Vibrancy, repetition, movement: reconceptualising young children in museums

Dr Abi Hackett and Dr Christina MacRae from Manchester Metropolitan University presented a keynote at our recent Children in Museums event, experimenting with the potential for new learning theories to better account for young children’s experiences in museums. Drawing on various museum research projects the team at Manchester Metropolitan University have been involved in over the last ten years, the presentation focussed in particular on ‘sticky data’, that is, examples of things that have appeared meaningful to young children in museums but do not seem well accounted for by social constructivist learning theories.

The presentation bean with a proposition; when observing what young children do in museums, sometimes predictable, sometimes completely surprising, researchers and museum practitioners find themselves asking different versions of the same question: what does that mean? Or, to phrase this question in some other ways; what does this behaviour signify? What are these children learning? How successful is this exhibition for this audience? What is the value of children visiting museums? Abi and Christina made a case for drawing on new posthuman theories of learning to better conceptualise young children in museums, particularly, two notions

  1. a decentring of humans in order to understand the role of non-human actants in what happens in museums
  2. an interest in non-representation, that is, aspects of experience which are difficult to rationalise or to put into words.

This keynote together with some of the other sessions at the Children in Museums event introduced posthuman theories have been amongst the first to introduce posthuman theories to museum learning. There is currently little published on posthumanism and museum learning. Museum practitioners interested in reading more about posthuman theory and early childhood education could take a look at some of the following:

Barron, I. and Taylor, L. (forthcoming) Eating and scraping away at practice with two-year-olds, Pedagogy, Culture and Society.

Olsson, L. (2013) Taking Children’s Questions Seriously: the need for creative thought, Global Studies of Childhood 3 (3).

Rautio, P. (2013). Children who carry stones in their pockets: on autotelic material practices in everyday life. Children’s Geographies, 11(4): 394-408.

If you have trouble accessing any of these, please do contact us and we will do our best to help.

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