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Titian, tapestries and toilets; what do preschoolers and their families value in a museum visit?

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Wallis, NL 


What do preschool children value about museums, and how can we find out? This case study focused on children of preschool age (three and four years) who were already experienced visitors to our UK art museum. They were given a cuddly toy to take on a guided tour of the museum in order for them to highlight what they considered key objects and features. This enabled many rich and indepth conversations between the children, their parents and the researcher. The children were also invited to draw - about their museum visits - and parents were interviewed to give their perspectives on their children’s museum experiences. Analysis of the children’s talk revealed that they valued many different aspects of the experience of visiting the museum - not just the activities and resources specifically designed for families - and displayed a good deal of ‘museum literacy’ in addition to carrying out sophisticated analyses of particular objects. The study calls for greater focus on this age group in museum education, particularly through research led by practitioners, who observe on a daily basis how young children express their relationships with museum objects, and who have a wealth of local experiences which could be developed through thoughtfully planned action research.



museum education, early education, early childhood, practitioner-led research, visual arts, voice of the child

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Museum and Society

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University of Leicester

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