Let’s Move Our Audiences

This year the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has teamed up with the 1st Lady Michelle Obama to promote the “Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens” initiative.   An impressive array of North Carolina institutions have already signed up to participate.  Several history museums and historic sites have planted gardens in order to develop programs about local crop production and historic foodways. 

Other institutions have focused programming on food consumerism and healthier choices.  Since 2009, visitors to Hands On!-A Child’s Gallery in Hendersonville, NC have served up healthy portions at the Pick A Portion Cafe. Visitors use special plates to help determine appropriate portion sizes. Wooden fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and grains are available to place on the plates. A wooden blender allows visitors to whip up healthy smoothies.  Similarly, the Natural Science Center of Greensboro features a “Health Quest” exhibition that includes computer-based interactives about healthy food choices.

 How can history museums and historic sites promote physical activity?  The grounds at many historic sites are expansive enough to incorporate hiking and scavenger hunt activities.  Promoting movement beyond stair climbing at history museums requires more creative thinking.  Shelley Kruger Weisberg has written a book on Museum Movement Techniques (AltaMira Press, 2006), discussing her ideas for educational programs within confined gallery spaces.  Weisberg builds on research documenting the power of physical activity to re-enforce conceptual learning, especially for children aged 7-11.  In Weisberg’s programs, the facilitator challenges school groups (ideal numbers are 10-16) to imagine and execute movements that represent various colors and brush strokes in abstract art, as well as the scenes of more representational paintings and sculptural poses. 

Although most of Weisberg’s ideas relate to the fine arts, her work suggests possibilities for visitors to connect with the past through movement.  Facilitators might encourage visitors to practice motions involved with loading a rifle, picking worms off tobacco leaves, or splitting wood—any number of labor-related objects and topics that may be unfamiliar to today’s audience.  Sometimes reproductions may be helpful in these exercises, as feeling the weight of a rifle, for instance, would add to a participant’s understanding of the burdens a Civil War soldier had to bear.  But even without such props, movement instruction relating to artifacts on exhibit could allow visitors a deeper understanding of the past those objects represent.

 Perhaps “Let’s Move!” can inspire us to come up with new activities to make the past come alive in more meaningful ways for the communities we serve.  What movement ideas have been successful in your cultural heritage institutions?


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This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on November 1, 2011, in Exhibitions, historic sites, museums, public programs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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