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Museums: A Multifaceted Educator Resource

Museums are an excellent resource that educators can use to provide subject enrichment for their students. Teachers are the experts on their students and their curriculum. They are experienced lesson plan designers and activity creators. Museums are the experts on their collections and exhibitions. Working collaboratively, the two can provide unique educational opportunities for students that accommodate diverse learning styles.

A local or regional historic house museum is a rich repository of information and material. Exhibitions serve as stimulating vehicles to transmit the essence of the museum collection. However, they frequently represent a mere fraction of the institution's relevant material. Contained within a museum's archives is a wealth of primary source material that forms the core of the collection. The documents, photographs, and manuscripts, when combined with the objects, reveal the story of the peoples of a region, and its growth and development. Often focused upon local history, they are the visual displays of the printed word; the concrete examples of the abstract concepts taught in the classroom. Whether used as a reference or as a ready, relevant enrichment to subject study, the museum collection is a valuable tool for the educator.

Collaboration with local educators is a crucial component of museum school and youth group programming. Museum educators view the museum/teacher relationship as dynamic and long-term. Communication and a mutual exchange of ideas and needs are the keys to establishing and maintaining a valuable relationship. Staff rely upon teachers for current information on local curriculum and standards. This enables the museum to maintain programming that is relevant to the needs of area educators. Museum sponsored workshops are one way this is achieved. Sessions can provide in depth exploration of a chosen topic, instruction on how to visit a museum, an introduction to resource material; or can be devoted to the development of unique ways educators can utilize museum collections.

The museum resources available to educators are exciting. Staff work constantly to create innovative ways to answer the needs of today's students. Communication and collaboration between educator and museum staff insure that the site and the classroom form integrated units of study to enable the student to achieve a better understanding of the past through physical history and personal experience.

Museums: A Multifaceted Educator Resource