Posts Tagged 'research'

Help Needed: Museum Accessibility Research

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We love collaboration here at the DMA, and when it comes to teamwork, Texas Women’s University occupational therapy students are fantastic additions to our team! Since 2010, the DMA has held quarterly-occurring Autism Awareness Family Celebrations for children with autism and their families to enjoy activities in the Museum before it opens to the public. We have been partnering with TWU’s occupational therapy students led by Dr. Tina Fletcher, OTR, EdD, MFA during these events. The students host the TWU Sensory Room during every Autism Awareness Family Celebration by creating a quiet space filled with weighted blankets, tunnels, and resources for families.

One of Dr. Fletcher’s students, Jennifer Burns, is conducting research about the accessibility of museums for children with special needs here in the United States and in other countries. Please see details from Jennifer below about how you can help:
 

Texas Woman’s University is conducting research investigating parent’s perception of museum accessibility for children with special needs. The study is looking at museum accessibility domestically and internationally.

To be able to participate in this study, you must be a parent or guardian of a child with special needs and have visited at least one museum in the United States and/or abroad. The questionnaire will take 30-60 minutes to complete.

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We appreciate your contributions toward museum accessibility research!

Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

The D3C Detectives

We are thrilled to welcome four new members to the DMA’s Education Division–Jeelan Bilal-Gore, Elaine Higgins, Samantha Robinson, and Emily Schiller–who are our new digital collections content coordinators, or D3Cs. This newly-created team is responsible for the research, aggregation, and digitization of rich, contextual information that will be presented on our online collection.

Essentially, the D3Cs are like detectives that unearth and build upon research the Museum has conducted on our collection. Then, they package that information for public consumption. For example, virtual visitors to the DMA will eventually be able to not only search for an artwork and find beautiful images, but also learn interesting details like who made the work, why or how they made it, and when. Our D3Cs will focus on artwork that is on view and recently on view, so that visitors will be able to access this content via smartphone or tablet while they meander through our galleries.

The work the D3Cs are doing is part of a five-year project funded by a generous $9 million gift to the DMA to support free general admission and free online access to our permanent collection. We are excited to be able to enrich our online collection and to provide this resource to onsite and digital visitors alike.

Meet the D3Cs

Jeelan is working with our Asian, African, Pacific and Contemporary collections. She holds a Masters degree in Art Museum and Gallery Practice from Newcastle University and a second MA in Art History from the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London. Her BA focuses on Asian languages and civilizations from Amherst.

When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…

Just one?! The ones I am excited about are not currently on view but have been in the last five years (though of course there are some that haven’t been on view longer that I’m dying to look into like Shirin Neshat’s Soliloquy and Willie Doherty’s Ghost Story). It’s a toss-up between Yinke Shonibare’s Un Ballo in Maschera and Koki Tanaka’s Everything is Everything.


Elaine is focusing on our pre-Columbian, American Indian, and Latin American collections. She returns to the DMA as a Ph.D. candidate focused on Spanish Colonial art at the University of New Mexico. She also holds an MA in Art History with an emphasis in Pre-Columbian art from UT Austin and a BA in Art History from TCU.

When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…

The Seated hunchback holding mirror and Reclining hunchback holding rectangular object, displayed together. Since I conducted my thesis research on the dwarf motif in Mesoamerican iconography, I am most looking forward to finding out more about these extraordinary works in our collection!


Samantha will be concentrating her focus on our extensive Decorative Arts and Design collection. Most recently, Samantha served as a McDermott Intern (2014-2105) and holds an MA in Art History with a concentration in 19th and 20th century American silver from SMU. Her BA is from Macalester College in St. Paul in International Studies.

When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…

I am most excited to research our Valeri Timofeev martini glass. Acquired in 2014, the brightly colored and profusely patterned martini glass is the first design by Timofeev, a Latvian born designer trained in the former USSR and active in the United States, in the DMA’s permanent collection. I am eager to learn more about the Russian designers, such as Rasul Alihanov, and studios, such as Fabergé, Ovchinnikov, and Khlebnikov, that influenced the material and formal elements of Timofeev’s designs.  


Emily is focused on our American and European collections, in addition to working with our aAncient Mediterranean and Contemporary collections. A former McDermott Intern (2012-2013), Emily is a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University, concentrating on the History of Photography and African American art, and she also holds an MA in Art History from American University. Her BA is in Art History and Women’s Studies from Hollins University.

When asked what DMA work of art she was most excited to research…

Something that excites me about researching an object is if it was acquired during the early decades of the collection. Any work that has an accession number from the 1900s through 1940s is fun because then it has two historic narratives. One is the history of the art and its creation, and the other is the history of how that piece has been exhibited or discussed since coming into the DMA’s collection.

 One work that has intrigued me since the start of my Internship is Zoltan Sepeshy’s The Whole Town. He is an artist I know very little about, but his name repeatedly popped up when I was doing my dissertation research. I have a feeling he was an individual who socialized and interacted with some of the major art figures during the New Deal and WWII-era, but got neglected by later generations of scholars.  


Be sure to keep an eye on our online collection to discover the interesting facts they’re sure to find!

Andrea Severin Goins
Interpretation Manager

So What? One Question Evaluations at the DMA

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Almost all museums have programs for the public, in one form or another. These programs may fall under the fields of education, visitor engagement or interpretation, and may take the forms of drop-in workshops, ticketed lectures, in-gallery interactives or scheduled tours. Even within a single museum, these programs are diverse in their scope, varied in the spaces they take place, and wide-ranging in their scale. Furthermore, they differ in their intended outcomes, but more on that later.

Importance has been placed on growing different types programs for the public, as these can garner more attention from the community, increase overall attendance, and develop audiences. Oftentimes, this growth is approached by expanding programmatic offerings: increasing lecture topics, presenting more classes and workshops, or providing additional interactives in galleries. In these instances, growth is measured by quantity: “Well yes we serve our community, look how many programs we offer!” But I question whether this type of growth is positive for museums. Is expansion without reflection a good idea? I am inevitably reminded of the adage, “Less is more,” and wonder how this concept can be manifested in museum education programs.

The process of reflection and evaluation is an often overlooked step in program creation. Activities are designed, implemented, and either repeated (perhaps next week, or next month) or they are archived (if they’re lucky) for posterity. But rarely does someone stop and ask, “So what?” This question, seemingly harsh and unforgiving to some, or unimportant to others, is an invaluable asset to evaluation in my mind. It is a question that harks back to my time as a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin in the Art Education department. My thesis advisor and Assistant Chair to the department Dr. Paul E. Bolin situated this question as an integral part of all academic research. Students would approach him with research proposals and he would answer, “Well yes, that does sound like an interesting study of this-and-that at the so-and-so institution, but so what?” This simple question produced its fair share of frustration, but also some very fruitful discussion about the field of art education. It caused us to reflect on how our intended research would impact or advance the discipline. It wasn’t enough for the topic to simply garner interest, it had to have purpose and intention; it needed to be able to stand on its own and answer, “This is why I exist.” Now, I am not proposing that every public program initiated by a museum or art institution should be held to the bar of furthering the field of art education (this would be rather difficult), but I do feel that every program should be accountable in providing a significant answer to this critical question.

As a department, the DMA’s Education team has spent many hours creating a mission statement that encapsulates our departmental practice, inevitably answering the So What question for ourselves. And during this process we have hit upon some key concepts that fuel our programs, the chief one being engagement. As educators, we aim to broaden and deepen engagement, and recognize that the DMA can influence the depth of one’s engagement, not by pitching more programs at our community, but by facilitating meaningful experiences in our current educational endeavors. But how can we know that these experiences are meaningful, unless we ask?

Our Education team is undertaking the evaluation process by implementing a series of one question studies that aim to pinpoint specific queries we as educators have about our public programs. The restricted format of this evaluation exercise is key, because evaluation can be a daunting task if approached too broadly. The one question design ensures that we concentrate on a single point—one program or interactive, one outcome, one bit of information that is important for us to determine. Just as the questions vary, so too do the methods of collecting data from visitors, ranging from written surveys, a post-it note response wall, and even a voting system using colorful pony beads. Below are preliminary looks into two different one question case studies we’ve begun.

CASE STUDY #1: YOUNG LEARNERS GALLERY (contributed by Jessica Fuentes)

Young Learners Gallery

The Young Learners Gallery, within the Center for Creative Connections (C3), is a space designed for children ages 5-8 and their caregivers. Over the past three years while much of C3 has changed—with the introduction of new artworks, art-making materials and gallery interactives—the Young Learners Gallery has gone untouched, because making changes to that space requires a complete redesign. Before undertaking such a task, the C3 staff want to learn more about families’ anticipated and actual experiences at the Museum.

We started with the prompt, “I bring my child(ren) to the Dallas Museum of Art Prompt signbecause…” posted on a wall in the Young Learners Gallery near a small table equipped with post-it notes and pencils. Unlike a survey, this method allows for open-ended responses that can later be categorized and analyzed while retaining the individual visitor’s voice. This analog system has been brought into the 21st Century through the development of the Post-It Plus App. With this app, instead of sifting through responses and later transcribing them in digital form, we can simply photograph the post-it notes and organize the digitized notes on a virtual board. The board can then be exported in a variety of formats including PowerPoint, Excel, and PDF.

