Museum Education in ‘La Llajta’

Posted by Arlean Dawes – MA Candidate at CLACS /Museum Studies Concentration at NYU

Cochabamba, the third largest city in Bolivia is affectionately referred to as ‘La Llajta’ which in the Quechua language means community or town. The name Cochabamba itself also derives from Quechua. La llajta has become my second home over the past several years and this summer it is serving as my base for field research. As a CLACS student with a concentration in Museum Studies, my experience is rather unique in that I get the opportunity to work within a museum here in Cochabamba and apply certain themes from my thesis to the projects I am heading up at the museum INIAM.

When I initially arrived at INIAM (Anthropological Research Institute and Archaeological Museum), I immediately got started on creating educational materials with Sr. René Machado, the director of the interactive program at the museum. This program was designed by Sr. Machado several years ago with the intention of providing the opportunity for school students to not only have a regular visit touring the museum and seeing artifacts, but rather experience and interact with the collection through activities such as an archaeological excavation, analyzing the Pre-Columbian products found today among the various Bolivian regions and climates. Within my first week in the museum we had planned more or less what we wanted to include in the first 3 doblados and had finished a rough draft of the first two.

The materials and ‘doblados’ or educational foldables are based on six themes which are covered throughout the interactive program—fossilization, migration, stratigraphy and ecological conservation, large civilizations in Bolivian territory, Pre-Columbian agricultural products, and cave art. These foldable will be used to complement the interactive program school children participate in when they visit, however what about schools that are located too far from the city to send their children and don’t have easy access to the museum?

The next steps upon completion of the foldable will be working on expanding the program to a long-distance program in which we can provide materials and resources for educators in rural schools that can’t send their students to the museum to be able to do similar interactive activities in their classrooms, based on the various themes of the museum program. We also plan to begin professional development sessions with educators that are interested in having their class visit the museum and participate in the interactive program.

So far the experience in INIAM has definitely been an eye-opening reminder of the significance of museums as another educational setting and their general importance in society. As institutions that are both social and educational, museums have a unique position to serve as a link between cultural and educational movement within the city and the various happenings in surrounding communities outside of the city.

Dawes_Bolivia_Museum

     Stratigraphic model used in the interactive program of the museum.

 

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