WPA MUSEUM EXTENSION PROJECT 1935 – 1943

In an era before television, computers and DVDs, instructors used visual aids as educational tools to create a rich learning environment and to make new concepts real and immediate. Visual aids were regarded as an effective teaching tool because they aroused the interest, curiosity, and motivation of the student.

The Pennsylvania Museum Extension Project (PMEP) was the first and largest government-funded visual education project established during the WPA era. The project was a section of the WPA Women's and Professional Division. The chief goal of the PMEP was to prepare historical and educational objects and exhibits for use as visual aids in education. Other stated purposes of the project were to provide docent services; assistance in preserving, cataloging, preparing, and installing exhibitions at museums; and establish and operate children’s museums in schools. Its diverse staff ranged from skilled artisans and historians to inexperienced workers entering the job market. People worked in various capacities such as researchers, craft workers, stock clerks, stenographers, seamstresses, sheet metal workers, tinsmiths, patternmakers, cabinet makers, carpenters, painters, plasterers, electricians, architects, artists, draftsmen, librarians, geologists, musicians and writers.

Subsequent versions of the WPA Museum Extension Project (MEP) operated in other states under different names such as W.P.A. Educational Museum Project (California); Visual Education Project (Connecticut); Museum and Visual Aid Project (Kansas); Objective Teaching Materials Project (New York); and W.P.A. Visual Aids Project (Wisconsin). During its heyday, the MEP made thousands of articles for distribution to public schools, museums and tax-supported institutions that included puppets and marionettes, architectural and industrial models, costume plates, lantern slides, play scripts, posters, toys, dioramas, puzzles, mannequins and food models.