We posted our question for a month and received 107 responses. The responses ranged from children’s drawings to eloquent statements expressing a desire to expose children to a broader world view. Because the purpose of this question was to gauge the caregiver’s motivations, we set aside the 26 children’s responses and the 4 irrelevant responses; however, we plan to use future questions to gather children’s input as well. The top three categories for why caregivers bring their child(ren) to the DMA is to get inspiration or foster creativity, to provide exposure to different cultures or broaden their world view, and because it’s fun.

As we plan the new Young Learners Gallery, we are keeping these findings in mind. For example, we have decided to include works of art in the space which currently is an activity area. The works of art selected will have a strong emphasis on culture and creativity. We also plan to create hands-on activities that address the developmental milestones of children aged 5-8 and provide opportunities for children and their caregivers to play, draw, and talk together about the works of art in front of them.

Now that we understand why caregivers bring their children to the DMA, we are in the process of posing more questions to learn what families actually do in the Young Learners Gallery. Understanding both expectations and experiences will help us develop a space that will meet a wider spectrum of caregivers’ and children’s needs.

totes45CASE STUDY #2: ART TO GO FAMILY TOTE BAGS

The DMA first offered activity-filled tote bags to families around this time last year, premiering during our January 2013 Late Night event. Each tote bag contains a variety of activities that encourage families to write, talk, play, or make while exploring the galleries together, the idea being to have fun with the art as a family. Since their public introduction last year, our Art To Go Family tote bags have grown to include many different themes: Senses, to help explore art through the five senses; Color, to explore art while thinking about colors; Family Fun, with activities designed by a family who frequently visits the Museum; and Arturo’s Library totes, designed for children under five years of age, which focus on a single work of art with an accompanying book and hands-on activity. These tote bags are available for check-out at our Family Fun Cart, located at the main entrance to the Museum, and are free to use by families anytime the Museum is open.

Initially, the Family & Access programs staff sought feedback on tote bags through individual paper surveys, presented to families once they returned tote bags to the Family Fun Cart. We found that very few of these surveys were returned, or even taken in the first place. During busy times at the Museum, those who coordinated checking bags in and out to visitors rarely had time to focus on handing out this extra survey to families, who for their part, were usually rushing to leave the Museum, and therefore rarely could spend extra time answering a two-page questionnaire. In this case, the one question evaluation was ideal not only because of its simplicity and accessibility, but also because of its straightforwardness. Unlike the above-mentioned project with the Young Learners Gallery, for the tote bags we were not looking for open-ended answers, at least not yet. While it is absolutely valuable to know whether or not visitors feel that the tote bags encourage a playful attitude towards looking at art, or if they are able to increase visitor confidence in looking at art with children, this is information that is best obtained in a second stage of evaluation, when we look at the specific effects of each activity and deem whether things should be modified or not. At this still early stage in the life of the tote bags, our team is really interested in the simple question of whether families are indeed using the tote bags during their visit, and where in the Museum they are being used. (This is our So What question.)

We designed our one question evaluation as a multiple choice prompt, which was added to the tote bag check-out sheet. We asked, “On Which Floor Did You Use the Tote Bag?” and invited visitors to check the box next to each area in which they used the bags—Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4—or, if they didn’t in fact use the activities in the bag, to check Did Not Use. Our hope was that including our one question evaluation on the check-out sheet, something that families were already using and thus familiar with, would increase the amount of feedback we received.

The updated check-out sheet has been in rotation for two months, and we have collected data for November and December 2014. On average, 52% of people who checked-out tote bags during that time responded to our evaluation, and of that total only 6% did not use the tote bag activities at all. While in the Museum, the respondents said they preferred to use the tote bags most on Level 1 (28%) and least on Level 4 (16%). Now, is this choice based on physical access (Level 1 is the same level on which the tote bags are offered, while Level 4 is farthest away) or related to the works of art available on each level (Level 1 is Contemporary art, Level 4 is American)? Now that we are beginning to better understand how much the tote bags are being utilized by visitors, and where in the Museum galleries they are being taken, we can start to pose these types of ancillary questions, that tap into deeper inquiries about visitor engagement.

