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Pictures at an Exhibition: How iPads Encourage Creativity in Museum Studies Seminar


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What happens when Museum Studies Seminar students are handed iPads to use in a class project about portraiture?

Instructor Janet McCall believes that the iPads offered students the opportunity to engage the audience in ways not previously available during a recent University Art Gallery exhibition, Face Value (De)Constructing Identity in Portraiture. The exhibition explored the components of identity in portraiture and how these aspects have been altered through changing mediums, technologies, and societal roles from past to present.

“The students dove deeper into the interactive experience. We began by offering students a few suggestions, and then they developed their own ideas about making the exhibit interactive. It was the students’ idea to engage visitors by making their own individual portraits that became a part of the collection,” McCall said.

As students planned the exhibit, McCall observed that the introduction of technology resulted in other changes in the learning process. “Students worked more collaboratively, extending conversations beyond their traditional group assignments with other groups in the class.”

On one wall, a large frame housed changing images of gallery visitors who had created their own portraitures. Visitors could use private photo booths equipped with additional iPads and props to capture their own portraits. “Their images are now part of the University Art Exhibition,” explained Isabelle Chartier, museum curator.

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Visitors were also given an iPad when first entering the University Art Gallery. “The students developed information about each exhibit as part of an iBook,” continues Chartier. “They even video recorded interviews with the artists. As people stopped to view each exhibit, they could view the artists describing their work.”

Alison Langmead (shown below), faculty member in the History of Art and Architecture department, reflects, “It wouldn’t have been the same experience with separate cameras. The iPad is a personal device. It is important to touch it and work with it.” Langmead also realizes that her oversight of the digital media development lab prevented much frustration by students. “Fortunately, I could buy one app and download it onto all of the devices. Without the digital lab, it would have been very difficult for students to produce the exhibit.”

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John Coyle, a student in the class, appreciated the iPads because it helps to keep the students up to date with the skills employers expect in the field: “All of the larger museums want to develop audience interaction with the exhibits. This project gave us the opportunity to go through that process.”

When asked if any other insights resulted from the class project, McCall explains, “I have owned an iPad, but I didn’t realize its potential for teaching. This has opened my eyes in terms of teaching with technology.”

Exhibit flyers designed by Mark Perrott.



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