RAAMP Coffee Gathering: Participatory Conversation on Reimagining Engagement in Academic Art Museums

On ThursdayJuly 23, 2020 at 2:00 PM EST CAA’s Cali Buckley will open a participatory discussion with Berit Ness, Assistant Curator of Academic Initiatives, Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, and Celka Straughn, Deputy Director for Public Practice, Curatorial and Research, and Andrew W. Mellon Director of Academic Programs, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and greater awakening of museums to the pandemic of structural racism have further pushed museums to rethink how they engage with their communities. For museums embedded within colleges and universities, this has brought a reexamination of the fundamental ways they act as sites for teaching and learning on campus. As educational institutions are pivoting to new curricular models for socially-distanced and remote learning, campus museums also have to envision new ways to support teaching with art. How can academic museums learn from these experiences to strengthen their missions for inclusion and accessibility, meet emerging academic and community needs, and catalyze structural change? 

This participatory conversation is designed to bring colleagues together in discussion. The bulk of the session will take place in smaller break-out rooms for participants to individually share and learn from each other. Below are some prompts for generating conversations.  


  1. What is the landscape of teaching at your institution this the fall? 
  2. How is your museum reimagining engagement with your academic and public audiences? 
  3. Are there any pedagogical methods, programs, or projects that felt successful last spring?  
  4. What are some strategies you are planning/developing?  
  5. What are your persistent challenges and what further resources are needed? 
  6. How might this moment inform your future practice?

If you have examples of class sessions, assignments, or other resources that you are willing to share with colleagues, RAAMP can host them. We will also have a shared document for models and ideas as well as questions during the breakout sessions.   


Berit Ness is the Assistant Curator for Academic Initiatives at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, where she oversees the museum’s active study room, manages curricular exhibitions, and serves as a specialist for the museum’s permanent collection. She regularly engages with UChicago faculty and students to foster interdisciplinary approaches for using the museum’s collections and exhibitions as a resource for teaching and learning. Berit has co-organized curricular-driven exhibitions such as Down Time: On the Art of Retreat and The History of Perception. 

 Since joining the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in 2009 Celka Straughn has worked to integrate the museum into the life of the university, and university teaching, learning, research and other activities into the life of the museum. This includes collaborative exhibition projects with faculty and students, such as American Dream, a student-generated exhibition with Dr. Ellen Raimond in conjunction with the 2016 KU Common Book (2017). Her teaching and scholarly work on museums explores collecting practices, museums and markets, colonial and global museum discourses, cross-disciplinary museum learning and engagement, and museum ethics. She regularly teaches courses for KU’s Honors Program, and is affiliate faculty in Museum Studies and German Studies. From 2012-2019 she served on the CAA Museum Committee and contributed to the formation of RAAMP. 

To RSVP to this Coffee Gathering, please fill out this form: 



Image credit: Yeesookyung Korean, b. 1973 Translated Vases, 2007, Smart Museum of Art. The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago; Purchase, Gift of Gay Young-Cho and Christopher Chiu in honor of Richard A. Born. Image credit line: ©2013 Yee Sookyoung


3 Replies to “RAAMP Coffee Gathering: Participatory Conversation on Reimagining Engagement in Academic Art Museums”

  1. Looking forward to this coffee gathering. We’ve been building out three models for on-line engagement with university and college classes, so far. I’m excited to learn about other approaches. We’ve been 1) engaging classes from home with tours/dialogue based on digital images and videos; 2) presenting live-to-video tours from the museum galleries; 3) building Google slide packages that can be flexibly presented by instructors or by museum educators, or which can serve as a pre-read to a conversation. So far we have worked with medical students; physician assistant students; African language classes; and several thematic Humanities classes. The biggest challenge is working with large classes of 80 students, where we involve docents for small group break-out conversations. In those instances, I am really struggling to trouble shoot docent technology issues.

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