Aya Vegh

ayaHi, I’m Aya. Previously I studied art education and art studio, and these days I’m a graduate student at the art museum education program at CCNY. Besides the arts, I study Japanese and practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In recent years I’ve worked as a special education high school teacher, and interned in various NYC museums, including the Rubin Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.

For my qualifying paper I’m writing on the topic of visitors experiences of interpretive technology at the Rubin Museum of Art. A recently new field, museum interpretation is in the intersection between museum education and curatorial practice. Different scholars and practitioners define it in different ways, but most agree that interpretive planners facilitate thinking about thinking. In other words, they help museum-goers recognize their own thinking patterns and reflect upon them. Anila Swarupa, director of interpretive engagement at the Detroit Institute of Art in 2017, defines museum interpretation as a form of activism, stating, “When integrated with critical multicultural education […] museum interpretive practice in itself can be a form of liberatory, social justice.” This definition echos my own view of the field and the direction of museum interpretation I would like to pursue in the near future.


The Wheel of Intentions at the Rubin Museum of Art, 2019. Photo by Dia V.


In my research I’m interviewing visitors who interacted with The Wheel of Intentions at the Rubin Museum of Art, asking them in what ways their engagement with the participatory interpretive technology influenced their museum experience. This is important since understanding their experience would help advocate for further implementation of digital participatory devices in additional art museums.

My interest in interpretive museum planning that juxtaposes multiple narratives next to each other, stems from my aspiration to promote discussion and understanding of different, sometimes contradictory, perspectives. As I grew up in Israel, a country torn by numerous conflicts, I aim to do museum work that promotes bridging over cultural, political, and religious differences. In this context, The Wheel of Intentions, which promotes understanding of Tibetan buddhism traditions, has inspired me to pursue this route.

While further analysis is still underway, at this stage of my research I can share that the bulk of participants felt their overall experience with The Wheel of Intentions had shifted their perspective, and inspired a greater sense of focus and intentionality when viewing the artworks. The interactive experience also encouraged reflective thinking among multiple participants, as they compared and contrasted their own goals to those of others and noted differences and similarities, as one participant commented: “it gives you like a goal, a perspective, what do you expect here, what do you want to do? It also helps people to, like, for a second to step back and think, okay, so what do I want in life? Like just small thing, but just pause for a moment and just think, which is also a great experience the museum is like asking people to do.” In addition, empathy and resonance with intentions inserted by other visitors was a dominant experience among the participants. As another participant reported, “Even the silly things people wrote, there is some real intention behind that […] Little everyday, small things, for me it didn’t…it made me feel empathy towards people.”

In my own future practice as museum interpretive planner, I would like to implement these findings and utilize practices that inspire such experiences.

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