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ERIC Number: EJ865752
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Sep
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 12
ISSN: ISSN-0013-1881
Stories to Tell? Narrative Tools in Museum Education Texts
Frykman, Sue Glover
Educational Research, v51 n3 p299-319 Sep 2009
Background: In the 1950s and 1960s, many children experienced museums as dull and boring. Nowadays, museums seem to be much more conscious of their educational role and the need to make their exhibits attractive and interesting. Making use of narratives is one way of achieving this. Some scholars claim that narrative is central to meaning making in a learning context. This article illustrates the extent to which narratives are used in a museum learning context, the kinds of narratives used and their purpose. Purpose: The overall aim was to investigate the versatility of narratives in a learning and meaning-making context in a museum setting. The three-pronged research question is: to what extent is narrative used in the education texts produced by three selected museums and made available on their Internet websites, what kinds of narratives are used and what is their purpose? Method: Data was gathered in January and February 2006, following an extensive Internet search of Swedish museums and their downloadable education texts. Three museums were selected--Skansen, the Swedish Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Science and Technology--each publishing a comprehensive up-to-date selection of education texts on their websites. A total of 134 digital texts specifically produced for students and teachers in connection with museum visits were studied and analysed. Each text was downloaded, sorted, labelled, saved and categorised electronically. The texts catered for different ages: infant and primary school (7-10 years), middle school (10-13 years) and secondary school (13-16 years). Analysis: A preliminary analysis strategy was developed on the basis of texts from the first museum chosen. Detailed adjustments to the analysis framework were made prior to a full analysis of the texts. Every downloaded text was read and re-read and documented according to the kind of narratives contained and their supposed purpose. Results: An analysis of the web-based education texts indicated that not only did the museums make use of narratives to different extents, but that different kinds of narratives were used for different purposes. Depending on the kind of narrative used, the results showed that the main purposes were to communicate by: (1) describing, constructing or reconstructing information; (2) interpreting what has happened, is happening now or might happen in the future; (3) constructing reality and making sense or meaning of it; (4) stimulating the imagination and encouraging creativity; (5) rendering teaching and learning more entertaining, imaginative and effective; and (6) acting as a resource to aid interaction, negotiation and communication. It was also apparent that the chosen museums used narrative to differing degrees depending on their respective traditions and circumstances. Conclusion: The study highlighted how the narratives used in the three museums' web-based education texts make a significant contribution to meaning making by stimulating imagination, encouraging reflection, drawing on existing experience and knowledge and sharpening visitors' curiosity. This is mainly achieved through the narratives' powers of description and analysis, and their ability to challenge existing attitudes and involve the visitor in historical and contemporary events and situations. (Contains 3 figures and 1 note.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Sweden