1st Edition

Museum Learning
Theory and Research as Tools for Enhancing Practice

ISBN 9781138901131
Published October 19, 2017 by Routledge
330 Pages

USD $54.95

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Book Description

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

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












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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.