© 2008 – Routledge
At the beginning of the 21st century museums are challenged on a number of fronts. The prioritisation of learning in museums in the context of demands for social justice and cultural democracy combined with cultural policy based on economic rationalism forces museums to review their educational purposes, redesign their pedagogies and account for their performance.
The need to theorise learning and culture for a cultural theory of learning is very pressing. If culture acts as a process of signification, a means of producing meaning that shapes worldviews, learning in museums and other cultural organisations is potentially dynamic and profound, producing self-identities. How is this complexity to be ‘measured’? What can this ‘measurement’ reveal about the character of museum-based learning? The calibration of culture is an international phenomenon, and the measurement of the outcomes and impact of learning in museums in England has provided a detailed case study. Three national evaluation studies were carried out between 2003 and 2006 based on the conceptual framework of Generic Learning Outcomes. Using this revealing data Museums and Education reveals the power of museum pedagogy and as it does, questions are raised about traditional museum culture and the potential and challenge for museum futures is suggested.
1. Museums: learning and culture 2. Calibrating culture 3. Conceptualising learning in cultural organisations 4. The Generic Learning Outcomes – an interpretive framework 5. The research programmes: background and method 6. The pattern of school use of museums 7. The value of museums for teachers 8. Pupils’ learning outcomes: teachers’ views 9. Pupils’ learning outcomes: pupils’ voices 10. The characteristics and significance of learning in museums 11. Learning in the post-museum: issues and challenges
Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide ranging disciplines.
Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).
Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – to include art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.
The focus on the relationship of the museum to its publics shifts the emphasis from objects and collections and the study of museums as text, to studies grounded in the analysis of bodies and sites; identities and communities; ethics, moralities and politics.