by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Travis Long
This month, you’ll find Emily Kotecki busy connecting the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Egyptologist Caroline Rocheleau with students at Matthews Middle School in Graham and Havelock High School in Havelock – via videoconference. But this distance learning project – part of an effort to bring the NCMA’s collections and expertise to kids all over the state – is anything but abstract.
In fact, these students will be holding replicas of ancient artifacts in their hands as they talk to Rocheleau about the time and place those objects were made. They can do that because Kotecki and her colleagues are able to scan objects from the museum’s Ancient Egyptian collection and e-mail them to the schools, where the images are 3-D printed. “Students are looking at an exact replication of objects in our museum and making observations within the context of their history unit,” she says. “This technology is great. It’s fun and it’s flashy and it’s innovative, but really it’s just a tool to deepen and activate the learning experience.”
The technology also includes state-of-the-art interactive screens at the museum that broadcast videoconferences and include touch-screens to allow instructors to zoom in on images and circle relevant details, not unlike the colored arrows and squiggles drawn by sports commentators during football games. An accompanying camera-on-wheels can be rolled through galleries, its images transmitted to the interactive screens and beyond. “The mobile broadcast cart provides an opportunity to share the art gallery experience,” Kotecki says. “The goal is to create a dialogue.”
Schools are a top priority for this museum effort, but community centers, assisted living communities, and local cultural resources departments can also benefit, she says.
“We’re a thought leader in education,” Kotecki says. It was the museum’s standout approach that drew the North Carolina native back to her roots a few years ago. She had been working as a digital journalist for The Washington Post when she decided to make a career change to the arts and the NCMA’s groundbreaking work caught her eye. “We feel strongly about our mission as the North Carolina Museum of Art,” Kotecki says. “Statewide outreach is critical to our mission. It’s not a one-way conversation: here’s an opportunity to engage in live discussions about art with audiences across the state.”