Let’s explore the past, talking about the present: Educational programme 2021-2022

Esther Fuertes and Sandra Figueras
A group of children experiencing the indoor installation Aeronautics Interior [Flight] by Francesc Torres in the Oval Hall of the museum

We are launching an educational programme!

The slogan and image that form the heading of this text define very well the spirit at the heart of the new educational programme for schools. On the one hand, an identifying feature of our collection, the possibility of immersing ourselves in the past and reviewing what we have been as individuals and as a society throughout 1000 years of history. On the other hand, the inevitable contemporaneity of our gaze, we look at the past from who we are today. The problems of our time cross us all, our proposal is that art can be a good way to explore them and with the museum as a welcoming space to open up a dialogue and generate conversations.

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) session with students and families from the Institut Escola Arts in the rooms of the Modern Art collection

Because one of the most important effects of the pandemic has been to show suddenly what is really important and urgent. In the case of museums, it has made us rethink what our raison d’être is and how we can be more useful to society as a whole and especially to the educational community. From this desire arose the consultation we made at the beginning of last year and which gave us some clues about the needs of schools. In this new programme we have carried out the exercise of trying to respond to some of the concerns that were expressed to us and to establish new links between the school world and the museum. 

They have inspired us

All the educators both at school and in the museums who have put their lifelong learning ability at the service of education. Facing the day to day work with courage, responsibility and creativity despite the difficulties. An intensive course of resilience in which we are all growing as people and as professionals.

The teaching staff from the Escola M Jacint Verdaguer during a drawing session in the rooms of the Romanesque art collection and a session with the teachers of the summer course “Art and Commitment”

The thinker and essayist Marina Garcès defines emancipatory education as “one whose horizon is to make it possible for everyone to be able to think for themselves, with others, the problems of their own time. (Escola d’Aprenents, 2020)

Her reflection has made us wonder what we can do to make the museum an “emancipatory” educational agent.  How can it be implemented in the new educational programme? Here are some ideas:

  • To enable spaces for thinking and dialogue together with the visitors both in the activities we propose and in the contents we develop.
  • To prioritise the use of heritage objects to illustrate, problematise and question issues of social interest on a local and global scale over academic storytelling.
  • To provide tools to learn to look and ask questions through art.
  • To practise with inclusive methodologies capable of incorporating diversity of all kinds as enrichment.
  • To cultivate a relationship with the educational community marked by collaboration, co-creation and shared knowledge.
  • To experiment with teachers the possibilities of the museum as an expanded learning space beyond the classrooms.     

We have also recuperated two ideas from Marina Subirats, sociologist, politician and philosopher, presented at the roundtable rethinking education in the museums organised by the Maritime Museum of Barcelona. On the one hand the need to weave lasting bonds and emotions not only between the heritage objects and the visitors but also between all the agents who participate in the educational work of the school and the museum. On the other hand, and after noting the lack of ethical heritage that the pandemic has highlighted, the opportunity is raised for museums and heritage sites to participate in the reconstruction of an ethic of our time, based on equality and not on the hierarchy of the genre, skin colour or class, among others. Training the critical eye to break the hegemonic stories that have traditionally built the discourse of the museum and create new ones.

 Education for Development enters the museum

The reflections we have just proposed suggest that in order to face the problems and challenges of the society of the present and those of an uncertain future, we need tools such as reflection, critical analysis and creative capacity that allow us to build and imagine other realities.

 Students from the Institut Vall d’Hebron presenting their repair projects in the context of the Creadors En Residència (Creator in Residence) programme and a student at the Institut Escola Arts visiting the “Interior Flight” project

It is in this sense that the art of the present and that of the societies that have preceded us is more useful than ever, it can testify to the conflicts and disadvantages of the past and at the same time give clues on how to move forward in this territory of uncertainty.

