AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

“O! This Learning, What a Thing it is': An Examination of the Museum Exhibition as an Adult Learning Environment

by Ella Brady

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2015
Keywords: museology; education; adult learning; museums; the exhibition environment; museum display; visitor studies
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2119539
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/35533


This research addresses a gap in museum practice namely that the museum fails to consider the needs of the adult learner in the exhibition design process. This is a significant failing as the museum has a responsibility, as a hub of modern society, to encourage its visitors to interact with and learn from the knowledge it holds. Yet by failing to accommodate the learning needs of all its visitors the museum blocks this interaction and learning. As such this research examines the exhibition as an adult learning environment with the aim of improving the enabling of adult learning in the exhibition. It does this by examining how the exhibition can best cater to the needs of the adult learner using the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden as its central case-study. This research marks a new area of study as it bridges the gap between adult learning theory and museology by applying non-formal self-directed adult learning theory to the museum as a non-formal learning venue. This research was conducted by investigating three perspectives that treat the exhibition as a learning environment: the theoretical, museum and visitor perspectives. These perspectives were investigated using a literature review to establish the theoretical viewpoint, a museum review and interviews for the museum perspective and a questionnaire to establish the visitor’s view. These perspectives were compared and contrasted. This allowed this research to form a description of the ideal exhibition learning environment. These analyses also allowed this research to recognise the shortfalls in museum practice regarding the museum’s failure to meet the needs of the adult learner. This investigation was then used to create recommendations for change in museum practice so that adult learning needs can be better catered for. These recommendations include a change in attitude regarding the importance of the visitor mindset and the influence of the wider exhibition environment as well as a change in display style. This research is valuable, despite the limitations of skew, bias and scope associated it, as it promotes awareness and treatment of the issue of adult learning within the exhibition environment. Advisors/Committee Members: Francozo, Halbertsma (advisor).