Family Agendas and Family Learning in Hands-on Museums
This thesis explores the family museum experience from the point of view of the family members. When families visit museums they bring with them their own agenda. Analysing the components of the family agenda illuminates the frameworks through which families perceive their museum visit. Hands-on museums (or exhibitions within museums) were chosen as case studies because they provide for family visitors and, thus, they are more likely to satisfy a wider range of family agendas. Indeed, different types of agendas - including agendas for adults, children and an agenda for learning - were considered. Based on the analysis of the data collected in three institutions, a family agenda model was developed. Five factors were identified as determining the family museum agenda: the family profile, socio-cultural patterns, the personal and the social context of the visit and the museum exhibition(s). The interaction of these factors creates the agenda for the visit and also influences the way the visit is perceived and reconstructed by family members. All the members of the family are actively involved in constructing the agenda. The museum agenda can also challenge the family agenda. Hence the family agenda is constructed, negotiated and refined before, during and after the visit itself.
The methodology used to collect data was qualitative in nature and involved in serving and interviewing all the family members of 86 groups in three hands-on museums/exhibitions. Children’s drawings were also used. The analysis was performed on data collected on site at the following institutions: the Xperiment Gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester; Eureka! the Museum for Children, Halifax; and the Archaeological Resource Centre, York.