Upgrading Your Collection (LS-ME-581)

A learning scenario by Peter Pivoda, gallery educator at the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, Slovakia

Everybody collects something, even if they don’t realize it. We do it for the sake of fun and enjoyment, sometimes to learn new things or to strike a sentimental cord. Collecting reflects our interest and style; our collection can tell a story or remind us of a specific moment in our lives. It can be a very intimate space, but on the other hand, we often feel satisfaction displaying it or even bragging about it. Apart from being a personal hobby, it is also bread-and-butter of many cultural institutions. So why not take advantage of it in the learning process?

Background and intention

In the reality of online education, it is not always easy to make a lesson interactive and give everyone a chance to express themselves fully. In many countries, students haven’t been meeting each other in person for prolonged periods of time, neither they have shared experiences, apart from education. Thus, their social interaction is weakened. At the beginning of the pandemic, I had several discussions with my colleagues at the gallery about helping schools deal with the situation, pondering what we, as a gallery, could offer to satisfy their informal education needs. We decided to take on a new role: to provide school groups with online activities that would allow participants to communicate more personally, discuss their interest. We wanted our pupils to understand each other better and support their harshly interrupted (or even non-existent in the case of some first-graders) social life. It also became a focus of my learning scenarios for 14 to 19-years olds.

About the content

I designed the activities as a shared space for discussing and sharing tips and interests, where no answer or opinion is wrong. The topic of collecting resonates with many youngsters, considering their liking for digital technologies and social media. Our learning scenario emphasizes digital files and their potential for becoming objects of collecting. It also came in handy that some contemporary artworks use collecting as a part of their strategy. I find it exceptionally important to use it in gallery education as well.

Theoretical parts of the scenarios should deepen knowledge about the topic, for example, the distinction between collecting and gathering, how museums and galleries collect things, what is collection’s primary purpose and what are possible criteria for their sorting and arrangement.

Otis Laubert: Aucájder, 1985, Slovak National Gallery

I used Europeana resources primarily for demonstration purposes – to showcase possible variants for collection design and their arrangement. I have also delved into the local database, Web umenia (lit. Web of Art), to present Slovak artist Otis Laubert and show an example of contemporary art that concerns collecting. Laubert and his work can be an inspiration for bringing a new context into people’s personal collections. The final part of the scenario is adaptable – one can switch it to another artist who also employs collecting as an artistic strategy in their work.

During the implementation lesson, the students were very talkative about their collecting passions. I was a little apprehensive about whether each student would find something appropriate to share about their experience. But my fears faded away after the first few answers. I believe it worked well for participants to reach into each other’s picture folders, react and rearrange them from their perspective. It allowed them to approach the collection with creativity. Such activities can broaden students’ interest in museums and galleries and their collecting and presenting activities.

Conclusion

This learning scenario may help form and strengthen relationships among participants and between participants and museums and galleries. It may also spark interest in contemporary art. It can be adapted to other subjects and after-school activities or whenever one needs to stimulate an atmosphere of understanding and curiosity about each other’s interests.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below.

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Wellcome Collection.

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