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Wendy Woon: “Museum Education & Progressive Values in the Digital Age”


– I’m Rika Burnham, Head of Education. It gives me great pleasure
to extend a warm welcome to you who are here at the Frick, and to our online audience, on the occasion of the fourth annual Samuel H. Kress lecture
in museum education at the Frick Collection. Four years is a kind of
longevity in museum education, that this lecture series is one of many museum education initiatives supported by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The Foundation’s commitment
to museum education is slowly but surely
inspiring, challenging, and changing the work we do as educators in our museums. Our previous lecturers in
this series, Phillip Jackson, student and scholar of John Dewey, Kate Levin, Commissioner
of Cultural Affairs, and Lee Patterson, professor
at Yale University, all brought dynamic perspectives from outside our profession. This year, we turn to one of our own, fellow museum educator and
museum colleague Wendy Woon. She is not only museum educator but artist, teacher, mentor, big thinker and visionary extraordinaire. And, oh, yes, by the
way, Wendy also happens to be the Edward John
Noble Deputy Director for Education at the Museum of Modern Art, a position she has held with distinction, tireless energy, a sense of humor, and admirable levelheadedness. She has challenged her museum
from within and without, and affected thinking
about museum education far beyond the walls of her
institution on 53rd Street. Or, as some say, Wendy is just way cool. She’s been rocking the big,
white box down the street for five fabulous years. I’d like to thank the New
York City Museum Education Round Table for co-sponsoring this event, and especially Max Marmor and the Samuel H. Kress
Foundation who, again, their generosity in the
field of museum education is rivaled only by the passion
of the museum educators who have come here today
to continue to examine our practice and forge
new paths into the future. And now it gives me great pleasure to introduce my colleague and my friend, Wendy Woon, and to ask her to gently shake this little
historic box this afternoon. Could you please join me
in welcoming Wendy Woon? (applause) – Thank you, Rika. I’m very honored to be
asked to speak today. When Rika originally asked me, my first thought was, “Really? “I wouldn’t wanna listen to
me for more than 10 minutes, “why would anybody else want to?” I’m really much more comfortable thinking out my ideas with colleagues over a bowl of tomato
soup at Le Pain Quotidian. Once I agreed, though, I
started to give Rika nightmares. I threatened that I would give the talk in a persona of someone else. First, it was Louise Nevelson, but then, Sister Wendy. (gentle laughter) You know, Sister Wendy brought
art to many people in the 90s who would not have had access prior to art through the magic of broadcast technology. I even learned through my antics that the good sister
had been inspirational to one of the Kress Foundation members. I think there were even rays
of light that were involved. So, would else could I be? Well, I went to MoMA, and the we go. Cindy Sherman was my inspiration. There’s nothing better
than a caftan to hold to hide a myriad of sins. I thought maybe if I could
channel Rosamond Bernier, that would just make it okay. But, being the first museum
educator practitioner to give this talk is both an
honor and a responsibility. And I’d like to thank Rika and the Samuel H. Kress
Foundation for the honor. But I underscore that the talk today is a work in progress. This November, it will be 30 years since I began working in the
field of museum education. I was trained as an
artist, and I took my first full-time job at the Royal
Ontario Museum in Toronto, mostly because I needed
a good dental plan. And now you know the second thing I have in common with Sister Wendy. (chuckling) But I ended up staying in
the field because I believe that art has a critical role to play in the lives of many
people on a daily basis. And I found opportunities
to continue being creative in ways that had broader impact than in my own studio. So, the original title of this talk was, Looking Back, Thinking Forward. And it seemed like,
for the past few years, this has been my normal state, looking back to the foundational history of modern museums in the
first half of the 20th century to better understand how the
educational mission of MoMA, in particular, and how it was
interpreted and fulfilled. At the same time, I’ve
been looking forward to the rapidly evolving digital landscape, with education at the
crest of the tsunami, and museums trying to
ride the wave of change, not to be left in the wake, which, to me, is both exhilarating and equally challenging, though I fear it’s left me
not living in the present. This bi-directional
exploration has fueled my (chime)
optimism about the field of museum education and the expanded role of museums in a rapidly changing world. I’m going to speak about
some of my mining of the past to think about the future for the next 35 to 40 minutes. Then I’ve asked two of
the smartest people I know to be respondents, Michelle Elligott, the
museum’s archivist, the past, and Seb Chan, Director of
Digital and Emerging Media at the Cooper-Hewitt
National Design Museum, the future. They will give a response and we’ll have a conversation at the end, which is what I’d feel
much more comfortable with. Let me see, there we go. Why is the history of museum education and the important and central role that museum education
played in the founding years of modern museums so
relevant to the future? When I was preparing a class for museum education at NYU, I remembered this quote,
that was from 1978, that “Each generation
seems to start over again “repeating rather than
building on the mistakes “and successes of the past,” and I was reminded of
the importance of knowing and sharing that history
with the next generation of museum leaders when I was preparing to teach a course. I believe that it’s really
critical for the field of museum education to
document and understand the ways that the educational mission has been interpreted in
response to the larger social and historical contexts and individual leadership over time, in order to be strategic about the future. My personal quest over the past few years has been to uncover the early history of MoMA’s educational
initiatives under Victor D’Amico and to better understand the context for his work and the influences. Secondly, as museums struggle to adapt to a world of rapid change,
changing public behaviors and communication,
information, and learning, the tsunami that is upon us, reflecting upon that
early founding mission of modern museums will inform how we carry out the mission in this amplified dynamic social space and take it to a whole new level. A recent report, Libraries and Archives in the Era of Participatory Culture, noted that it is a critical moment for libraries and museums worldwide, and changing audience
expectations and behaviors are required of libraries and museums to revisit and rethink
their roles and mandates. Now, museums have another new wing, a virtual wing, and with a whole different set of parameters. No floors, no walls, no
original works of art, no insurance or art handling, but a space with the opportunity to engage in an exponentially
large number of people, of all ages and all abilities,
from around the globe. Without physical constraints of a site, what should a museum be
in its virtual space? A space that is increasingly social. How can its mission be fulfilled
in new and different ways appropriate to that context? For me, revisiting the early years of the development of
the Museum of Modern Art and the progressive values that shaped it, linking art and democracy,
social and civic engagement, has served as a framework
for thinking more expansively about not only the
possibilities for exponentially increasing the power
of our public mission, and in tandem, the
important leadership role that museum educators have to play. People are our medium. The skills and experience
of museum educators whose deep knowledge of how
to design social engagement that fosters learning,
leading to deeper dialog through art, can play a
critical role in reaching and sustaining new audiences online. The evolving range of tools and platforms make the seemingly ephemeral experiences of teaching and learning
visible and sustainable by fostering communities of
interest-driven learners, who learn not just from museums
but also from each other. Today, I wanna take you on
a quick personal journey of my quest to think about
the history of education within the Museum of Modern Art within a larger context. I’m going to start with
the Progressive Era. First, I wanted to know more
about the Progressive Movement and how it had shaped the
founding values of MoMA and many other museums. But I’d never really been
able to get a firm grip on what exactly the Progressive Era was, which is roughly 1890s through 1920s, but really shaped the
values of the 20th century. I began to consult a range
of books and realized that my lack of clarity was warranted. Complexity, contradictions,
multiple interpretations characterized the Progressive agenda. This umbrella term,
Progressive, encompassed a wide range of people,
radicals and conservatives, anti-labor and business interests, labor organizers, anarchists, but all advocating for progressive values, civic responsibility and
cultural enlightenment, while being at odds. The more I searched, the more I noted some similarities to today. In a world of transformative technologies, there was great social unrest,
anti-immigration sentiments, disparity between the
wealthy and the poor, and also deep concern
over the failing schools. All similar things. Class played an important
role in that outlook, no matter what the position. And the changes of the
Progressive Era were intended to reform and not revolutionize, preserving hierarchies and the status quo. The goal of addressing social issues, injustices and inequities was to create harmony in society. As industrialization increased,
there grew a larger gap between art and everyday life
from the mid-19th century through the 20 century,
the early 20th century. There arose a national quest
to link art and democracy, and locate it in everyday life, with the 30s being the
decade wherein this link was realized on a broad historic scale. The Progressive Era
also led to a wide range of reform in thinking about women, and active participation
by women in change. Through the suffragette movement, women sought voting reform
and the power to cast votes. Civic institutions of
social and cultural welfare, including settlement houses,
libraries and museums, also grew at a rapid rate, and many women played important
roles in their development. Jane Addams was probably one of the most influential reformers, a Nobel Prize winning
social worker, feminist and internationalist
who founded Hull House in 1889 as a social experiment in an underprivileged area of Chicago. With its wide range of functions,
including a kindergarten, after school clubs for older children, an evening night school
for adults, an art gallery, public kitchen, coffee house, gymnasium, swimming pool, book bindery, art studio, music school, circulating
library, employment bureau, drama group, and labor museum, Hull House embodied an alternative view of education and the progressive. A multigenerational community hub where the arts were
integrated into daily life was the goal to improve the conditions in industrial districts of Chicago. The welfare and education of children became an important focal
point of the Progressive Era, as shifting views of
children were informed by a more scientific approach to understanding human development. John Dewey. All roads lead to John Dewey, I think. It was also in Chicago that John Dewey, the 20th century’s most
influential educational philosopher forged his thinking
about education reform, with his innovative lab school. As an experiment, Jane Addams’ Hull House offered alternative models of education and aesthetic activity
that influenced Dewey on Dewey’s own thinking about education, experience, art and democracy, that also fostered experimentation
with new approaches to art and education
in some early museums. Dewey spread his progressive theories about democracy and education
and art and aesthetics through his published works and lectures. He had a profound impact
on the museum field, influencing generations
of founders, directors and museum educators. In the 1930s, Dewey explicitly
linked art and education to democratic theory in his lectures and influential book, Art as Experience, which, if you Google this,
it comes up in Wal-Mart. How is that democratic? He considered the art object important not as a material work of art but as a vehicle for experience. Philosophically, this was
a significant departure from the idea that the
value of art objects was in their sacredness and timelessness. His thinking challenged
traditional notions about the purpose of museums
as places of collecting, exhibiting, and preserving the past. Dewey’s ideas about art
broke down the barriers between high and low forms of art. He considered art as a tool
for effecting social change, and called for an approach to art that integrated art into everyday life. Art needed to be useful and relevant, to be experience of many,
not just the upper class. Dewey challenged traditional
definitions of art by focusing on process of
making, rather than on product. He considered art and
creativity to be essential to a democratic society, and natural to a fully developed mind. His aesthetic pragmatism
was key to the way in which MoMA carried out
its educational mission, both directly and indirectly,
through the well-known work of its first director,
Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and the work of MoMA’s first director of education, Victor D’Amico. Our past. The founders of the Museum of Modern Art were three women. I can just imagine them, Abby Rockefeller, Lillie Bliss, and Mary Sullivan
Quinn, getting together. “We’ve got the vote, what
are we gonna do next?” (gentle chuckling) Well, these women, who embodied a deep commitment, not only to modern art
but also to democratic progressive agenda for art education, Mary Sullivan Quinn was an
amateur artist and art teacher. Mary and Abby met when
they were both interested in psychotherapy for returning
World War I soldiers. Lillie Bliss was an
advocate for modern art when it had few admirers, a patron when it had almost no market, and a valiant champion of young artists. This was MoMA’s biggest challenge, was how to make modern art accessible and engaging to a broader audience. The museum was founded, this is really exciting to look at, (Wendy and audience chuckle) with a Regent’s Charter for establishing and maintaining in the City of New York a museum of modern art,
encouraging and developing the study of modern
art, and the application of such arts to the
manufacture of practical life, and furnishing popular instruction. This is how Alfred Barr saw the museum and his challenge. First, to be a place
“dedicated to helping people “understand and enjoy the
visual arts of our time, “and that it might provide New York “with ‘the greatest museum
of modern art in the world.'” Alfred H. Barr, Jr., was
hired as the first director of MoMA in 1929. Barr was an art historian,
and he put together the first modern art class
at Wellesley in 1926, called Tradition and
Revolt in Modern Painting, with the innovative pedagogical strategy of referring to all nine
students in the class as “the faculty,” making
them each responsible for mastering and teaching
some of the course content, that sounds like a plan, (laughs) which included design,
architecture, film and sculpture, and underscored his belief
that a broad understanding of culture was critical to
an understanding of art. In the early years, Barr
himself trained teachers and started a staff docent service for teachers in the public. He was very involved. Dewey’s influence on Barr can
be found in his statement, “Words about art may help
to explain techniques, “remove prejudices, clarify relationships, “suggest sequences, and
attack habitual resentment “through the back door of intelligence. “But the front door to understanding “is through the experience
of the work of art itself.” Barr intended to make
experience a central part of MoMA’s pedagogical program. In a 1932 bulletin, The
Public As Artist, he stated, “Art is the joint creation
of the artist and public. “Without an appreciative audience, “the work of art is stillborn. “And the public shares
equally with the artist “the exciting responsibility
of carrying on “the great tradition of living art.” Although the museum exhibited
paintings and sculptures, there were key initiatives
that spoke directly of Barr’s interest in art and democracy, including exhibitions of
design, art lending services, and publications such as
his What is Modern Art? and Modern Painting series, where he was really trying to explain
as much as possible and make art accessible, modern
art accessible, to people. But it’s really through
a series of exhibitions that you can really see how his pedagogical goals played out. This is Useful Objects
Under $5.00, in 1938, and I found out that the
year prior, he’d done Useful Objects Under $10.00, so things were going down
at that point, obviously. That idea of this exhibition was organized to help educate the
public in how to recognize and consume good design, tethering economy and aesthetics together. Of course, during the Depression Era, most did not have
expendable income for art, so this really stressed the accessibility of being able to live with art. What is Good Design?
