Crystal Bridges is the first major art museum to be built in the United States in the last four decades, with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space and an endowment in excess of 0 million.
During the first two semesters of the school tour program, the museum received 525 applications from school groups representing 38,347 students in kindergarten through grade 12.
We created matched pairs among the applicant groups based on similarity in grade level and other demographic factors.
An ideal and common matched pair would be adjacent grades in the same school.
We then randomly ordered the matched pairs to determine scheduling prioritization.
Within each pair, we randomly assigned which applicant would be in the treatment group and receive a tour that semester and which would be in the control group and have its tour deferred.
We administered surveys to 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools three weeks, on average, after the treatment group received its tour.Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours.For example, the Field Museum in Chicago at one time welcomed more than 300,000 students every year. Between 20, Cincinnati arts organizations saw a 30 percent decrease in student attendance.There is no indication that the results reported below faded for groups surveyed after longer periods.We also assessed students’ critical-thinking skills by asking them to write a short essay in response to a painting that they had not previously seen.Not all school groups could be accommodated right away.So our research team worked with the staff at Crystal Bridges to assign spots for school tours by lottery.With field trips, public schools viewed themselves as the great equalizer in terms of access to our cultural heritage.Today, culturally enriching field trips are in decline.The research presented here is the first large-scale randomized-control trial designed to measure what students learn from school tours of an art museum. In particular, enriching field trips contribute to the development of students into civilized young men and women who possess more knowledge about art, have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.Design of the Study and School Tours The 2011 opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Northwest Arkansas created the opportunity for this study.