As a child, Morgan Bakerman ’13 hated going to museums and galleries. “They seemed dry and dull. For many children, the first museum experience is less than ideal,” she says.
“Often, museums are places you are made to go to by your parents or your school…. In retrospect, I think that if I had received a tour from a college student, not an adult, I probably would have enjoyed it more. So much depends on who introduces you to the experience.”
Last summer, Bakerman was that college student, holding in her hands the beginning experiences of many young museum-goers. The art history and Hispanic studies double major worked in New York as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On the West Coast, art history and English double major Nicholas Rawitsch ’13 was engaged in a similar effort. He interned at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, a museum and education center dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.
Both students helped captivate young museum-goers, as well as put into practice their own Wheaton coursework. They also got to explore their interests in perhaps working at a cultural institution someday.
Bakerman’s internship in the museum’s education department was twofold. She served as a tour guide for camp groups coming into the museum from all around New York City and from around the world. She also was a teaching assistant in two different studio art classes for children and helped with event-related projects.
“If children go to museums and have a good time, and they have a guide who can connect with them and is obviously enthusiastic about their having an exciting learning experience, then they will want to come back and share their experience with their families,” she says. “I wanted to be able to provide a fun but informative experience for the students. There is so much to learn from art.”
At the Getty Villa in Malibu, Calif., Rawitsch worked with a team of other students on creating a pilot program to draw the interests of teenage audiences. He also participated in group discussions about providing accessibility to information for young people and the use of games and activities to make a visit to the museum fun for all ages, and began work on a group project for a new touring program.
“I really enjoyed the time I spent with the other interns,” he said. “The biggest challenge of the internship was the hierarchical structure of making decisions within a museum. When ideas could not be easily communicated within the group or to our supervisors, the process of developing a new program for youth slowed. But I realized that a museum is a work environment that I would certainly consider in my professional career.”
Assistant Professor of Art History Sean McPherson, who has taught both students, describes Rawitsch as a highly original thinker “who has a way of seeing the common human element in the experiences and work of artists in diverse cultural and historical settings.” Bakerman, he says, “has a rare ability to communicate the excitement of art objects to a broad audience.”
Their contributions through these prestigious internships are significant, he points out, given the competition that museums are facing.
“Museums are making a strong effort to appeal to younger museum visitors in this digital age,” says McPherson. “They recognize the need for new curatorial approaches, as well as the need for new perspectives on the museum experience…. The enthusiasm and imagination of students such as Morgan and Nick can open the eyes of younger museum visitors to the excitement of art history.”