Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

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Picturing the 1930s

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Carlos Parada, Smithsonian American Art Museum (in-house)

Picturing the 1930s website is the content portion of a collaborative project with the University of Virginia. The site introduces visitors to museum artworks, provides context, and empowers users to create documentaries that demonstrate understanding of content. Students of United States History (particularly 8th and 11th grade) are the principal target audience; however, the site was created to appeal to site visitors who are interested in American art &/or history and users interested in creation of documentaries. The project, of which Picturing the 1930s is a part, is intended to address learning outcomes in social studies through a partnership that makes use of primary source materials. Inclusion of images, sound, and video in instruction can distribute the cognitive load among several channels, resulting in increased retention and recall. A web-based digital video editor designed for history instruction allows students to write a script that can be combined with images and a narrative in the student’s own voice to create a digital documentary. Embedding key historical events in a narrative context facilitates both recall and understanding. By recording an audio file and applying cinematic techniques to selected artworks, students can demonstrate their understanding of 1930s era topics such as the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Picturing the 1930s offers a fun way for students to demonstrate knowledge and the incentive of including their work in a Smithsonian website. Researchers at the Curry School of Education are assessing classroom use of this tool within the context of Picturing the 1930s.

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