like to reiterate the value of having events. You could have a scavenger night, a date night, basically whatever that could bring people in. We actually were able to have a dance, tying it a topic of our permanent exhibition. It was super popular. –S.H.

How can campus museums respond to changes in how university and colleges are structured? (online classes, satellite campuses, commuter students, distance-learning, etc.)
I think getting the professors involved could help. For online classes, maybe part of a class could be filmed in the museum with the professor highlighting parts of the museum that he/she likes. –S.H.

What should be done to engage students, staff and faculty, and the community at-large?
In-house events, promotions,and community engagement that are directed towards the target audience and that appeals to their wants from the institution –S.D.

How can they respond to changes in how university and colleges are structured? (online classes, satellite campuses, commuter students, distance-learning, etc.) 
Work with professors by utilizing their collections as a contribution to coursework and classroom engagement. —S.D.

I think coupling the Gallery with programs and classes is big, along with…community outreach. If it is near a downtown or community as the larger of the Galleries I work in was, make it part of “First Fridays” or “Art Strolls”. Make them as accessible to students as possible; create study areas, promote it as a “quiet spot”. This might plant some “seeds” in the student body. Maybe start a Pinterest account with tons of shots of what the Gallery has. Facebook, a must anymore, start a page, tag artists, mention other galleries featuring an artist the museum may be featuring, tag people and places. While it may not be practicable, attempt to promote exhibitions that link campus culture and Gallery. University big on football? Have any old football trophies, equipment, plans for the stadium, old tickets? Might be able to get a bunch of donated things from alums. Encourage students to take photos at games and post them tooooo . . . ta da Facebook or Pinterest, linking back to the Gallery! –M.M.

Are campus museums necessary?
YES: Campus museums provide a way for students to easily access collections for little/no cost; helps students gain a greater understanding of culture, art, social and political issues, and etc.; additional benefit to classroom education. –S.D.

I hesitate to say it, but while I believe campus museums are necessary, I’d say most do not. When it comes down to it, physically they are necessary only to display old stuff, art stuff and sometimes weird stuff. Culturally, they are an outlet for inspiration, art appreciation and object connection to the past (of the US, the world or just the campus itself). I believe they are necessary as a learning environment/tool within the larger learning environment, but unless they are utilized as such, that doesn’t stand out. Unless the collection and museum is amazing, little revenue is pulled in from them. –M.M.