Museum Education in China

China develops unequally, there is a big difference between the east of China and the west of China.

Income inequality in China


The west of China develops much slower than the east of China.

For example,

Shanghai Skyline

China’s average per capita disposable income stood at 25,974 yuan in 2017. However, the average per capita disposable income in Shanghai reached about 59,000 yuan (9,316 U.S. dollars).


The per capita income for urban residents in Qinghai and Gansu provinces in western China were 22,307 yuan (US$ 3,566.90) and 20,804 yuan (US$ 3,326.56) respectively in 2015.

Education inequality in China

Education inequality in China exists on multiple levels, with significant disparities occurring along gender, geographical, and ethnic divides. More specifically, disparities exist in the distribution of educational resources nationwide, as well as the availability of education on levels ranging from basic to higher education.

For example,

Shanghai recent rankings at the top of the PISA 2013 exam.




Shanghai, the largest city in China, was the first to achieve one hundred percent primary and junior high school enrollment. It was one of the first to achieve almost universal secondary school attendance.




On the other hand, rural students who are from the west of China continue to experience the entrenched disadvantages in curriculum, instruction and school staffing, compared with east urban peers.

Number of museums in China


Museum booming in China


By 2013, China had already built almost fifteen hundred museums—in essence finishing a new museum every day during the periods of heaviest construction. “Jeffrey Johnson, director of Columbia University’s China Megacities Lab, calls the ‘museumification’ of China: a building boom so frothy it is running away with itself. Not just in Beijing and Shanghai but also in the second- and third-tier cities beyond, new museums are hatching out every day, many of them still without collections and curators. ” China has so many museums now. However, most of museums are still lack of collections. We have learned about the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.20080411065950

So a lot of Chinese people are still struggling with food. They are trying to make their ends meet everyday. They are just too tired to visit museums. Some museums such as the Palace Museum and the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum have a lot of visitors all the time. However, some museums on the west of China only have a few visitors.

On the other hand,  in Chinese culture, family prefers to eat dinner together everyday between 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. During this time, three generations or two generations would sit together at the dinning room or living room, eating dinner and watching TV together.


The Nation’s Greatest Treasures is a popular factual entertainment programme which Chinese people like to watch during dinner time. People prefer to rest at home with their families in the evening. This show invited 9 Chinese leading museums to get involved. Each episode presents one museum’s precious objects. Chinese celebrities become the guardians of the museum objects. Each celebrity puts on a costume and plays a role in a theatrical piece of studio storytelling. The TV programme explores the museum objects’ intriguing history and value. Then the directors of the nine museums come together to discuss the great values behind each objects which they look after. At the end, common people who has learned about or has inherited this treasure’ spirit will present their special stories or connections between the treasure and them. Viewers voted online to choose which object would displayed in a special exhibition at the Palace Museum. Over 1.7 billions pieces of online comments, the show became an instant TV and culture phenomenon in China.


This show has reached a lot of Chinese people in the world. No matter where they live and no matter what socioeconomic status they are. They watched it at home with their families or watched it online at home by themselves. Sometimes on the metro or on the bus, people were watching this show in their cellphones. People started to like museums and they started to visit museums. Especially the younger generation, they are the future of the world. They visited museum more than before. They also #thenationalsgreatestreasures on Weibo. They even said they have learned so much from this show and they are proud of their cultures and identities.


微信图片_20181125234111The National Greatest Treasures programme team are working on the season 2 show.


They have collaborated with BBC, the British Museum and other companies.




The first museum in China was established in 1905. Chinese museum education started much later than America. Not until recent years, Chinese museums just started to develop museum education programs in China. In China, this show did considered China’s actual national conditions. It promoted more visitors to visit museums and also spread knowledge in China. Viewers were deeply touched by these national treasures’s stories. They felt extremely proud of themselves after they watched the show, many of them even cried. I think museums should not only take advantages of the social media, but also leverage the mainstream television channel to spread knowledge.


Maybe in the future, Chinese museum educators and American educators can collaborate with each other and develop more good education programs for the public.




