Category Archives: Blog Love

100th Post! MJ Writes Guest Blogs on New Curator Today!

My post is up on New Curator today–click here to check it out ! I’m so grateful to add my voice to this fantastic blog, and encourage you not only to check out my post but the blog in general. Plus, New Curator is the genius behind my favorite web forum, Museopunk. What’s not to love about this post, which just happens to be the 100th post on MJ Writes!!


Museums and controversial exhibitions – Add to the discussion!


I am loving the Museopunk forum! I just opened up the following question for discussion, and encourage you to add to the conversation and join Museopunk if you have not had the chance yet!

For those who have worked or currently work in the museum field, have you had any dealings with exhibitions that turned out to be controversial, or planned exhibitions that addressed contentious topics? What did the museum do to address concerns from the public and funders, and did they put extra measures in place to encourage constructive dialogue about the topic or the art?


Check out John Falk Interview on Museum 2.0 Blog

You should head over to Museum 2.0…Nina Simon is featuring an interview with John Falk and Beverly Sheppard. I’m telling you this for your own good, so click here to scope it out! You have to know how happy this makes me, seeing as John Falk is currently my favorite museum researcher.

Engaging art museums’ youngest visitors

The best museums and museum exhibits about science or technology give you the feeling that, hey, this is interesting, but maybe I could do something here, too.” ~ Paul Allen

I just visited the web site for the King Tut exhibition at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and I feel like a kid in a candy store. Why? Because I get to see it up close and personal next month when I’m back in the good ol’ Hoosier State to visit family. This will be the first time I have been back at this particular museum since I was ten or eleven. I have an immense amount of affection for the museums my grandmother took me to when I was a kid. The Indianapolis Art Museum (IMA) remains my favorite and will always have a fond place in my heart, even more now because I absolutely idolize the staff’s ingenious use of social networking and digital media tools within the exhibitions, and of course, their recently launched ArtBabble video sharing site. I remember climbing, building, and exploring at the Muncie Children’s Museum, tumbling around jungle gyms and bringing home layers of colored sand in jars that, to my mother’s chagrin, usually ended up spilling in some remote corner of my closet or dresser drawer.

I can’t emphasize enough that my current preoccupation with and love of museums stems from these childhood visits, and back in the early-90’s there was not as strong an emphasis on educational programming for young people in museums as there is now. There certainly were no fancy programs on iPod Touches to engage my senses, which IMA is planning to make available at their upcoming exhibition, Sacred Spain. What benefited me, I’m sure, was that I possessed a natural lust for knowledge, a large amount of curiosity, and rapt attention for anything that stimulated me visually. At the most basic level, my decision to pursue a Master’s degree in arts administration and museum studies was informed by the sentimental experience of standing in front of William McGregor Paxton’s Glow of Gold, Gleam of Pearl for the first time. To this day, that painting is my favorite work of art in spite of my current overriding love for all things modern and contemporary.

As we mold our museums into community hubs of activity, finding creative ways to engage our youngest visitors is pivotal to building future support for the arts. We know this to be true, but art museums in particular are not notorious for being the most catering to children or the most welcome. I actually think some art museum security guards have a sixth sense for the young ones and make beelines for them whenever they dare to enter the galleries. I am being facetious, of course, and I applaud that more art museums are increasingly making it more of a priority to provide parents with learning kits at the beginning of their visit, setting aside space for an art and craft room, and posting online guidelines for visiting with children. Transforming our institutions into more family-friendly venues does not have to imply that we turn our gallery spaces into wannabe children’s museum or science factories. If we are to reimagine our art museums as vibrant, community-centered spaces dedicated to art and education, the static exhibition areas and exhibition catalogues of yesterday must give way to multimedia tours and interactive learning centers. Colleen Dilenschneider over at the blog, Know Your Own Bones, is a big fan of science cafes, and I believe adapting these for art museum purposes could be an inventive step toward accomplishing our goals of engaging a younger demographic in learning and caring about art.

John Falk devised the term “free choice learning,” which involves “individual learning activities that are freely engaged in, intrinsically rewarded, and not motivated by the formal requirement of educational institutions,” according to a report from The Urban Institute (PDF). In America, we love the term free choice; we like to know that what we are getting is what we ordered in the first place and is worth our time and hard-earned money. At our museums, we need to cultivate environments that  allow visitors the freedom to navigate the galleries as they wish, to use the technology they have in order to access supplementary educational materials when and how they want, and to acknowledge that visitors are not carbon copies of each other but come from unique backgrounds with unique experiences. While children are certainly not as set in their ways with as many pre-conceived beliefs and interests as adults, they are developing unique ways of learning and experiencing the world, and in my opinion deserve a free choice learning environment as much as the adult visitor.

In what ways have you seen museums, art museums especially, involve children in learning and exploring, either in conjunction with an exhibition or as permanent educational programming?

Museums, museums, museums, object-lessons rigged out to illustrate the unsound theories of archaeologists, crazy attempts to co-ordinate and get into a fixed order that which has no fixed order and will not be co-coordinated! It is sickening! Why must all experience be systematized? A museum is not a first-hand contact: it is an illustrated lecture. And what one wants is the actual vital touch.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Identifying with Falk’s new book, plus a fellow museo talks museums, community, and low-resource ways to connect!


My copy of John H. Falk’s new book, Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience, arrived today and I can’t get enough of it already! The purpose of this book, according to Falk, is to provide a model that museums can use to better understand and support the visitor experience. He argues that his new model (which I have not made it to yet but soon!) will require an immense amount of change within the current structure of how museums see themselves, their visitors, and their role in society. You can probably understand why I am loving this book already, especially after my recent post in which I discuss what I believe is a much needed revolutionizing of our art museums, away from the current exhibition structure and towards an institution that resembles a modern day public forum.

I have recently come across Colleen Dilenschneider’s blog, Know Your Own Bone, and am loving what this bright and ambitious fellow museo and grad student has suggested for ways she believes museums can connect with their communities. Transforming out museums into community-based centers of creativity and dialogue, Colleen writes, “lies in museums positioning themselves as cultural centers and integral aspects of the local/regional community.” Yes, yes, and yes. Head over to her blog to read her list of 55 Low-Resources Ways for Museums to Connect with the Community.

Photo via

Love this! Just call me a Museo.

Museo (n., english) – any person who is working in, volunteering in, or seeking to work in a museum. Person interested in collaborating to make a change in how museums are run for the betterment of the museos’ situation in regards to pay, benefits, and professional development.

Massive love for Museos Unite and their way cool definition of what I and so many of my colleagues consider we are and strive to be. Check out their blog.

MJ Writes Included in Museum Studies Graduate Program Discussions

MJ Writes has been included in today’s post on the Center for the Future of Museums blog (Thanks, Val!) and given kudos on Colleen Dilenschneider’s blog, Know Your Own Bone.

Thank you for including MJ Writes in your discussions!