The Educational Role of Museums

A museum’s main responsibility to society is to collect, preserve, carry out research and provide education about the humanities. In our contemporary life, this responsibility has to target a broader overall reach, embracing the global world and tackling different issues such ash as politics, religion and socio-economic differences. The traditional identity of the museum as a nationalistic institute that would teach, almost as if preaching, about art to the public has changed into a forum that communicates with the visitor, with an aim to be self-critical. In NEMO’s (Network of European Museum Organization) latest report they have examined the educational role of the museum as an institution and as well as how they can connect with the audience for learning.

The museum’s aims are to inspire and engage visitors to create an understanding about how the world works and lives. The educational aim is one of the building block of the museums, according to NEMO’s latest report regarding this role to the audience we have to understand how education will function in the 21st Century, how museums are relevant to this educational performance and what museums have to show in their exhibitions to stay relevant in our sociocultural community.

The presumed opinion of museums as elitist institutions has changed with time, in which the new museum thinking involves accessibility, free entry, diversity in representation, openness, participation and focus on communities with a focus on a sociocultural context. One of the dilemmas museums have to face is the lack of pedagogic resources; where nearly less than half of the Nordic museums, from the Museum Director Henrik Zipsane’s analysis in NEMO’s survey, demonstrated the use of pedagogics in the museum programmes. In the report, it is also proposed that museums should be a part of teachers’ education, so that they can apply the content of the exhibitions to their discipline to evoke a higher participation from the students.

The definitions of the teaching practice and museum studies are constantly changing and collaborating with knowledge together can lead to interesting dialogues and participation. This collaboration can also result in a knowledge of who the visitors are, targeting down interesting subjects for them and consequently engaging with the students’ family and friends, which will result in, so to speak, a domino effect. With the pedagogic use and knowledge of objects, teachers and museum employees can collaboration to provide a sociocultural context that represents the people. In doing so, the museums also become more autonomous in their representation of the social groups in the community instead of a political curriculum.

Museum as an educational role in a society is a fine line between mothering and discovering. By adapting pedagogics in the activities they can avoid the notion as an authority of culture and instead evoke interest and conversations with the public.    

- Aurora Hjalmarsson


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