Coalition for Museum Learning

Kansas City has a rich museum and cultural community that includes art, historic and cultural organizations. Making these collections accessible and interesting to the public requires knowledgeable people trained in engaging visitors and working with objects and collections.

Museums and cultural sites are proud to work with people who are dedicated, passionate and conscientious about their work with organizations.  Providing high-quality training is key to success.  Because of this need, the Kansas City Art Institute and some of the key cultural institutions in the Greater Kansas City area have come together to share resources and address common topics found in today's museums, historic sites and cultural places.


The Kansas City Art Institute is proud to launch the Coalition with the following partners:


Interested in becoming a partner?  Contact Sonja Garrett at to find out more information.

Program goals

The program is an innovative leader in training people to work with collections and visitors.  The objectives of the program include:

  • Consolidate and share the community's resources, experts and collections
  • Create a standard training program providing consistency regardless of staff changes
  • Support museum learning and increase confidence and preparedness for working or volunteering in a museum, historic site or cultural organization
  • Professionalize the volunteer corps to reinforce skills, standards and best practices
  • Deepen knowledge and understanding of the volunteer role and contribution to an organization
  • Raise the profile of the Kansas City cultural community

Curriculum and Micro-credentialing

Six key modules have been identified as being universal and important to the training of all people working with collections and the public. Each module has an introductory course.  Students are highly-encouraged to take the introductory course first.  Additional, in-depth workshops have been added under each of the six modules to offer options for deepening knowledge and understanding in a particular area.  

Micro-credentialing (badges) and non-credit certificate

Students interested in earning professional credentials may choose between two options.

Micro-credentialing/badges:  Those wishing to earn a badge in one or more of the six modules should take all classes in each relevant module. The six modules are Special populations, Visitor experience, Diversity issues, Working with groups, Teaching & learning strategies and Professional practice. For example, in the Special Populations module there are four classes. To earn this badge, take all four workshops.

When you complete all courses in a module, please contact Leila Hybl at 

Non-credit certificate:  Students who take all  workshops will earn a non-credit certificate from KCAI in addition to all six (6) badges.

Special Populations and Museum Engagement

Students will gain exposure to the myriad of challenges that can affect interactions with visitors. Included in this workshop will be an introduction to some of the most prevalent in public settings including autism, alzheimers, ADHD, SPMI, hearing and vision impairments and accessibility issues.

Understanding and Assessing the Visitor Experience

Why do people visit museums?  What do they expect to learn and experience?  Learn what research tells us about these issues, and how understanding visitor motivations help you to serve them better.  In an age of increasing desire for customized visits and participatory experiences, knowing what the visitor wants can only make us all more effective in our roles.

Diversity Issues in Cultural Spaces

“…The vision of the museum field … is one in which our users reflect our communities. It is a future in which the scientific, historic, artistic and cultural resources that museums care for benefit all segments of society.” –Elizabeth Merritt, Introduction, “Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums.” As our world and our region become more diverse, our cultural and civic organizations struggle to meet the needs and reflect the unique experiences of a wider variety of individuals. This course examines the many layers of “diversity” by allowing participants to reflect on their own responses to new, and potentially unfamiliar ideas and environments.

Minefields:  Hot Topics and Pitfalls

Slavery?  Politics?  Religion?  Nudity?  War?  What do all of these have in common?  They are all minefields in cultural sites.  Learn how to carefully identify and navigate these subjects critical to learning in a museum environment while being respectful of your visitors.

Working with Groups in Museum Environments

Gain exposure to the myriad of groups that visit museums, historic sites and cultural places.  Students will be introduced to school groups, teachers, college students, adults and families in this interactive workshop. Focus will be given to how to deal appropriately with each distinct group addressing expectations, stages of development and modes of learning.  Learn how to assess your group and adapt to their needs while fulfilling the mission of your organization.

School Groups:  Grades K-12

This workshop will be divided between primary and secondary grades. The primary grades section will focus on grades kindergarten through fifth in cultural spaces.  Focus will be given to learning constructions, stages of development and teacher expectations.  Curriculum goals as well as tips and techniques for gaining and keeping their attention will also be explored.

The secondary grade focus will bet 7th through 12th grade and deal with the teenage stereotype of apathy and disinterest. When these characteristics show their ugly head in a public, educational setting everything can be derailed.  Spend some time getting to know and understand this unique constituency and how to engage them in a cultural space.  Exploration of how to engage these students, stages of development as well as teacher expectations will be explored.

Working with Minor Populations:  Best Practices

Working with visitors under the age of 18 is a challenge but add in the various issues with safety and liability and sometimes it is overwhelming.  This workshop will focus on the best practices when working with minor populations.  Questions like "If they hug me can I hug them back?"  "Am I allowed to be alone with a minor?"  "What should I know to protect myself and my institution?"  Explore all of these issues and more in this enlightening and eye-opening course.

Adult Learning

Adults have a variety of needs and expectations when visiting a cultural institution.  This course will examine a variety of adult groups from college students to senior citizens.  Attention will be paid to the differences in individual versus group learning and how adults engage within a free-choice learning environment.

Teaching and Learning Styles and Strategies

This course will expose students to a wide variety of styles and strategies for teaching and learning in object-based environments.  Areas introduced in this course include informal and individual learning styles, storytelling, improvisation, questioning strategies, making meaning, Visual Thinking Strategies©, games and play, and comfort with risk.  Students will gain a basic understanding of the multitude of choices available when engaging visitors.

