When the iconic Fallingwater residence was converted to a museum in 1963, Edgar Kaufmann jr. [sic] was enjoying professional success as Curator of Industrial Design at MoMA. Rather than presenting Fallingwater as a traditional house museum employing passive passive forms of interpretation rich in biographical and historical information, Kaufmann jr. preferred the house to be considered as an aesthetic object with an overall goal of helping visitors to gain an understanding of design that is in harmony with nature.
In order to achieve Kaufmann jr’s. vision, Fallingwater’s education staff (most of whom possess little to no experience in museum education, art/architecture history or design theory) are thoroughly trained to lead 60-minute, visitor-centered, open-ended conversations about an art object (the house) and in immersive environments (each room/space).
In this session, we look at the engagement strategies undertaken by the educators, the educational theory and best practices informing those strategies, and the work needed to overcome visitors’ expectations for what the touring experience will be… hint: not everyone is ready to pipe up and join the conversation! We will investigate some of the initial approaches that did not work so well, and how the department staff experimented to fine-tune the touring experience.