AAM 2012 – Minneapolis, Day 1, Sunday (Families in Interactive Art Galleries)

Greetings from Minneapolis – home of this year’s American Associations of Museum’s conference. The AAM conference is always a bit of a whirlwind of connecting with old colleagues, seeing the latest and greatest, and sometimes wondering why the same themes always seems to emerge…

Today’s sessions highlight was a presentation from a group of art museum educators who have recently completed an IMLS grant to formally research the role of family learning within interactive galleries. They’ve developed an extremely rich web resource at www.familiesinartmuseums.org. Check it out. It’s the kind of quality work that I hope for throughout the conference.

Perhaps the most immediately meaningful data from the study is examining the role of interactive galleries in the order of the family museum visit. Many institutions have viewed these types of galleries as a launching point for family visits. However, the study found that more than 40% of family users of interactive galleries at the conclusion of a visit to the art museums in this study – a 180 degree reversal which in many cases would call for significant changes in the content and purpose of them. While some aspect of this seems patently obvious (the carrot at the end of a museum visit that parent’s dangle in from of their kids) it’s not so typical that museums think of these spaces for summative visitor use.

Another of the more interesting aspects of the study was the use of case families as specific data points in generating research results. I particularly found the use of data with personalities a strong lens in which to also view to more traditional empirical datasets.

On another note, the conference this year seems to be very well attended. Or maybe it’s just my lack of committal early enough to attend and the lack of room for the interesting offsite programs. Nonetheless, it’s great to be here and to have been able to carve out the time, even if largely last minute…

I’ll post more interesting tidbits in the coming days.