Cultivating Innovative Partnerships with Higher Education: Moving From Understanding to Action

Sarah Lowe, University of Tennessee, USA

Collaborative partnerships between institutes of Higher Education and museum settings are nothing new. Data collection, testing, content sharing and knowledge generation are storied activities of intellectual exchange that often take place in such alliances. Museums offer rich fodder for research that can in turn be analyzed and presented as contributions towards advancing both the museum profession and respective academic institution. More recently, academic emphasis on engaged scholarship moving into the classroom presents another form of mutually beneficial, joint problem solving and collaborative activity.

This day-long workshop will present the concept of engaged scholarship and offer a framework for developing a strong partnership with higher education that centers around problem-solving collaborations with a college classroom focusing on the use and application of technology within a museum setting. While the lens for discussion will be presented through partnerships centered on design and the visual arts, the processes are not so exclusive that they are not transferable across other academic disciplines. The first half of the day will consist of a presentation on different collaborations with cultural heritage institutions that have been facilitated by Professor Lowe and her undergraduate students, as well as an open discussion of participant experiences with collaborative partnerships. Metrics for determining success, mitigating risks and determining outcomes will be discussed and transcribed into a living document shared across all participants; a best practices report that acknowledges the challenges while providing a roadmap for progress. The second half of the day, participants will develop a proposal for collaboration between their own institution and an institute of higher education in their area; walking away with the potential to turn their newfound understanding into action.

My experience stems from first-hand experience working to build such collaborations. The ones I plan to share from my own experience are both local, The Blount Mansion (a small historic house) and the McClung Museum (a university housed culture history museum), the Highlander Research and Education Center (a social justice leadership and training facility that trained activists such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and Hollis Watkins) and national, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. As a result of my collaborations I have been asked by the Dean of my College to work on the University-wide Academic Engagement and Outreach Council where I sit on the Leadership Council. A sub-group developing a summer institute for faculty here at UTK to learn how to build engagement opportunities in the classroom.

As a result of my research with cultural heritage institutions and experience working with such partnerships, I have been highly invested in arranging such partnerships. While there is certainly a level of this activity already underway, I often hear from institutions with no real understanding, or time, to devote to figuring such a partnership out. At first I was thinking this would be a paper, but as I continued to edit, it feels much more productive as a workshop. I am open to discussing the methods or manners that I am proposing to best meet the needs of the anticipated audience.

Some of the recent writing on the subject:

1. One of the biggest obstacles is motivation by the faculty to invest in such an exchange. However as this movement grows, many universities are currently reviewing the methods in which it can be counted as productivity towards promotion and tenure.

2. There are several conferences and journal that are built around sharing concepts, theories and case studies surrounding engaged scholarship:

3. Universities are building missions that surround this initiative to engage locally