Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Museum Project Part III: Inside the Addison Gallery

What do you imagine are the differences between this photo of our visit to the Addison in the fall…
… and now?

- It was September.
- They added a new part of the building.
- The glass part.
Since the start of the school year, the Addison’s Education Department has been working on The Museum Project with the Kindergarten Prep class at The Children’s Place, a Bright Horizons child care and early education center located on the campus of Phillips Academy. The students have explored all types of collections in order to connect museum collections to the cultural value of their own collections and to learn how to communicate these values to others through classification, display, and interpretation.

Click to read Part I and Part II of The Museum Project on Blog Addison.

After exploring collections and exhibitions at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology at Phillips Academy, and additional museums on family trips, we refocused on the Addison Gallery of American Art’s collection and building.

To provide some context for their visit to the new Addison storage and gallery spaces, we introduced them to James Sousa, the Addison’s Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives, and fellow blogger.

You all have collections of toys at home – Can you list every toy that you have? Can you tell me the location of each toy? The Addison has over 16,000 objects in its collection and my job is to know where they all are.

After sharing photos of the Addison’s collections in storage, in crates, in trucks, and on airplanes, James explained another extension of his interest in organizing collections – his Star Wars collection. The students were fascinated with James’s personal collection and how he organizes and keeps track of all those toys!

The following day, 11 students, 3 parents, 1 sibling, 1 babysitter, 2 teachers, and 2 student teachers took their experience and knowledge up the hill to the Addison. Joined by the Addison’s Education Department and Susan Faxon, the Addison’s Associate Director and Curator of Art before 1950, the students made astute observations and asked innumerable questions about the museum’s space and functions.
- I see the new part, it’s glass.
- What’s the white stuff?
- What’s in the box?
- We saw a picture of that!
- Is there going to be water in there?
What’s different in this room than in the others we’ve seen?
- The walls are a different color.
- The ceiling.
- The lights.
- The lines with the shapes inside.
- I see a pattern! Red, grey, blue, yellow.
- I remember his name: Sol LeWitt.
What part of the building are we in now?
- The glass part.

What part can we see from here that we didn’t notice outside?
- That part – It looks like a gate.
- It’s metal.

- My favorite room was the one with the shapes on the ceiling because the room was a rectangle and the ceiling was a different shape.
- My favorite room was the one with the box in it because I want to see it turn into a fountain.

The students were able to make connections between sorting and arranging their collections at home and materials in the classroom with storing, organizing, and exhibiting collections in the multiple museums they have visited throughout The Museum Project.

In order to answer the numerous questions that have come up during many of our museum visits about how works are framed and hung on the gallery walls, Jason Roy, Assistant Preparator at the Addison, later came to visit Kindergarten Prep with a large box and a bag of tools. He unpacked, disassembled and then reassembled a matted and framed image of the students so they could see first-hand all of the steps involved. They were able to explore all of the hardware and tools, from D-rings and S-hooks to tape measures and levels.

As the school year comes to a close the students will take all of their museum and cultural knowledge with them to kindergarten - and well beyond. And, the Addison and other museum staff will apply the students’ capacity for knowledge, endless curiosity, and observational skills to the development of future education programs.

Posted by

Jamie Kaplowitz
Education Fellow

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