Resource: Xinhua| 2018-02-25 21:08:08|Editor: Mengjie|Shanghai’s per capita disposable income nears 59,000 yuan, highest in China|

Education Reform through Museums

ogythWhat do you think of when you think of a teenager? Angsty, emotional, and social media addicts are probably some things that come to mind. Think back to your teenage self. What did your daily life look like and feel like? You probably had to balance multiple things pulling for your attention like school, work, and maintaining a positive social life. You probably had something you enjoyed giving your attention to- sports, music, theater, dance, art, writing, gaming, etc.

Now imagine you also have an invisible mental health challenge. People don’t believe you when you are struggling. They just chalk it up to normal “teenage angst.” Your struggling in school, but it’s not because you can’t understand the material. It may be difficult for you to maintain positive relationships between peers and teachers because you are struggling internally, but you can’t or don’t know how to express it. Many people feel this way throughout their entire life.

Emotional or behavioral challenges can disrupt our daily lives, and unfortunately many people who have these challenges may never receive help because their challenges go unrecognized. Students who go through the public education system have a chance for these behaviors to be noticed and be diagnosed, but there are barriers. The chances of a student being diagnosed with an Emotional Behavioral Disturbance condition is much lower once they enter high school, due to a lack of funding and resources. Often times, behavioral disruptions caused by mental health issues or emotional disturbance lead to a student being expelled or sent to an alternative classroom or school if they are not receiving special education.  Here’s what that can look like for a student:

About 23% of students were reported as having a psychiatric disorder in 2015. The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) uses the “umbrella term” Emotional Behavioral Disturbance to label multiple psychiatric and mental health conditions. Conditions commonly associated with EBD are anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, Autism spectrum,  and schizophrenia. The big picture for identifying EBD is a behavior that, over a long period of time, interferes with a student’s ability to function at school. It’s hard to classify, and is often misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed.

A study conducted in 2001 suggested that about 18% of students receiving special services at school were labeled as having a condition associated with EBD, while the surgeon general reported that the actual number of children with emotional or behavioral challenges was much higher. The number of diagnosed students has increased since 2001, most likely as more funding and services are being offered in public schools. However, there is most likely a high number of students who are still not receiving adequate intervention. An estimated 49.5% of youths aged 13-18 will have psychiatric challenges by the age of 18, while half of all identified psychiatric conditions happen before the age of 14.

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 5.27.38 AMA question posed in class was about the typical age of diagnosis. I struggled finding data on this, but my assumption is that if they are not diagnosed by age 14, it is more likely that they will not be, at least while in the k-12 education system. It can take up to two years for a student to be evaluated and begin receiving any intervention. From my experience, if a student is labeled as EBD by the school system, then they are already receiving intervention and special education through an IEP or 504 plan by the time they enter high school. If they are not receiving special education, but are clearly showing signs of a mental health condition, they will likely not ever receive appropriate intervention/ help in an assessment driven general education curriculum, despite attempts made by teachers/ support staff.

There are multiple causes for conditions under the EBD umbrella, as EBD is not specific and is difficult to diagnosis. EBD conditions can develop over time, and often stem from trauma and environments that are not nurturing. Causes include:

  • Physical illness or disability
  • Malnutrition
  • Brain damage
  • Hereditary factors
  • emotional upset at home
  • Coercion from parents
  • Unhealthy or inconsistent discipline style

My question for us as museum educators is how can we help serve an audience that is often pushed to the side in public education?

For museums to better serve this audience, it is important to first understand what teens in general want from a museum experience. Some of the ideas we came up with in class for what teenagers want is to feel supported, to be able to work towards their dreams or goals, to find community, to build practical skills, to have leadership opportunities, and to feel respected and valued. Museums have an incredible platform for this age group, especially when we look at cultural institutions as educational centers. Many museums are already providing opportunities for teenagers to find community and leadership/mentorship opportunities through internship programs. Some other things to keep in mind when making programs for teenage students:

  • Flexibility with time and the ability to drop in to accommodate busy schedules
  • Informal and engaging: Learning through exposure, not assessment
  • Provide a welcoming environment that values their individual voices
  • Long term engagement through ongoing programs and a place to build community

Here are some examples of museums with teen programming accomplishing these goals:

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 11.39.25 PMMuseum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Co.

