Why Museum School Trips Matter


A friend and I were at Montana's having supper last night. We were both thoroughly checking our bill when the waitress came back (she had forgot to charge me for a lemonade and my conscience wouldn't allow that so we were seeing if anything else was wrong).

The waitress seemed to find it a bit odd that we were so concerned about the bill. To explain why we were so analyzing our bills, I said we were critical thinkers because of our jobs. She asked me what I did and I said historian.

That's when she said "oh, yes, you work at the Galt. I went there years back and you did a talk on the Holocaust. You said that no one knew all of the reasons behind the Holocaust [or something like that]."

She further said that (as a teenager at that time) she thought, "of course we know what it was. They were just bad, mean people" and she determined right then that she was going to become a lawyer and work for the United Nations.

She then very proudly told us that she is now in law school. She contributed that moment during an education program at the Galt in discussion with me to her decision regarding her career path.

I am SO glad that I had the opportunity to meet her and hear that story. Some people may wonder why museums put so much effort into their education programs. Some critics are looking for immediate impact -- are these visits contributing to increased museum attendance and, more importantly to many of the critics, to increased revenue? How, they ask, can 90 minutes at a museum have any impact?

The reality is that we rarely see an immediate impact of these visits. In fact, the effect may not be visible for decades.

But isn't the important thing to remember that a visit to a museum during an education program may change a life? Even if we don't always know how?

Note:  This is the Galt exhibit that started it all: