The latest Journal of Museum Education, Beyond the Cult of the Author: The Literary Museum Today, focuses on museums that are connected to literature and authors. Articles in the journal examine the ways in which these types of museums are using innovative programming to engage audiences in deep discussions.
In conjunction with JME 45.3, we have created a list of book clubs in museums. In particular, we sought out museum book clubs that are connecting with diverse audiences in creative ways. Some of the book clubs have ended, but are included below as a way to highlight interesting opportunities for visitors. All text below is taken from a museum’s website or directly from a staff member at that particular institution, but has been edited slightly in order to change tenses or reduce the description length.
Youth Book Clubs
Baby Book Club, High Museum of Art
The more you talk, the more they learn! The High Museum of Art is the perfect place to start a conversation with your baby. Baby Book Club is designed for caregivers with infants from newborns through age 14 months. In each 20-minute session, a High Museum teaching artist will pair a book with an artwork to get you and your baby talking.
Middle School Book Clubs, Museum of Science Boston
During the spring and summer of 2020, the Museum of Science Boston implemented two free middle school book clubs as an added benefit to Museum members and donors. While the two books used were very different in topic—the first was The Case of the Covid Crisis by Dr. Pendred Noyce and the second was The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky—the format for the book clubs were similar. Each week featured a guest scientist and an activity meant to increase engagement and add an “A” element to STEM (making it STEAM!). Students were also encouraged to participate in discussions, which ranged from personal feelings on the reading to ethical decisions to predictions about character motives. All of this was facilitated through Google Classrooms where the students built up their own rapport with the Museum of Science staff and each other.
All Ages Welcome Book Clubs
New Orleans Museum of Art Book Club
NOMA staff and book lovers read and discuss fiction and non-fiction books related to art, artists, art museums, and museum collections. Currently, their blog features a monthly reading list for all ages based on a theme or exhibition.
Adult Book Clubs
Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center Book Club
The Swannanoa Valley Museum’s Book Club meets monthly to discuss fiction and non-fiction from local and regional authors, with a focus on Appalachian experience and Swannanoa Valley history when possible.
Queer Book Club, Van Abbe Museum (Netherlands)
The Queer Book Club is a meet-up for LGBTQIA and/or otherwise queer-identifying folks to get together and read books together, talk about them, and socialize (they don’t discriminate against any straight allies that may want to participate). The queer book club reads parts of novels and academic texts, but might also incorporate podcasts, video content and other media-channels depending on the suggestions added by the participants. Attendees are encouraged to offer suggestions for books, texts or other content to read, listen to or watch. In this way they hope to be inclusive, not overly academic, and get to a large variety of information.
Between the Lines, The Penn Museum
The Penn Museum invites you to unlock the human experience through literature by reading “between the lines.” They offer a twist on the classic book club, featuring carefully curated books with cultural connections, moderated by Penn Museum curators and special guests. Each month, Between the Lines participants meet three times through interactive video conferencing: a kickoff, a check-in, and a concluding meeting at the end of the book. Readers are encouraged to continue the conversation and chat beyond these virtual meetings in the private Between the Lines Facebook Group. The moderator shares additional connections to the collection, supplemental readings and videos, and guiding questions through the virtual meetings and Facebook group.
Bowers Museum Book Club
Books at the Bowers: Touring Through the Pages pairs a topical book with a museum’s exhibit. All current book readings and special exhibit tours are held virtually.
Museum of Pop Culture Book Club
For their October Book Club, readers explored Jimi Hendrix’s love of Science Fiction by immersing in one of his favorite books: Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, the book Hendrix cited as inspiration behind one of his classic songs.
Environmental Justice, Seattle Art Museum(finished in summer 2020)
Seattle Art Museum marked this year’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day by launching a new edition of their book club with a reading of Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. With a focus on Afrofuturism, social justice, global migration, and the natural world, readers were encouraged to check back every two weeks to hear from staff and share their thoughts in the comments.The virtual club concluded with a Zoom meeting for all participants and readers.
Black Like Us, Northwest African American Museum
Black Like Us is a virtual literary experience that allows the Northwest African American Museum’s community to connect through the writings of published Black authors and literary luminaries. NAAM shares titles for adults focused on personal narratives with the intent to catalyze a reimagined idea of oral traditions. The program culminates each month with a discussion hosted on Zoom.
Sarah Bloom recently joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Discovery Center as the Sr. Officer for Interpretation and Visitor Engagement – overseeing K-12 Education Programs, Youth Programs, Interpretive Strategies and Exhibitions. Prior to this most recent tenure, Sarah served as the Associate Director of Education at the Seattle Art Museum, where for the past eight years, she played a key role in developing and strengthening SAM’s programs across the museum’s three sites: SAM Downtown, the Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park.. Education, engagement, and outreach have always been at the core of Sarah’s work. Prior to SAM, Sarah held positions with the Getty Museum, the Norton Simon, and the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Los Angeles. A native of Alexandria, Egypt, Sarah received a BA from Boston University and an MA from the University of Colorado in Classical Art & Archaeology.
Taylor Jeromos is the Programs Manager at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo, NY, where she uses her background in museum programming and education to help facilitate engaging and unique experiences for visitors from around the world. Taylor’s career has focused on creating programming, centering diverse narratives, and facilitating informal learning opportunities for people of all ages. She’s been a part of the education teams at a number of museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Taylor earned a Master’s in Museum Studies and Public History at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and holds a Bachelor’s in Medieval and Gender History from Earlham College.