Teaching and Learning with Museum Exhibitions

Museum Directors Panel, moderated by Tom Shapiro.

The Tang Teaching Museum hosted a conference as conclusion to a 3-year collaborative project among 4 New England campus museums. Tom Shapiro moderated the directors of those museums in a final conference conversation (see participants below.)

Tom Shapiro introductory observations: This conference has compellingly demonstrated the generative power of institutional and cross-disciplinary collaboration. I’ll start this summary session with three brief observations I’ve gleaned from the presentations.

First, it’s often perceived that “expertise” and “collaboration” are in opposition. Many in the Academy, including some museum professionals, feel that they are unilaterally giving up something meaningful for the sake of a partnership.

Second, college students see this differently. They embrace collaboration as an attitude, not a tool. This generation’s sense of sharing is as innate as the sense of ownership is to previous generations. It manifests in their attraction to flat organizations, crowdsourced opinions, and even the constant re-assessment of what truth and reality are. Everything is up for reconsideration.  Not coincidentally, the keynote conversation with Susan Cahan, Angel Abreu, and Rick Savinon pointed out that artist collectives often work in this way to challenge “accepted” norms.

Finally, and happily, multidisciplinarity is museum practice. Traditionally, expertise means going deep into a subject matter. The Academy is built on that kind of vertical commitment—as are lawyers and physicists and middle managers and everything else we have professionalized since the Industrial Revolution. In the 1960s and 1970s, the growth of museum studies professionalized and specialized museum work as well. Still, collaboration remains inherent to museum practice. Thus, the academic museum is the most accessible and partner-ready collaboration resource on campus.


  • Tracy Adler, Johnson-Pote Director, Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College
  • Ian Berry, Dayton Director, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College
  • Anja Chávez, Director of University Museums, Colgate University
  • Corinna Ripps Schaming, Director and Chief Curator, University Art Museum, University at Albany

Moderated by Tom Shapiro, Cultural Strategy Partners. June 22, 2019