Category Archives: Museums

general museum interest

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We all want to be comfortable.

A few years ago I was in Washington DC for a conference.  Before the conference started I decided to see all the Smithsonian Museums.  Yes, all the museums.  I failed but did learn something about viewing museums in the process.  It is exhausting.  Exhilarating but completely mind numbing, feet hurting, eyes burning exhausting. I began to think of museum visiting like a marathon.  I just wanted to get through it.  Then, an epiphany with two works that actually had some life changing impact. Both were the paintings by Mark Rothko and both had a well placed bench.  Maybe it was the bench that changed my thinking!  I finally made it to the National Gallery and saw exhibited in a chapel like space high up on the Tower floor, paintings from the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.  This picture is from Houston but the team of curators and installers of the exhibit in Washington did an amazing job of copying the intent.

I sat down.  I stayed for a long time and and stared at the subtleties of what could be mistaken for all black canvases.  When I did leave I felt rested and restored.  I searched out Rothko’s other works in the Phillip’s Collection.  A beautiful room designed specifically for the paintings and once more, with a bench.  Again, I had time to let the colours vibrate and surround me.

This blog post, written by Susan Spero for Art Museum Teaching speaks perfectly to this idea.

The Interpretive Value of a Chair

After reading this article and reflecting on experiences that have become indelible in my past, the two factors of comfort and time often appear.   A student in a classroom visit before coming to Museum School asked me if there would be ‘routines’ there.  I asked her if routines made her feel comfortable and she replied that they did.  I told her yes and then thought about our role in providing a safe and ‘comfortable’ place for learning.  Maybe we do need to be challenged and made uncomfortable at times but we need a place of comfort to return to for that learning to sink in, to become indelible.

We need a Rothko bench.

 

 

 

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October Already?!

We have wrapped up three weeks of Museum School and time is flying.  Some upcoming events at Glenbow that we are excited about are the opening of three new shows, Family Fun Day and some great lectures and artist talks.  Click on our Calendar of Events for dates and descriptions of the happenings here until January.

One challenge I have with museum visits is how and what will I try to turn into an indelible memory.  Certainly slowing down, sketching and reflecting are all part of the process – but what is the trigger, the key that makes one memory stick and another fade?  With 28 museum school classes and over 100 other classes that I work with it is hard to remember something from each of them.  For me, an emotional tie, a connection with how a student is feeling usually forms an indelible memory.  Here is an example of that.  We had a student who was having a hard time with the exhibits.  They were scary.  At one point he could not participate with the group and was taken to a place of his choosing by Michele, the museum school coordinator.  She was surprised by his choice;  the ferocious Palden Lhamo from our Art of Asia Gallery.paldenlhamoHe drew and drew, careful not to look at Palden Lhamo straight on.

PL drawing He asked Michele to read the descriptive panel with the Sculpture. In it are some words that didn’t have the same importance until connected to the emotions of this student, “Palden Lhamo symbolizes the strength which each human being requires to confront and overcome his or her own negative emotions…”   Indelible.

Serendipitous.  Somehow everyone finds what they need in this place.

Also,  one grade 2 class had a great last hour sketching our Aurora Borealis Sculpture from every level in the museum.   A group sketch with remarkably different perspectives!10.9.2015b 10.9.2015

 

 

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And We’re Off!

This week we welcomed the Museum School Teachers for 2015/16 to a two day workshop at Glenbow.  Wow!  What a great group!  They were enthusiastic, energized and inspiring.

We kicked off the first morning embodying aspects of the word ‘Museum’.  This is WONDER!

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Wonder

We did some work with the fantastic paintings of John Brocke, practicing some thinking routines and playing with found poetry.

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Our afternoon was spent looking at our treasures behind the scenes on the 7th floor Cultural History Collection.  This led to a discussion about the importance of objects and the importance of preparing students for memory work.

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Day 2 was an introduction to Brain Gym and then a sensory writing workshop with the incomparable Judy Dofoo who asked the essential question, “Why do we ask our student’s to write?”  why writejudy cloth work

We wrapped up our afternoon with a discussion about what makes a memory indelible and ‘Write and Swap’ activity.

It was a full two days that left me thinking, as it always does after museum school workshops, that our students are in very good hands!

