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Transforming Learning

Creating with UMMA’s Collections

When UMMA launches its new website, visitors will see a new option-”Create”--on the top level menu.

Funding from the U-M’s Third Century Fund, the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities, matched by leadership gifts from individual donors, will soon transform digital access to UMMA’s collections. The UMMA Exchange, to launch in Fall 2016, is a new online teaching and learning platform that will allow any user to create virtual exhibitions, lesson plans or other products, as well as being designed to support and extend formal, classroom-based learning.  Users will be able to add multi-media resources they create or that are available on the web, reflecting the complex matrix of learning today and extending experiences with UMMA’s collections. 

This past spring and summer, over 20 post-doctoral fellows, current graduate and undergraduate students worked at UMMA in teams guided by UMMA curators, educators, and registrars, to research, document and photograph over 5,000 collections objects thanks to IMLS funding. For objects rarely on view, this project is an opportunity to examine and study directly from these works of art The Modern and Contemporary team, led by Museum Curator for Teaching and Learning, Pamela Reister, recently shared some of the team’s discoveries.  In one case, what was previously thought to be (and recorded as) one work of art by 20th Century artist Hans Arp turned out to be a boxed portfolio of twenty-eight separate prints. Research on another graphic work by Elizabeth Catlett, was able to identify all of the portraits contained within one print, and to link them to her earlier works, creating new knowledge about this important 20th Century African-American artist. New information about these works of art will improve collections access by improving data, while also fulfilling UMMA’s mission to mentor and train the next generation of scholars and museum professionals.

The UMMA Exchange will facilitate educational use of the collection but it will also create access to all of the creative and wide-ranging ways that the collection has already been used in collaboration with U-M instructors as well as K-12 teachers over many years. For University faculty and instructors in particular, the U-M Third Century grant is supporting the transfer of four years’ worth of new teaching resources to The Exchange.  Since 2012, UMMA’s Manager for Academic Outreach and Teaching, David Chobeka, has worked with hundreds of instructors to identify artworks in the collection with particular instructional value to their respective disciplines. Each collaboration with an instructor and their class has the potential to create not just a single great experience for one group of students, but also a selection of art and a set of teaching materials that other instructors in the discipline can use. As just one example, Choberka worked with Scott Ellsworth, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies faculty, on a Museum session for his class on the Civil Rights Movement. These resources have already been used by numerous other instructors.

The Exchange promises to transform how teachers and learners can make use of the collection by providing a dynamic platform for working with the collections and a permanent and public repository, while providing a vivid and ever-evolving window into teaching and learning at UMMA.