Working in a museum
Ulster American Folk Park – Live and learn project
Groups of people from local area aged 65 and up where encouraged to attend sessions on talking about a memory then we would go into archives and find something similar to what they spoke about example a lady told us about her mum favorite tea pot and set.
When she used it what it looked like it even had its own doily set to go with it we found a tea pot similar to what she had described and brought it to her she spoke about the people that used it the parties that where had seeing the tea pot opened up to more memories we then took photos printed them out found some paper doily and helped the lady write out the stories she wanted found similar patterns and colour.
She spoke about she arranged it in a picture which she then when project was over took home got frames and put it on her wall.
This was a recurring stories with these types of groups some where in nursing homes and didn’t have access to these objects I was part of this project for a year and seen many people.
Another part of the live and learn project was groups come to museum finding an area they where interested in and then we would go out and do work shops with them one group choose weaving. She had demos of carding spinning dying weaving in museum and told about the history.
We then brought the materials they needed to them taught them how to weave and encourage them to put there own twist would leave them for 2 weeks come back show them how to finish and the 2 weeks later come back to the museum the ladies where so proud that they had learn a new skill it was social they helped each other made new friendships.
Every other Wednesday a group gathered in the museum for knitting and crochet this was a 20 week project which would end with an exhibition of all the work made in group in the folk park. Group of 30 women and 2 men ages 55 and up all abilities 2 special needs groups where also involved a wide range of skill level. This was a welcoming group that helped each other teaching each other different skills helping each other achieve a tea cosy and someone more than 1 everyone was open to each other everyone. Half way thought everyone started to arrive early and help set up the room so that they could knit and talk longer. A very inclusive group the sense of achievement was amazing the support each person gave to each other was beautiful to watch the time and patience for each other was humbling.
Art therapists use museums and gallery settings because of the serenity of such places and because there are times when people seek therapy outside of the health setting. Therefore, art therapists working in museums and galleries play the role of group facilitator, supervisor or reflective practice facilitator (to others), and liaison between partners.
Many groups with varying needs have sought the help of art therapists in museums and galleries.
These include but are not limited to: –
- People with mental health issues and/or their careers;
- Employees who are stressed in their work environment;
- Adults undergoing medical training;
- Young people confronted with academic challenges;
- Individuals with visual impairment;
- People dealing with issues related to cancer, AIDS, depression, bereavement, social anxiety, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, abuse;
- People suffering from traumatic experiences, be they soldiers or refugees.
At the individual level, engagement with museums can enhance self-esteem, confidence and creativity, and foster intellectual stimulation. Additionally, people have discussed the significance of departing from their everyday activities and obligations and being uplifted by being in the museum. At the community level, museums can serve as ‘catalysts for social regeneration’ such that communities are empowered to ‘increase their self-determination and develop the confidence and skills to take greater control over their lives and the development of the neighborhoods in which they live’ (Sandell 2003, p. 45).
Social engagement and the resulting decrease in social isolation have been recognised as important components in wellbeing (Cherry et al. 2013)
Through the representation of inclusive communities in their collections and exhibits, museums ‘have the potential to promote tolerance, inter-community respect and to challenge stereotypes’ (Sandell 2003, p. 45).
Nowadays, museums in different parts of the world are developing their social role, purpose and aims, establishing alliances with ‘health, welfare, social service and other agencies and are seeking to deliver social outcomes in relation to disadvantage’ (Sandell 2003, p. 46).
For some visitors, the museum’s ambiance of safety and security, attributed to the fact that such spaces typically contain valuable and priceless items that are very well protected, allows them to feel secure such that they can free their minds as they explore every nook and cranny of the museum. For others, the experience and symbolic status of such institutions might be quite intimidating.
It is important; therefore, to create programmed that support participants and help them feel included and secure. The openness and exclusivity of the museum environment are central to the therapeutic role of these institutions.
Questions to ask about an object
What is it about the object that is so appealing: is it the colour, the texture, the seeming message of the artist? What memories do this object stir up, what emotions are evoked and what bodily sensations does it stimulate?
Use the nature area of museum as the group would be of the era of being able to openly play outside and have adventures we could explore the child like landscapes of our childhood playing in trees etc the task could be to make a object from your childhood using what ever materials you desire that are here. E.g. making tents from future to camp out making your own tree house
To help free the saying I cant do that look at the marks in the painting how could they be made what was used how could you create your own mark maybe have an area of found objects to mark make with create your own mark using them or go for a nature walk and collect items that you can mark your own paint brushes use nature to assist in the mark making. This session would be a fun exploration session using paint, pencils, crayons, charcoal, mud, flowers. This task could be done in the little room on the ground floor open.
Our trip to Ulster museum
We started in the Foyers, which is open to the rest of the museum huge ceiling with 2 dragons looking down on you found the space open loud to much echo. We made our way up the stairs with our stools to a small gallery space which was warmly lit have 3 doors of access open to the public we all sat in a group and listened to a talk from one of the museum staff about how they would work with a group the research behind taking time to sit and look at art to let the story evolve before your eyes about taking the time to slow down and take things in our culture looks at a glace and moves on where are given 3 paintings of contrast to look at each one individuals asked questions like: –
- What do you think of this art
- How do you think it was made
- What do you think its about
- What do you see
- What mood do you think the painting is
- How do you think the person feels in the painting
- Do you think its real?
- What is the painting style like
- Do you see any patterns
- What colours do you see
- What story do you think the painting is try to tell
- Do it remind you of anything
- What do you think they are doing
- If he was your teacher what do you he would teach
- What do you think it was made on or with
- What colours did they use
All questions need to be open the aim to try and start a conversation about the art that is being viewed to find out what people see.
We looked at 3 paintings: –
- One of Seamus Heaney detailed controlled balanced heavily patterned oil paint.
- One of a dog painted loosely paint scraped of and reapplied playful mark making
- Another of a lady detailed done with chalk looks rather realist a feeling of movement
- A mosaic of photos film like abstract urban feel each pieces echo’s another bit if the print grid like photography.
We then compared and contrasted the painting difference and capabilities.
We need to remember that we don’t need to like the paintings we look that actually viewing art we don’t like can help us understand what it is we find difficult why and can we change our perception.
While the questions and discussions where good the room itself is very distracting people coming and going from the many doors other conversations happening people walking thought the group the echo’s I found it very hard to concentrate, what happens to a group if the cant handle these sensory challenges they will off leave or maybe even react negatively to this atmosphere if you where do to this with a group it would have to be a quite time in the museum to minimize distractions on this level.
For or presentation we choose to use the painting 3 painting
The lady and the man and charcoal these are 3 of contract in the hope that everyone could find one that they relate to.
Layout of Session
- View the art
- Refreshments play with art materials
- Make the art
- Talk about the art and end
For the task we would ask the group to do a self-portrait of themselves using the materials.