April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

Living Museum: Middle School Students Create Their Own Exhibitions

Allison Farber, Museum of Jewish Heritage--A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, USA
Ray Shah, Think Design, Inc., USA

The Living Museum enables middle school students in Jewish day and supplementary schools to form a personal connection with Jewish history. Through this interactive website and curriculum students discover how their lives, and the lives of their families, are a part of the modern Jewish experience. As part of the Living Museum students collaborate with their classmates, teachers, and families to build their own online museums using family artifacts.

Similar to a conventional brick-and-mortar museum, the online Living Museum offers exhibitions of artifacts for its visitors to view, analyze, learn from, and enjoy. These exhibitions are comprised of images and descriptions of objects that reflect the history of the families that provide the artifacts on display. Taken together, the images reflect the varying experiences that constitute modern Jewish history.

Students begin the Living Museum by visiting a local museum on a class trip, where they examine artifacts, text labels, and galleries. Here, students acquire skills in observing and describing artifacts and begin to understand how artifacts tell stories. They also study how a museum's artifacts are arranged into galleries and interpreted. With the help of their families, students choose an artifact from their homes which reflects their families' histories. They bring these artifacts to school, take digital pictures of them, and write artifact labels. The artifacts are then organized into galleries by the class, which collaboratively writes gallery text panels, and mounts their own in-school exhibition. The in-school exhibition opens to the general public with a student-organized gala event to which family, friends, other students, and members of the community are invited. Concurrent with the in-school exhibition, students curate a virtual exhibition on the Living Museum website. They upload digital photographs of their artifacts and enter their artifact labels into the Living Museum site.

Throughout the demonstration session visitors will interact with the Living Museum and learn how this program enables public content creation, online education, and opportunities for community building. Visitors will come to understand how students who participate in the Living Museum learn from artifacts, find their place in the continuum of Jewish history, curate and post exhibitions. Moreover, they will experience how the creation of both physical and online museums helps students learn about organizing information in different contexts, including manipulating content to develop narratives for different audiences.

The Living Museum website is a space for building online communities. Distantly located classes create a common experience by collaborating in the larger Living Museum and sharing their results. The website also builds community in the classroom by providing opportunities for students to talk about their respective family histories, learn from and about their classmates and their families, and identify similarities between themselves and their fellow students. Through the Living Museum, students create connections with the past and with their peers in the present.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Close-Up]

Keywords: heritage, object-based learning, public content creation, education, on-line curatorial tool, interactivity