Working in partnership with young people to develop museum resources

By Heather King - June 2011


Kelly, L. & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2009). Revisioning the physical and online museum. A partnership with the coalition of knowledge building schools. Journal of Museum Education, 34(4), 55–68.

The Australian Museum, Sydney, has been working for over five years with students aged 5–18 from a coalition of around 20 schools to gain advice on the development of exhibitions, programs, and the design of learning experiences, particularly regarding the use of the digital environment. This paper discusses some of the results of this working relationship.

An ethos of the Australian Museum has been to consult young visitors, which has remained an integral part of the system. As a result, in recent years, young people have been involved in a number of projects to advise the museum staff on how learning opportunities could be improved. In one such project, young people were given disposable cameras to document what they felt helped and hindered learning. Other projects focused on what the learners would like to see in new exhibitions.

Of particular and current interest to ISE educators may be the description of a project involving young people in the revisioning of the museum’s digital and online presence. Twenty-four students were consulted on a range of issues encompassing their use of digital technologies. Each of them had also previously interviewed 10 peers using similar questions, thus enabling them to provide an even broader view on technology-related issues.

Key findings include the notion that the museum presence on social networking sites was not especially necessary as these sites were primarily for socializing and not associated with learning. However, some felt that such sites could be used as a ‘trailer’ for new resources. Another finding was that the websites should be primarily educational and as such jargon-free, advertisement-free, clear, and easy to use. Moreover, games and other interactive activities may not be necessary. As one respondent said, “ is unlikely that the reason we are at a museum site in the first place is to play the games. We can do that anywhere. If we are there we are probably looking for information of some kind” (p. 65).