Getting Started

The activities in this section encourage students to explore the idea of collections, and help you to assess their prior knowledge about museums. Rather than simply telling students that they will be going to a museum, and assuming that they share a common understanding of what museums are, use the activities below to help students explore the world of museums from the ground up. In the process they will discover what they have in common with collectors across the ages, and what it takes to transform a collection into a museum.

Visit the Teacher’s Toolkit for a vocabulary list, supplies you’ll need, and a list of the art images used in this chapter.

Collections & Collectors

Have you ever had a collection? What was in it?

Why did you decide to collect _____?

Where did you keep it?  Did you ever display it?

For homework, ask your students to interview their parents or other interested adults, asking “Did you ever have a collection? What did you collect? What did you do with your collection? Have you ever been to a museum? Where was it? What did it have in its collection?” Share that information in a class discussion.

Encourage students to bring in and display their own collections.

What other kinds of things do people collect?

How do they show or share their collections with other people?

What if they have a huge collection?

How Do Museums Begin?

Help your students develop a working definition of a museum. Compare it with dictionary and thesaurus definitions. At this point, you may want to devote a bulletin board to this topic. Post the question “What is a museum?” and your class’s growing definition.

Ask students to name any museums they have visited and describe one thing they saw. Summarize the types of museums students have visited (art, natural history, cars, etc).

What other kinds of museums do you think people have created?

This is a perfect time to send your students to the Internet. Take a quick trip to Google. Entering the key words “Museum of” will produce over a million citations. The Museum of Online Museums has links to some fascinatingly obscure collections. Let your students just explore for a while in order to identify types of collections that are in museums. They’ll be amazed and delighted by the number and variety, including museums of: crime, tea and coffee, stamps, antique toys, garden history, theatre, computers, shoes, asparagus, dog collars, pencils, motorcycles, coins, baseball, postcards, air and space, musical instruments, lawnmowers, and of course, art.

Post a list of their discoveries along with your class's definition of museum. You may want to print the home pages of some of the more unusual museums and add them to your display.