was another exhibition that circulated across the nation, and supported the notion
of an educated consumer. Although the aesthetic
worth of the mass-produced industrial objects for all Americans fulfilled Barr’s interpretation
of art and democracy, it still required MoMA
staff expertise to identify and assign standards of artistic value. Barr had been very influenced
by the Bauhaus as well, so you do see some of his
interest in industrial design. He said the few days that
he spent at the Bauhaus were some of the most important
part of his education. But that was not the sole influence. And I think one of the key people who was a great influence on him
was John Cotton Dana, oops, I’m sorry, I meant to mention these. These are just some amazing slides that I found of some of their early sort of aesthetic interest in educating on the horrible,
overstuffed easy chair, the traditional chair. And what I found very intriguing was what a great sense of
humor MoMA had at that time about its mission to educate. The idea of a gorilla, and what you
might lose in the chair, as being part of their design. John Cotton Dana, along with his educational
adviser at the Newark Museum, had a big influence on Barr. His educational adviser
was Louise Connolly, and she was actually one of
the most interesting women that needs to be studied, as Carol Duncan, my good friend and person who’s written a wonderful book on John
Cotton Dana can attest. He pioneered modern ideas
about art and experience and democracy through
exhibitions that related directly to the lives of the population of Newark. For example, his Clay Products exhibition, from 1915, drew from the
experience of immigrant workers he sought to elevate, both through the industrially and manually produced arts, that reflected their
experiences in their lives, and of many of these people who worked in factories, as well. And Inexpensive Objects, both exhibiting everyday materials such as ceramic tiles and objects that could be
purchased at five and dime stores. He sought to underscore his
belief in the common man’s capacity for aesthetic experience. Barr was influenced by
Dana’s interest in aesthetics being integrated into day-to-day life, and built upon his ideas, moving them towards creating these educated consumers and elevating taste for
a wide range of people, and really kind of targeted
at the middle class. But one of the lesser known stories was with Holger Cahill. Now, I saw this photograph and I thought, “Isn’t this the guy that
you’d like to go out “to the Cedar Bar with and have drinks?” He looks so interesting,
and he really was. Holger Cahill worked with Dana at the Newark Museum. He was also, aided Abby
Aldrich Rockefeller, informing her collection
of American folk art. But he also became the
acting director of MoMA from September, 1932 to May, 1933. During this time, he
organized two key exhibitions, American Folk Art and American
Sources of Modern Art. Both exhibitions established
his broader sense of blurring the boundaries between Western and non-Western art, and high and low. In 1935, Cahill headed up
the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration, probably the most powerful agency for art in the history of the nation. Here, he was able to put
into play Dewey’s ideas about art as experience
and democratize art, taking it to a really systemic level that could not be achieved in the museums. Cahill set up about 400
community art centers through the Community Art Center Program, and launched a massive
mainstream media campaign. The idea was to make artistic
production more accessible to a mass public audience
across the United States and to get people interested in art as an everyday part of life. Through the program, he not
only commissioned artists to make works for the public buildings, but to teach, as well. This constellation of
communities of makers fulfilled Dewey’s notion
of a democratic form of art as experience. Cahill believed in the
democratization of creativity, rather than the cultivation of taste, stating that “The pursuit of
communal values in the arts “can awaken a wish for a future “organized around community
as well as individual value.” What Cahill had in common
with Dewey and Barr was the belief that a democratic
art would be experimental and grounded in widespread participation. Cahill’s notion of
experience and participation differed from Barr’s, though, as he believed anyone could
participate in making art. But for Barr, design could be accessed only through consumption. I also was thinking about
Diego Rivera working on murals on view at MoMA, that
our current exhibition reminds us that the production of art and making of art was also part
of those early days at MoMA. Now for what my real passion has been. I dig MoMA. (gentle chuckling) Now, I’m going to tell you
a fun fact about Canadians. They’ve actually studied,
Canadians have about 32 different varieties of
self-deprecating humor, and one of them is showing
your old art school projects in a PowerPoint. (laughter) This is me from 1978, and
a project about museums. I am art imitating life,
now life imitating art, where I created my own
museum and did my own dig and that kind of thing. So what of MoMA early
education initiatives? This was the driving interest for me when I started at MoMA. Urban legend had it that MoMA
had a complicated relationship with museum education. My quest to understand
that led me to the book, Art in Our Time, authored
by Michelle Elligott and Harriet Bee. What did not make sense
from my perspective was that, although MoMA was chartered as an educational institution,
there were only two or three references to education in the book. One was a mysterious memorandum reinstating the education
department in 1978. It did not bode well. This was really at odds with many stories that people started to tell
me as I started at the museum, telling me about life-changing
experiences they’d had in classes at MoMA. They recounted them in loving and exquisite detail. What ended up happening is,
over the last four years, and through the generosity
of Teacher’s College, we tracked down where those archives were. We now have those archives back at MoMA. They are being professionally processed, and they will be accessible
to anyone to study in the future. So we’re very excited about that. We’re sort of reclaiming
some of that history. What also is interesting is, at the
very beginning, with Barr, Nelson Rockefeller had
asked Artemas Packard, who was a, he was a
professor at Dartmouth, and a very progressive
professor, to really think, from 1936 to about 1938,
when the study was finished, about MoMA’s educational mission in the future of the museum. And he really identified a need for a formal education department. He pondered in this study,
should MoMA be maintained as a museum for the few, or for the many? He eventually identified
that they should start an education project. But he also really articulated a number of the issues that
are kind of the dueling issues that we face in many museums, the idea of the highest standards
of critical discrimination and popular instruction,
and he was very hopeful that, at times they
might seem antagonistic, but he was convinced
that it would be found to complement and reinforce each other. And it seemed from what I have gathered that in those early days,
there was a real respect and camaraderie, even
in different directions. Barr had his educational initiatives, but also greatly supported
D’Amico’s, as well. Barr clarified his thinking
again in the early 40s, about what he really
