Regardless of your study abroad trip’s theme or timeframe, museum visits can be indispensable. A great museum can give students access to the rich, tangible and material heritage of the place they are visiting. But at the same time, with so much to see and experience in any location, it’s important to plan for museum visits to be a rewarding use of time. Otherwise, they may end up taking away precious hours from an itinerary that could have been much better spent elsewhere.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding how to make a museum visit a memorable, significant contribution to your school trip abroad:
The specific connection between the destination of your study abroad trip and its learning objectives can vary widely. Sometimes, there is a deep significance to a specific site, while other times different sites fit into a larger objective. Consequently, the value of a museum visit will fluctuate based on your learning objectives and, of course, what is on offer at that location.
In larger cities, alongside the mainstay flagship institutions, there is often an abundance of specialized museums.that can bring unique experiences to your itinerary. Smaller towns, however, will usually have a limited set of museums operating in more general or archival ways (i.e. a local history museum, a museum of regional art, etc.).
Consider how the location relates to the subject of your trip. Ask yourself: is there more value spending trip time within the walls of a museum than outside exploring the area itself? If a museum visit brings context to and resonates with the learning happening during the rest of the trip, that’s a great reason to take advantage. Otherwise, a different type of experience – a site visit, workshop, hike, or walking tour – might be a better use of your time.
It’s essential to consider how you will structure your students’ time in any museum that you visit. The days of the tick-box, treasure-hunt-style museum worksheet are thankfully behind us. However, materials that promote open-ended, inquiry-led and reflective engagement can add value to student experience in museums.
Provide a set of written questions to students beforehand that encourage engagement with the themes of your trip. This can be an effective tool to help students build connections between what’s within the museum and what is outside of it.
Consider timing as well. Materials and writing exercises that are presented before a museum visit, but completed afterwards, are often best. Students can freely peruse the exhibition, but keep the questions you’ve asked in mind. This can lead to productive conversations and bring students closer to your learning objectives for the trip.