Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Blogger: Victoria Zagarino

Victoria Zagarino is currently the Assistant Exhibition Coordinator at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California. Having always thought of things a little bit differently than others, she was thrilled when she realized that physically experiencing objects and art from the past encourages a kind of critical thinking that she could relate to. One of her favorite things to do is to get people excited about discovering something for the very first time.

          It’s April! Students everywhere are starting to get serious about their end of school countdowns. There’s nothing better to a kid than a summer off from school, but it is not always easy for their parents. I am not a parent myself, but I have heard a countless number of working adults complain and be anxious about what they are going to do to keep their kids busy over the summer. There are tons of trendy summer camp options available, but just because they are trendy does not mean that they are affordable or enriching.

           If I may, I’d like to suggest a little known option to parents searching for summer camps: museum summer camps. I have not only served as a museum summer camp counselor in the past, but also have the privilege of working at a museum with a stellar summer camp program.  In my opinion, museums are an untapped resource for families of all ages and sizes.  Museums, especially local museums, are increasingly becoming involved in their communities in so many different ways. The time of the stuffy museum that can only be visited by “art people” is over. Speaking as a museum professional who has worked in several different kinds of institutions, both on the East and West Coasts, I can say with certainty that museums truly are striving to reach a broader audience. Most importantly, museums want to provide visitors of all ages with a unique way to experience history, culture, art and life. Where else could a child go on an archaeological dig for pottery shards from an ancient civilization, learn about Romare Bearden’s collages and go on to create their own interpretation of collage, or watch and take part in a Pacific Island spiritual ritual?

Museums benefit from the increasing dependence on technology in many ways, but regardless of how much technology is incorporated in exhibitions, they offer an incredibly important opportunity to visitors that they cannot get anywhere else. That is the chance to physically experience a piece of art or an object created by a different people in a different culture. Having face time with objects and art encourages people to interpret them critically and strive to achieve a point of mutual understanding. When learned at a young age, these skills can be so very valuable to a child’s understanding of life and human interaction.

Regardless of the opportunities offered through a camp, museum campers will undoubtedly have an experience that many other children of their age will be missing out on. I encourage you, both parents and individuals without children, to investigate the programing options at museums in your area. Or, try something different and take a visit to a museum you have not been to in a while. An enlightening experience is there, waiting just for you.     

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