thought the mission meant. He said, “The primary
purpose of the Museum “is to help people
enjoy, understand and use “the visual arts of our time,” that idea of utility, that art should
have purpose and usefulness. What I was able to excavate
about D’Amico’s approach, at this point, I can’t go deeply, but there are certain themes and ideas that I see in them that
I find inspirational, was that the MoMA, he was greatly supported by
MoMA’s trustees and directors and provided a distinctly
different interpretation of Dewey’s Art as Experience than Barr’s. He was really much more aligned to someone like Cahill’s interest in art making as a means of creativity, the idea of creating centers
or communities of production as a means of experiencing art and a means of democratizing and focusing on the development of children
and their creative potential. D’Amico’s work did not take
place within the galleries, and that’s quite a
departure from most museums. In fact, direct viewing of
works of art in the galleries was an exception rather than a rule, and that the gallery’s tours were given by some docents who were on staff. My colleague Juliet
Kinchin, whose exhibition Century of the Child opens this summer, reminded me that design reform and pedagogical reform were intertwined. And although we tend to
think about progressivism within the American context, social reform and especially ideas about
children and education were central to the civic
imagination across Europe. So there are a couple of themes, when I looked at D’Amico’s
work, that I found that I’m gonna give you a quick overview, of things that I saw within our history, was his idea about art as human necessity and the social value of art, was something that he
felt very strongly about. Design and pedagogy, design and how one supported that, your pedagogical goals,
through that, was important. The idea of community and convening, and also technology, using technology to reach a more democratic,
larger audience. Very briefly, D’Amico founded
the education programs in 1937, it was called the Educational Project at that point. It was really meant as an experiment. He started the Young People’s Gallery, with the goal of making
the museum’s collection of paintings and
sculptures and architecture and industrial design
and films more useful and more easily accessible
to New York’s public and private schools, and the
teaching of art in general. He talked about the
space as being a quiet, simple atmosphere that would counteract the usual museum fatigue. He designed everything, everything from the ledges that would go up
and down to the walls to allow for paintings to be hung, or they could be used for,
they could be pulled out so you could do a class mural project. The tables were all belted together and could be made into
different configurations. And that’s something,
that attention to design of space and experience is something that you see a lot in his work. Just a closer example of that. The Art Carnivals that he created starting in 1942, you also see that same idea of design and pedagogy. Each was designed with
specially built to scale, specifically for children
three to 12 years of age. In each configuration, there was a way, kind of a passageway that would exclude adults from entering or anybody that was bigger than, say, that child-size gate that he has created. His notions were about motivation, was the first part, the
sort of play and experience as being part of that, with
usually formal elements. But you’ll also see that
the high, sort of, drama that’s created with lighting
and every sort of detail of chairs, and he designed
every bit of it himself and worked with the people in the wood shop at the
carpentry shop at MoMA. After you would spend time
in the motivation area, then you would be able to, these are all motivation
area, and there may be things to prompt or visuals to prompt you, works of art or objects
to prompt your thinking. Then you would go in and
create your own work. It was very open-ended and it was about your individual response and creativity with materials. He was very particular
about the kinds of materials and how they were set up, as well. Every single step of design
was important for him. I think this has to be Betty,
Sally and Bobby Draper. (soft laughter) This is, it’s just such a great image. This was one of the Art
Carnivals that was actually held in the Buckminster Fuller dome, in the sculpture garden. Another important thing that he did was, he created the War Veterans’ Art Center. That was really, the social
and civic role of art was very important at MoMA at that time, and this was part of a larger project. And the War Veterans’
Art Center began in 1945 or ’44, as an experimental project, and it was open for
free to men who’d served in the armed forces and merchant marines. It provided them with pre-vocational kinds of experiences and creative experiences, but also taught skills, as well. What’s interesting is,
they really pioneered a lot of the early
techniques of occupational and art therapy, and that’s something
that we’d like to know a lot more about. It continues through our
Community and Access programs, these kinds of relationships of the museum having a larger social role. That actually, the
Veterans’ War Art Center, closed in 1948, but it became the People’s Art Center. And the People’s Art Center
is something people talk about a lot to me, at least, there
were a number of classes. Something like 500 adults and
300 children came every week, starting from three years old up. They were very experimental
kinds of classes, and I’d like to know more
about their pedagogy, as well. The idea that MoMA could
have a People’s Art Center in the 50s, during the Cold War era, I find very interesting. (laughs) So there’s a mystery there to be told. Another idea that he had was the establishment of an Art Barge. He had been teaching classes in the 60s, early 60s, out in South
Hampton, and he had this idea to bring in a World War I navy barge up onto a beautiful piece
of land in Amagansett. And I keep thinking to
myself, “I can’t quite imagine “the call he made to Nelson Rockefeller, “to explain this.” Apparently, he called Nelson
Rockefeller and he said, “What I’m really looking for
is this World War I navy ba-. “I have this idea, I wanna
create a studio space “for people to do work in the summer.” And Nelson said, like, “Sure. “Sure, Mr. D’Amico, I’ll get it done.” It’s pretty amazing to think
about that kind of support and, you know, the kind of creativity and openness that was at MoMA. So the Art Barge actually is a community. It continues on today as the Victor D’Amico Institute. I taught there last summer,
and I have to tell you, as a designed space for learning, it’s a genius space. It has two levels, and it’s a place where everything is beautifully designed, and almost like on a ship, where everything folds in and comes out. It’s just amazing. With the People’s Art
Center, I did wanna mention that he talked a little
bit about the vital, at the press release at MoMA, talked about the vital function of
a creative art center. To me, that was very much out
of the Federal Arts Project and a Cahill kind of
thinking about community. The other thing that he did was, he founded National
Committee on Arts Education. That was something that met every year from the 40s through the 50s. The idea behind that, the
idea of MoMA as a convener, because they really
supported these conversations on art education. They would bring speakers,
they would have exhibitions, usually of children’s work to talk about. We found a reference to
