Museum Education Accessibility in the Heart of Bolivia

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

The theme of accessibility is arguably one of the most important aspects to any museum. Accessibility takes on different forms such as architectural accessibility in ensuring that museum facilities are manageable for all visitors to the museum, or facilitating certain services specifically for visitors that may need further assistance to fully enjoy the museum visit experience. The creation and accessibility of educational material has been my main focus during my time at INIAM- Museo Arqueológico in Cochabamba (Cochabamba Archeology Museum). In a city such as Cochabamba, that is known as the ‘heart of Bolivia’ for its central location, it is also a major hub for transportation conflicts known as bloqueos or paros de transporte. While these occurrences are not uncommon, they contribute to the difficulty in being able to rely on school groups getting to the museum and the importance of having resources coming from the museum to the schools and communities. INIAM is certainly not brimming with constant public programs with education and community participation as the focus. The interactive educational program is the only set project of the museum that deals directly with school groups visiting the museum and participating in something other than the general museum tour. However, for those schools that are not able to send their students to the museum, we created 6 educational foldables based on the themes that the interactive program covers.

Museum education, though, does not solely pertain to the students and in acknowledging this, stemmed the need for having resources also available for teachers—both those that attend the interactive program as well as those who are not able. The original idea of holding teacher development workshops proved the complications with accessibility and feasibility especially for teachers from rural schools to be able to attend. So, as with best-laid plans, we devised a ‘plan B’ which, after planning and brainstorming I believe was an even better option than the original. Instead of having the teachers come to the museum, we essentially took part of the museum to the teachers by creating an educator’s guide covering the 6 themes of the interactive program. Along with each theme are ideas and instructions to carry out various interactive activities in the classroom that pertain to topics such as fossilization, migration, and more. According to the national curriculum for schools in Bolivia, we listed all of the possible relations to subject matters for each theme. Undertaking the creation of the educator’s guides and foldables has required much research not only into the content of these material, but taking a deeper look into the field of museum education, and education in general in Bolivia. Looking at the best ways to promote the program has also been a point of research as the museum has a facebook page, but which is not regularly used to promote the interactive program. The educator’s guide will be available to any teacher that comes to the museum to register their class for the interactive program, but will mainly be used to send to teachers in rural areas. The next and final initiative planned for my time at INIAM is creating educational material youngest visitors of the general museum as a whole.

Students observe arrowheads to determine which are attached with llama intestines or twine in the Interactive Museum at INIAM in Cochabamba, Bolivia

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