In Musuem Anthropology 38.1, co-editors Maxine McBrinn and Tony Chavarria conducted interviews with museum anthropologists working within the university setting. This web-exclusive content adds to the collection of interviews published in the journal.
This interview is with Dr. Jill Minar, Instructor of Anthropology/Archaeology in the Anthropology, Economics, and Geography Department, Social Sciences Division at Fresno City College in Fresno, California. This is Part 2 of 2.
5. Do you think students take full advantage of having museums on campus?
No. On our campus most students are not aware of the museums on campus and so do not frequent them. In trying to resolve this issue, we had a mural painted on the outside of our building space, added two large signs, one on the campus mall side of our building and one on the museum wall. Since then we have had an increase in the visitors to the museum.
6. Does the university have a Museum Studies program? If so, how does that influence your answers to the above?
No, we do not have a Museum Studies program. Fresno City College has tried to have some museum courses (in anthropology and art) as we have several museums/galleries on campus. The need to have very small class sizes (low interest combined with hands-on instruction) made this impossible in these days of strict budgets.
7. Do you reach out to students outside the university?
Fresno City College has an active outreach program to the school districts in Fresno and the surrounding communities, working to bring young people from preschool through high school to the college campus. We are in a community that suffers from high dropout rates in high school, families who have no experience with college education, and high poverty levels. The goal of the outreach program is to give young people a chance to see what a college is like and to become acquainted with the campus with the hope that they will see a college education as part of their future. As part of this outreach, various departments on campus provide tours to the visiting students. The Museum of Anthropology participates in this outreach by providing tours of the museum to visiting school groups throughout the school year. Currently, given our lack of paid staff and low budget, these school group tours already stretch our ability to meet the need and so no further outreach is done by the museum to the community on a regular basis. The museum has held open house events, workshops, and tours for special occasions for which we do advertise to the greater Fresno area. We have been featured in the local paper and had a television program broadcast from the museum in the past few years.
8. What do you see in the future for university associated museums?
In my opinion, there is a very strong and vibrant future for university/college associated museums especially if museums focus on engaging students in the functioning of the museum. Important connections can be made when students are able see their academic studies in action and where they can actually participate in making that happen. Even given all the administrative headaches, I see that our museum provides something that is lacking in other areas of our campus: it provide a place where students connect with each other and with faculty. They are engaged in, are connected to and are part of, a community. According to our campus basic skills faculty, these are important to student success. On the museum side, having a steady stream of engaged students who want to work or volunteer keeps things lively. In recent years when budgets were slashed, our student docents pitched in and helped to keep the museum open many more hours than would have been possible otherwise. They had learned the value of their contribution to our campus community and gave of their time and talents to keep it going. I expect that these students will carry their passion for museums on into the places where they end up living and working after college – they represent the next generation of museum advocates in our communities.