Fostering wisdom through wonder

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Crowdfunded program raises $5,000 for travel, field trip expenses at local schools

According to Elizabeth Horner, director of education at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, local school systems are in danger of giving up some of the most captivating, inspiring and interesting pieces of primary evidence: museum exhibits.

“There’s a wonderful quote from Socrates, ‘Wisdom begins with wonder,’” Horner said. “The greatest thing we can do [as educators] is capitalize on that sense of wonder that kids have when they see a mummy, hear about a Greek myth. That kind of engagement can happen in a museum with a work of art.”

Horner, along with Carlos Museum associate director of development Jennifer Long, recently raised more than $5,000 to help at least 800 Georgia students experience the museum’s exhibits first-hand.

According to Long, the Carlos Museum commits $10,000 each year for transportation and museum admission costs, but was only able to obtain half of that by late June.

To raise the remaining amount, the duo used Emory’s crowdsourcing software, Momentum, to contact alumni and community stakeholders. On Momentum’s project page, donors had the option to submit amounts ranging from $18 to $1,000 for the “Get on the Bus” initiative.

The project page said $18 can help provide admission assistance for three students while $1,000 can help cover the cost of buses for an entire grade level.

The project concluded with $5,334 raised by July 20 thanks to donations and a 1:1 matching donation promise from alumni Pam, Michael, and Lauren Giles. The family matched every donation up to $1,000 to double the museum’s efforts.

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“[Lauren]’s father was a professor, and she grew up coming to The Carlos Museum,” Long said. “It’s near and dear to her.”

Long said the $10,000 will allow willing school systems the chance to experience the exhibits offered at the museum. While the stipends are aimed toward Title I schools, every public and private school system is welcome on a first-come, first-served basis.

Long and Horner attribute a decline in museum trips and school funding to the 2008 housing bubble and economic recession. In many school systems, field trips and buses are the first items cut from the annual budget.

Originally founded in 1919, the Carlos Museum began as a collection of artwork from professors who used ancient art to enhance learning in their classrooms. The antiquities museum has vowed to continue that tradition for nearly a century, but developed problems a decade ago through a decline in field trips.

“We’ve seen public school participation decline and private school participation go up—we want everyone to have the chance to come,” Horner said.

Currently, the museum features exhibits from eastern, Greek, Roman, ancient American and Sub- Saharan African art. It also features a Tibetan Buddhist shrine from the Alice Kendall collection.

“There’s a power in teaching with objects,” Horner said. “You’ve heard about primary documents. Works of art are primary objects and documents.”

“All art was contemporary at some point, you can learn a tremendous amount about ancient cultures through artwork,” Long said. “We share the stories of civilization. Understanding the past helps us understand the present.”

Horner said museums are poised to play a significant role in the changing Georgia curriculum based on the amount of authentically aged, culturally relevant antiquities. The new state curriculum mandates children engage with differing perspectives and arrive at their own conclusion. This includes content information, visual literacy and a shift from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to include art (STEAM).

Horner said the Carlos would foster an emerging area of study for schools that involves looking at technologies created in the ancient world that impact our world today. Another included a math tour examining how ancient cultures created modern standards.

“There are a lot of dead cultures here, but what people are really looking at are the beginnings of civilization, structures and societies,” Horner said. “We have expressions from humanities around the world. There’s never been a more important time to understand the rest of humanity.”

For more information on The Michael C. Carlos Museum, visit www.carlos.emory.edu or call (404) 727-4282.

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