Guest post by Suzanne Paszkowski
This summer, I had the opportunity to develop an educational project for the B&E Goulandris Foundation in Athens as part of the summer internship program organised by the CHS and the B&E Goulandris Foundation. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, this internship was done remotely. Over the course of 5 weeks, I worked closely (though virtually) with the museum staff to develop a project for students and museum visitors to curate virtual exhibitions using the museum's collection.
With the increased digital shift triggered by the pandemic, the Modern Art Museum has the opportunity to open up its collection and make it more accessible to a broader audience, including people in the local community and around the world who might not normally visit the Museum and engage with the collection. A key pedagogical approach that aims at engagement and accessibility is that of project-based learning (PBL), in which students/participants are asked to work on a project that has real world applications as they learn the material. (This might be contrasted with modes of learning in which students are passive recipients or consumers of knowledge—think trying to memorize lecture notes—rather than active, engaged participants or co-creators.) With these factors in mind, I proposed that the Museum develop a PBL-inspired project in which students and museum visitors are asked to curate a virtual exhibition using objects from the museum's collection.
As curators, participants in this project will have the chance to draw on and interact with the Museum's collection in an authentic way. They will be responsible for deciding on objects, their arrangement, descriptions, and the overall narrative of their virtual exhibition space. Recent technological developments have made virtually designing an exhibition very accessible: Τhrough my initial research for the project, I discovered ArtSteps, a web-based platform for building virtual exhibitions that was developed by a company in Greece. The application is user-friendly and free of charge, making it ideal for broad use. Together with the museum staff, I outlined the major steps involved in preparing the instructions and museum materials for participants to use in creating their own exhibitions on ArtSteps. We also made plans for the publicity of the project, its promotion in local schools and communities, as well as on social media. Lastly, I pitched the idea of bringing the exhibitions to life in the museum as the culmination of the project. This might take place in several different ways, whether using 3D models of the museum objects, or creating miniature models of the virtual exhibitions to display for comparison in the museum's temporary exhibition space. Either option will give the museum the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to bringing alternative perspectives and different voices into the museum.
I found the work on this project over the summer very stimulating. It challenged me to think in new ways about some of the pedagogical principles and practices that I have developed over the course of my time at Harvard, in my roles as a teacher, pedagogical fellow, and curriculum developer for local schools. Museums offer exciting opportunities for public and accessible education: especially with the virtual shift of the pandemic, everyone with internet access is now a potential museum visitor. This opportunity also comes with its own challenges, such as how to spotlight the museum's collection from among the infinite array of things on the internet, and how to engage specific audiences. My hope is that the exhibition curation project I planned out will succeed in empowering more young people to connect with the museum's collections, express themselves and be heard, and experience the amazing opportunities that museums as cultural institutions have to offer.
Suzanne Paszkowski is a PhD candidate in Classical Philosophy at Harvard University. Her interests are in ethics, politics, and aesthetics, and her dissertation is about addiction in the ancient Greco-Roman world.
B&E Goulandris Foundation Museum Internship
This 5-week program for Harvard graduate students is meant to familiarize interns with the activities performed in a museum environment. Designed to encourage art education through an interdisciplinary approach, it provides high-quality professional training and extends the intern's practical knowledge of museum programming and research.
Find out more about this internship opportunity in the B&E Goulandris Foundation Museum Internship webpage.