Johnson Museum staff members presented on their innovative collaborations at the 2019  Association of Academic Museums & Galleries (AAMG) annual conference. “Learning Laboratory and Community Center: Positioning the Academic Museum for Success” was held this past June at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

A panel session, “A Literal ‘Looking Lab’: Scientific Collaboration with the Academic Art Museum,” was coorganized by panel moderator Leah Sweet, the Lynch Curatorial Coordinator of Academic Programs, Brittany Rubin, the Museum’s print room curatorial assistant, and Louisa Smieska, a staff scientist at Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS). The presentations highlighted partnerships between STEM fields—sciences, technology, engineering, and math—and art museums, illustrating how these multifaceted collaborations can produce groundbreaking results in research, teaching, and conceptions of a collection.

In their presentation, “New Insights on Old Objects: Maximizing the Impact of Collaborative Technical Research,” Brittany shared examples of the Johnson’s research collaborations with CHESS, Cornell’s Landscape and Objects Laboratory, and Tree-Ring Laboratory for dendrochronology, including her experiences teaching and researching with the WIRE (Watermark Identification in Rembrandt’s Etchings) project. In turn, Leah detailed how the Johnson’s academic programs have encouraged student engagement with technical research at Cornell.

The panel included additional presentations by Renee Stein, a chief conservator and lecturer at Emory University’s Carlos Museum, and Katherine Schilling, an associate conservation research scientist at Yale University, that furthered the discussion of how material sciences can advance understanding of art collections and expand museum education programs.

Julie McLean, the Johnson’s coordinator of public programs, and Annmarie Ventura, the Andrew W. Mellon Coordinator of Student Engagement, showcased their program collaborations in a presentation they called “Not Choosing Sides: Engaging Campus and Community in Public Programming.” Because the Johnson is a place that can truly engage both the Cornell campus and the Ithaca region, Julie and Annmarie have combined their efforts to involve both students and members of the community in more collaborative events, finding new ways to engage them as participants and as visitors and serving both audiences with new, creative approaches for Museum programming.

Annmarie also presented on the panel “Becoming a Part of Campus Conversations: Reaching Out to Bring Students In,” which explored the benefits of extracurricular programming, collaborations with student groups, and student-driven cocurricular initiatives with colleagues from Harvard Art Museums and the Hood Museum of Art.

By designing and sharing new models, our staff is positioning the Johnson as a site for research and new thinking in education at academic art museums.