How Would You Design Your Ideal Museum?

How Would You Design Your Ideal Museum?

Find all our Student Opinion questions here.

What has been your most memorable visit to a museum, good or bad? What type of museum was it and where was it located? What makes this experience stand out in your mind? A particular exhibit, activity or performance? How did you feel being there? What, if anything, would have made it better?

In “Grown-Up Art at a Children’s Museum, but It’s Still Playtime,” Laurel Graeber writes about her visit to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan:

On a recent visit to an exhibition, I broke what is usually a museum’s most immutable rule. I touched the art.

No shocked guards stopped me or shooed away the many smaller patrons who were doing the same. Granted, this was the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. But unlike many displays for the young, this one, “Inside Art,” features work by 11 adults whose résumés include the Jewish Museum, El Museo del Barrio and the Whitney.

The show lets visitors encounter art “not as a child sort of pretending to be an adult,” said Leslie Bushara, the museum’s deputy director of education and exhibitions, but “running around like a child.”

Run around they do. Joiri Minaya’s “Spandex Installation #6 (Labyrinth)” invites the curious into a vibrantly printed fabric maze. “Up & Around,” a cluster of large cylinders suspended vertically by the duo Yeju & Chat, beckons museumgoers to stand inside each tube and experience bursts of color and pattern. Adrienne Elise Tarver’s “Fera Septa” is a beguiling mesh canopy resembling tropical leaves.

Ms. Graeber describes how visitors are invited to interact with the artwork and the artists:

The work gets “well loved,” Ms. Bushara said, which means that its creators have to live near enough to repair damage. But the museum also chose local artists so they could lead public programs. A multicultural group, they have been charged with forming a neighborhood within the museum, not just as demographers would define it, but as Mister Rogers would have, too.

That means “not just artwork you can crawl through,” Mr. Rios said, “but you’re making art in the same space, we’re having dialogue in the same space, and eventually we’ll start to have performances.” Borinquen Gallo’s “Be(e) Sanctuary,” an artificial hive built of plastic debris, is itself a neighborhood project, made with fellow Bronx residents.

Visitors to “Inside Art” have stations to make their own work and can collaborate with three other artists who have studios within the space. Dionis Ortiz, who describes his work as centered on “light and how we create it,” will enlist families in an installation that includes light bulbs they paint to express their identities. Nancy Saleme and Patricia Cazorla, an aunt-and-niece team, will work with children on “The Shape of My Food,” a sculptural installation connected not only to the joy of eating but also, Ms. Cazorla said, to subjects like land use and migrants’ rights.

Mr. Rios wanted children to be exposed to the participating artists’ philosophies and activism. For the exhibition labels, the artists “were challenged to write about their work as if they were explaining it to a 5-year-old,” he said. The museum added questions: “When have you felt left out?” “What do you find beautiful?”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What is your reaction to reading about the “Inside Art” exhibit? Would you be interested in visiting the museum? Why or why not? What parts would you be most interested in experiencing?

  • What do you think makes a good museum? What kinds of experiences do you seek when you go to one? What allows you to connect with the exhibits?

  • What do you think should be the purpose of museums? To entertain, inform or persuade? How do you think museums should relate to the neighborhood or community they’re in? What about the artists, historians or scientists whose work they feature?

  • In “Is This the World’s Most Accessible Museum?”, Alex Marshall visits a museum exhibit in England that was designed to be accessible to able-bodied and disabled people alike, with features like video screens at the perfect height for wheelchair users, visible exits for people with anxiety, a range of audio and visual guides, and exhibits people can touch.

    What kinds of design elements have you seen that benefit all visitors? Are there things that you think museums could do to be more accessible to people with disabilities, children and people who speak other languages?

  • With all this in mind, how would you design your ideal museum if you had unlimited time and money? Where would it be located? What kind of museum would it be and what would make it unique? Who would you want to visit? How would you have visitors interact with the exhibits and what could you do to make them accessible to everyone? What rules would be in place, if any? Over all, what kind of experience would you want people to have there?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.