Learn about the origins of the Roundtable program and explore case studies of community partnerships in this new 124-page Museum publication.
In 2002, the Natural History Museum developed a new strategic plan, expanding its focus from research and collecting to more active engagement with the community. The Museum’s new mission statement sought “to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.” In response to this new vision, the Education Department formed a “think tank” of Museum staff and community members — artists and educators — to discuss not only how the community could access Museum information, but how they could also be actively engaged with Museum content. In 2005, this "think tank" became the Brain and Heart Trust (known today as the Education & Arts Roundtable) — a dedicated group of community-minded thinkers with strong beliefs in creative collaborations.
At the beginning, Roundtable members were asked what would happen if they were given project stipends, materials, transportation for students, time, thinking space and ongoing member encouragement — that is, what sorts of student learning opportunities would emerge when unencumbered by practical needs and logistics? The results of this exploration led to a wide range of arts-integrated, interdisciplinary projects, in which students were able to deeply engage with the Museum’s exhibits and collections, and explore content in uniquely challenging and creative ways. A dedicated space at the Museum, called Inter/Act, became a place where students showcased their findings and made their learning visible to the community.
The Roundtable today is an award-winning education program that continues to be a vibrant collective supporting creative interdisciplinary learning — a place where science and art meet and reinforce each other — with the Museum and the community as collaborators and partners in meaning-making for students of all ages.