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Learning at the Lincoln!

Embodying art and embracing ambiguity!

IMG_4429Just returned from a week of aesthetic education immersion at the Lincoln Center for the Arts in New York City.  The action packed week truly gives meaning to the importance of reflection as I am still trying to sort my notes and organize my thoughts almost one week later.

Michèle and I were fortunate enough to take a similar version of this course two years ago and at the end of that week we both agreed that it would be beneficial to repeat.  Lincoln Center Education is guided by the writings of their late philosopher in residence, Maxine Greene.Maxine quote imagination

LCE (Lincoln Center Education) developed the Capacities for Imaginative Thinking to provide a model for assessment for teaching with inquiry.  They are called capacities rather than skills of knowledge to accentuate the inexhaustible amount that can be learned from works of art.  
Noticing Deeply to identify and articulate layers of detail in a work of art or other object of study through continuous interaction with it over time.
Embodying to experience a work of art or other object of study through your senses, as well as emotionally, and also to physically represent that experience.
Questioning to ask questions throughout your explorations that further your own learning; to ask the question, “What if?”
Making Connections to connect what you notice and the patterns you see to your prior knowledge and experiences, to others’ knowledge and experiences, and to text and multimedia resources.
Identifying Patterns to find relationships among the details that you notice, group them, and recognize patterns.
Exhibiting Empathy to respect the diverse perspectives of others in the community; to understand the experiences of others emotionally, as well as intellectually.
Living with Ambiguity to understand that issues have more than one interpretation, that not all problems have immediate or clear-cut solutions, and to be patient while a resolution becomes clear.
Creating Meaning to create your own interpretations based on the previous capacities, see these in the light of others in the community, create a synthesis, and express it in your own voice.
Taking Action to try out new ideas,  behaviors or situations in ways that are neither too easy nor too dangerous or difficult, based on the synthesis of what you have learned in your explorations.
Reflecting/Assessing to look back on your learning, continually assess what you have learned, assess/identify what challenges remain, and assess/identify what further learning needs to happen. This occurs not only at the end of a learning experience, but is part of what happens throughout that experience. It is also not the end of your learning; it is part of beginning to learn something else.

Our teaching artists for the week.  Making learning visible was an underlying current that saw the walls of our classroom completely covered by the end of our five days.

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The week was packed with live art, gallery visits, arts immersion and unit planning.  The instructors modelled the unit planning we would be doing.  All of our live art viewing was preceded by immersive art making, writing and discussion.  After the art experience, we would respond with more art making to enhance our understanding.

Pre Work before going to the Metropolitan Museum

Pre Work before going to the Metropolitan Museum

Pre work before visiting the Met.

Pre work before visiting the Met.

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #370, Metropolitan Museum

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #370, Metropolitan Museum

Ceremonial House Ceiling, Papua New Guinea, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ceremonial House Ceiling, Papua New Guinea, Metropolitan Museum of Art

My take away was the importance of allowing for imagination within all learning, and planning a unit in Social Studies or Math can (or should!) start with a guided live art experience to provide a platform for the capacities for Imaginative Thinking.

Another bonus of visiting other cities is the opportunity to see other gallery educators at work.  We participated in four different styles of art gallery tours, Museum Hack and an Adult guided tour with LCE  at the Met Museum and Family program at the Whitney Museum and a guided talk tour of the Tenement Museum.  All very different.   Museum Hack is the new kid on the block in museum education.  Fun, immersive and something I would love to try in Calgary!  Barbara Ellman, an artist and educator, who we learned from at the Lincoln Center and watched with families at the Whitney was inspiring.   Her tours were interactive, welcoming and challenging.  There was a balance between wondering and doing that was perfect. The Tenement Museum was disappointing.  After a week of immersive, student/audience driven learning and after hearing so many good things about this museum, the tour was a ‘stand and listen/talking head’ tour.  The guide was interesting and passionate about her subject but I couldn’t help but think how the tour could have been so much more!

So, an excellent week of diverse and challenging learning experiences!

