Five hours on the exceptional comfortable X2000 from Stockholm sits the picturesque town of Östersund, home to the impressive museum Jamtli. I found the train journey actually became part of the magic of the experience. It whisks you through stunning countryside, showing you glimpses of Sweden’s agricultural past and present. It is a marvellous introduction to the immersive history experience.
Skansen is a large outdoor museum, the first in the world in fact. It covers a vast range of eras and interests – from 1860’s farming to 1930’s businesses, a Zoo, rides… and more! They have an annual visitation of about 1.4m and receive some government funding, but rely heavily on ticket sales. The entry price of 100kr (approximately $15) is very reasonable, because you could easily get a whole day’s entertainment out of it.
Beamish is an open air museum near Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northern England. The museum covers a range of eras from 18th century farming to the turn of the 20th century mining. It sits on a vast rural property with different sections/eras connected by a vintage bus and tram loop. Luckily for me, the days I visited (the first week of May), the lovely spring sunshine bathed the museum in warmth. This obviously added to my enjoyment of the outside spaces. Like all outdoor museums, Beamish is at the mercy of the weather in this regard!
The museum is a lively and fun place, which also offers a comprehensive historical immersion. The staff are a great highlight of the museum. I met so many who eagerly and voluntarily spoke about their area of the museum. Their enthusiasm and knowledge really added to the experience.
In Washington I visited four of the Smithsonian museums – Air and Space, American History, American Indian and Natural History. I also visited the Library of Congress. Despite the dreary weather there were a lot of people spending the day visiting the Museums, many were families as it was around Easter time and schools’ Spring break. There was a real sense of a great family outing happening. Lots of the visitors seemed to be American, and many from the nearby area. I think partly because they were free, there was a sense of ownership and shared family learning that isn’t always present in Museums. The museums did little in the way of ‘selling’, rather they let the exhibitions speak for themselves.
On Tuesday 19th of April I travelled to Indianapolis to visit the Museum of Art.
My main motivation for visiting this venue was their stong involvement in the using of digital technology to enhance the visitor experience and access to their collection. I met with their School’s Coordinator, Wendy, to discuss their Education Programs and the associated logistics. Wendy was very helpful and we found, as is often the case, that we share similar challenges in managing school groups: bookings, scheduling, group movement, unexpected arrivals, encouraging full participation in programs etc. From the Education Staff I’ve met at a range of institutions, these challenges seem quite universal. We all hope to give our school visitors the very best learning experience and look for ways to best share our expertise with teachers and students. I guess the ultimate question is: what is the best way to assist teachers to give their students the most powerful learning experience while on excursion to our museum? I have even had friends of mine, who know what I do for a job, not have any idea what sort of educational experience local institutions can offer. How do we capture these teachers?
The New Media Consortium have, for the first time this year, released a Horizon Report that specifically focuses on museum education and interpretation – 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition. The report outlines 6 key technologies predicted to influence museum education and interpretation over the next five years.