WCMA explores contribution to campus

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), under the leadership of Director of WCMA Christina Olsen, will soon enter a new developmental phase, which is described by WCMA staff as a process of intellectual reconstruction. The process will begin in the  spring, but currently, the staff of the museum is focused on designing methods for soliciting community opinions regarding the role and function of the museum in the College community.

WCMA is seeking student input on its current role on campus, according to Associate Director of Academic and Public Engagement Sonnet Coggins and Director of Donor Engagement Katherine Myers. WCMA has created a survey that will soon be released and sent to the students to gain insight into students’ attitudes toward the museum.

“It is extremely crucial for us to cooperate with students, to know why and how they are or are not using the museum, to give them opportunity to provide their vision of WCMA,” Coggins said. “We are going to release a survey soon, and we really look forward to finding out what students think about their museum. The survey is just an official part, which can be really very helpful, but we would also be happy to see students come and talk to us, share their ideas. It is important to know how students who often visit the museum feel about its various aspects, and it is no less important to know why some students do not come to WCMA at all.”

Since Olsen became director in 2012, WCMA has been dedicated to the idea of a structured strategic planning that could result in the formulation of a new vision and new endeavors to teach students through its exhibits and programming. The whole process is driven by a strong belief that it is necessary and possible to “move from good to better,” according to Olsen. Though the imminent transformation will be mostly intellectual in nature, some changes in the physical space may also take place. “All physical changes will be subordinate to intellectual changes,” Olsen said.

“First of all, we should develop a clear vision of WCMA and construct a strong intellectual foundation,” Myers said. “Once this is done, we can discuss plans for technical and physical changes as well.”

WCMA staff is currently soliciting opinions from museum visitors, which include those from the student body, faculty, administration and staff and the local community, as well as engaging diverse focus groups to address the current WCMA programming. WCMA staff is also exploring how other college and professional museums operate. “It is interesting for us to see what works well in other museums, and especially nowadays, when the concept of engaging with art itself is greatly challenged,” Myers said. “Museums are no longer these silent, elitist places, confined to particular intellectual or social circles. There is more public engagement and more motion in today’s museums. And this very fact provides us with new challenges.”

“This is a significant period for our museum, and Williams students are most welcome to contribute,” Coggins said. “It is exciting to see what will unfold along the way.”