Innovation and Inspiration: The Education Department Goes on a Field Trip

Field trip! The team hit the road at the very end of August for a trip to Pittsburgh. It was a jam-packed day, driving down and back with four museum visits in between, but so worth every minute.

The Frick Pittsburgh

First stop, the Frick Pittsburgh! (Yes, Virginia, there is a Frick in Pittsburgh) It was a quick visit so we weren’t able to see the historic mansion or the gardens, and only part of the art museum, but we did see the Killer Heels exhibition,

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along with the education center and the new welcome center (thanks to Robin Nicholson for the tour and quick visit!).

Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Museum of Natural History are in connected and contiguous buildings, so we got a two for one visit here. We met up with folks from the Innovation Studio (thanks to Jeffrey Inscho!), from the education department, and from the Hillman Photography Initiative and had some amazing conversations that still have me thinking and thinking and thinking weeks later. In addition to getting to see some amazing art,

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Carl Andre + three educators

(we talked a lot about the Andre piece, as the A-K’s similar Andre work is also currently out as part of a sculpture exhibition)

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(okay, we talked about this one, too, but it was a different conversation)

we also got to see one of the projects that the Innovation Studio has been working on that, to me, is the epitome of an inspired museum project: The Section of Mystery.

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It’s so magical as an experience I’m not even going to describe it here. You need to experience it for yourself. Suffice to say that it is delightful, not in the anodyne way that things are sometimes described as delightful, but in the way that the experience filled me with delight.

We also got to see the LIGHTIME project right on the eve of it’s launch. There is so much in this project that highlights ways in which museums can be relevant, the ways in which they can do meaningful, outwardingly-facing work that is thoughtful, insightful, creative, inspiring, and innovative. I keep returning to it in my mind, again and again, and it is making me think about how much of the field is wide open for museums to step into if they are willing to step outside of their tightly bound perimeters. I can’t wait to see where this project goes, and can’t wait to get back to Pittsburgh to see it again.

Andy Warhol Museum

We took a jaunt across the river to the Andy Warhol Museum where we met up with Desi Gonzalez (thank you!) who very kindly gave us a tour of the museum and of their soon-to-launch app.

We also got a chance to check out the tactile reproductions that the museum has made of a couple of Warhol’s drawings, which, in conjunction with the accessibility aspects of the app, were really interesting examples of accessibility practice.

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Corner of the tactile reproduction with braille label beneath

We wrapped up with a quick visit to the studios downstairs.

Also, balloons.

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Teri and Lindsay and Silver Clouds with Twitter Birds

In short, an amazing visit.

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Whatcha Wanna Make?

Things are humming along at a quick clip in the department. The schedule of programs is weighty this fall, we’re still working on our audience research project, we’ve got some new multimedia projects on the docket, and an experiment in content development for an exhibition coming up next year. Exciting things! Busy things! We need help! And best of all, we’re going to get it! (We’re in the process of hiring a new team member).

We’ve also started scheduling some team field trips, which we’re very excited about. The list of places range from in town to the other side of the country. We took our first one on Friday– the closest one on the list (we walked)– to think[box].

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What (you may ask) is think[box]? An excellent question! It’s a maker space connected with the Case School of Engineering. Right now it’s in the basement of a building on the Case campus, but they have expansion in their future with plans to move to a much larger, multi-floor facility. I’m sure that is going to be a fantastic space, because the basement space was already impressive. They have some seriously cool equipment. Industrial 3D printers! Laser cutters! A CNC router! Looking at all the possibilities just made you want to make stuff. Which is, of course, the point.

And you can go in and make stuff. My favorite part of our tour through the facility was the access discussion. Who has access? Everyone. Not just students and faculty, everyone. And the cost of access? Free. It’s a community maker space. You need to go through training to be able to use some of the equipment, and there are some costs for the use of materials, but if you just thought up a super awesome project idea and you need a you need a 3D microscope to do it, you can get hooked up.

We (not surprisingly) came back excited about some possibilities, and I hope that we might figure out a way to partner with them. But I’m also hoping to be able to talk with them about their experience with making, and what we might be able to to take back across the street to our end of the ‘hood. Making is definitely part of our museum culture, but it isn’t part of all parts of the museum.

More to come….

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