The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Guest Blogger: Cultural Interpretation and Creative Education

I'm delighted to present a post from our third guest blogger based at Indiana University, Suzanne Ingalsbe. As a dual-degree student in Library Science and Folklore, Suzanne was intrigued by Bridget McKenzie's treatment of education offerings in museums, libraries, and collaborative efforts as presented by her blog Cultural Interpretation and Creative Education. Welcome to The Attic Suzanne, and many thanks for your contribution!

Cultural Interpretation and Creative Education.
Bridget McKenzie. 2006.
Weblog, http://bridgetmckenzie.blogspot.com/

By Suzanne Ingalsbe

This weblog is maintained by Bridget McKenzie, who previously oversaw education programs at the Tate and the British Library. The stated purpose of the site is to record Ms. McKenzie’s thoughts about “helping cultural institutions interpret their collections” and “helping education bodies engage with culture” and issues related to these goals. Particular attention is given to technology and institutional collaborations as means of enabling creative education.

Many posts include references and links to other articles or talks, some of which are Ms. McKenzie’s own. One characteristic example is “The Whole Story,” posted on November 8, 2006, which offers her definition of the museum field and ideas about using narrative in cultural interpretation. The author also provides summaries and commentary on multiple conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and other educational initiatives that she attended in 2006 as well as her reflections about sites created by others. The unifying theme is educational outreach and innovative ways of using existing objects and new technologies to accomplish it. Some original suggestions about curriculum reorganization and recognition of organizations that are pushing boundaries with new programming are included, and interspersed throughout are pictures and links that enhance and expand on the text.

This weblog is functioning well as a sampling of links to current exhibitions, commentary on the role of museums, and overviews of organizations and programs concerned with the future of the field. While the majority of the material included addresses British initiatives, Ms. McKenzie does mention the Dutch project Kids 2020 and the Digital Storytelling Initiative based out of San Francisco. Particularly welcome is the inclusion of library and archive programming in comparison with that of museums, as it usefully underscores similarities and differences of these institutions that are not always emphasized. While not comprehensive in coverage, this weblog covers an inspiring variety of programs. Views from both sides of debates in the museum and library worlds are presented since Ms. McKenzie either includes or links to the outside commentary with which she is engaging.

One major downfall of the site is its sporadic publishing history. The archive of this weblog runs back to April of 2006, so apparently the site is relatively new. Between April and December of 2006 postings were made on 24 different days. On some days multiple posts were made, and at other times more than a month passed between posts. A posting gap between December 10, 2006 and February 2, 2007 made it difficult to determine whether the site had been abandoned or whether there was a burst of creative insight waiting to be added. Thankfully it was the latter, and February and March of 2007 have each seen three new posts. Another downfall is the lack of adherence to any general format. Posts commenting on exhibitions are mixed in with posts touting a family member’s weblog, and it is easy to lose the thread of any one thought.

This site is particularly appealing for those with interests in using digital media and web technologies in the museum and library settings. Readers seeking fresh ideas for community involvement in heritage and culture programming will also find useful material here. While the most comprehensive coverage is of the writings and projects Ms. McKenzie is herself involved in, even the cursory coverage of other programs leads to helpful information. The innovations highlighted in this weblog, even if too distant for active participation, provide provocative food for thought.

There are few comments on the weblog at this point, which is disheartening as it indicates that the site has not yet met its full potential as a venue for exchange of ideas. There is tremendous potential for growth, however, and hopefully momentum will build and bring more minds to the site.

1 comment:

Bridget McKenzie said...

Hello, I guess a comment from me, as the author of the critiqued blog, is in order? It seems strange to see my blog critiqued, as for me it isn't something that I consciously design as a publication. I don't imagine a mass of people reading this. I use it simply as a means to log my thoughts and responses to events, when I have time to log them (aside from setting up a new business and working very long hours). My main use for it is that I send links to particular blog posts to colleagues or friends. It's a kind of storage zone. I'm not so concerned with how many people read it. It is quite useful to see this critique as it helps me realise that other people read this more like a publication and expect to see new posts at regular intervals, perhaps with less subjective content. I'm not sure if that realisation will hamper me or spur me on. We'll see!