University in the Art Museum: A Model for Museum-Faculty Collaboration

Article excerpt

Professor Barb Woods observes her students working diligently in the Spencer Museum of Art galleries. As the 3-hour session progresses, the students increase their observational skills as they examine works of art that depict the relationship of healthcare and society and illustrate how views of doctors and pharmacists have changed over time.The fifth-year pharmacy students pause as Professor Woods points out Cosmos and Damian, the patron saints of their profession. As a result of a faculty-training program called University in the Art Museum, Professor Woods and the Spencer education department developed a tour of health-related art work and a gallery assignment.The professor has incorporated the museum visit in her curriculum for several semesters, saying, "This exercise has provided a unique experience for the students-one they speak of highly and remember after graduation" (B. Woods, personal communication, 2003).

This article presents University in the Art Museum as a model for faculty training and interdisciplinary use of the art museum. Guidelines appear throughout the article as it describes the rationale, history, and development of the program; presents examples from diverse disciplines; and shares the challenges of success. Although implemented at the university level, a modified model can be used for teacher in-service training and continuing education.

Accept the Challenge: Do Something New

During a program assessment a dozen years ago, a reviewer lauded the Spencer Museum education department for its comprehensive program with area elementary schools but asked if every University of Kansas student also visited the art museum. "No, they do not," replied the curator of education. "Why not?," the reviewer responded pointedly, "You are the university art museum. Isn't it your mission to serve the university and its students?"Although the museum's 23,000 square feet of gallery space could not accommodate enrollments approaching 30,000, the challenge was well taken.The education department, long interested in meaningful education rather than headcount, set about finding ways to facilitate student visitation and learning in the art museum.

A search of related literature uncovered several publications that addressed university art museums (Adlmann, 1988; Bach, 1997; Butler & Horn, 1983; Hefferman, 1987; King, 1980; Waller, 1980). However, discussions centered around the specific problems university art museums face because of their unique relationship with the university administration and community. These articles identified, in general terms, ways that the university art museum should be a part of university teaching and research programs. Other articles provided specific examples of how to create collaborations between the museum and the university, usually focusing on programs involving preservice and inservice K-12 teachers (Selig & Lanouette, 1983; Stillman, Butler, & Vukelich, 1983).1

Establish a Program Format, But Be Willing to Change as Necessary

With little inspiration from the literature, education department staff began looking at The Humanist in the Art Museum, run by the museum in the late 1970s (Spencer Museum of Art, 1979).The program brought together faculty in the humanities to explore ways to use objects from the art museum and manuscript library to enhance their teaching. Then-researchcurator Marilyn Stokstad elaborated a program goal:"Each person will discover in his or her own way a means to establish creative linkages between teacher, student, work of art and that minute segment of human knowledge described in the college catalogue as a course. Working as a team, we can encourage each other's imaginative attacks on a problem confronting us all-how can we share with our students the very private joy of the life of the mind?" (pp. 5-6).

Although we were unable to provide stipends for participating faculty as the original program had, we adopted the vision of faculty as impetus for and facilitator of the student museum visit and began developing a program format. …