Academics News

Museums in the 21st century

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Julie Funasaki Yuen

Museums. Probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about an interesting and entertaining way to spend an afternoon. So how do museums fit in today's digital world? What should museum goers expect in the 21st century? Juniors and seniors in Kaile Berlenbach's Museum Studies class are answering these and other intriguing questions this fall. Through an inquiry-based approach to learning, the high schoolers are posing and seeking answers to their own essential questions related to the study of museums.

"I'm having the students design their course from start to finish. Everything is student-driven," said Berlenbach. She began the course by showing the high schoolers Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith's critically-acclaimed documentary film, "Most Likely to Succeed" as an introduction and reminder of the concepts of project-based learning. The students then debated questions related to how learning is displayed, and were asked to design the Museum Studies course with these ideas in mind.

Under Berlenbach's guidance, the high schoolers are pursuing methods for making museums relevant today and in the future. "That's one of their driving questions," she continues. "They're taking what can be viewed as a boring subject and deciding how they can make it interesting, so that other kids learn there's more to it than just walking around and staring at exhibits."

How are they making this happen? With a little help from 3D technology. In 2013, Mid-Pacific began a partnership with CyARK, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and making world heritage sites accessible for future generations with 3D scanning. Through this partnership, the school purchased 3D scanners for use by Mid-Pacific students in the classroom. Museum Studies students are now actively engaged in preserving history for the next generation using 3D scanning technology.

"We're using the scanners as a tool to enhance the course which goes along with Mid-Pacific's overall philosophy," said Berlenbach. "We're not using technology for the sake of technology. Technology is a tool for enhancing education."

This October, the Museum Studies students spent the morning 3D scanning historical artifacts at Iolani Palace including King David Kalakaua's Crown, a Poi Supper Table, and a Meiji Vase. The students are working together with local non-profit organizations as well as the United States National Park Service and have plans to scan artifacts at the John Young Museum at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.


Iolani Palace Curator Teresa Valencia looks as as Mid-Pacific students Noel Okazaki, Jonathan Older, and Shane Wong 3D scan a Meiji Vase at Iolani Palace.

"It was cool being so close to the artifacts," said senior Michael Copeland. "We were able to see a lot of details."

"I enjoyed scanning the Poi Supper Table because it was challenging," noted senior Brent Kosaki. "It tested our skills and patience."

"It was a special opportunity that we were able to be part of," commented junior Quinn Nakasato.

"We wanted to provide our students with access to cutting edge technologies that would teach them real world engineering skills in addition to bringing history and culture to life in a meaningful and engaging way," said Mid-Pacific Chief Innovation Officer Brian Dote. "At Mid-Pacific, we are using 3D scanning technology to enhance the student experience by teaching them to become preservationists and historians themselves, and developing their skills as effective collaborators, problem-solvers and digital storytellers."

The students are now engaged in even broader discussions about how they can make a difference in the field of Museum Studies.

"For their final projects, the students are interested in creating their own virtual reality museum designed to sustain the interest and enthusiasm of today's museum goer," said Berlenbach. "Projects like these could evolve into ones that incorporate additional technologies like Mid-Pacific's Vive Virtual Reality technology as well as the 3D printing of scanned museum artifacts."