Archivists to Activists: The Evolving Role of Museum Educators


Traditionally, museums have displayed their collections with a tendency towards a single, authoritative interpretation. Many contemporary museums, however, now design their exhibitions to be approached as a dialogue between artifact and audience, so that the visitor can “complete the meanings of the object-technology interface through their own emotional and experience-based responses” (Andermann and Arnold de-Simine 2012). Such dialogue can be deconstructive and indicative of a postmodern approach to analyzing culture as Stuart Hall (1995) observes, and from a broader perspective “celebrates the penetration of aesthetics into everyday life”. As a result of this shift in the museum’s mission, many have become “collaborative, hybrid institutions that are also part community center, part contemporary art space, part digital information hub, and part city plaza.” (Tisdale, 2013). This has resulted in a radical reinterpreting of history, culture, and the arts, questioning mainstream acceptance of cultural concepts and giving a voice to alternative views and minority interpretations. Museums thus need to adapt to change through architecture, layout, curatorship, display methods, technology and educational policy. In this presentation, we report on a survey comparing five Japanese museums with five American museums (in the commemorative, historical, arts, design, and cultural museum genres). The survey was designed to address a question concerning what the changing educational roles and responsibilities of contemporary museum educators are, incorporating such ideas as those of Gardner on multiple intelligences, Housen and Yenawine on visual thinking strategies, Dewey on experience and education, and Piaget on cognitive development.

Author Information
Barry Natusch, Nihon University, Japan
Beryl Hawkins, Temple University Japan, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2015
Stream: Education

This paper is part of the ACCS2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon