Museum tapas platter – ideas rather than lesson plans
Due to augmented reality and innovative digital teaching materials, teachers and students as active participants can use museum collections in a creative way both in the museum and in the school, thus museum collections become more accessible and usable. Focusing on this idea, the museum conference titled Discovering Museums – Digital collections for education was a great opportunity to learn about good practices and methodologies of teaching materials based on digital collections. The conference featuring both Hungarian and international presenters took place in Szentendre Skanzen, organised by the Museum Education and Methodology Centre, Hungarian Open Air Museum (MOKK, SZNM) on 29 April 2019.
On behalf of the host of the conference the Hungarian Open Air Museum, director general dr. Miklós Cseri welcomed the audience and pointed out that the museum generally considered conservative has responded well to technical development so far, and in the future they are to be regarded as two areas mutually supporting one another.
Hajnal Kassai, head of Museum Division, Ministry for Human Capacities emphasised that the question is no longer whether digitalisation of museums is necessary, but instead the utilisation of digital museum content, as museums have transformed from just handling artefacts to transferring knowledge. While many museums abroad are focusing on sharing knowledge content, the situation in Hungary is rather heterogeneous. The situation ranges from not having a homepage like in the case of some small museums through using digital content only for marketing purposes to state-of-the-art installations applying LED walls. Speaking about Digitalising Strategy of Public Collections she pointed out that adapting to the needs of public education, development of digital competences, distance learning, supporting better access and to the right of learning, and helping network cooperation have become the main priorities of the museum sector.
The welcome speech and the opening remarks were followed by presentations of the plenary section. First of all, Magdolna Nagy, acting director of MOKK provided information on the measures the sector has taken concerning using digitalised museum content in public education, and also on new research studies, methodology development, and training courses created within the “Museum and library development for everyone” project. She pointed out the museum pilot projects regarding digitalisation development can be adapted as model projects for museums tackling similar tasks.
The international museum scene was represented by Naomi Chapman, from Scott Polar Research Institute, Polar Museum part of Cambridge University. In her talk titled “What does a teacher need from digital museum contents?” she reviewed the everyday use of digital technology at schools, and particularly how her own institution and UK museums in general can relate to this. She primarily focused on how a rather specialised museum collection (polar research) can aim at a better embeddedness of digital collection into curriculum, and a better virtual access of visitors. In the case of the pilot programme of collection digitalisation to fulfil the needs of public education implemented by five thousand pounds, mapping the users’ needs and their museum utilisation was given great emphasis. The teachers of five schools and about 2500 students were surveyed how they used digital technology, museums and museums’ home pages. Rather than questionnaires, they conducted discussions with the target groups.
The conclusion of the research underlying the project presented by Naomi Chapman was that British teachers need reliable, quality, expert but clear and user-friendly museum resources. They definitely need the help of museum professionals, but ideas rather than lesson plans. Making use of research results and following international trends they concentrated on simplicity in the elaboration of the project. They created a few minute-long films (theme films) listing ideas by using twenty-two exhibition items accessible on VIMEO, moreover, easily printable teaching materials (teacher’s pack) accessible free of charge were also compiled. Essential information about the listed museum items was supplemented with curiosities, ideas for using the material in the lesson, embedded hyperlinks, archive sources and easily downloadable high resolution photos of artefacts were also enclosed. During the project of 18 months the digital contents were downloaded by several thousands, and other museums also started using their digital contents in a similar way.
The loads of comments after Naomi Chapman’s presentation confirmed the considerable interest in the topic. According to her conclusion, British teachers hand-pick from the menu provided by museum professionals tailored to the needs of their students, just like from a museum tapas platter.
Hungarian museum professionals were represented by museologist Dr. Krisztina Pálóczy, Museum of Ethnography, who outlined the digital museum education projects of the museum, followed by museologists Diána Sóki and Anna Kádár, Petőfi Literary Museum, who presented the digital guide for teachers relating to Mór Jókai’s novel, The Man with the Golden Touch.
During the afternoon workshops the participants could gain insight into the methodology of developing digital teaching materials based on museum collections within three different topics. The workshop titled Digitalised collections in the classroom was conducted by head of division, Ádám Horváth, Centre for Digital Pedagogy and Methodology, during which teachers’ motivation regarding their using public collections and digital museum contents was analysed by the participants. It was also mentioned that due to public collections, teachers can search qualified knowledge content. Search tasks for students also serve the development of their digital competences and the ability of cultural context building, students’ structured search ability can develop, as the information they gain is not “ready-made”.
A workshop titled Digital teaching materials before and after museum visits was held by Éva Kómár, OMMIK, Hungarian National Museum, concluded that technology is not an end in itself, but a means to a higher end, therefore it is not necessary for museum professionals to be experts in this field, but they need to be aware of the possibilities of digitalisation. The workshop Digital museum contents and the needs of public education was moderated by methodology expert Márton Pacsika, MOKK where the participants working in small groups were trying to find digital content for their own museum, furthermore, possible ollaborations between museums were considered. The conclusion was reached that contrasting digital contents and museum collections is not relevant any more, since the two fields can strengthen one another.
The international conference was conducted within the European Union project entitled “Museum and library development for everyone” identification number 3.3.3-VEKOP-16-2016-00001. The project is implemented by non-refundable EU fund of two billion HUF between 1 February 2017 and 31 January 2020, with the consortium cooperation of the Museum Education and Methodology Centre, Hungarian Open Air Museum, and Szabó Ervin Metropolitan Library. The implementers of the project are committed to strengthening the role of equal opportunities, the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and creating possibility for providing equal access to cultural goods.
Author: Gabi Kajári, Museum Education and Methodology Centre, Hungarian Open Air Museum
Translation: Andrikó Katalin, Museum Education and Methodology Centre, Hungarian Open Air Museum
Photo: Péter Deim, Hungarian Open Air Museum