October 8, 2020

From the Museum to the Classroom: Expanding a Nationwide Digital Learning Collaboration
Innovative Educational Platform Aims to Bring the Nation's Museums into K-12 Classrooms

Woman and child sitting at desk with smart device

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced a key investment in Museums for Digital Learning (MDL), a special initiative focused on building the museum field’s capacity to connect with teachers and students. This year, with K-12 educators continuing to be impacted by the pandemic, the project has become of significant value as museums pivot to gather and offer more digital teaching and learning resources.

Originally funded as a two-year pilot project through an FY 2018 National Leadership Grant to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, MDL’s goal is to bring together museums of various disciplines, sizes, and geographic regions to contribute to a shared digital platform offering collections-based educational resource kits. The Newfields Lab has been collaboratively leading the project and platform development.

During this second phase of MDL, the project team will enhance and build out the platform and the digital resources by adding 25 resource kits and onboarding 35 additional museum content partners. The platform and resource kits will also be enhanced with new interactive features designed to increase student engagement, such as eBooks, gaming activities, and a “collections hub” with exploratory, self-directed learning activities for students.

Additionally, a special section within the MDL website will allow any museum with digitized assets to join MDL and contribute a resource kit or provide a link to their existing online educational resources.

“Today’s students need engaging learning resources. Museums are equipped with rich assets that span different topics and time periods, which can provide unparalleled contextual content that make learning relevant and fun,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, Deputy Director of Museum Services at IMLS. “From its inception, MDL was designed to be a unique learning platform that could serve as a museum-driven, one-stop shop for K-12 educators. One of the innovative features of MDL is that it also allows museum content partners to collaborate to create thematic resource kits combining digital assets from two different institutions, such as the Field Museum and History Colorado have done. We are very pleased with the success of the pilot project and look forward to the continued growth and use of the platform and resources.”

The official site will be launched at the end of 2020 with resource kits from all the partner museums.

Field Museum and History Colorado are the lead content partners on the project, having created nine digital resource kits together for the beta platform. Ten additional museums from across the nation have joined MDL as content partners:

  • Lane County History Museum in Eugene, OR

  • University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie, WY

  • Santa Fe Botanical Garden in Santa Fe, NM

  • Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, MA

  • Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA

  • RISD Museum at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI

  • New-York Historical Society, in New York, NY

  • Museum of the City of New York in New York, NY

  • The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA

  • Driskell Center at University of Maryland in College Park, MD

“MDL is a great partnership for us,” said Wendy Derjue-Holzer, Education Director of the Harvard Museum of Natural History. “We are able to focus on our strengths as museum educators, creating thoughtful learning opportunities with museum objects, while the project team focuses on the technical aspects of sharing those digital educational resources. It is a really efficient and effective use of our time. MDL provides the missing connection where teachers can see across many museums at once to pick the materials best suited for their needs.”

Ten educators representing different grade levels, subjects, and geographic regions have been working with the content partners as co-creators of the MDL resources. These teachers have been involved in the pilot project from the start, meeting with the MDL team and sharing their needs, advising the content partners on the resource kit development, and testing the resources virtually with their students.

“This important and critically needed MDL project levels the playing field for students, allowing them access to resources that would be otherwise inaccessible to learning,” said Michelle Pearson, an 8th Grade Social Studies Educator at Century Middle School in Thornton, CO. “In a time where these resources are needed more than ever, IMLS and their partners on this project have created a tapestry of primary and secondary sources interwoven with activities that connect these artifacts to learning for children and adults of all ages.”

For more information on how to join or contribute to MDL, email the project team at info@museumsfordigitallearning.org. For more updates on IMLS grants, please visit imls.gov or subscribe to email updates.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

National Leadership Grants for Museums