The Norman Transcript

N-town Q/A

January 10, 2014

Q&A: Emily Ballew Neff comes to OU inspired



Q: Do you have any specific plans to involve the community or minority groups with the museum?

A: It is our job, it is our highest priority to make sure that museums are for absolutely everybody. I’m very fortunate that I worked with a director who was very much about outreach and getting people in to museums but also getting the museum out to the people. It’s a very old model— the idea that it’s for elitism. But we are not doing our jobs as museum directors or professionals if we are not doing everything that we possibly can do to make sure that everybody understands that they are always invited to come in and look at the art and to learn from it.

Our institution, for example, and this is probably true for the Fred, too, but people’s experiences at the museum starts at the parking lot. As a policy our friendliest guards are always at the front door to make sure the first experience people have is a warm one. You want people to feel welcome.

... That’s why we put so much effort into getting as many students and young children into the museum at an early age so it’s never something they’re afraid of. One of my favorite expressions is, “It’s a playground for the mind.” The idea is that museums are fun. This is where we go to have fun. Learning is fun. Museum’s are visually exciting. There’s all these kinds of things that make it exciting for kids.

... We need to create an environment so when people walk in the door they don’t feel like they’ve failed a taste. Just come in. It’s getting people to cross that threshold. So that’s a challenge for all museums and I think they are much better than they used to be, diverting many more resources to programs that help with that.

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