That’s why, for some years now, we have been committed to lines of work that include education for development and the skills approach, and we have sought the complicity of organisations and specialists who are already working in this direction. In the recent publication “Skills to transform the world” (Clara Massip [coord.], CécileBarbeito, Àlex Egea, Mariano Flores, 2018) they define it as follows:

Today’s education for development […] can be the catalyst for the training of a critical and supportive citizenship, able to look at the horizon of an uncertain future, which makes us recognise our interdependencies and vulnerabilities , but at the same time helps and offers tools to analyse, assess and build viable alternatives based on fair human relations and respect for the dignity of people:” (page 18)

The various axes and methodologies of this type of education (gender, culture of peace, human rights, economy and solidarity, environment, interculturality) have fully entered the educational programme in some of the new activities and have also been part of the criteria for renewing others: 

  • Art and Commitment, Responses to the Civil War. It proposes to reflect and dialogue on conflict and the idea of peace based on the response of the artists and the works they generated during the period of the Spanish Civil War.
  • Painters by trade. From the medieval workshop to the present. Discover the techniques and role of painters and workshops in medieval times by comparing the artisanal production of the time with the industrial production of modern objects to reflect on issues such as consumption or sustainability.
  • Art in the pantry. Discover the food we ate more than three hundred years ago to reflect on how we eat today and talk about topics such as proximity, where we buy and how we care for the planet with our food.
  • Insubordinate looks. Thinking about sexual diversity and desire through art. The works of art serve to dismantle and rethink gender archetypes from a feminist and LGBTQ + perspective.
  • Women you should be! We dismantle gender stereotypes through the collection. A feminist interpretation of the collection that explores the artistic and political mechanisms that have often articulated women’s oblivion.

Other news of the programme, recovering presence

One of the important news is that we are recovering the workshop activities with all the health guarantees after a very complicated course in which we had to rethink the entire programme according to the restrictions of the pandemic. It is worth noting here that thanks to the firm commitment of the museum management to maintain educational activity during lockdown, the team of educators of the Museu Nacional was one of the few in the country that remained active in the toughest days of the pandemic.

Summer camp students during the “Have you portrayed” and “The bestiary dance” workshops in the museum’s workshop spaces

Another aspect derived from the time of lockdown and the pandemic situation with which we still live has been the need to be present, to find ourselves and to relate beyond the screens. The urgency to “do” in real environments, to touch things, to return to the spaces that nourish us in some way. The museum plays an important role in this sense, it is a place full of references, spaces of tranquility and possibilities for dialogue and contemplation.

Student from the Institut Escola Arts  and students of the Institut Maria Espinalt in the art rooms and storerooms of the museum

This time of work and reflection has made possible the renewed programme of what we want to highlight:

  • The new programme of selectivitat (University Entrance Exams) which incorporates new dynamics to the onsite itineraries, a virtual itinerary and the online activity Let’s do a zoom of the works of selectivitat : an in-depth conversation about a work to train the students’ gaze.
  • The activity The spaces of the storerooms. The never-seen museum offers you access to little-known spaces in the museum and to discover the relationships between art and the science of conservation.
  • The temporary exhibition Gaudí and the idea of City, will be a unique opportunity to review the architecture of Antoni Gaudí and its impact on the city of Barcelona and our imagination and will be accompanied by a programme for different educational levels.
  • The new programme The museum drawn, invites you to stop and look. We understand drawing as a privileged tool for the observation and enjoyment of art, as a language that all people can access, even if it sometimes seems forgotten or asleep. We propose broadening and deepening the museum’s own vision and its works through the tool of drawing.
Students from the Institut Escola Arts and the Escola M Jacint Verdaguer during the pilot tests of the “The drawn museum” programme

The programme aims to grow by offering training spaces for teachers who can reconnect them with this discipline understood as a tool for research, observation and creativity.

We’re expanding the links: more museum-school projects

During the 2021-22 academic year we are continuing programmes such as Creators IN RESIDENCE which this year invites the Sitesize collective to work with the students of the IES poet Maragall or the Programme “The art of speaking” which includes 10 new adult education centres. We are also launching new long-term projects with local schools such as the project Connected with four neighbouring schools of the museum or the Gresol Cultural, which puts in contact and accompanies shared processes between schools and entities of the Poble-sec.  

Students from the Escola M Jacint Verdaguer doing a drawing practice at the school before the visit to the museum

Thank you for your complicity, we hope that what we have prepared a programme that interests you and is useful for you. Have a very good start to the course!

Sandra Figueras
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Departament d'Activitats i Eduacació

Esther Fuertes
Departament d'Activitats i Eduacació

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