Adjusting Museum Education for the Covid Era

***This is the second in a series that focus on the reopening of musical instrument collections in museums after the coronavirus shut down. Specifically, the series considers the new realities of social distancing and other safety precautions and their impact on collections.


Photo by PamMcP Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

By Katherine Palmer

Like most institutions, the Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, Arizona) was forced to halt all in-person educational experiences in March 2020, and while the world faced an unprecedented global pandemic, educational institutions everywhere – museums included – were quickly forced to embrace the digital-learning environment. Over the course of MIM’s physical closure (March through July) and reopening (August 10), MIM’s education team has worked to pivot pre-existing programs into virtual offerings. We aimed to engage learners on different platforms and offer both synchronous and asynchronous options in order to meet the needs of educators, students, and families. Below is a summary of some these offerings:


1. In March and April, MIM Education re-created pre-existing educator resources into digital learning tool kits via Google Drive to give educators the ability to “assign” modules to students for asynchronous exploration. Learning kits are focused on K–8 Arizona State Standards and include topics about the Silk Road, cultural diffusion, geographic studies, and zoomorphic symbolism.

2. In mid-April, MIM took MIMkids Mini Music Makers (early childhood music and movement classes for children and caregivers) online via Zoom. Classes meet Wednesday mornings in two sessions: 10:15–10:45 for 0–3 year olds and 11:00–11:30 for 3–5 year olds. The online setting has been a wonderful way to stay engaged with the community and give caregivers options for things to do from home. Participants have included currently enrolled families, families that have relocated, and new families from outside the Phoenix area. July survey results were favorable, with one participant stating, “Thanks for creating this learning space during this time. We never thought of the MIM as a place to venture out to with our little one until now – we can’t wait to visit once things return to normal.”


3. In May, MIM began offering virtual Creative Aging: Memory Care and Music sessions for people with dementia living in assisted living facilities via Zoom. These 30-minute sessions include an introduction to MIM’s galleries with the curator of education and a music therapy portion with Dr. Melita Belgrave from Arizona State University. Sessions have continued twice a month and MIM has engaged 167 residents from 22 different facilities.


4. The most robust educational materials were developed between June–August and include two virtual field trips and one virtual artist residency concert. Virtual field trip packages include 50+ minutes of