 

 

 

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Beyond the Classroom Conference 2015

Last month saw  50+ site based educators gather in Calgary at Glenbow Museum and City Hall to network, share ideas be inspired.  We are a loosely knit group that spans the country – from BC to Newfoundland and the USA.  Every couple of years we gather to rekindle the flame that got us all started in the first place. Here are a few highlights -

Our week started with a keynote delivered by the education rock star, Laurel Schmidt.  Laurel grabbed our imaginations right from the get-go.  We were asked to recall one memory from the past that led us to what we are doing now – and then – what it was about that memory that made it ‘Indelible’.WP_20150615_09_51_58_Pro

What makes our experiences Indelible?

What makes our experiences Indelible?

Our sites work because they inspire curiosity, and with that the desire to dig deeper to find answers.  Learning is personalized and the rewards are authentic and intrinsic.  Having an author read and reflect on your writing builds authentic confidence in your abilities.  We learned about the importance of novelty when learning and how brain science supports what we do and how we do it at our sites.  All in all an inspiring morning filled with ideas to reflect on and act on!

The key takeaway for me was networking with peers in every type of site – from historical sites to nature sites- we all have the same goal of making learning authentic.  A lunch time Pop Up Museum themed with  “Mining the Gems” was an excellent overview of what we do and gave us a chance to see the work being done at other sites.  image

WP_20150616_11_35_03_ProA workshop showing the process of creating the new direction within the Alberta Curriculum was enlightening as it followed the method we use when creating programs and weeks for our teachers. Start with what is important, a big idea, and fan out to find the questions that can be explored.  imageimage

 

If, Then, So… Cool template to think about in our planning!

We wrapped up the conference with a panel of stakeholders that was visually journaled  by Calgary Graphic Recorder, Sam Hesterimage

We wrapped up with the founder and driving force of Beyond the Classroom,  Gillian Kidd.  Gill shared the stage with Margaret Holtschlag, founder of “The Big Lesson” in Michigan.  Always good to reflect back on why we do what we do and why it is important!
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Pat the Dog

Pat, mascot of the 4th Canadian Field Ambulance, First World War.

 One of the favourite stops when Museum School goes behind the scenes is with a little dog that was brought from Calgary to Flanders in the First World War.  Pat or Paddy, ‘joined’ the #4 Field Ambulance Corps while they were training at the exhibition grounds in Calgary.  He liked a good meal and these soldiers were assigned to eat at one of the nicer café’s in Calgary because there were far too many men to fit in the military mess hall.  Pat eventually hopped on the train and joined them for their trip across Canada and eventually across the Atlantic in a troop ship to England where he arrived, April 28th, 1915.  

SS Zeeland  - name changed to less German sounding SS Northland to transport troops to England.

SS Zeeland – name changed to less German sounding SS Northland to transport troops to England.

On arrival, the soldiers had to sneak Pat ashore as he didn’t have permission to be there.  Luckily a military band was aboard and they put Pat in the bass drum when they arrived in Avon-mouth and got him on dry land. The first thing Pat did when he was released was race into a nearby field and chase the sheep.  An anecdote from that day reports that the Colonel said to the Sergeant Major, “You have to get rid of that dog!” to which the Sergeant Major replied, ” Then you have to get rid of the men.”   Pat stayed.

After some training time in England the troops were sent to Belgium and were involved in the battles of St. Eloi, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendale.

There is some information about Paddy in Glenbow’s on-line Maverick’s Exhibit.  There are images in the section titled War and the Home Front, First World War. Information about the WW1 Field Ambulance drivers can be found in “Stories from the Archives”.

Here is Paddy, front and center, with the #4 Canadian Field Ambulance taken in 1918. Of the 81 men who joined this group, 28 remained after the war.  See the Red Cross band he is wearing as a collar.

Paddy front, Harry Howell holding dog

One of the soldiers, Sergeant Harry Howell, was an excellent sketch artist and had plans to create a book after he returned from the war.  The book was never published but Glenbow has some of the original sketches in the archives.  Here is one with Paddy (or Pat):

Pat sketchAfter the war ended, the soldiers wanted to bring  Pat home.  He wasn’t able to travel and was taken to a taxidermist in England who created the Pat we have in our collection.  He went to all the soldiers reunions and in 1972, was donated to Glenbow by a soldier’s family.  He was on display from 1976 to 1990 in a WW1 exhibit on the 4th floor and now resides in our Military History Collection.

