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Bowdoin College Museum of Art

November 20, 2015

Such a great resource

Last month I had the opportunity to meet with folks from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. It was a delightful visit and I learned a great deal about what the museum has to offer schools. Honor Wilkinson is the Curatorial Assistant and Manager of Student Programs at the museum and provides information to help you think about visiting the museum with your students. The information is complete with how to schedule a trip and prepare your students to get the most out of the visit.

Please tell the Maine Arts Ed blog readers about the art museum at Bowdoin.

bcmaThe Bowdoin College Museum of Art hosts one of the earliest college art collections in America, dating back to James Bowdoin III’s bequest of European paintings and Old-Master drawings in 1811. Today, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is the only encyclopedic museum in Maine, with an extensive antiquities collection that is one of the most impressive collection of ancient artifacts of any college museum in the United States. With predominant holdings in American and European artwork, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art also has Asian, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art and artifacts as well. The long history of collecting that is present within the Museum’s walls is complimented by the long history of the Walker Art Building itself. The Museum is situated at the center of Bowdoin College’s campus, and it hopes to be a central figure in the Bowdoin students’ liberal arts education. As a teaching Museum, the BCMA is not only an accessible resource for Bowdoin students and faculty, but for the students, the educators, and the public across Maine as well.

What are your roles?

My title is the Curatorial Assistant and Manager of Student Programs. I act as the liaison between the Museum of Art and the Bowdoin students, facilitating class sessions and research, as well as student programming and events. In addition, I coordinate tours of the Museum’s exhibitions. I also supervise the Bowdoin student Education Assistants who plan and develop educational resources, Family Saturday events, and lead tours. I am involved in the curatorial planning, research, and design of exhibitions as well as the Museum’s educational outreach.

Describe what the museum has to offer for education and educators who are interested in bringing students to the museum.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 6.25.11 AMAs a new initiative, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art will create multiple grade level, in-gallery activity worksheets that focus on exhibition themes and visual analytical skills. These educational resources for grades 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12 will be available for all visitors to the Museum and will be provided, specifically, for school tours. These resources, corresponding to our rotating exhibitions as well as our permanent collection, will also be accessible online for educators to review or utilize before or after their visits. The goal of the educational resources is to support and enhance students’ visits, as well as facilitate easy and successful visits for educators who may not traditionally use the Museum of Art as a resource. These educational resources are created by the Bowdoin Student Education Assistants under the supervision of the Museum’s Curatorial Assistant and Manager of Student Programs. Family Guides for our rotating exhibitions and permanent collection exhibitions are also available for parents and young children to use.

In addition to the expanded focus on K-12 outreach, the Museum also organizes object-viewing sessions in the Museum’s seminar room with objects that are not on view in the galleries.

For any educators who are not familiar discussing or teaching with art objects, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s Curatorial Assistant and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow are happy to work with educators to develop lesson plans or student activities for your Museum visit. We would be happy to select objects to view or lead the class session.

Are there learning opportunities that you’ve created to use in an integrated fashion at the museum?

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 6.25.20 AMWhile we provide educational programs and opportunities for elementary school, grade school, high school, and college students, as well as professional experience for Bowdoin students, the student Education Assistants develop and plan Family Saturday events every month that target the children in a younger age range—pre-K to grade school. The Education Assistants organize and lead a half-hour, interactive tour of one of our exhibitions and then lead hands-on craft activities that correlate to the exhibition theme in the Museum’s seminar room. The Family Guides and Grade-Level Activity Books are also available during Family Saturdays.

Do you provide any pre or post resources to help prepare the visiting students?

The educational resources that pertain to each exhibition are available on the Museum of Art’s website for educators or the general public to use before or after their visit. However, as an academic Museum, we are dedicated to using our collection for teaching purposes and we have, in the past, created educational material at the request of a specific tour or class. If an educator desired material for his or her class based on an exhibition or specific work at the BCMA, we would be happy to provide custom materials as well.

What are the steps in making a field trip to the museum happen?

To schedule a field trip to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, visit our website and fill out the simple online tour-scheduling form for guided tours of the Museum or special exhibitions. Once your tour has been scheduled, you will be provided with directions and parking locations for school buses and chaperone guidelines, which requires a chaperone for every 10 students. If you are interested in a more customized visit, please contact Honor Wilkinson, Curatorial Assistant and Manager of Student Programs at hwilkins@bowdoin.edu or (207) 721-5098. Because the class and tour schedules are quite full, the Museum asks that you schedule your visit three weeks in advance. The BCMA is open to working with educators to make its collections as accessible and useful for their use. There is no entrance fee for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

How should students be prepared (what can the sending school do) so students can go away with such an excellent experience that they just can’t wait to return?

Students should come to tours or class-sessions in the Museum ready to participate. Prior to their visit, the sending school can discuss with the students that it will be an interactive session. One of the goals of the Museum and its educational outreach is to develop visual literacy across multiple age ranges. To prepare students for their visit, the sending school could emphasize that no answer to the question “What do you see?” is wrong and that participation and discussion during student visits is what leads to understanding and knowledge of the art, as well as an excellent Museum experience.

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