Researching curatorial and pedagogical strategies to create an engaging museum experience for the visitors

Supported by: German Chancellor Fellowship at Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung

What I did (ongoing): Research and Writing

Date: 2018 – 2019

Since the early 20th century, when museum education meant fact-laden transfer of information with limited theory to guide its educational efforts, to its re-invention today within a constructivist framework carried out by professional museum educators, museums today are not only aesthetic or scientific research institutions but serve an important educational role as well. However, within the education framework, the role of museums is globally undervalued and overlooked.

In India, the idea of museum education to mean dragging children in neat rows or giving a ‘guided tour’ is yet to bite dust. The museum experience offered is limited in scope and imagination comprising of lower order thinking like copying, identifying, and matching.

While young audiences in Indian museums help not only in sustaining high footfalls but a positive and engaging experience at an early age can influence life- long museum visiting habit, museums are curated and designed keeping an adult in mind. For a child or a teenager, museums are imposing places that do not allow for the kind of exploration that is characteristic of young visitors conveyed by the ever-present security guards, overwhelming architecture, stillness, and artworks and objects displayed at adult height. They are time and again told not to touch, not to talk and not to play.

Why Germany?

Museums around the world are waking to the fact that museums are not grand storehouses for the display of valuable objects but places for education and inspiration. While museums in Netherlands and UK are leaders in museum education and outreach for the young, I am more interested in witnessing how in Germany a conservative attitude towards museum visitors is giving way to more inclusive practices in the present. Since 2010, the culture sector in Germany has intensively focused on programmes which introduce young audiences to art and culture by supporting projects that aim to strengthen ties between schools and cultural institutions and build a strong foundation for viable educational activities at museums.

Second, as a resident of an Anglophone country, there is limited professional exchange with the ‘non- English-speaking’ world. I want to use this opportunity to engage museums in Germany and India in dialogue with each other and allow for creative cultural connections to emerge between them.

Objectives:

  1. Researching how museums in Germany are using curatorial and pedagogical strategies to create an engaging museum experience for the visitors with a special focus on young audiences – children (7- 11 yrs) and teenagers (age 11-18 yrs)
  2. To understand the place of museum education in the 21st century as one is confronted by rapidly increasing complexity and fundamental changes in no small measure related to governance, education, globalisation, communication and even core purpose.

Below, you can find some glimpses of my ongoing research in the form of interviews with museum educators and curators, research articles on museums and best practices in museum learning.