this in a press release that said, “This committee
is art education’s answer “to fashism and its
contempt for creative arts.” That idea that art had this larger social and important purpose in a time of war was
really interesting to me. The other thing that D’Amico
did was, he used technology to try and reach a larger audience and foster creativity
through a television series called Through the Enchanted Gate that was on WNBC in the 50s. He had two runs of that series. It was actually a part of a
larger MoMA television project. And then, a kind of global end to this. The Art Carnival often
traveled to different places, Brussels, as a kind of demonstration of American progressive education. And it traveled to
Brussels, Milan, Barcelona, but in 1962, it was
presented to Indira Ghandi by Jackie Kennedy, and a number of teachers,
including Arlette Buchman, who is here today,
traveled all over India. The Art Carnival traveled all over India and they taught teachers and children these kinds of methods of creativity. D’Amico retired in 1969. He took with him a lot of the archives, which was very typical of that time. Now, it’ll be wonderful to be able to have that information
back and to really explore those roots of the museum. But today, what I know of them has been very inspirational to many of us in our department. Material Lab is a hands-on place for experiential learning at the museum. We’ve experimented with adult programs, a print studio, a Bauhaus lab, different kinds of lab spaces
where people can drop in, and we’re finding that people
are very receptive to that. – My interest in art has
been ever since I was young. I was a military dependent, so
we lived all over the world. Finally, a couple of years ago, a couple of friends said,
you know, “Stop looking, “stop talking about it, and do something.” And, started doing, checking
out a lot of videos, of trying to learn, and felt like it was, there was something there
but there was something, a lot missing, as well. So, when this opportunity,
when I came across that MoMA was offering this course, then I thought that
would be a perfect thing to try to do. And it’s been the best thing. It’s opened up a whole new world of things for me since then. One thing I found out was that
my kid can’t do everything, that, even though it’s abstract, it doesn’t represent any
particular objective thing, there’s still structure,
there’s still color theory, there’s still design,
there’s still a concept. And all of that comes into play, and everything kinda works together. Whenever you use those ideas of what abstract is, and
then try to put it together, then it works and people have a tendency to understand it more. As an artist, then I have an understanding much better of what I’m
doing and why I’m doing it. Since the course is over, then, like, a group of three and
four have met in Paris, they’ve met in Italy, they’re planning a major get-together right outside of New
York here, next February. I hope to maybe attend that. A course like this, even
if you aren’t wanting to be an artist, because you
don’t have to do the painting. The painting is an optional thing. A person would get just as much out of it, still have a better understanding
of what they’re looking at and why it was done, how it was done. So I think sure, even
if you’re not an artist and you don’t want to paint, then it’s still a
top-notch course to take. – The idea that we could
start to foster communities who are interested in art and integrating art in
their everyday life globally is something that very much interests me. What we found from these
small experiments is that they do, we’ve got a couple of groups that have created their
own Facebook pages. One student created a virtual
exhibition in Second Life, and another, one of our students, actually took the class again
to do it with her grandchild. But what it means is
that we can exponentially use the web to democratize
and reach new audiences. Just to kind of give you an example of the reach that we’re beginning to see. It’s kind of like occupying
a new space for us. I wanted to end with this
image of Google Art Project, because I think that the
web is going to allow us to realize many of Dewey’s greatest hopes for a new way of learning. And the democratization
of art can now be realized through the web, if we
embrace this virtual space and understand the unique opportunities of its dimensions and what it can do well to amplify the ability of us to achieve the museum’s mission. It will continue to
revolutionize our behaviors and expectations, and I think that we’re in a good position
to really respond to it. The 21st century museum
can serve and educate to capacity inside the museum, but the web allows a 24/7 audience all around the globe. A community of learners
just got super sized. And as we think about our expanded role as museum educators in the digital age, understanding this new environment, the opportunities to
participate and connect through an ever-growing
range of capabilities, to communicate, to create, to share, as vehicles for art as experience, many of the Progressive innovations about education, art and democracy introduced in the 20th century, can nearly be realized because now, it’s no matter a matter of
reform, it’s a revolution. Thank you. (applause) Now I’d like to invite
Michelle Elligott to respond, and then Seb, and we’re
gonna have a conversation after Michelle talks. Thank you. – Good afternoon. I would like to thank the Kress Foundation and Wendy for this really excellent paper, and for inviting me here today to provide just a few
comments as response, coming from my perspective as the museum archivist at MoMA. To begin, every museum has
an identity that can be defined by its current
activities and its purpose. This identity is formed by its past. If a museum is to have an identity, it must understand its history. That history is dependent upon
the records it has created. Without those records,
the historian’s sources consist only of secondary
published accounts and the memories of individuals, which fade away over time. If an organization’s records
have not been preserved, one might say it has no history. And, if there is no one responsible for preserving those
records, as we all know, it’s almost inevitable that one day, they’ll just be discarded
to make space for new ones. So, for a museum’s past to be understood, we must ensure that records
are systematically preserved. And the way that we do
so is with archives. So what is an archive? Well, the word archives comes to us from the ancient Greek archeon, meaning “that which belongs to an office.” Perhaps more importantly,
the verb archeo means “I command, guide or govern.” I think this is critical
to underscore the power inherent in archives, which, of course, conversely implies the opposite when such documentation is lacking, whether by design or
by accident or chance. So archives are, at a
basic level, evidence and a witness to the past. So that is why we at MoMA
archives are so thrilled with the return to MoMA of
the Victor D’Amico papers. Though before, we had scattered evidence of some educational
projects in our archives, without the Victor D’Amico
papers, it was impossible to amass a thorough understanding of this pivotal program,
one which, I might add, as you well know, was
for decades a touchstone and replicated by many other
programs across the country. Now, Wendy has just
provided an astute overview, but I also wanted to add
a few additional comments about education as part
