Darwin and the evolution revolution : audiences, culture, worldview, transformative learning
thesisposted on 19.12.2013, 14:32 by Afshan Heuer
Although in current practice many cultural institutions are collaborating, sharing and promoting their work on an international scale, visitor studies in internationally travelling exhibitions has been very limited. Performing audience research in the American Museum of Natural History’s travelling exhibition Darwin: The Evolution Revolution at two partner venues, the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto and the Natural History Museum London, the thesis establishes a new line of inquiry, addressing the cultural aspects of communication and learning through the exhibition medium within a novel context. Furthermore, the thesis focus on the influence of culture, worldview and perspectives in evolution learning and the evaluation of transformative learning in the museum required the creation of new methods of audience research. The empirical research of both museum staff and local adult audiences in London and Toronto demonstrated the critical influence of culture on communication and meaning-making in the context of internationally travelling exhibitions. The study also provided significant evidence of the interrelationship of culture, worldview, perspectives and assumptions and their vital role in transformative learning. Moreover, the evaluation of transformative learning served to establish that visitors had engaged in critical reflection as well as subjective reframing, which leads to perspective transformation. Further research is required in order to provide a basis of comparison and to build a significant body of knowledge on the influence of culture on museum communication and learning in order to effectively guide future practices. Although the thesis intentionally focuses on the analysis of transformative learning and perspective transformation in evolutionary biology, the approach to learning and research methods proposed have a much wider application in audience research of exhibits that present issues of significant social and cultural relevance such as difficult history, social equality, diversity and social justice, as well as in art, history and ethnography museums.