Project Zero worked for two years with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to develop educational activities and curricula that would help make the Gardner Museum's unique collection of art, architecture, and horticulture more accessible to neighboring school populations and other visitors. The activities were designed to help all museum-goers, from novice to veteran, enjoy and learn from their visit to the museum.
Formerly the elaborate home of its founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum offers an intimate and secure setting in which innovative exercises can be introduced and monitored carefully. Project collaborators worked to generate principles and practices that would apply to museum education in general, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to approach their museum experiences with greater confidence and enthusiasm.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum/Project Zero Educational Collaboration embraced the premise that museums offer a valuable opportunity to individualize education because visitors can approach the art at their own pace and pursue their own interests. Drawing on the theory of multiple intelligences, the researchers proposed five different "windows" on the museum experience for visitors with different learning profiles. These entry points are: narrational (e.g., what story does this art work depict?); logical/quantitative (e.g., how much do you think this work of art is worth?); foundational (e.g., why is this considered a work of art?); aesthetic (e.g., how are the forms you see organized or balanced?); and experiential (e.g., can you draw the shapes you see in this work of art?).
Researchers designed and tested curricula to help visitors approach the museum's collection from any or all of these entry points. They also were interested in learning more about the entry points children access on their own. In some of the trials, children used classroom time to look at reproductions of the Gardner's art works and wrote down any questions they had. These questions were used in turn by museum educators when the children visited the Gardner. In this way, the entry points began to provide channels of learning between museum and school