1st Edition

Museum Learning Theory and Research as Tools for Enhancing Practice

By Jill Hohenstein, Theano Moussouri Copyright 2018
    330 Pages
    by Routledge

    330 Pages
    by Routledge

    As museums are increasingly asked to demonstrate not only their cultural, but also their educational and social significance, the means to understand how museum visitors learn becomes ever more important. And yet, learning can be conceptualised and investigated in many ways. Coming to terms with how theories about learning interact with one another and how they relate to ‘evidence-based learning’ can be confusing at best.

    Museum Learning attempts to make sense of multiple learning theories whilst focusing on a set of core learning topics in museums. Importantly, learning is considered not just as a cognitive characteristic, as some perspectives propose, but also as affective, taking into consideration interests, attitudes, and emotions; and as a social practice situated in cultural contexts. This book draws attention to the development of theory and its practical applications in museum situations such as aquariums, zoos, botanical gardens and historical re-enactment sites, among others.

    This volume will be of interest to museum studies students, practitioners and researchers working in informal learning contexts, and will help them to reflect on what it means to learn in museums and create more effective environments for learning.

    Table of Contents


    List of Contributors

    Chapter 1 Introduction


    Chapter 2 Theory and Museum Practice

    What’s in a theory?

    What are they good for?

    Where do they come from?

    Theories about learning

    Constructivism as an illustrated case


    Chapter 3 The Importance of Methods and Methodology for Museum Practice

    Philosophical background to research

    Approaches to research

    Methods of research

    Trustworthiness and transferability



    Topic Chapters

    Chapter 4 Museums and the Making of Meaning

    Do Jews have a rule against gay or lesbian people?


    The basics of meaning making

    Meaning making in the museum

    A return to the Jewish Museum

    Contextualising meaning making


    Chapter 5 Narrative, Discourse, and Matters of Communication

    Experiences on Room 41


    The basics of discourse and narrative

    Narrative and the museum perspective

    Museum research drawing upon the visitor perspective

    A return to Room 41

    Contextualising narrative, discourse, and communication


    Chapter 6 Degrees of Authenticity in Museums

    Authentic nature play at the Chicago Botanic Garden


    The basics of authenticity

    Museums and the perception of authenticity

    Summary and reflections

    A return to the Learning Campus at CBG

    Contextualising authenticity


    Chapter 7 Remembering, Reminding, and Reminiscing in Museums

    Build your own bush bark hut


    Basics of personal constructs of memory

    Basics of constructs about collective memory

    Museums and memory studies

    A return to the bush bark huts

    Contextualising memory


    Chapter 8 The Role of Self and Identity in Learning

    The art of voicing Black women’s identity as seen through everyday objects


    The basics of identity

    Self and identity in the museum context

    A return to the Colored Girls Museum

    Contextualising self and identity


    Chapter 9 Motivation: From Visiting to Devotion

    Linking up museums and people through serious pursuits


    The basics of motivation

    Motivation in museums

    A return to the VIP programme

    Contextualising motivation


    Chapter 10 Questioning culture and power in museums

    Aboriginal people and museums working together


    The basics of culture and power

    Culture and power in the museum context

    A return to museum-Aboriginal communities collaborations

    Contextualising culture and power


    Chapter 11 Conclusions













    Jill Hohenstein is Senior Lecturer in Psychology in Education at the School of Education, Communication and Society, King’s College London. Trained as a developmental psychologist, her research examines the ways that children and adults learn in informal settings, including museums, with a particular focus on language and cognitive development.

    Theano Moussouri is Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. She previously worked in museums as an audience researcher. Her current research examines motivation and meaning-making in museum visitors and non-visitors; museum professionals’ development and sharing of knowledge; and researcher-practitioner collaborative research.