Monday, 26 September 2016

BACK TO COOL: MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES IN FORMER SCHOOLS

MUSEUM MONDAYS

BY: EMMA HOFFMAN

            Ahhh Autumn. The crispness in the air, the falling of the leaves, and the pumpkin spicing of every baked good and caffeinated drink in sight. It's also "back-to-school" season which means that classes have started again at our beloved iSchool. Welcome back second-years and to incoming first-year students, make sure to check out my previous column, The Grad School Guide, where you can hopefully find some helpful info about life as a Museum Studies student.

            This particular September marks an immense milestone in my academic career: my last first day of school and the last time I can thrive on the sense of possibility, opportunity, and excitement that accompanies a new school yearat least for the foreseeable future. Ever since I was a kid, I always loved the feeling of going back to school and to this day, this season is a nostalgic reminder of the strange sentimentality that comes with buying school supplies, creating new schedules, and contemplating future learning activities. School has always been fun for me, and so have museums, so I thought to myself: "this edition of Museum Mondays should address something that is an amalgamation of both schools AND museums!"

Not me at all. Source.
            Enter the fact that there are many museums and galleries established in buildings that were former public schools or school houses, and in current academic institutions. I first became curious about this idea during my internship at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, which is in the office and library of a former public school. The similarities in practice between schools and museums, such as using primary sources to ignite students' learning experiences, make the establishment of a museum in a school an intriguing, and decidedly apropos concept. Now let's discuss a few galleries and institutions, located in schools, that I think have employed the school-museum shtick to the fullest. Please reply in the comments with your favourite museum-school hybrids!!!

Stavanger School Museum
            As a fan of Scandavian design and culture (hygge anyone?), I was more than pleased to read about the Stavanger School Museum in southwestern Norway. Located in a 1920's-era school house that formerly housed the Kvaleberg school building, the museum exhibits the history of the Norwegian elementary school system from the 1800's until today. The museum also possesses a large collection of school-related artifacts, and is home to a collection of over 25,000 historic textbooks (Source). Imagine purchasing 25,000 textbooks at the UofT bookstore! A girl can only dream.

The lovely-looking Stavanger School House. Source. 
MoMa PS1
               Once home to the first public school in Long Island City, Queen's, New York, MoMA PS1 is now the location of one of the foremost contemporary art institutions. The gallery is dedicated to "displaying the most experimental art in the world" (Source), and is also one of the oldest contemporary art institutions, dating back to the 1970's, prior to its affiliation with MoMA (Source). MoMA PS1 definitely plays up the fact that it functions in a former school house in its public programming. From a summertime workshop and lecture series titled "Summer School" to the "Warm Up" party series reminiscent of gym classes of yore, PS1 seems to emphasize its origins and weave this narrative throughout its current operations.

MoMA PS1. Source.
Old Library Building at Trinity College, Dublin
                Part of Trinity College in Dublin: the oldest university in Ireland; the Old Library Building at this school is home to an exhibition on the Book of Kells and the library holds an extensive book collection comprising a copy of every book ever written in Ireland. I had the opportunity to visit the Old Library and exhibition space this past summer, and words can hardly describe the feeling of being surrounded by that many historic books all at once. If you are a book-lover and a "back-to-school" aficionado, like myself, prepare to be awestruck by this old school (pun intended) library.

An image of the Library's Great Hall from my travels this summer. 

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