Tour

The insight provided by these two studies hopefully demonstrates the importance of evaluation to both growing and expanding program development. These are just preliminary looks into initial studies, and we hope to have more one question studies, as well as data, on the horizon. In order to increase the effectiveness of our programs and spaces, museum educators need the input of our audience to better understand their level and scope of engagement. Reflection and evaluation, in the style of these one question studies or other formats, can facilitate this exchange of ideas in a positive and productive manner, providing a strong foundation for educators to answer the So What question for themselves, their institution, as well as their community.

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Camp and Community

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I spent the last week in July in sunny California. Though I divided my time between walks on the beach, wandering the bustling boardwalk, and exploring the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH), this was no beach vacation, but rather an intense seventy-two hours at Nina Simon’s Museum Camp 2014.  Even with the itinerary, I honestly did not know what to expect as I walked up to the MAH, feeling like a true camper toting my loaded backpack and refillable water bottle attached to my purse.  As a museum educator, this was a dream come true.  Not only has Simon influenced the way we think about and create programs and interactives in the Center for Creative Connections (C3), but I also used her book in the literature review of my Master’s thesis.  As relevant professional development can be hard to come by as a museum educator working in an interactive space, this Social Impact Assessment themed camp seemed to be what I was looking for to give me some direction in the evaluation of the C3 and specific activities within our space.

Overnight camp as an adult is a unique opportunity, so when I was offered the chance to attend Museum Camp and sleep over at the museum, I was all in.  There is a special bond that is formed by spending that kind of concentrated time with a group of people.  That bond is reinforced by going through certain trials and tribulations together, like searching for a comfortable spot to sleep, waking up and walking through a foggy Santa Cruz morning to the gym to take a shower, or late night revelations in the Confessional Tent.  Though not all the campers opted to stay the night at the Museum, there were other opportunities for bonding, like karaoke night, mess-hall style dinners, swimming in the Pacific, and of course the fast-paced group research projects that were at the center of our camp experience.

 

We met our group members at the end of the first day of Museum Camp and, through a tumultuous game of White Elephant, our research locations were determined.  Over the next few days we developed a research question, hypothesis, and indicators, then carried out our research and compiled our findings. The goal was to use unconventional methods of data collection to gather information regarding social impact. My group, the Metacampers, had a more sensitive location than most because we were attending a private rather than public event. The event was hosted by the Beach Flats Community Center for a small group of Latino families. Since we were all outsiders, we found it important to gather as much information as possible before engaging in our research.  We visited both the community center that was hosting the event and the park where the event would take place. Yet, we still came to our project with a handful of assumptions both about the community and the location. We planned our methods so as to be as natural as possible at the event; our Spanish-speaking group members engaged in informal interviews with adult participants, our non-Spanish-speaking members made observations of both adult and youth participants, and towards the end of the gathering we asked the youths to each take a photograph of  what they found most fun at the event. We expected to be greeted with some amount of skepticism, but were surprised to find the community was quite welcoming. The key to this was our Spanish-speaking group members; they were able to become ingrained in the event as participants, and holding informal interviews was a natural aspect of that.

This brings me to my biggest take-away from Museum Camp.  While undertaking the research project and learning about the other groups’ methods was interesting and insightful, my biggest take-away has more to do with the idea of community.  Time and again throughout camp, I was surprised by how immersed Nina Simon is in her city.  Clearly, whether the camp was going on or not, Simon would have had dinner at India Joze or gone to karaoke at I Love Sushi or walked to the beach to go swimming in the Pacific. As a cultural and educational institution, connecting to the community is an important aspect of the Dallas Museum of Art’s mission. What I learned at Museum Camp is that rather than seeking to connect to the community we must be embedded in it; we must be active participants in our own communities.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Museum Camp 2014 experience, take a look at these resources from camp and reflections by other campers.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

Accessible Teamwork

We love collaboration here at the DMA, and when it comes to teamwork, Texas Women’s University occupational therapy students are fantastic additions to our team! Since 2009, the DMA has held quarterly-occurring Autism Awareness Family Celebrations for children with autism and their families to enjoy activities in the Museum before it opens to the public. For the past two years, we have been lucky to partner with TWU’s occupational therapy students led by Dr. Tina Fletcher, OTR, EdD, MFA. The students host the TWU Sensory Room during every Autism Awareness Family Celebration and they transform our Tech Lab into a quiet space filled with weighted vests, therapy balls, tunnels, and resources for families.

Dr. Fletcher is an invaluable partner to the Museum’s Access Programs as she attends the Meaningful Moments program as well as every Autism Awareness Family Celebration and advises us on best practices. Dr. Fletcher is unique in that in addition to being a professor of occupational therapy, she is also an Autism Specialist as well as an artist – she brings many perspectives to our Access Programming! This year three of Dr. Fletcher’s students are working with us on research and evaluation related to our Autism Awareness Family Celebrations – their projects involve creating and testing social stories, creating and testing gallery guides written specifically for children with sensory issues, and researching the way that parents think about the Museum.

