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For Your Consideration 4.4

Expect More Museum-School Partnerships

The 1994 U.S. Congress made $100 million available for school and community partnerships, as part of its Goals 2000 legislation. Created to improve the quality of education as we move into the 21st century, the legislation encourages schools to take advantage of community resources and connect learning in the classroom to the community at large. As a result, American museums, historic sites, zoos, parks, and botanical gardens should expect to see. and should seek, increased interaction with their local school systems.

Equity Versus Excellence?

Does equity threaten excellence? Are education and scholarship, interpretative X-/ vitality and intellectual rigor, community and collections truly at odds?” These are questions examined in the Winter 1995 issue of Excellence and Equity, the newsletter about public service issued by the American Association of Museums.

Answers were solicited from six curators and two directors. While most of their answers seem enlightened and “educationally sensitive,” cynics might wonder if they weren’t skewed due to the audience and prompted by the educational nature and theme of the publication.

Statements included this one by Mark Richard Leach, Curator of Twentieth Century Art at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. “As curators, we need to remember that the museum’s mission is not simply to produce knowledge or care for collections, but to transmit knowledge and to engage and enlighten the community.”

Leonard Krishtalka, Director of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, in Lawrence, KS, observed that, “Too frequently, differences in status within a museum — with curators often holding higher status than educators — breed differences in perception about the value of staff and their contributions to the museum or its mission.”

Maud Lyon, Director of the Detroit Historical Museum, said. “I think the tension between education and collections is healthy. The problem may be that we allow staff to take pure positions. But an educator is richer for knowing the principles of conservation. A curator is richer for knowing how people learn. Perhaps the way out of the dilemma is less specialization — and realizing that the power to change comes from admitting that you do not have all the answers.”

While stimulated by this discussion, and intrigued that issues relating to education’s rank within museum priorities are being examined in a more direct manner than in previous years, editors of The Docent Educator did find it a bit baffling that not one staff educator, docent, tour guide, or public programs officer was asked for input or for a point-of-view. Hopefully, this is not an ironic twist, and that the observations and thoughts of educators will be forthcoming.

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 4.4 (Summer 1995): 9

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