My first trip to New York, with a never-ending list of things to do: to visit the emblematic buildings, Central Park, the neighbourhoods of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Harlem, to taste a thousand different foods from all the countries of the world in just one city. And, of course, the museums, where you can find some of the most important collections in the world.
I therefore decided to do all that and also to get to know first-hand how the different education departments of some of these museums work. What better way of getting to know a city than being able to see how they are carrying out their work in another country?
Searching for information prior to the trip, I realized, as is already the case here, that the social field is gaining a lot of strength in the museums and that, at the same time, there are many resources allocated to programmes of this type. I was interested in a topic which is being increasingly worked on and that just about all the museums have incorporated into their everyday work; I am referring to visits aimed at people suffering from Alzheimer or memory deficit. In this case, I followed one of the monthly visits that are carried out in the Brooklyn Museum. In these visits the aim is to boost the immediate experience, the belonging to a group, the visual stimulus, the capacity for observation, based on the creation of a participatory dialogue of the attendees in front of three works of the collection. In these visits, small-scale activities are also incorporated, either with words, by speaking or by drawing.
The visit was very interesting as we were able to observe the rhythm and the development of the visits with these target group. In fact, in the museum we already have experience in activities for people with cognitive loss of memory, but we would like to widen our circle to reach people suffering from Alzheimer and their carers. From the department we have created a specific workshop to work on memory, “A visit to remember“, that we have carried out with people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which received a very positive feedback. Each group has its own needs and it is important to know what they are so as to adapt each workshop to these specificities.
Observing the visit to the Brooklyn Museum served to be able to detect what these needs are and also to assess the fact that the nature of the visits are very similar to ours; dialogue is a key element, the guiding line so that the attendees can create direct ties with the work they are observing and feel comfortable doing so; something that directly affects the boosting of their skills and self-esteem.
We were also able to visit the Museo del Barrio, which is located in Spanish Harlem and it is the only museum of New York that carries out visits in Spanish aimed at people with memory deficit.
Another of the things not to be missed, was the fact of being able to observe the development of a school visit to the MOMA, the museum from which the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) methodology emerged, and to see what line of work they are currently following. This is the methodology that we are applying in the visits we carry out from the Education Service.
The visit was from a school with 5-year-old kids, on a day when the rooms were extremely full. The topic chosen by the teacher was about the shapes and figures that they should look for and find in the three works. The children sat down on the floor, and first of all observed the work in silence. Afterwards, the educator began a dialogue with an open question, with each child giving their opinion about what they saw or about what their companions said. In front of each work they carried out a small action, such as listening to music, and searched in the picture for the rhythm that they were hearing, doing a quick drawing of the shapes they could see in the scene they were observing, or commenting in small groups about what they were looking at. They are quick and easy exercises that help to reflect with another language on what they observe and then comment on this together.
Travelling is very enriching, by getting to know other cultures first-hand, and other ways of doing things. Sometimes, however, they also make us appreciate more what we have. And I have to say, in this case, that it helped me to see how important the collection of the Museu Picasso of Barcelona is for understanding an artist such as Picasso; an artist who is present in nearly all the museums of New York, and also throughout the city. Here we are lucky enough to be able to get to know his formative and early years first-hand, and to be able to evaluate his evolution as an artist.
Therefore, from New York, I was able to take away many good memories, many experiences and above all the experience of a city of contrasts.
Thank you very much to the educational teams of the Brooklyn Museum, the Museo del Barrio and the MOMA, for their kind welcome and the attention we received.