of the very DNA of MoMA. She mentioned the three founding ladies, and Mary Quinn Sullivan
being an art teacher. I think Sullivan is very interesting. She studied art at Pratt,
the Art Students League, and at the Slade School of Art in London. She then taught art in the
New York City public schools. In fact, the Board of
Education of New York City was so impressed with her
work that they sent her to Europe to observe art schools there. Sullivan was certainly
the most knowledgeable of the founders about art education. We can only surmise
that it was her imprint that directed the museum’s
strong educational mission from its inception. But there’s one other
person I’d like to call out. In addition to the three founding ladies, Josephine Boardman Crane
was an original member of MoMA’s Board of Trustees. The widow of Murray Crane, former governor of Massachusetts and president
of the Crane paper company, she held a legendary weekly
literary and cultural salon here on Fifth Avenue at 63rd Street. But perhaps more importantly
for our conversation today, she was the main benefactor
of the Dalton School in New York and was deeply
interested in education. So, combining this
wide-ranging interest in art and her deep commitment to experimental education, and further, she was the chair of the Education
Committee at MoMA in the 1930s, we have to believe that she must have deeply influenced the educational mission
of the institution. I think we can say, the founding of MoMA was a distinctly different proposition from many of the other museums
established in the same era. MoMA’s enlightened patrons,
as Wendy pointed out, sought to establish a center
to educate about modern art. They were not wealthy industrialists, founding museums simply
to showcase their own superlative private art collections. I apologize, Mr. Frick. (laughter) MoMA, from its inception,
distinguished its purpose as not just presenting works
of art of the recent past, but rather saw itself as a laboratory where new ideas were explored, and in the language of
the time, the public was invited to participate. This idea of the museum being
a laboratory allowed the staff to create a program which was exploratory. The museum acted as an
incubator for new ideas, whether that be the exhibition program or the educational project. Just briefly, I also wanted
to touch upon John Dewey. Wendy explained the way
in which his theories played out at the museum. In addition to studying
this lineage, indeed, we actually have documented intersections of Dewey and the museum. I’m very proud to say,
we have this beautiful, leather-embossed VIP
guest book that he signed on at least two occasions, and in 1934, he, along with Amelia
Earhart and Charles Richards of the Museum of Science and Industry, actually acted as judges to select the most beautiful objects in
the Machine Art exhibition, which Wendy mentioned. You might be interested to know that Dewey chose the propeller. We have a great photo of the three judges holding their chosen objects very proudly. Finally, moving on to technology, the embrace of new technologies
is not new for MoMA. As early as the 1930s,
the museum collaborated on a series of radio broadcasts
titled Art in America. And in 1939, the museum
held the first television broadcast ever by an America museum. As Wendy mentioned, the museum continued to experiment with TV, both as a vehicle for educating about modern
art as well as exploring television as potentially
the new artistic medium. This later led to video, and
what we today call New Media. Technology and the web
continue to challenge museums to explore their potential,
whether as a vehicle of communication or a point of creation. Wendy’s notion that the digital world will reprioritise values is spot-on. What I find so interesting about this is the impact on archives. We are living in a
world that has succumbed to archives fever, if you
will, and I personally believe this is a direct result of
the Internet, for it is only with the web that unique
primary source documentation has become democratic and
accessible to a vast audience. What was once the domain of
the elite esoteric scholar is now available to
any man, woman or child through just a few simple
clicks of the mouse. Now, some feared that the
Internet would diminish the effect of the authenticity
and aura of the original that comes with direct contact. Instead, I believe it
has served the inverse and has enhanced and
heightened the interest in, hunger for, and understanding of archives and unique primary source materials. Of course, over the past
decade, the way in which we work has been dramatically transformed. For many of us, the majority
of our professional production takes the form of electronic records, whether that be email,
databases, web programming. We embrace this technology
because, of course, it enhances creativity and productivity. However, the byproduct is
that electronic records can be much more difficult to maintain than old-fashioned paper records. So at the same time, we’ve
actually increased our risk of losing the records we
want and need to keep. We are facing a moment of crisis for the archives of the future. We must be mindful of the
challenges of selecting and preserving a great mass of data, and be diligent in our
approach to combat issues like technical obsolescence and bit rot by proactively undertaking data
normalization and migration and enacting long-term
preservation strategies. We must not turn a
blind eye to this issue, for if we do, we risk
the loss of the archives of the late 20th and early 21st century. So it is in these ways
that we at MoMA archives know our past, work in the present, and do our very best to try
to anticipate the future. (applause) – We’re gonna do this? – Yes, we’re gonna do this. Michelle, that was great. You raised a lot of
issues about authenticity. And I think that’s
something that, as museums, we think about our collections and what’s gonna happen with them online. Seb, I heard you talk at the NAEA about collections as databases. – Yeah, I’m studying to see that really, in the digital space, museums need to have the same kind of mission that we saw you talking about in terms
of MoMA in the early days. They had a very clear identity and mission that had a purpose. And digital experiences within museums, for the last 15 to 20 years, have been searching for
their own unique purpose, that unique thing that is
possible in the digital space, that isn’t possible anywhere else. We’re beginning to, I think, and I hope, realize that
that is not replicating the experience of physical galleries, but is about connecting works of art, and the connecting tissue
between works of art. This is what I started
to see in my own work at the Cooper-Hewitt and
previously, the Powerhouse, in terms of making collection metadata publicly and freely available, because that collection metadata, the descriptive texts about works, even the images of works, has both less and more value within the digital space. Less in the sense is in that it isn’t the actual work, but more in that it gains value as you’ve seen in the Google Art Project, when you can actually see a full spectrum of a period, a place, or an artist on a screen, which you could never do
within a physical gallery. I think that’s what is
becoming very exciting. Now we need museums to assert a purpose behind their digital projects, so that we can actually realize
those connective benefits. – I think that word, connectivity, is really an important one. I was thinking that so much of what we do, it takes an isolated art
object and it puts it in a context that can
tie back to everyday life through primary source documents and that kind of thing. So in many ways, it
really provides an ideal learning environment
that gets much expanded and can be complementary to a museum. – Yeah, I mean, there
are obvious challenges, I think, as museums begin using the web, particular as an extension
of their marketing activities, for want of a better word. And I think that that’s
where need to pull out of that a little bit and
assert a parallel pathway. There is a sense that it
is fabulous for marketing and reach, but it can
also do these other things that have been yet poorly explored. – Absolutely. Michelle, any thoughts you wanna share? – I’m just very interested in this notion of connectivity and hyperlinking. It’s actually something, a concept that we’re trying to take
into the archive world and think more about
ways to make connections among documents and among the various collections, because traditionally, you’ve looked, one looks at archives in this very sort of static, linear way. And I think moving forward, frankly, with technology, if we
can expose the documents almost as they had circulated. You know, they circulated back and forth between these two people, but now we just see the letters of Alfred
Barr that he received. But it’d be nice to get
back into the papers of the sender and see what else the sender was collecting at the same time. And I think there’s a
lot of opportunity there. – And there’s a lot of
challenges for our systems, too. I think how cataloging
systems, the archiving systems, haven’t adjusted to
capture that social life of collections and collection records. That is very hard to, you know, we find it very hard within museums to archive an exhibit, because an exhibit has a layout, has a structure, and those are currently done in a very, very rudimentary way. Yet, there’s now also
this parallel social life of the visitor, as well, and the viewer, that is completely unexplored. – Right, and I’m also interested how we’re going to be capturing that data
for the long term, as well. – That’s something that
I think about a lot. You’re talking about connectivity
of things and objects. But the connectivity
of people online, too. And one of the things that
I find most fascinating is when we look at these online courses, and you can see threaded discussions, and you can see people’s
responses, and you can see, sort of, peer-to-peer
learning taking place. And what I find really
exciting, as a museum educator, is what we do is often so ephemeral. No one really sees how, we talk about it, we know how great it is, we know how transformative it is. But this makes it visible. So, you know, someone like Doug can send us a video. Last week, Colleen Brogan
had a number of people send videos to us, and
it was really amazing to hear these powerful stories of why art meant something them, and that experience of making something or learning about something, what a powerful effect
it had in their lives. And people from all over the world. And I love the idea of, you know, the ability for somebody
from Istanbul and the Bronx and Vancouver to all be
having conversations together and learning from each other’s experience that they bring to
looking at a work of art, or thinking about art. That, to me, is really
dynamic and exciting, and really great for our field. – Yeah, and I think when that’s defined as the purpose, it becomes the thing that people look for to measure success, rather than in the digital
space of the moment. People use the number of people, the quantitative things,
which are very, very poor measures of these great, impactful experiences. It’s this qualitative stuff
that really matters and counts. – And maybe it’ll be really helpful for us in terms of being, as
you say, giving us data to really look at
experience and think about how we evaluate what we
do in different ways. I think we’d love to open
it up to some questions that you might have, as well, or thoughts that you have. Anybody have a question? I’ll be the runner. – Wendy, you mentioned how Artemas Packard had described the museum
as having this dual goal of, on one hand, enhancing
critical discourse on art, and on the other, enabling the popular instruction about art. And he did believe that these missions would come to support one another. But he also said that
they were antagonistic to one another. My question is, do you
think we’ve overcome that antagonism, and if
so, how did we do it? – I think, I often think the antagonism, it depends on what the values are, and people’s values are. I think it often comes down
to very human interpretations of what one’s role is
and what one is doing. I think there is a huge focus on, at the end of, what I can gather, at the end of D’Amico’s period,
there is a lot of thinking about the valuing of scholarship, and kind of more an academic enterprise for the museum became its focal point. I think now, the web
is changing everything. I mean, we can’t write in the same way, people’s behavior is changing, people want information in
different kinds of ways. I think that it continues in some cases, when people hold on to the values of, not that scholarship is
bad, but it’s appropriate to an academic setting. A museum is a public space,
and I feel very strongly that certainly, quality
is always something that you want, but
quality and accessibility can live together, and that should be your goal, always. I think things are changing, though, and I think it’s really
on a case-to-case basis. – Hi. First, thank you
all for your comments. And Wendy, that was a great talk. I have two questions. One is specifically for Michelle. I wanted to ask you just about, as museums start engaging people online and engaging their visitors
and their audiences through interactions
that take place off site, how are you thinking about
that as an archivist? What are some of the
ways that you’re thinking about archiving that part of our history? Because that’s going to be a major part of our educational history moving forward. And then, the second question that I had is really for, maybe, Seb and Wendy. Seb, you mentioned this a little bit, about things that we can do online that we can’t do onsite. And so, I was wondering if you two had any thoughts about that, or any examples of things that are happening now that you think are particularly unique to an online space that’s been a success, in terms of museums doing
something different online that complements or adds
to their onsite experience? – Okay, well, that’s, yes, it’s a grave concern. (laughs) I think, basically,
we’re just not there yet, in the sense that I’ve been spending the last year and 1/2 doing this study of how museums are dealing
with their electronic content and archiving electronic content. And, frankly, I think we need to focus on some sort of basic
system-wide issues first. For example, there is no
email archive at MoMA, if you think about it. So the fact that all the correspondence between artists and curators
is happening over email, what are we gonna do? I think we have a few, we’re a few steps behind,
but that would certainly be part of the larger agenda. I’d say, point three on that agenda is moma.org in general. So, given that these things
are existing within moma.org, I would hope that we
could somehow envelop that in the discussion, how
do we archive moma.org? But at this time, it is
not really being archived. The Internet archive has taken, what, 2,118 snapshot of it. But it’s truly a shame
