During my museum research I have found out that some museums are presenting and connecting objects in a different way than the traditional classification by classes, types and subtypes. Museums usually classify objects according to the most obvious relation, for example origin of objects. However, if we think about how we actually learn on a daily basis, nobody is dividing the world into different parts for us. We are continuously making different connections and relations between ideas. In this post I am going to talk about three museum examples that are encouraging visitors to make different connections and relations between their objects.
The first example is my latest museum obsession: Musée des Confluences in Lyon. As the name indicates this museum is about the junction, the meeting points, the connections between objects and ideas. So, lets try out something. Here are two pairs of objects that were presented together at the museum. What do you think is the relation between them?
Look for the label that explains the connection at the end of the article
The Musée des Confluences was recently re-designed. Not all of us have the possibility to do that, but how can the idea of different connections be applied to our museums? I think that a viable option would be to develop an activity were you "misplace" an object for a determined period of time and place it somewhere where it does not have an obvious relation to the rest of objects (or if you can get away with it, I would propose doing it with a couple of objects). This way you can incentive visitors to find the relationship by asking questions about the mysterious object or making it a challenge to find it.
The second example of a museum making connections in a different way is the Renwick Gallery that recently opened in Washington DC. Similar to Musée des Confluences they have redesigned the museum and incorporated different connections between their works of art. The relationship between art pieces is based on the mentor of the artist, the technique and/or the material used (Check out the video). Once again, we cannot always redesign and paint our museum floor, but the same idea can be done with post-its. This could also become an activity during a museum event like a late night or a school activity.
Finally, the education team of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has designed an amazing activity where visitors/students are asked to find the six degrees of connection between two objects. At a first glance there may seem that the objects have nothing in common, but that is the challenge. The instructions are that the six degrees need to be other objects that are found within the galleries. When I did this activity in a museum education workshop, my group and I made up a love story using four other museum objects (image on bottom left). Next time you visit a museum make up your own story connecting two random objects ;)
All three examples are great education activities because they push visitors to ask questions, find answers, solve problems, connect different concepts and provoke inquiry.Do you have any other good examples of museums making connections in a creative way?