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When we structure tours of our museum, the philosophy is to never censor
images for nudity unless a specific request has been made by the teacher. (I
should note, however, that sometimes I will exclude a work for content. ie:
explicit sexual implications that are not appropriate for elementary ages.)
One way we deal with the giggles, embarrassment, etc. is to have a "group
giggle," when we acknowledge everyone's laughter at "the naked lady/man" and
everyone has a chance en masse to "get all the giggles out of their system."
We then discuss one reason artists have historically used the nude as a
subject is to demonstrate their skill. This has been extremely successful in
that it acknowledges the kids' feelings, allows them to share them as a group,
and then they can focus on our discussion.
Sometimes, teachers tell their students before hand that they may leave a
gallery if we are discussing a work that makes them uncomfortable, but I've
never actually seen anyone leave. Without fail, the kids who have the most
difficulty seeing nudes in the museum are those who are not "allowed" to
discuss them--the group walks past a nude, recognizes it as taboo, and it
takes a while to focus them back on the topic at hand because they're too busy
whispering about the "dirty picture" in the other gallery.
I'd appreciate any other ideas or comments about appropriate ways of dealing
with nudes in a museum environment. Thanks for your help!
Akron Art Museum