The blog has been quiet for a while as I’ve been caught up in the business of programming, events, and general #museumlife. Spring break is next week and we’re all looking forward to slowing down just a bit.
Not that I’m complaining at all! I’ve enjoyed recent collaborations with Kansas State University faculty that brought films, concerts, dance performances, and Broadway showtunes to the Beach Museum of Art. It’s been busy but amazingly fruitful and productive.
As a land grant university, K-State has a strong outreach and community-based mandate, which the museum reflects in its own mission statement. That mission is central to everything we do. I’m often asked, “Why are people singing and dancing in the art museum?” I usually respond, “Why not?”
The museum is the ultimate interdisciplinary community space. It’s not beholden to a particular unit or department, the art collection reflects a variety of cultural influences and inspirations, and it’s free and open to everyone. Driving that point home, part of the Beach Museum’s physical structure serves as a corridor connecting the campus to the greater Manhattan, Kansas community.
As discussions in the museum field continue regarding remixing, hacking, and deconstructing the “typical” museum experience, we would be well-served to remember that above all, museums are places where people should come first.*
Dan and Beth Byrd Memorial Arch, Beach Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Benz Resource Group.
*I realize that this might be considered art museum blasphemy of the highest order.
Storms are rolling through the Prairie and temperatures are rising. Summer has officially arrived! With that comes increased activity among museums as they present a staggering amount of summer programming. I was knee-deep in that world when I worked in the Education Department at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art but now that my core audience at the Beach Museum of Art is primarily college students, summer is not nearly as hectic as it used to be. It feels strange to contemplate taking a vacation in July!
The Meadow. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell
However, just because the campus is a bit quieter doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. On the public programs side, we’re hosting two community open houses celebrating new exhibitions and a Maker Workshop for teens focusing on printmaking in collaboration with the Manhattan Public Library.
Work will continue this summer on The Meadow, a sustainable native plant garden located behind the Beach Museum, which is very exciting and takes me back to my landscaping days in AmeriCorps working with Habitat for Humanity. I’m part of a team administering the project’s blog.
In August, we’re hosting a GLAM-WIKI workshop for university professors led by Wikipedian and Kansas State University graduate student Alex Stinson. I’m excited that this program went from conception to implementation in less than a year, which is very quickly in museum-planning time.
Fall 2013 programming is nearly locked down (knock on wood), so now I must turn my futurist eye to programs for 2014 and beyond. Ideas that I’m mulling over include design thinking projects, 3-D printing, and student-led art programs.
Wow, did I say summer wasn’t busy? I take that back!
Kansas State University’s Beach Museum of Art. personal photo by Adrianne Russell.
Since starting my new position at the Beach Museum of Art, I’ve had some time to ponder the unique challenges and benefits of working in a campus-based museum. Considering the studies recently released by the Kress Foundation and the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center, and a thought-provoking series of posts via the Center for the Future of Museums, I’m obviously not the only one giving this topic some serious thought.
Although the Cultural Policy Center’s study focuses on art museums, I believe these challenges are universal and it’s important for us to learn from all types of museums. The focus could actually be expanded to include any organization that houses and manages material culture collections such as libraries or individual departments like anthropology, biology, geology, etc.
During the month of April, I’m featuring posts discussing this topic. So if you’re a current employee, former employee, student, instructor, administrator or anyone who works with or in with these organizations, I want to hear from you!
Some questions to consider:
- What are the pros and cons regarding campus museums?
- How can campus museums raise their profiles?
- What should be done to engage students, staff and faculty, and the community at-large?
- How are they succeeding?
- How can they improve?
- How can they respond to changes in how university and colleges are structured? (online classes, satellite campuses, commuter students, distance-learning, etc.)
- Are campus museums necessary?
If you’re interested in contributing a post, please contact me via comment to this post, Twitter, russell (dot) adrianne (at) gmail (dot) com or this form. Thanks in advance!