Today’s museum educators are tackling urgent social issues, addressing historic inequalities of museum collections, innovating for accessibility, leveraging technology for new in-person and virtual learning experiences, and cultivating partnerships with schools, businesses, elders, scientists, and other social services to build relationships and be of service to their communities. Despite the physical distance the pandemic placed between museums and their visitors, museum educators have remained essential -- sustaining connections with the public through virtual or modified programming, content development, and conversations that they are uniquely qualified to execute. Educators require updated resources to guide their efforts in navigating these new challenges and building upon the opportunities presented by current events and changing audiences.
This book and its accompanying on-line resource share lessons from innovators in the field to support ongoing professional development efforts with essays about current issues. Additionally, it provides new models and tools to guide individual or group reflection on how today’s museum educators can adapt and thrive in a dynamic and ever-changing cultural sector. The additional resources include discussion prompts and adaptable templates to allow readers to customize the content based on current events, institutional discipline, size, budget, and staffing scenario of their organization.
The book’s essays are divided into three sections:
While a book can share ideas in the hope of inspiring change, the accompanying online resource (www.EvolveMuseumEd.com) provides a more flexible and responsive forum for sharing ongoing and evolving resources to encourage professional development for museum educators as they respond to the changing needs of today’s audiences.
Jason L. Porter is the Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education and Public Engagement at Seattle Art Museum. Previously, he served as the director of education + Programs at MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture) in Seattle, as director of education and public engagement at the San Diego Museum of Man (now Museum of Us) and associate director of education at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. His work focuses on experiential education and public programs that serve community, school, family, and teacher audiences and on using the arts as a vehicle for personal transformation and social change. Prior to entering the museum field, he was a public school teacher. He received a B.A. in English from Tufts University, an M.A. in Education from Seattle University, and an Ed.D from UCLA. His dissertation examined charter schools meeting the needs of special education students. Professional development activities have included presentations at conferences including AAM, CAM, and WMA, serving as a mentor to emerging museum professionals and teaching as a guest lecturer in a number of museum studies programs. He has been a board member of AAM’s Education Professional Network (EdCom) from 2014 through 2016, a jurist with the Excellence in Exhibitions competition in 2017 and 2018, a grants reviewer for IMLS in 2018, and a member of the peer review board of the Journal of Museum Education (JME) since 2016.
In the last 25+ years, Mary Kay Cunningham has served over 35 different cultural institutions or attractions in the diverse roles of consultant, manager, museum educator, volunteer coordinator, and docent. She founded Dialogue Consulting in 2001 to support institutions improving their visitor experience through inclusive and collaborative interpretive planning, programming, and professional development. Her passion for facilitating group learning that brings together staff, volunteers, and communities to navigate institutional change is the hallmark of her work.
Mary Kay is the author of The Interpreters Training Manual for Museums that guides front line staff in facilitating meaningful learning conversations with visitors. As a professed learning addict, she pursues and support professional development in the field by serving on the editorial board of The Journal of Museum Education since 2010, creating and instructing a graduate-level course on Visitor Experience design at the University of Victoria, B.C. since 2013, and presenting over 45 sessions or workshops in the last 20 years for professional meetings including AAM, APGA, ASTC, CAM, NAI, and WMA.
Table of Contents
Introduction by Dina Bailey
Part I: Changing Expectations of Visitors: Inclusion, Participation, Technology
Part II: Training and Educator Preparation
Part III: New Models, Anticipating the Future
About the Editors and Contributors
One of the powerful things about Museum Education for Today’s Audiences: it feels as though it is written by friends and colleagues, by people you know well and who really understand what our work is like, by those who you would ask for advice from as you tackle some thorny issues. In being so, it works to uplift the reader and their practice through not just providing access to tools, but also giving us the opportunities to explore how best we might use them in our own settings and contexts.
Amidst an intense moment of crisis and upheaval, Porter and Cunningham have brought together a practical and hope-filled collection of writings that can guide museum educators—and the entire museum field—into a new future. All of the contributors to this important book make clear the vital role of museum education in leading the transformation needed right now within our institutions.
This book lands at a critical moment in the history of museums in the United States. It is equal parts manifesto on the power and potential of museums who center community needs and interests, and handbook for the education staff who have championed and led this work for decades, and are now uniquely equipped to help reshape their organizations’ relationship and value to communities.
Museum Education for Today’s Audience is more than just a book. It is an incredible tool that goes beyond program ideas to provide insight on lessons learned by practitioners in the field that are decentering systemic exclusion. More importantly, this book provides the spark for reflective practice to support continued innovation to meet the needs of all learners and increased self-awareness for museum educators.
4/29/22, Jing Culture & Commerce: Porter and Cunningham were interviewed about the evolving landscape of museum education.