The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Friday, May 18, 2012

The learning pleasure within museums

Girls in front of Anne Frank's famous wall of pictures inside her attic room.

  The International Council of Museums (ICOM) first embarked on the International Museum Day in 1977 and since then it has been celebrated worldwide by museums on May 18th, or even on a monthly basis. It's a time of giving credit at the most intrinsic pursuits to which museums are devoted, such as fun and enlightenment.

Museum-going is always a unique experience that can unravel a child’s knowledge as well as sentiments. For a long time most museum professionals argued whether the way that exhibits are presented is suitable for their young or novice visitors. The most articulate missions for a museum are education, research, and entertainment. In addition, the great challenge of sustaining the current audience and building a new one is faced with due reverence by all such cultural institutions.

When it comes to young visitors, the possibilities of engagement and interaction are potentially volatile. My guess is that when some people think back of visiting a museum as kids in the late 80s and earlier, it was hardly a pleasant event; I dare say that for the bulk of the cases it was rather boring. The apparent answer is because many museums lacked the fun factor or even failed to attract juvenile interest. Since then, there has been a great deal of progress to ensure the positives of museum visits and thence acquired experience by means of multimedia technology, educational programmes, handling collections, and active workshops. The most popular museums in the world, like the well established British Museum are way ahead in adopting innovative and appealing methods of communication with their young visitors, receiving in return triumphant feedback.

As analyzed in Jonathan Cooper’s study,  Engaging the museum visitor, and as far as the rookie public is concerned the “personal engagement will only occur if … they (museum educators) achieve connections with the visitor's feelings in indirect ways, by the power of association … personal engagement, by working at the individual level, has a good chance of ‘laying roots’ and being truly life-enriching.” Another report points out the significance of the parents’ role in joining and advancing the interpretation process. By researching facts and figures, parents were found to shoulder blame for tending toward providing explanations for girls three times less than for boys while interacting with museum exhibits, “suggesting that parents may be involved in creating gender bias in (informal) science learning.”

It is reasonably fruitful when parents stimulate a girl's already good predisposition to museums, but it’s probably best to take some action in order to prepare her visit to a museum at least for the first time, like this simple advice suggested by Dr. Leslie Madsen-Brooks.

Professor of Museum Studies Eilean Hooper-Greenhill wrote in her 2007 book Museums and Education: purpose, pedagogy, performance “in the post-museum of the 21st century…there has been…[a] semantic shift from education to learning” and defines ‘edutainment’ “as an attempt to find words to conceptualise the characteristics of the learning experience within museums.” She also noted a “shift from collection to communication” in Museums and their Visitors (1994).

Museums never cease to correspond to their changing contexts and follow the path of advocating for the audiences. It is a low-cost opportunity to render a worthwhile experience for your offspring and what’s more, mould potential hardcore museum-goers.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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