Museum and Heritage Studies: Sites of Education and Innovation
A recent Museum and Heritage Studies Masterclass saw a lively panel discussion chaired by program director Dr Chiara O’Reilly with former graduates of the program, Chloe Appleby (Assistant Curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) and Marina Grasso (Curator and Lecturer in Museum and Heritage Studies), with FASS Educational Ambassador Eddie Woo.
Together, they discussed ideas of the museum as an institution as well as education and innovation across the sector.
Bringing these different experiences and voices together allowed us to reflect on the changing role of museums and heritage, and the extent to which education and learning have been reshaped in recent years in schools, tertiary spaces, and the informal learning environment of museums and heritage sites.
For Woo, using technology and re-imagining the classroom outside the confines of its four walls have helped him to create a transformational education experience for his students. Expanding his teaching space to YouTube, books, and television, Woo has aimed to ensure equity by broadening and diversifying the learning experience of thousands of teachers and students. He sees a strong link between the role of educators like himself and curators within museum and heritage spaces:
A large part of what I do is to craft an experience that will help my students learn and experience something outside the confines of ... my classroom. Museums and heritage spaces are perfect environments to help that happen. There’s social communication in those spaces and a collaborative space for learning
Like Woo, Appleby has reimagined space within museums using platforms like TikTok to broaden access to exhibitions and reach a diverse audience. The impact of the digital pivot, she believes, is a positive one for cultural organisations:
Digitisation is exciting ... It opens up these fabulous things, and it means they’re familiar in ways that they wouldn't have previously been
Grasso believes empathy is a strong guiding principle for any curator and educator within the museum and heritage space, and the key to connecting with the community both in the digital and physical realm:
You're designing an exhibition or a space for all of your community, so gaining an understanding of and appreciation for their experience, and incorporating that is important so everyone can find their place
Innovation, Grasso believes, arises not only in thinking about how to engage audiences within museums and heritage sites but by speaking to those who are not engaging with cultural institutions:
I want to get the non-attendees to come, see their heritage and their history … that’s incredibly important
The conversation highlighted the many ways in which museums and heritage sites are responding to and rethinking their relationships with their audiences, seeking new ways to engage and to involve communities