The Concept of a Teaching Museum

Here at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), we take our role as a teaching museum seriously. Elizabeth Gallerani, Coordinator of Academic Programs at WCMA, supports this role by working with faculty who use the museum’s collection in their classes in the Rose Study Gallery.

According to the article,  What’s Better Than College Art History 101? A Campus Museum in Forbes, “Teaching museums make art more relevant and not so exclusive. They help give students a sense of scale and hands on learning.” The article links to several teaching museums, including WCMA. Here is an interesting report on the future of campus art museums from the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago. There is also a series of blog posts in response to the study at the Center for the Future of Museums Blog.

Last week, I was asked to join an ancient civilizations class in the Rose Study Gallery taught by Anthropology Professor Antonia Foias. She had enjoyed reading some of my ancient art blog posts, including the ones about amulets, cuneiform tablets, and the mummified hand. It was a great experience for me to be able to share with the class some of the information I had learned while working with the materials during the museum’s digitization project. It was also really great for me to see the students reactions to the specific pieces and to hear the professor supply extra historical context.  I had encountered the artworks in a totally different setting in art storage, and I knew them first as something connected to a paper object file and an electronic database record. It was a valuable experience for me to be involved in objects being used in teaching. I think it is also important to note that these objects were being used by a non-art history class. The Rose Study Gallery is used by a wide variety of disciplines.

From my point of view, supporting the academic goals of the college is what makes us most useful as a museum.


Emily Lemieux
Digital Imaging Assistant

Comments are closed.