Today our trip took us to the National Air and Space Museum. One cannot help but to look up in awe at the range of items that hang from the ceiling of the museum. It seems as if the items are stuck in time as they hang over your head. Our meeting with Ann Caspari, an Early Childhood Education Specialist, made an interesting point to us. Why should you care? The museum is filled with items that would set anyone’s mind a-buzz, but what about the smaller less notable items. Why should you still care?
I find myself as a museum educator grappling with this question often. Here I am in my present job telling you all about the 1800s life in Illinois. From their clothes, to their farming techniques, even what a one room school house was like, yet, why am I telling you this? A museum’s purpose is to tell stories about the topic it is on, be it the space program, the culture of a specific group, how glass is made and artistically styled- anything. The point is is that we, the museum and its educators (with the help of other departments), must create programming that make people interested in learning more about our topics.
Our programming must consider many factors though such as age groups, interests, language barriers, accessibility needs, etc. We want to provide enough information without overload or it being under explained. While there is no simple answer into how one makes an engaging museum program I think a great place to start is where Ann left us- “Why should you care?” If you can focus your program to answer that question, the rest will fall into place.