Designing global resources with student voices in mind

During fall 2022, fellows Qihan Gao, Sanghee Han, Greta LaFrentz and Michelle Kwon built and administered the first substantial visitor survey about the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and developed Open Educational Resources based on the gallery’s Asian art collections as part of the Buchanan Library Fellowship Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery: Collection Research and Outreach. As the Fine Arts Gallery’s new leadership acclimates to its audiences, understanding what the university knows about our collections, programs, and exhibits is an important baseline for planning future outreach and engagement both on campus and in greater Nashville. 

Fellows surveyed more than 500 respondents at the university and nearby about their knowledge of the Fine Arts Gallery: its location, programs and more. Survey questions evolved from discussions with gallery director, Amanda Hellman, and gallery staff, in addition to reviews of existing visitor feedback. We now have a baseline to better meet visitors’ interests and needs and we will build on that with the next round of new visitor studies in fall 2023. 

After the survey, each fellow then researched a group of collection objects to create a multi-faceted Open Educational Resource space on the gallery’s website, which includes materials for teaching or learning that are either in the public domain or have been released under a license that allows them to be freely used, changed or shared with others. Topics included Korean and Japanese ceramics, Japanese tsuba (sword hilts) and Japanese woodblock prints. Each resource provides classroom activities aimed at grades 6-12 as well as an overview of recent scholarship about the topic. As the gallery promotes educational resources to new audiences, these tools offer more ways to interact with collections as they will be available to all patrons on the Fine Arts Gallery website. The fellows’ work exceeded our expectations and will be a template for future guides for our collections.   


Qihan [Hans] Gao, (A&S’23, Economics & Asian Studies major; Business, History of Art and Architecture minor) wrote: “I plan to attend graduate school in art history here at Vanderbilt. This fellowship really lays a solid foundation for my future learning!” 


In building the Fellowship, mentors wanted to address two important areas for the Fine Arts Gallery: what visitors know about the gallery and what they know about accessing the collections. Both projects offered the fellows insight into museum work. Surveys will continue to inform future fellowships to address collections, exhibitions, and programming content, while also improving outreach through the website.