TWU Occupational Therapy student Ana Antonetti volunteering at our recent Autism Awareness Family Celebration

TWU Occupational Therapy student Ana Antonetti volunteering at our recent Autism Awareness Family Celebration

One of Dr. Fletcher’s students, Ana Antonetti, is conducting research about parents’ perceptions of the DMA. Ana has been a part of recent Autism Awareness Family Celebrations and we are excited to learn about her research results. We would love to have your assistance in helping us to improve on our programming for children with autism! Please see details below from Ana about how you can help:

The Dallas Museum of Art is collaborating with Texas Woman’s University to conduct a study comparing the perceptions of parents of children with and without autism spectrum disorders about participation in museum activities.

The information gathered will be used to help the DMA with program development and accessibility.

To be able to participate in this study you must be a parent of a child that has participated in activities at the DMA in the past OR a parent who is interested in having their child participate in Museum activities. Your child must be age 18 or younger.

Please follow this link to complete the questionnaire: https://www.psychdata.com/s.asp?SID=156983

Thank you!

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

Teen Learning Lab

dma_logo[2]Perot-Logo

 

 

 

The DMA, in partnership with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, is a proud recipient of a 2013 IMLS Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums Grant! This grant is for the planning and design of a joint, media-based Learning Lab for middle and high school students to collaborate, create, and connect with peers, experts, and mentors in an environment that is comfortable, social, and cutting edge. One of only twelve projects to receive funding this year, ours will examine the question, “Where do art and science intersect?”

The most exciting part is that the entire project–from its design to its programs–will largely be teen-generated. In addition to getting feedback from local teens, a teen council will be formed that will work directly with Museum staff to shape a more specific vision and plan for the Lab. It will be especially interesting to hear the specific aspects of art and science teens want to explore.

The Learning Lab will be informed by research on teen participation in new media such as the concept of HOMAGO (Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out). So not only will teens be able to participate in programs centered around issues that interest them, they will also be able to experiment, tinker, and learn on their own using state of the art media tools in the areas of audio, film/video, drawing, photography, communication/writing, and design.

Urban Armor 1

All of this represents an exciting shift in the way we think about our audiences and it’s our hope that the Lab truly gives teens a sense of ownership in the DMA and the Perot. Having them generate their own content instead of participating in what we think they want is a concept that’s at once scary and exhilarating; but above all, it’s one that’s long overdue.

The Learning Lab Team is just beginning the planning phase of the project, so we will post updates as our ideas grow and develop. In the meantime, check out the Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia, an amazing Learning Lab example. And tell us what you think–where do art and science connect? What types of programs involving the two would you want to see?

JC
C3 Program Coordinator

Behind the Books: An Interview With Our DMA Librarian

Uncrated tracked down Librarian Mary Leonard to talk about her job at the Museum. Mary is the friendly face that greets you when you enter the Mayer Library here at the DMA. Her knowledge is invaluable to researchers of art—and probably a few of us trivia buffs.

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
I handle reference questions and acquisitions for the library. We are open to the public during certain hours and I help visitors during those times and also assist people on the phone and via e-mail. The Mayer Library is a research library—the stacks are closed—so appointments are recommended. But walk-ins are welcome too!

What might an average day entail?
Sometimes I’m going over new books lists—my favorite job! During public hours, I’m at the reference desk and I might be helping a student with a paper or an appraiser with auction results. I check out books to staff and give orientations to new staff and docents. Every day can be different.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is actually getting to look at all the beautiful books we have in our collection. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with what’s actually going on out in the Museum—seeing new acquisitions and exhibitions. I can get stuck at my desk pretty easily.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I had no idea when I was a kid out in West Texas that these kinds of jobs even existed! But I’ve always loved libraries and art, so I’m really fortunate my career led me here.

What is your favorite work in the DMA collection?
The Fantin-Latour Still Life with Vase of Hawthorne. Or the Matisse Still Life: Bouquet and Compotier. There’s a pattern here. . . . I also love the Fleischner Courtyard, right outside the library windows. I’ve seen it in every season and I never get tired of looking out the window. See, I’m not daydreaming, I’m looking at art!

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
Everyone is excited about Jean Paul Gaultier—we have the catalog here already and it’s massive. I can’t wait to get down and see the African Headwear exhibition. In the past, I loved the J. M. W. Turner show and the Anne Vallayer-Coster exhibition. Beautiful paintings—what’s not to love?


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