Museum Spaces: Videos and Teaching Ideas

Project Origins

Created in 2012 through a Baruch College Teaching & Learning with Technology Partnership, these nine short videos introduce students to the architecture and spaces in well-known museums throughout New York City.  Teachers know that it’s not always possible to organize a group visit for large numbers of students, when class meets early morning or at night, or if transportation is not available. Our goal was to focus attention on the exteriors and interiors of institutional spaces in order to bring these elements into our classroom lessons.

They may be useful to instructors whose students are unfamiliar with museums as a way to prompt class discussion, raise broader issues, or prepare the class for visits to local exhibition spaces. Consider also asking students to compare the museums in the videos to their own observations and personal experiences visiting different kinds of museums.

See below suggestions for assignments and discussion prompts. We encourage instructors to adapt these resources and let us know other ideas to share with this resource.

Thinking about Museum Spaces (Observation Guidelines)

  • Start taking notes from the moment you begin to see the museum as you walk up to it from the street. How does the museum building relate to its surroundings? Is it similar, different, larger, smaller?
  • What is the exterior interior like? Is it decorated? Can you tell what style of architecture it is? How does it relate to what you see inside?
  • What is the entrance lobby to the museum like? How does it shape the beginning of your museum visit?
  • Who is attending the museum? What is the general atmosphere like?
  • How are the galleries organized? Why do you think the galleries and exhibitions look the way they do? (Think about wall color, lighting, interior arrangement, etc.).
  • How is your object displayed? What other objects is they near to, and why?
  • See more on this adaptable handout.

Discussion questions

  • Watch two or three of these short videos, and note details about the different spaces you see in each.  Based on the architecture, design, and exterior environments, what type of art do you think is inside?  What do you think your experience of this museum would be like?  How do these museums compare to museums you may have visited?  What features seem consistent in museums?  Why do you think similarities or differences exist?
  • If you’ve never been to a museum, describe an experience you recall in a university art gallery or a library where art or other types of objects were displayed.  Watch these short videos to get a feel for the spaces in some of New York’s major art museums. What characteristics do you notice?  How do you think the architecture might influence a visitor’s experience?

The Studio Museum in Harlem

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


The Lower East Side Tenement Museum

The Brooklyn Museum

The New Museum

The Whitney on Fifth Avenue