This paper examines trends in the understanding of children as visitors to art and natural history museums. It begins by examining research into the qualities of engagement by museum visitors generally. It then addresses the specific challenges posed by children as visitors, and the responses developed by museums to enhance their engagement. Three strategies are identified: social/family-centred interactivity, immersive experiences and engagement through interpretive dialogue. The three examples of programs of children’s engagement examined in this paper represent a major departure from such models towards a profoundly social form of interaction. The paper argues that these strategies are museums’ responses to shifts in pedagogical theory, and have been developed to increase the engagement of the child-visitor with exhibitions. Such strategies represent a genuine engagement between adults (both museum staff and parents) and children, and an opportunity for children to define the experience of cultural engagement. The consequence of this is a redefinition of the cultural role of museums in relation to children.
Field of Research
199999 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified 190199 Art Theory and Criticism not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective
950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft)