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George E. Hein's Learning in the Museum


  • 1. Learning in the Museum George E. Hein

2. History

  • Display of objects for entertainment is a product of late eighteenth century
  • Major development of museums occurred during the late nineteenth century
  • Early museums demonstrated wealth of government

3. Educational theory

  • Theory of knowledge (epistemology)
    • Classified by two extremes:realism and idealism
  • Theory of learning
    • Also classified by two extremes:absorption and transmission
  • Theory of teaching
    • Pedagogy for expositorydidactic education
    • Pedagogy for stimulus-response education
    • Pedagogy for constructivism

Figures 2.2 and 2.4, p23-25 4. Early Visitor Studies

  • Before 1900s, almost no visitor studies
  • Museum fatigue
    • Discusses how museums should have fewer objects, changing exhibitions and divide museums between collections and study areas (44)
  • Growth for museums post-war (1950s-1960s), but also lack of empirical visitor study publications

5. Holding Versus Attracting

  • The difference between holding-power and attracting-power is distinguished
    • Attracting-power addresses the extent that visitors stayed to look at an object
    • Holding-power discussed how long visitors stay looking at a single object or gallery

6. The Countenance of Visitor Studies

  • In the 1970s, there was a rapid growth of visitor studies as a professional activity
  • The field has produced professional museum evaluators and there are now professional organizations of museum researchers.
    • In the United States, the Committee for Audience Research and Evaluation (CARE) was recognized as a standing committee of the American Association of Museums in 1989 and the Visitor Studies Association, founded in 1990, had more than 350 members in 1997 (56).

7. Evaluation

  • One of the issues with evaluation is determining whether or not evaluation can be unbiased
    • Should evaluators should be internal (employees of the organization) or external (separated from the organization)
    • According to Hein, separating evaluation from the activity being evaluated has become an acknowledged practice and has supported the rise of large commercial organizations that concentrate on federally funded programs (61).

8. Reliability Versus Validity

  • Reliability versus validity
    • Two concepts essential to all research in social sciences
    • Validity refers to the extent to which information gathered is about the phenomena in question
    • Reliability refers to the repeatability of a data collection method or of a measurement

9. Studying Visitors

  • The range of methods and tools available to look at human activity is very broad
  • All methods fall into three categories:
    • Observing what people do
    • Using efficient speech
    • Examining a product of human activity

10. Methods of Observation

  • One observation method is called tracking and timing wherein the movement of visitors in the museum is recorded or traced on the floor plan of a gallery (102)

Figures 6.1 and 6.2, p102-103 11. Methods of Observation

  • Naturalistic observation, structured observations, event-based observations, maps and floor plans, drawings, interviews, focus groups, and experience sampling

Figures 6.3 and 6.4, p106-107 12. Methods of Observation

  • Questionnaires or surveys are useful but have key disadvantages:
    • Good questions are hard to come by
    • Questionnaires and surveys are often unreturned
  • Other written responses mentioned by Hein include comment cards, participant journals, and pre- and post-tests

13. Evidence

  • Learning in museums is a developmental process
    • Given rise to two separate approaches to learning in a museum
      • Categorizing visitors by previous experience w/ museums
      • Categorizing visitors in terms of their general stages of development

14. Evidence

  • Learning in museums is a social process
    • Families of higher levels of education tend to ask more questions or make more comments than do families at lower levels of education (147-148)
    • Culture also influences learning, and effects the outcomes of any form of research on learning
      • Socio-cultural learning is also addressed:Socio-cultural theories (Vygotsky 1962/1978) suggest that the origins of intelligence should be sought in peoples social interaction rather than by examining the individuals with the environment (149)

15. Questions to consider

  • How should a new (or changing) nation-state define its museums, and how can these help to define the culture of the nation? (p10)

16. Works Cited

  • Hein, George E.Learning in the Museum . London: Routledge, 1998. Print.