Innovative niche scientists: Women's role in reframing north American museums, 1880-1930

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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Abstract

Women educators played an essential role in transforming public museums that had been focused on collections and research into effective educational and informational sites that engaged broad publics. Three significant innovators were Delia Griffin of St. Johnsbury Museum in Vermont who emphasized hands-on learning, Anna Billings Gallup who shaped a distinctive model museum for children in Brooklyn and Laura Bragg of the Charleston Museum who established strong collaboration with the local public schools. Joining museum curatorial staffs and professional associations that were largely male, these women educators and their peers typically provided pedagogical insights and teaching skills that enabled them to work effectively with school systems, teachers, pupils and parents. Genuinely interested in natural science, they shaped careers which included opportunities to engage with science, provided a considerable degree of autonomy and enabled them to experiment with hands-on learning. They built networks of museum educators and influenced the young American Association of Museums. Women museum educators created a bridge between semi-public natural history establishments for collection, preservation and scientific research and an active audience of teachers, pupils, visitors and patrons. Their efforts transformed museums into sites for education and broad public access to science in the early 20th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-174
Number of pages22
JournalCentaurus
Volume55
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2013

Keywords

  • Anna Billings Gallup
  • Delia Griffin
  • Laura Bragg
  • museum education
  • natural history museums
  • science education

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