Museums & Community Engagement at The George Washington University

An exciting pilot class was launched this past semester in the Graduate Museum Studies program at The George Washington University. Max van Balgooy, Assistant Professor and President of Engaging Places LLC, used four NSCDA properties for his inaugural class, Museums & Community Engagement. Over the course of the semester, ten students worked to create community engagement plans for the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin, TX, Mount Clare Museum House in Baltimore, MD, Hoover-Minthorn House in Newberg, Oregon, and Craik-Patton House in Charleston, WV. Their plans were informed by taped interviews that Max had with the museum Directors, and by heavy use of a Geographic Information System (GIS). Through the use of GIS, the students were able to see where the museums’ visitors and supporters lived, what areas they weren’t pulling visitors from, where the museums sat in relation to schools, and many other useful bits of data.

Catherine Nuzum, Curator of Special Projects for the NSCDA, had the opportunity to watch the presentations of the students’ work on the final day of class and to participate in the subsequent discussions. Their plans were interesting and wide-ranging, incorporating such ideas as garden to table programming, collaboration with other local museums, and targeting social media minded millennials. Particularly heartening was the students’ awareness of the overall NSCDA museum network and the potential for collaboration amongst the sites. They, in turn, were thrilled to hear about the NSCDA Museum Alliance and that the idea for collaboration is indeed on the minds of many.

Attendees of the Museum Properties Workshop during the Region II/IV Conference in Philadelphia this past April heard from Max firsthand as he explained the class in great detail and showed examples from the students’ PowerPoints. His presentation was of great interest to everyone in the room, and many thoughtful discussions ensued afterwards. Max will likely continue the class in the years to come, and there seems to be a desire for the NSCDA to remain a willing participant in the program so that more sites can benefit from the insights of these emerging professionals.