2014KirkESPhD.pdf (54.92 MB)
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Crystal teeth and skeleton eggs: snapshots of young children’s experiences in a natural history museum

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posted on 08.12.2014, 10:34 by Eleanor Sian Kirk
This thesis has two aims of equal importance: firstly to reveal the fine details of the typical experiences of young children visiting a museum; secondly to find a method of accessing these experiences in such a way as to prioritise the children’s own perspectives, and to do so with a light touch, in order to minimise the impact on the visits. The research focuses on the experiences of 32 children, aged four and five years old, in their family visits to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Drawing on the field of Childhood Studies, the project contrasts the effectiveness of several research methods for their potential use with young children in this setting, including children’s drawings and tours. The final method involved using children’s digital photographs of their visit as prompts for photo-elicitation interviews, thus providing both visual and verbal expressions of their experience. The major contribution of this thesis to museum visitor studies is its development and description of a highly effective, minimally-invasive method that richly documents children’s experiences during the time of their museum visit using their own words and images. The research adds to a small but growing field of study about young children’s museum experiences with the addition of a detailed case study from a British natural history museum. Findings reveal children’s navigations of the social and physical setting, their responses to different types of museum object and modes of exhibit display, and the highly varied ways in which they make sense of the things that they encounter in the museum. The thesis thus argues for a move away from a solely learning-focused view of young children in museums to one that sees them as visitors in their own right, who value many different aspects of their museum visits.



Golding, Viv; Vavoula, Giasemi

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Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

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