Building Museum, Washington, D.C.

UK museums, Kids Take Over Day

Teenagers labeled with EBD by the school system, are not any different in their wants and needs. Their emotional or behavioral challenges do not change their ambitions.  They simply just have a different set of challenges when it comes to learning, especially in a formal school setting. When I think of working with students who have emotional needs, I think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Just like physical needs, emotional needs are not being met will interfere with a person’s ability to do anything else fully, especially in a learning environment.

So what are some ways museums can help meet the emotional needs of teenagers who may be attending their programs? I think the first step is creating an open environment that allows for them to feel safe to open up about the emotional response they may have. The video below is an example of a museum that is providing this opportunity.Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 11.46.18 PM

Museums can provide a number of opportunities for this audience:

  • Moderating behavior through art, music, journaling or other forms of expression
  • Exposure to alternative ways of learning
  • Career or vocational inspiration that could change their current path
  • Therapeutic experiences 
  • Seeing themselves represented in narratives

What other opportunities can museums provide for this audience? Here are some ideas for how museums can directly serve teens with EBD conditions:

  • Partnerships with alternative schools, or schools serving students diagnosed with EBD
  • Ongoing programs that provide counseling/ therapy opportunities
  • Partner with psychiatrists as museum professionals
  • Provide multiple opportunities besides art as emotional outlets such as theater, leadership programs, and music
  • Training museum staff to work with individuals with EBD/ mental health conditions.

Lower Income Families: How Can We Encourage Visitation?

“Museums are for everyone. Museums are committed to ensuring that Americans of all backgrounds have access to high-quality museum experiences,” says the American Alliance of Museums according to their Museum Facts & Data Page. This should undoubtedly include people of all economic backgrounds. However according to data collected by the IMPACTS Study the lower the household income, the lower the attitude affinity for places like art galleries, history museums, science museums, aquariums and even zoos tend to be. When given the statement “art museums are welcoming to people like me,” attitude affinity was notably “less welcoming” showing even as low as 20 for household incomes of $25,000 while household incomes of over $100,000 hardly dropped lower than 63, the point where, according to the study, intentions to visit those institutions decline. This correlation shows that lower income visitors (nonetheless families) are less likely to visit these cultural institutions.


So, how can we encourage lower income families to visit?

The most obvious solution to increase lower income families to visit museums may seem to be to reduce or completely remove the financial barriers of admission prices. Some organizations, such as Museums for All (Cooperative initiative between the Association of Children’s Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences) aim to remove the financial barrier for lower income families to be able to visit museums that are a part of their organization. In order to participate, museums must offer reduced admission fees (from free to $3) to families that present their SNAP or EBT cards and receive up to four reduced admission prices. One of the many members of this program, the Chicago Children’s Museum “in just its first month, the Chicago Children’s Museum welcomed 52 families under the new program, including 103 adults and 95 children.” according to this article by Nonprofit Quarterly. In the article they explore the connection between the Chicago Children’s Museum lowering admission for lower income families and a feeling of being welcomed. Museums must also clearly publicize by posting information about access on their websites and other collateral. The only participant/member in the Washington, D.C. area is the International Spy Museum, which DOES NOT clearly publicize this information.

Cost may seem to be the most obvious barrier, but data from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study have shown that reducing or removing admission DOES NOT actually encourage lower income individuals and families to visit, and instead visitors to institutions without admission or on an admission-free day (ie; community days) have been shown to have an average household income of only 3% less than museums that charge admission. This data shows that in fact, by removing or reducing admission fees, these cultural institutions are only attracting a similar demographic as the institutions with paid admission.


Another assumption we are dealing with here is that people with lower household incomes don’t want to or cannot pay admission. This is a go-to excuse for justifying the lack of visitation among potential lower income visitors and families. Being free is not the same as being welcoming and removing the financial barrier isn’t going to magically make lower income individuals or families want to visit any given institution. Museum professionals need to do more to make their institutions more accessible for lower income individuals and families.

So, if cost is not the primary barrier, what else can we do? How can we remove other barriers for low-income families to even the playing field? The National Awareness, Attitudes and Usage Study of Visitor-Serving Organizations surveyed individuals who hadn’t visited a cultural organization in the past two years, and when asked what was keeping them from visiting, the cost of admission was low ranking in barrier value, in fact it was almost last. What are the other factors keeping people from museums?


Some examples are access challenges (“hard to get there”), we can remove this barrier by offering a map with detailed directions on how to get to the museum and which entrances are accessible (ie; the American Museum of Natural History Another huge barrier is the parents work and children’s school schedule conflicts, to help remove this barrier, we can think about scheduling programs at times when working parents can attend. Instead of scheduling our program in the middle of a work day, try a weekday evening, or a weekend afternoon. (ie; Central Library in Arlington offers a bilingual storytime on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm removing the barriers of work and school time conflicts for most 9 to 5 working parents. The Hirshhorn offers their Storytime programs on Wednesdays at 10am, but also again on Sundays at 11am). And some of the biggest barriers keeping attitude affinities low are things like negative precedent experience and attitude affinity perceptions (“not for people like me”), we can combat this barrier by creating a visitor-friendly experience for all visitors (ie; Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has had security guards “police-like” uniforms replaced with more casual khakis and vests with the title of “gallery officer” and additional visitor service training.)


Some programs have even attempted to remove multiple barriers for families, like Cool Culture, a nonprofit in New York City that partners with schools to “ensure that all families with young children can seize the limitless learning opportunities in our city’s arts and cultural institutions.” According to the Cool Culture executive director, Candice Anderson, there are a lot of reasons that less-advantaged New Yorkers don’t go to museums. But only a handful has anything to do with money. “The nuts and bolts of museum-going can seem like Greek to people,” Anderson says.

Cool Culture provides the family with a Family Pass for free admission for up to 5 family members to up to 90 institutions in New York City, a Cool Culture liaison at their child’s school to help navigate the program, Cool Tools family resources for activities to do in the museums, and a Cool Culture Family Guide that provides insight on how to prepare for a museum visit with your child or family, ways to engage with your child in the museum, institutions that offer family friendly workshops, special family festivals, and a subway map, including which stops will take them to the Cool Culture partner institutions. Cool Culture also organizes “Labs” where museum educators come together to envision ways of serving diverse audiences. Organizations such as this are beginning to close the opportunity gaps for children in cities like New York City by removing barriers like transportation and accessibility, providing techniques to break down the barriers of attitude affinity precedence which may be keeping them from feeling welcomed at some of the institutions, and helping them navigate their way through museum resources and rules of behaviors which so often leave visitors confused and excluded.

As museum educators, we can do more to make sure that our programs and interpretation are breaking down these other barriers by being attuned to the other factors that keep people from attending museums aside from cost. We can create initiatives and programs that provide a welcoming visitor-centered experience. We can schedule programming at a time when working parents can bring their children. We can provide clear directions on how to get to our institutions (especially if there are multiple entrances). We can provide parents with detailed information on how to prepare for their museum visit with activities, materials, tools, and snacks. Even further, we can go out into the community to find partnerships, such as Cool Culture, and if we don’t find them we can create our own and partner together to ensure learning opportunities for all children no matter their economic background.


Nonprofit Quarterly

AAM Museum Facts & Data

Museums for All

Why Cultural Organizations Are Not Reaching Low Income Visitors

Do Free Museums Attract Lower Income Visitors?

Admission Price Is Not A Primary Barrier for Cultural Center Visitation Data

Towards a Visitor-Friendly Guard Experience in U.S. Art Museums

Why Don’t More Poor Kids Get To See Art?

Cool Culture

Multilingualism in Museums – Why not?

As museum educators, we hope to be advocates of accessibility, accountability, and diversity. But often diversity is subjected to solely ideas of race or gender equal representations, and the idea of diverse languages is often forgotten. There are many studies on how people group themselves ethnically based off the languages they speak, so shouldn’t those ethnic groups that make up a large part of our population be actively represented?

