Emergence exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

The Emergence exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Las Vegas, NM — Through a new partnership with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts Department will begin offering courses onsite at the museum in Albuquerque beginning Aug. 27.

The courses include mobile application development, game development, physical computing, web applications, designing and printing in 3D, JavaScript, and a practicum course.

“Our Media Arts Department has a long history of working with nearly every major museum in New Mexico, including playing a central role in the creation of Emergence, a permanent exhibit on the origins of life, installed at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science,” said Highlands University President Jim Fries. “Emergence is a highly interactive exhibit and a precursor to the university offering some courses onsite at the museum through this memorandum of understanding. 

“Our long-standing relationship with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs has provided tremendous internship opportunities for our students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. This new agreement with the Museum of Natural History and Science will provide additional benefits for our students, as well as for the museum and its visitors.”

Charles Walter, executive director for the museum, said the new partnership has strong potential.

“The Highlands University media arts faculty is amazing, with so much experience and state-of-the-art knowledge,” Walter said. “On past collaborative projects, the students always provide a lot of creativity and innovative thinking, combined with the latest technology.

“We know that with this new partnership, the students will help build our museum’s capacity to do high-quality work. They will help us better interpret our exhibits, making them more accessible to our visitors. The electronic interfaces the students create will give our visitors a unique experience,” Walter said.

He added that the media arts students can also bring their creativity and expertise to challenges the museum faces. For example, helping connect citizens from across New Mexico to the museum through distance-learning technology.

“At the same time, we can provide the students with a rich learning environment. Our museum staff has decades of knowledge as curators, exhibit creators, and educators. They will share that knowledge with the students,” Walter said.

Miriam Langer, a longtime media arts professor and former department head, is now directing the university’s course offerings at the museum.

“Going to school in a working museum is incredibly exciting,” Langer said. “Our students will have the opportunity to work with museum staff on real-world exhibits in areas like touch screen games in the gallery, signage panels and other graphic design, and much more. Participating in projects from design to completion is very satisfying.”

Langer said the museum staff is working tirelessly to transform an unused space into a big, open studio and lab space for the students.

“The classroom space will include cutting-edge technology such as a 3D printer and Microsoft Kinect hardware for gaming systems,” Langer said. “Six new iMacs are being installed and a number of Mac laptop computers will be available for students to check out.”

Langer will teach the physical computing courses at the museum as well as designing and printing in 3D.  Jonathon Lee and Sean McCracken will teach the other courses.  

“Jonathon and Sean both have extensive experience in the mobile app and game development world, which is something our students are very excited to learn about,” Langer said.

Langer said it is important for students at the main campus and students in the museum classes to feel connected.

“The courses at the museum are a well-planned hybrid of real-time and online courses, with most of the museum site courses being offered at the Las Vegas campus via two-way webcam,” Langer said.

For more information, contact Langer at melanger@nmhu.edu