Studying How Museums Work
While it is fairly common for history students to go on a field trip to a museum that covers a time period they are studying in class, Ryan Tanner-Read’s Advanced Topics (AT) class recently visited Manchester’s Millyard Museum with the sole objective of studying how the museum presents its subject. According to Tanner-Read, "The AT American Public History course is centered on asking students to communicate their knowledge about history to various public audiences in different mediums.”
Tanner-Read serves not only as History Department Chair, but also as Director of Curriculum at Derryfield, and has been instrumental in establishing AT courses as a highlight of the upper school academic program. Created as part of Derryfield’s 2019 Academic Vision to replace traditional Advanced Placement courses, AT offerings are the most intellectually rigorous courses at Derryfield, designed around critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and research curation. Designed as college-level courses, they are often interdisciplinary and include either a PBL Works Gold Standard Project or a significant research project with a public element.
According to Tanner-Read, during the fall term of the American Public History class “students work in groups to develop a plan for a real-world museum exhibit by writing a pitch to a real museum, building a model floor plan of the exhibit, and constructing a full-scale reproduction of one panel in the exhibit. The visit to Millyard Museum and meeting with Executive Director Jeff Barraclough gave the students a chance to explore a real exhibit space as a source of ideas for their own designs and to ask important questions of a real expert. This trip serves to inspire students as they embark on their own design projects."
Class member Lane Daniels described her takeaways; “After going to the museum and interacting with all the toys, reading all of the flip-up panels, and watching the videos played, I walked away with a greater understanding of how important interaction and activities are in museum exhibits. The large engine featured in the middle of the room helped me to understand the importance of object selection. Heading into my own project, I am making sure to include plenty of interactions and objects to intrigue the viewer.”
The year-long course will culminate in an individual research project in which students choose one major issue discussed throughout the year and conduct their own historical research in physical and digital archives across the country.
Located in Manchester, NH, The Derryfield School is a private day school for grades 6-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.