Delivering Your Tour:  Public Speaking, Storytelling and Improvisation

Preparation, practice, and knowledge of the collection are all keys to giving a great tour, but the most memorable and effective tours are executed with well-developed speaking skills.  Incorporating public speaking techniques into your tours will positively impact the experience of  visitors and promote the educational mission of the institution.  This workshop will help you craft a confident presentation style and build audience engagement when delivering tours.  Specific skills include creating a dialogue with visitors, reading the audience's cues, incorporating storytelling and presenting information in an engaging and professional manner.

Object- and Inquiry-Based Techniques

What do you do when you don't know any background information about an object you are presenting to a group? There are many techniques and tricks that can be learned to engage a visitor in an object-based discussion. This class will educate students on the basic elements and principles of design that can be applied to any object, any time.  Students will work with questioning strategies to develop critical thinking skills in their visitors and have the chance to practice in the workshop.

Additionally, you will learn how to facilitate discovery and connections for visitors to help them make meaning and connect on a deeper level with the collection in which they are engaging.

Games and Play

Creating activities and games that encourage play in a cultural space is another way of engaging visitors. Become comfortable with taking risks and trying new things in this workshop.  Learn about some tried and true games that work with any collection as well as create some of your own.

Museums, Historic Sites and Cultural Places

What are the origins of the museums we know today and how have they evolved over time?  How are these cultural places governed and what careers are found in these environments?  What are the ethical principles, policies, procedures and practices that inform how collections are acquired, cared for, exhibited and interpreted?  Explore these behind-the-scenes activities and more to learn about this diverse world.  This course will expand the participant's knowledge about the organizational structures, audiences, activities and people behind everything.  Students will gain a clear picture of the inner-workings and be more prepared to answer questions from visitors.

Going From Your Paid Career to Your Volunteer Career

Perhaps you were a Director or Vice-President in a major corporation.  Maybe you were a nurse or a doctor.  Maybe you were a teacher or a stay-at-home parent?  The experiences you had before you became an active volunteer provide variety and depth to the organization in which you are now affiliated.  How do you reconcile the responsibility you had in a previous role with the one you have now?  What's different?  What's the same? What are the expectations of your new role as a volunteer?  What does the organization expect?  How will you work with other volunteers (or not?)  This class will embrace what you were in your paid career and prepare you for your new role as a volunteer, an equally gratifying and important field.

Best Practices in Research and Accuracy

During this session participants will look at research strategies that volunteers can use to connect objects in a collection to their original context and to bring these objects to life for visitors.  After an introduction to the library and its role in the organization we'll discuss specific resources found in most museum libraries, evaluate freely available resources and develop a research strategy using an object in the collection.  This research strategy will be transferable to any museum's collection.  The session will end with a look at resources and strategies on the horizon.

Symposium Information

Symposium registration for Friday, April 4th and Saturday, April 5th, 2014 is now closed.   

Download a pdf of symposium information here.

Download a pdf of the symposium schedule here.

Download a pdf of the symposium presenter bios here.

The $150 includes:

  • Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Peter Welsh, Professor & Director of Museum Studies at the University of Kansas
  • Saturday Lunch
  • Five workshops culminating in the earning of two of the six microcredentials
  • Friday cocktail reception and networking event
  • Saturday cocktail closing reception and networking event
  • Take-aways

Choose between one of the the following micro-credentialing tracks when enrolling:

Option 1:  Diversity and Professional Practice (two micro-credentials earned)

Workshops include:

  • Museums, Historical Sites and Cultural Places
  • Going from Your Paid Career to Your Volunteer Career
  • Best Practices in Research and Accuracy
  • Diversity Issues in Cultural Spaces
  • Minefields, Hot topics and Pitfalls


Option 2:  Special Populations and Teaching and Learning Styles and Strategies (two micro-credentials earned)

Workshops include:

  • Teaching and Learning Styles and Strategies
  • Special Populations and Museum Engagement
  • Delivering Your Tour:  Storytelling and Improvisation
  • Object & Inquiry-Based Techniques
  • Games and Play


Option 3:  Visitor Experience and Working with Groups (two micro-credentials earned)

Workshops include:

  • Working with Groups in Museum Environments
  • Understanding and Assessing the Visitor Experience
  • School Groups:  K-12
  • Working with Minor Populations:  Best Practices
  • Adult Learning


Museum educators wishing to attend the Friday educators-only rountable luncheon should add the "Educators-Only Roundtable Lunch" to their cart in addition to one of the three options listed above.


The program is open to anyone who wishes to attend, but will be particularly useful for volunteers, guides and docents from Kansas City's cultural organizations who interact with the public and collections of any sort; those considering volunteering; college students interested in working at cultural organizations; teachers who want to hone skill sets; and educators working in cultural organizations.

If you are not an active volunteer, but are interested in becoming one, we encourage you to take the courses. Your understanding of what it takes to be a high-quality volunteer will grow exponentially.


The Coalition will use partner locations and collections strategically for the workshops.

The symposium is utilizing the National World War I and Liberty Memorial Museum and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.


If the fee is a hardship, you may inquire about scholarship opportunities by contacting the volunteer program coordinator at your respective institution.

Hotel Accommodations

The following hotels are located near the conference.

Holiday Inn on Main Street 
Marriot on Main Street

CPS Enroll

Click here to enroll today in a class at the School for Continuing and Professional Studies at KCAI.

Spring 2018 Brochure

Our spring brochure will be available for download soon! 

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