In my presentation today, I gave a lot of statistics on how the multilingual community is expanding and, arguably, will continue to expand for the rest of our lives. But I didn’t get a chance to discuss why this audience is often overlooked here in the states….And frankly, I couldn’t tell you why. I personally cannot come up with any reason why a museum wouldn’t want to advocate for this audience without exposing the state of ignorance American museums seem to be in.

Take the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for example:
In 2017, they held an exhibition jointly created with the Palacio de Bellas Artes of Mexico City  entitled, Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950The museum was more than happy to create the exhibition catalog with the collaboration of seven American and seven Mexican authors that was available in the gift shop for a whopping $65 in both English and Spanish editions. So clearly, the museum saw how incorporating other languages would be beneficial and of course profitable (which is what a lot of museum board decisions are made about, unfortunately). Yet, despite the Latinx community representing 13% of Philadelphia’s population, there was not a single effort to include any exhibition text (wall text, titles, labels, nada) in Spanish.  Also, I must mention that the exhibit was going to move to Mexico City afterwards and all the text translations into Spanish were already made for when the exhibit arrived in Mexico. So why wouldn’t they include the Spanish text at the showing in America? As the author of the article put it, “PMA’s decision strikes me as deeply flawed.”

It just doesn’t make sense to me. The museum clearly knew having the exhibition catalog in Spanish was profitable, yet didn’t think that making the exhibit accessible to Spanish speakers (who already exist in the community) would also bring in more profit for the museum. With an adult ticket price of $20, adding Spanish text for Philli’s Latinx community could have easily driven up profits. But take away the money aspect and look at it this way—by having the text in another language you are reaching out to your community, acknowledging them, and empowering them with a deeper learning experience because the information is being presented in a way that makes relatable connections to more of your audience and fosters better understanding because it is in a language they are more comfortable in communicating with.

I get it. Advocating for this kind of accessibility and diversity can be daunting, and museums in America are making some effort now, but the fact is that multilingualism in museums outside of the United States has been happening for a very long time. Even the small, low-funded museums have been able to provide some sort of language accessible resource for their audiences for years. We’re in the final months of 2018; there is no excuse now that big name institutions, such as PMA, cannot accomplish such a task.

So with this, I leave you with a final thought: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

For further reading:

Digital Natives, Millennials, iGeneration…?

Millennials as they are called by some, are the generation that has grown up in a time of ever-increasing technological advancement. Other names include GenY and iGeneration. Marc Prensky, an author and speaker, coined the name Digital Natives for this generation. Although his points on teaching Digital Natives by those he calls Digital Immigrants, are argued about, there is some consensus on the attributes.

Prensky states that “[t]oday‟s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.” Written in 2001, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” would put his digital natives’ generation as those born between 1978 to 1996. Anyone born after this time should also be a digital native as they too would be growing with technology.

Although there isn’t a consensus on Prensky’s idea that brain structures in digital natives are different, digital natives do have some defining attributes.

Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work.

The digital world is familiar for this audience and they are comfortable searching for information with the vast resources available to them from the internet. Social media has also led to a more connected world that allows this audience to communicate quickly and with others around the world despite great distances.

Prensky limits digital natives to those born after a specific year, although many others are also citizens and participants in the online digital world. More and more people are moving towards online and computer use, whether on a casual basis or as a core part of their lives and careers. A greater number of people in the United States are using the internet. From 2000 to 2018, the percentage of Americans using the internet has increased from 52 percent to 89 percent.  These increases occurred regardless of age, race, income or education. 


Smartphone dependence, the reliance on smartphones for online access rather a home broadband connection, has also increased. 

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Despite having such a high percentage of internet usage, globally the United States falls second to China in numbers. Although it only has a 46 percent usage among its population, China beats the United States 626 million to 276.6 million people.

Internet Use GLobal

What does this mean for museums? This is a very large audience that can be reached whether in person during a visit or online where they are. The audience does vary by their level of engagement and comfort of digital technology. In addition, because it is a global audience they are diverse in many other different ways. As mentioned before, there are some ways in which digital natives are similar. They seek information online first rather than in books first. They prefer images or visuals over text and games are always a plus. Using these ideas museums can attract this audience to engage with them.

There are already examples of some museums putting this into use. From social media use to recreations in games. Mia Ridge, a cultural anthropologist, spoke at the 2011 MuseumNext Conference in Edinburgh about how museums can use games to crowdsource projects.

Examples that Ridge discusses are linking objects to Wikipedia articles, tagging or categorizing objects and telling personal stories of those objects. Transcription and translation is also work that could be crowdsourced. These can all be done with online games that people can play on their own time. Turning tasks into games is a new idea called gamification that tries to create flow in work that may otherwise feel mundane.

Another possibility in the game realm is using preexisting games to discuss topics and themes relevant to museums. Tate Britain used Minecraft to recreate artwork and immerse audiences in a 3-D world.


The Pool of London, by André Derain (1906)


The Pool of London, by André Derain (1906) mapped in Minecraft for Tate Worlds

The Museum of London has also used Minecraft in a multimap series that showcases London before, during and after the Great Fire of 1666. 

Social media is also a major way that a digital native or digital-focused audience can be engaged and studied. In addition to the more obvious and common use of engaging audiences with social media by posting about the museum and what exhibits are on display, museums can use the audiences own use of social media as research. Kylie Budge, research manager at the Museum of Applied Sciences in Sydney, Australia, documents her case study in “Objects in Focus: Museum Visitors and Instagram.”

Other ways museums can engage and draw in digital natives, as well as any smartphone savvy audiences, is through apps. Either through basic tour companions or through more extensive apps that can be used anywhere, museums can take their engagement straight to their audience. Two examples are the The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, that has created an app with information on all the art on display and enhances a visit, and the Hirshhorn’ Hirshhorn Eye (HI) which uses a smartphone’s camera to scan art pieces on display to give additional information as well as artist’s own words about the piece.

Lastly, podcasts can also be a major way to engage digital audiences. Providing a mix of entertainment and education is something that will attract many and can be provided in many formats such as audio, video and even live game streams. Podcast and other media can expose insight and stories from curators, staff, volunteers and others such as veterans at military history museums.

Sources and Additional Links:

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet

The World Wide Web A Breakdown of Internet Usage by Country

Research into games within the context of museums

Minecraft at Tate: in gaming, the Renaissance has returned

Objects in Focus: Museum Visitors and Instagram

Taking a “Year On” in Museums – Gap Year Students

My Story

When you graduated from high school, what did you do? Did you stay home to take care of your family? Was it important that you go straight to work? Did you begin your undergraduate career? Or did you take a year off? What helped you make that decision? After you chose what to do, how did it feel? Was it a choice for you, by you or made for you?

For me, museums were a large part of my gap year and undergraduate experience. I used them to find my own interest and I eventually realized that it was the institutions themselves, not the objects inside, that I was interested in. I still wanted to teach, but what I really wanted to do was inspire. I wanted to find a way that I could help young adults and children discover their passion. I believe that, as museum professionals, this should be a key part of our job. We have a unique perspective as perceived “experts”, and we have the ability to teach without standards, broadening the spectrum of what we can discuss and allowing visitors to engage on any level.

What is a Gap year and Why Take One?

Gap Year Association defines a gap year as, “A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to a career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” However, gap years can take place at any point in life. Many take gap years or months between jobs or retirement and “Phase 2” of life. The key part of this definition is, experiential learning. How can we as museums be an avenue of experiential learning for this group of people who are actively searching? How do we address the different needs of each gap year student when they may not be the same? Gap Year Association states that the two most common reasons for taking a gap year are: 1. Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school, and 2. The desire to know more about themselves.

Jay Gosselin, founder and president of Mentor U, an organization that focuses on inspiring others to create significance in their lives, “believes wholeheartedly that ‘your 20s are for building your experience, your 30s are for building your expertise and your 40s and 50s are for building your dreams.’” One piece of Mentor U is Discover Year, a certified Canadian post-secondary program that encourages and assists students taking a gap year. Emily Kathleen was a gapper before Discover Year, but still testifies about how much growth she made during that year and how it ultimately led her to discover what she wanted to study in undergrad.  

Experiential Learning in Museums

Many students taking gap years are looking to not only gain real world experience, but experience something new. Many opt to travel, but museums can often provide similar experiences (particularly if the student doesn’t have the financial ability to travel) without having to leave the site. Museums have interesting objects and tell fascinating stories. Where else can someone interact with moon rocks, 1840’s clothing or founding documents? Even science museums with little to no collections provide hands-on opportunities to experience and discover independently. The additional social learning that museums provide is equally important to gappers as they experience new things. It is important to see multiple perspectives.

How Can Museums Help?

gap year

Gap Year Association

With universities such as Harvard and Princeton strongly encouraging gap years for their students, it is a prime opportunity for museums to engage this subset of young adults. Museums have the capacity to provide opportunities for all of the above ideas that Gap Year Association recommends. Partnering with universities that offer bridge programs for their students is an excellent way to start diving into this new field.

As museum professionals we should begin by asking the following questions:

  1. Why is this student taking a gap year?
  2. What would a typical day look like?
  3. How can programming be personalized?
  4. What will this provide that an “elite education” cannot?
  5. Why should they spend time at the museum instead of traveling?

Examples of Gap Year Opportunities Museums Can Provide

  • Work experience
  • Job shadowing
  • Partnership programs with colleges and universities
  • Community outreach and volunteer opportunities
  • Series of workshops exploring careers that pertain to topics covered by the museum
  • Opportunities to work and discuss with other “gappers”
  • Programs that provide in-depth hands-on experiences
  • Programs about a “niche” or unusual content
  • Using unfamiliar topics and providing a space for them to become familiar topics


Museum Programming for People with Dementia


Programming at museums for people with dementia has become more and more prevalent across the United States in recent years. Museums recognize that this is a large section of the population, and museums are in a unique position to provide engaging social and creative experiences for both people with dementia and their care partners.

Why People with Dementia?

There are over 100 types of dementia with Alzheimer’s disease making up between 60 and 80% of cases. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that in 2018, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. “With the Baby Boomer generation currently reaching an older age in large numbers, by the year 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is estimated to increase from nearly six million to nearly fourteen million.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 10.44.13 PM.png

For museums, developing programs targeted to this population not only is a moral and socially positive choice but also makes good business sense too. The audience for dementia-friendly museums and galleries is enormous—and that’s without factoring in the care partners that will also accompany them.

Engaging with art is often something that people stop participating in after being diagnosed with dementia. Enabling those living with dementia to continue to enjoy and take part in art appreciation and activity offers back a quality of life, as well as providing a social experience where care partners and people with dementia are welcomed as equal participants together.

What are Museums Doing?

Meet Me at MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art in New York offers a monthly program for individuals with dementia and their family members or care partners. It provides a forum for dialogue by looking at and making art.

Based on this success, the museum has also started the MoMA Alzheimer’s Project, an initiative to help other museums and professional caregivers develop their own programs for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. It includes print and online training guides and nationwide workshops, and, like Meet Me at MoMA, it is free.

The Frye Art Museum- here:now

here:now is an arts engagement program for adults living with dementia and their care partners to enjoy a creative and relaxing time together in a supportive setting. The free program offers opportunities to enjoy conversation, works of art, and new experiences in the Frye galleries and art studio.

The Museum of Photographic Arts- Seniors Exploring Photography, Identity, and Appreciation 

SEPIA promotes “art-based dialog and opportunities to create photographic images.” While it is designed for all seniors, MOPA has adapted the program for people with cognitive impairments, who make up about a quarter of the program’s audience, according to MOPA Lifespan Learning Coordinator Kevin Linde. The program is not too technical, offers choices, and provides experiences not focused on the participants’ memory loss.

What Can You Do?

For museums and other art venues interested in developing programs for people with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Society created a guide with best practices examples and guidance. It directly covers community engagement, accessibility, and programming.