Products and Previews
1999 is turning out to be a very successful year for "Reading The Museum." Four demonstration projects were completed this year, three of which are featured in this newsletter. Work continued on the video about the program and a national broadcast is anticipated some time in 2000. The section on the collaboration between the Edmonton Art Gallery and Prospects Literacy Association was screened at the annual Alberta provincial literacy conference in early November. The response was very positive and following the screening, Don Trembath, a teacher with Prospects, and I led a lively discussion on the museum as a community resource for literacy. The video will be available for purchase in the new year and will be accompanied by a guide about its content and other "Reading The Museum" initiatives. The program will also promote and distribute other materials and products, including its long-awaited publication "How To Read a Dinosaur and Other Museum Tales," which is going to press shortly.
Kudos for Demonstration Projects
The New Brunswick Museum/Read Saint John literacy project "Once Upon a Time in the Museum" is highlighted in "A World of Words," the World Literacy of Canada engagement calendar for 2000. A page from the French version of "Once Upon a Time in the Fine Arts Gallery," written by Julie Cormier and Brenda Jarvis, appears at the end of the November section of the calendar.
"I Do I Do," the literacy project of the Peel Heritage Complex and Muslim Community Services in Brampton received an award for "Outstanding Achievement for Programming/ Interpretation" from the Ontario Museums Association at its annual conference in October.
"Reading the Museum" supports projects for adult learners and families, but it also maintains an interest in the possibilities for writing and other symbol-making for children and youth specifically. To this end, I am pleased to be serving as the project consultant for 'Writing Home," a new multi-year initiative funded by Museums Alberta. The projects links several schools with the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, the Edmonton Art Gallery and the Musee Heritage Museum in St. Albert. The Glenbow is the lead institution through its very successful Chevron Museum School, coordinated by Michele Gallant.
Students and teachers are working with authors and visual artists to create a project about the idea of home at each museum, based on its collections and exhibitions. Participants will be able to also communicate about their work through a home page. The initiative will culminate in a publication of works by students, a series of student readings and a professional development component for museum educators and teachers, based on the projects and publication.
SSHRC Research Project
In June, "Reading The Museum," was awarded a major grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), under its program "Valuing Literacy in Canada," a strategic grants joint initiative of the Council and the National Literacy Secretariat. The project "The Learning Museum: Possibilities for literacy learning in a wider cultural context" involves three museums and three literacy partners, Shand House in Windsor, Nova Scotia, a part of the Nova Scotia Museum system and the Hants Shore Community Health Centre; the Écomusée du fier monde in Montréal and L'Atelier des Lettres; and the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum in Prince George, B.C. and the YinkaDene Language Institute.
Building on the work of the "Reading The Museum" program, the research focuses on the possibilities for learning through and about history in a museum setting. Adult learners will be encouraged to make history by constructing stories about artifacts and by receiving public recognition for their work in local publications or as an integral component of a museum exhibition. The research is intended to benefit literacy practitioners, museum professionals, community groups and policy makers who are committed to a more encompassing notion of literacy and to raising awareness about the potential of cultural institutions as a community and educational resource.
I am serving as the project's principal investigator. Coinvestigators are Lorna Roth, Professor of Communication Studies, Concordia University; Bill Poser, an educator and linguist with the Yinka-Dene Language Institute; Lucie Bonnier, Acitivities Co-ordinator, at the Écomusée and Patricia Helliwell, a literacy educator with Hants Shore Community Health Centre. The research associates are Ramona Rose, Curator of collections and research, Fraser Fort-George Museum; Andrea Hauenschild, an independent curator and museologist based in Montreal, who is working with the Écomusée, and Seana Kozar, whose research interests are folklore and community education and who is attached to Shand House.
We can look forward to another busy year for the program, with the forthcoming video broadcast, the distribution of other learning materials, our various partnerships and our research commitments. At this time, I would like to acknowledge the many learners, literacy educators, museum staff and researchers who have contributed to the program over the past year and to the National Literacy Secretariat for its ongoing and generous support.
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