that a website that, you know, over time has been lauded for some design innovation et cetera, and content and accessibility, hasn’t been properly archived. So, (audience member speaks off-microphone) it’s, yeah, it’s that much at committee. – Yeah, I mean, I’ll
talk about one example, which is a museum in Hobart, Tasmania, that’s taken the assumption that visitors can get everything they need from the web, so they’ve
taken away labels, altogether, away from objects. And they’ve delivered an experience that is all about looking at the works and providing a mobile experience that has designed-in features that force people to look at the works without looking at the screen. That, I think, has been quite a valuable challenge to museums to think about. What happens when everybody carries around in their pockets more
access to more information than ever before? How does that both enhance a visit, on one hand, but also detract from everyone else’s visit,
because all the visitors are looking at screens instead
of looking at the walls. These are both challenges. It’s very good to see nimble, medium-sized to small museums testing the waters
around what does it mean when mobile is in your gallery, rather than just providing an audio tour or an enhanced multimedia thing, which, frankly, you can get anywhere else. That’s on one hand. The other one is this shift for museums to become event spaces, and they’re heavily driven by events. This I also have, I think it’s a very positive thing in that museums are becoming very lively social spaces in their physical presences. But also, I do have a fear
that we’re not addressing the issues around what
happens to collections, and what happens to
contemporary collecting, and what happens to the opportunities now for not only visitors to feed back on existing collection works, but to help museums
make better acquisitions through collective opinion? What is the role of curators as selecters, versus, say, curators as the voice of intelligent opinion about important works, to hold? And also, what does it mean now to hold a work in a collection? Why should a work sit in a
single collection any more? What does preservation
for hundreds of years, 50 year, 10 years, mean? Should we both have, should we have semi-permanent collections, collections which are held initially for five years, and then reevaluated based on visitor feedback? Now we can actually do that, at scale, not at just the opinions of a few people in a focus group, but the opinions of 1,000s of people walking through our galleries. I think these are big
issues for museums to face. That ones are the digital tools are incredibly well suited for. These are the issues I think museums are avoiding in many ways. They’re rolling out more audio tours, beautiful websites and things that really are Wikipedia
with fancy design. Whereas, we have Wikipedia. We don’t need another one. (soft chuckling) We need to do something
that enhances Wikipedia by not actually being it and contributing to it. We’re still trying to figure out what this is. – I think I’m very interested in what I see socially and
not necessarily in museums. I’m kind of looking a lot at games, and I’m interested in the
collective intelligence that they can bring together. I have an 11-year-old,
so I get to see games on a regular basis every day. And I’ve been very
interested in looking at Little Big Planet, which
is a game where players, he’s playing with kids
all over the nation, probably the world, at the
same time, in our living room, and creating their own layers
and challenges for each other. So they actually create the next level, and then they share levels. I’m always sort of interested in how kids can come together to, or not kids, but anyone can come together to solve problems together,
to challenge each other to new things, to share
different ways of doing things, as problem solving. I think that, to me, is
something that we need to be able to embrace and infiltrate that into what we do. But the amazing creativity. One day my son had this,
it looked like something Leonardo had invented,
this kind of beast-like, insect-like floating thing. And he jumped on, he invited
somebody else to jump on, and they were going for
a ride through the sky. And I said, “Wow, did you make that?” He said, “Oh, no, no, no, somebody made it “and gave it to me.” To me, that’s really
amazing, that sense of not, “This is mine, and I’m
against you,” but that, “I could make something
and gift it to you, “and now you could give
it to somebody else, “and they could have an
experience with it, too.” To me, that kind of generosity and collective intelligence is exciting. Any other questions? Let’s see, there’s one over, I’m (drowned out by
cough), and then I will… – Thinking about this idea
of collective intelligence and sharing knowledge and everything, and something that Seb said about museums opening up their
archives to everyone, making all the information
about all the art works public. I’m curious as Wendy, as you
sit in the middle of that, and Michelle, as you sit in the protective archive spot of that idea,
how do you feel about that? I feel like museums sit, there’s this idea that the
archive is this sacred thing, that some of it can be
available, but, you know, you make an appointment and
you have to be a scholar to go see all of that information, versus making it accessible
for educational purposes for anyone and everyone
to make those connections. How do you feel about
sitting in those positions? – Well, I’m not sure we’d
be in different positions if there was a little
more money in the world. I mean, we’d love to, anything
that we have processed and available for research,
we’d love to, frankly, digitize it all, and index it well and hyperlink it, and
just have it out there. We believe in open access
and anything that’s open, we would love to promote it even more. Again, it’s just an issue
that we’re just not there yet. (Wendy speaks off-microphone) – I was just gonna to talk of that. I don’t think it’s about, I think it’s about being clear as to why, kind of, you want to do it. This is about aligning a mission around that sort of purpose. It’s no point, if you don’t have a reason for making things accessible. You make accessible any
part of the mission. And that’s not, certainly, for everybody, and that’s okay, I think. – [Voiceover] Thank you, everybody. I’d like to lead back
on what Wendy was saying about Little Big Planet. I was lucky to pioneer game
design (speaks off-microphone) Little Big Planet. (speaks indistinctly) The leading art form of the
21st century is video design, and video games are
very much where our kids are spending their time. If you go back 100 years ago,
film was the new art form, and we had 100 years of that. It’s something that I
think we all need to do, (speaks indistinctly). – Well, actually, (laughs) we are hosting a two-day
symposium on game design in May–
– [Voiceover] May 17th. – May 17th and 18th, and
a group of staff members, we actually partner with Quest To Learn, as a matter of fact,
and we just went through a three-day workshop, series of workshops, three departments,
Communications, Education, and Digital Media, learning about games, learning how to modify games, and how to do game processes. It’s part of our learning, and helping us to think about that. We did that with the
Institute of Play, as well. So it’s something that’s
very much on our minds, as a cultural thing, that we
need to play better together and learn how to play. Okay, thank you. (woman speaks off-microphone) Thank you so much. (applause)

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