Museum Exploration

Beholding the Museum As a Work of Art

Museums can provide opportunities for reflection and moments of insight, 
not only about the art on display, but about ourselves, and the world we live in.
~Carole Henry

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to “virtually” visit museums on-line without setting foot in the institution, but how does one get to more fully “know” a museum?  Using FTC helps reveal how a balance of formal, thematic, and contextual features SHAPE a museum’s unique meaning and impact.

To that end, the FTC Palette for Decoding an Art Museum is used for “blended learning” that connects museum visitors, such as participants in NAEA SummerVision, with their own anticipated museum experiences.  Approximately one month before participants come to the SummerVision site, by applying relevant criteria and using the FTC Museum Palette, they proactively learn about each museum by “playfully” recording its unique formal, thematic and contextual qualities. Exploration of the latter includes the museum’s particular environment, ambiance, services, emphasis/scope revealed through its permanent collection and special exhibitions, along with its location, history, outreach, mission and purpose contributing to its significance and relevance.  During the SummerVision program, upon arrival at each museum, these pre-visit virtual engagement notations on each individual FTC Museum Palette transforms it into a self-guided map that can be readily brought to life with actual participatory experiences at the museum and afterwards.   By linking virtual to actual experience, participants share meaningful discoveries as they add commentary to document personal and collective FTC insights, assessments, and questions.

As an example, take a look at my FTC Palette for Decoding a Museum for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, completed in 2013 with the assistance of Director of Education and Exhibitions Niki Stewart and Interpretation Manager Aaron Jones.  Although Crystal Bridges is less than two years old (and thus more recently “encoded” physically, educationally, and otherwise,) the FTC Museum Palette facilitates understandings of formal, thematic, and contextual qualities of this museum. The FTC Palette provides a balanced structure for exploring Crystal Bridges’ uniqueness in terms of meaningful criteria.

Anyone and everyone–not just visitors, can employ a balanced approach using the FTC Palette to decode a museum.  Museum curators, docents, administrators, board members, and support staff including custodians and security guards can explore FTC dimensions as they share findings to connect through institutional understandings.  How might you use an FTC Museum Palette to decode a museum–in your community or around the globe–to connect more deeply with the museum itself as a work of art along with its art contents and other dimensions of meaningful learning?

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