Engaging Museum Visitors in Difficult Topics Through Socio-cultural Learning and Narrative

For those of you who read my previous post, Learning from a project team’s experience: what works??, I promised to provide the chapter that detailed findings from the front-end and summative evaluations of death, the last taboo exhibition held at the Australian Museum in 2003. And below you shall find it!

hot topics coverBOOK ABSTRACT

Hot Topics, Public Culture, Museums engages the highly problematic and increasingly important issue of museums, science centres, their roles in contemporary societies, their engagement with “hot” topics and their part in wider conversations in a networked public culture. Hot topics such as homosexuality, sexual, and racial violence, massacres, drugs, terrorism, GMO foods and climate change are now all part of museological culture. The authors in this collection situate cultural institutions in an increasingly interconnected, complex, globalising and uncertain world and engage the why and how institutions might form part of, activate conversations and action through discussions that theorise institutions in new ways to the very practical means in which institutions might engage their constituencies.


This chapter considers socio-cultural theory as a conduit for engaging visitors with difficult topics as well as assessing their physical museum experiences. A socio-cultural approach to identifying visitor learning is applied through analysing summative evaluation of visitors to an Australian Museum exhibition that tackled the difficult topic of death. The role of narrative is also considered through examining visitor responses to the more confronting aspects of the exhibition and considering how they felt about death within the context of their personal experience.


Kelly, L. (2010). Engaging Museum Visitors in Difficult Topics Through Socio-cultural Learning and Narrative. In F. Cameron and L. Kelly (Eds) Hot Topics, Public Culture, Museums. (pp. 194-210). Cambridge Scholars Publishing: London.

Download the chapter here: KELLY Chapter 10 FINAL

This work also drew on the substantial literature review around museum learning from my thesis Chapter 2, and a re-visit of this literature in Chapter 7 (Conclusion) which can be downloaded here: KELLY THESIS CHAPTER 2 AND 7




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