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Adrian Wolfleg, First Nations Educator

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Adrian has been our First Nations Educator for the past year but his history with Glenbow goes all the way back to his time as a volunteer docent in 1989. His background as a History Major as well as service with the military and a strong link to arts organizations means he is the perfect fit for sharing stories in almost every area of Glenbow!  His work as an educator in the Niitsitapiisini Gallery is layered with family connections.  His mother, grandmother, and aunts are all pictured in the gallery as well as objects and plants that he has used throughout his life.  For Adrian, this makes the space more like “home” than a gallery in a museum.

Alice and Rose Weaselhead, Siksika c.1948 During the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Parade
Adrian’s mother and grandmother,Rose and Alice Weaselchild, Siksika c.1948 During the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Parade

Adrian’s favourite part of the job of Museum Educator is sharing his interests and making the stories relevant and fun for students.  As a volunteer he learned sign language so that he could share stories with hearing impaired visitors.  He has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies and popular culture and he weaves this into his programs, using video game rules and rewards for learning about how different cultures meet their needs.

One of Adrian’s favourite objects is a shirt with the tadpole symbol on it.  The tadpole design speaks to overcoming adversity and accepting change.

Shirt Kainai, early 1900's elk hide, porcupine quills, natural dyes, weasel pelts Owned by Owns Different Horses.
Shirt Kainai, early 1900′s elk hide, porcupine quills, natural dyes, weasel pelts Owned by Owns Different HorsesIMG_3310

What would Adrian add to the Glenbow if he curated an exhibit? The answer to this shows the overlap between Adrian’s many interests.  He would include, as an extension of the Warriors exhibit on 4th floor, a gallery exhibition of photographs depicting Cemeteries from wars Canadians participated in and where thousands of Canadians remain.  This would be an ideal exhibition for Glenbow, honouring Military, History, First Nations and Art.

 

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Marcia Slater – Collections Technician

 

 

Marcia Slater - Oct 31 2013 - Small

Meet Marcia Slater.

Marcia is our Collections Technician in Cultural History.  She accepts, processes and looks after our Western Canadian History collection which has approximately 120,000 objects.  That is a very big job!  She loves history and the variety of this vast collection which continually allows for new discoveries, new stories and new things to learn.  An object that recently captured her interest is this ladies’ cigarette case with matching cigarette holder.People and things“It’s a beautiful set, in its own case, beautifully made, with just enough wear to show the owner used it.  It’s enamelled in peacock blue and very stylish, which reflects its era (1920′s) and belonged to a very interesting Alberta woman (Canada’s first female meteorologist).  It’s also interesting to consider it in the current context, in which smoking is becoming increasingly unacceptable.”

Marcia often takes Museum School students “Behind the Scenes” – maybe she will show you more of her favourites!

Glenbow's Pest Control Technician, Katie Fisher with the large deepfreeze.

Katie Fisher and Pest Control

Glenbow's Pest Control Technician, Katie Fisher with the large deepfreeze.
Glenbow’s Pest Control Technician, Katie Fisher with the large deepfreeze.

Katie Fisher is Glenbow’s in house pest expert.  A lifelong museum visitor, Katie wanted a job that involved objects and history, ideally something that was ‘hands-on’!  Museum Conservation fit the bill and a project in the migration habits of the carpet beetle brought Katie to the study of pests.  Preventing damage in a a museum is not just about insects.  Light and moisture can also destroy objects and the floods of 2013 were particularly horrible for some Alberta museums.  Katie was part of the Glenbow team of experts that helped the Museum of the Highwood recover from the flood.

Every object, whether it is on loan from another museum, a new or possible aquisition, or part of the collection returning to the museum must be checked for possible hazards.  If an object is suspected of carrying any stage of insects – it gets a stay in the deep freeze!  This specialized freezer can handle large objects and can be cooled to -30 degrees celcius.  Right now, in our small freezer, is a few tins of supplies from the McClintock Arctic Expedition of 1857.  Canned Ox Cheek Soup, anyone?

Frozen objects from the McClintock Arctic expedition cache of 1857
Frozen objects from the McClintock Arctic expedition cache of 1857

Though it is hard to choose a favourite from over one million artifacts, Katie has a soft spot for the wedding rings that belonged to John and Mildred Ware.  Like most of the objects in our collection, it is their story that makes them special.  John Ware was a cowboy and rancher that was born a slave and gained his freedom after the American Civil War.  He travelled to Alberta on a cattle drive to the Bar U ranch and stayed.  He married Mildred in 1892, shortly after starting his own ranch, and they had five children before Mildred tragically died in 1905.  John, never the same without her, died soon after.  Mildred’s wedding ring was lost until their original house was moved to its present site in Dinosaur Provincial Park and the ring reappeared in the foundation.  The rings are now together again at Glenbow.

Mildred Ware and the Wedding Rings from the Ranching Gallery at Glenbow
Mildred Ware and the Wedding Rings from the Ranching Gallery at Glenbow

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Three Weeks/One School

We have been working with some new formats the last couple of years.  Originally, Museum School was unofficially limited to no more that two classes from one school within one school year.  This had practical reasoning behind it – reach as many schools, teachers and students as possible within the available 28 week year.  Open Minds serves two purposes, student learning and teacher professional development and in the early days, the shotgun approach spread this through the community.   Well, 20 years later, schools have changed, the methodology in the classroom now mirrors (for the most part) what we are trying to accomplish in the museum – student driven, inquiry based learning, and most schools have a teacher in their population who has participated in Open Minds.  So, is it time for us to change? – probably! 

We have had more schools apply with three or more classes all part of the same learning team – partly due to demographics, our city is growing,  and partly due to school organization.  I find working with a team of teachers fantastic!  It gives teachers with more experience with Open Minds the opportunity to mentor new teachers and entire grades in schools the opportunity to share their Museum experience.  More opportunities means more connections within their entire year. 

Our final three weeks were with three grade six classes.  The teachers planned their weeks together and shared their resources.  For us, it was eye opening to see three different approaches used within one framework.  Each week, even though the programs were identical, was completely unique but maintained a common thread to carry back to the school.  I think this approach, shared experiences molded to the individual student community and teaching style, worked brilliantly.

 The weeks all started with an object based looking activity that challenged the students to look deeply.  A “Welcome to Your Week” type of program!

The following day, building on looking deeply, the students participated in a writing workshop with writer and curator, Dennis Slater.  Now, they were asked to not only look deeply but to write a piece of fiction based on the object they chose.

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Building on this theme of story within object/art, the next day was an immersion into our gallery of arctic themed art to do some poetry writing and art making.

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 A trip behind the scenes into our collections to look at and hear the stories of a few artifacts continues to reinforce the importance of object as story holder on the second to last day of the week.  Students worked individually in the afternoon, seeking out artifacts that interested them and finding their stories.

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The last day, using all of the skills from the week ahead, the students used clues from objects to create an imaginary culture and debate the impact to their culture when they are contacted by a different culture.  The conversation that this initiated was an excellent kicking off point for their year’s big Idea, “What makes a global citizen?”  I think the stories these students found in objects and the importance of preserving the artifacts will affect their view on global citizenship.  Cool weeks!

The final word goes to a grade six student,

“Museum school was awesome. We got to put on a Knight’s helmet and gauntlet. We got to spend a whole morning in the Warriors’ gallery, where we had to find any weapon in the gallery that wasn’t a fire-arm and write a story about it.  On Thursday, we went into storage, we had to take a special staff elevator up to the 7th floor. Once we got there, Marnie took our group to Patty the dog. Patty was a World War I dog who went with soldiers in Canada all the way to France and helped out the soldiers.  Patty was most likely killed by gases, was stuffed, and sent back to Canada where he wound up at the Glenbow.  Then we went to hold a one handed 30 pound cavalry mace. In the afternoon we went to Mavericks, where we had to write a story on one of the vehicles.  I chose the Curtiss Jenny 4 airplane and wrote an awesome story.  In museum school, I learned about Canada’s history, about the pioneers, about European history with weapons, ancient Japan’s history and the First Nations.  I learned all about the hardships of life in the olden days, and what it took to be a knight. I would go back because there’s so much stuff that I didn’t get a chance to see, and I want to see it all.”