Museum compass 4.
Museum professionals in the service of public education – Research report
The European Union provided support for the central methodological development project launched in November 2008 by the Hungarian Open Air Museum Szentendre, which has the purpose to reinforce the role of Hungarian museums in education and teaching. The project will be completed in 2013. The program is being carried out by the Museum’s Educational and Training Centre (abbreviation: MOKK), founded in 2006 due to an agreement with the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In this project of special importance for both theoretical and practical reasons, within the framework of the Social Renewal Operative Program with identification no. TÁMOP-3.2.8/A-08-2008-0002, we organise methodological developments and trainings, we carry out com-munication and propagating activities, we offer professional advice and we run a national Coordination Network of Museums to be at the service of museum professionals, educators, teachers and students of higher education.
Methodological developments and the research of museum professionals
The most important of our goals and activities to be carried out within the project is the furthering by methodological developments the formal, informal and non-formal education-al mission of the museums. Our objectives are to contribute to the success of the tender construction TÁMOP 3.2.8/B, and to offer methodological help in the TIOP school-friendly museum infrastructure developments by working out and issuing model projects. Up to the year 2013 we are going to give the opportunity to 500 pedagogues and museum colleagues in 10 different training types for learning about culture propagation and about the modern
methodology and good practice of making good use of museums by schools. An important part of the project consists of the publication of our research results and of the efficient help in the accessibility to printed and electronic scientific literature. It is our goal in the project to propagate and to spread new museum educational solutions in the service of competence developing public education, further to create co-operations between museums and institutions of public education, as well as fostering the formal, informal and non-formal educational mission of the museums.
Why do we focus on museum professionals?
Great importance is attached to the research with the title “Museum professionals in the service of public education” within our methodological developments. We need to know the present system of contacts of the museum sphere with the public education and also the attitude of the museum professionals to the co-operation possibilities between museum and school. We have to see whether the museum infrastructure, the system of exhibitions and programs are suitable to advance the competence developing education. We also strive to identify those competence areas, which are in urgent need of development, and the ways how the special possibilities of the museums enable them to contribute to the efficiency of the school education more than it has been done up to now.
Purposes and methods of the research
Purpose of the research is to reveal and to outline the kind of museum and the kind of museum professionals needed to fulfil the tasks of the future’s museum. Furthermore, which competences, which knowledge and characteristics are required from museum leaders and those professionals who are in contact with visitors (museologist, museum educator, animator, interpreter, guide, etc.). We have asked following questions: In what way the museums and the professionals working in them need a shift in their attitude, means, methods and communication? What kind of suggestions for transformation and modification are to be given to the higher education teaching presently museum professionals in different areas?
We composed a questionnaire consisting of open and closed questions. We asked for the museum staff’s opinion about school, education and about the most important results and problems of the public education. With regard to the museum work we wanted to know, which are considered as the most difficult problems of the Hungarian museums but also what gives cause to the museum profession for being proud. We surveyed the opinion of the respondents about following: what is the museums’ mission today, the source of their prestige, are any shifts in attitude required and if so, which are the possibilities to advance a shift in attitude. How can the museum professionals reach knowledge required for the shift in attitude, how is the relationship between museums and public education? Our questions included also subjects like the order of importance of the services offered to the public education by the museum collections and museums, and whether the museum buildings and expositions are suitable to serve the purposes of public education.
We attached a competence spread-sheet to the questionnaire to obtain information on personal and professional competences considered to be the most important by the scientific literature of the subject. It refers to the professional sphere of activities in museums, as described in the law about the legal status of civil servants. At the end of May 2009 we sent the questionnaire and the spread-sheet to hundred museologists and professionals working in the museum sector. As far as we know, our present research is the first one to check the personal and professional competences required of a person to be appointed to a museum post.
As third element of the survey, we composed a series of 12 questions for specialists referring mainly to the situation of the museums, to their educational mission, to renewal and shift of attitude of museums, to the competence and the training of museum staff and to the judicial environment. Leading colleagues in national and departmental museums among renowned members of the museum profession and professionals dealing with museum theory and museum criticism and the ministry’s staff in charge of museums were requested to answer the questions.
61 persons filled in the questionnaire, 28 persons the spread-sheet about competence (professional competences) and 34 persons gave their opinions about personal competences. 9 answers were given to the questions for specialists.
We requested dr.Andrea Kárpáti) Eötvös Lorand University, Faculty of Natural Sciences, entre for multimedia-pedagogy) to analyse the answers. With the co-operative help of Anna Linda Szirmai, she had finished her 70 pages evaluating study richly illustrated with diagrams and tables by August 2009.
In the next phase of research we invited a part of the specialists and the participants of the project for a focus group meeting on two occasions. Based on well defined topics we have discussed the answers to the questions and the material submitted by professionals: strategic planning in the museums, modernisation of the museum, necessity and pressure of renewal and shift of attitude, contact points to the public education, answers to the demands of public education, suitability of the buildings and expositions for the new tasks, questions of financing and efficiency. We analysed the questions of personal and professional competences, we highlighted the possibilities of publishing the collections, the necessity of a comprehensive digitalisation; we dealt with the training problems of museologists as well as of the professionals working in museums, as well as with the possibilities of the pedagogues’ self-education and their further education open to the use of museums. We discussed the subject, which legal changes would be necessary and justified to make the contacts between museums and public education more efficient.
We publish in the book Andrea Kárpáti’s summarizing-analysing study as well as the writings made by the members of the focus group. As a starting point they express their opinion about the given topics on the basis of their own points of view and experiences. The purpose of the package of suggestions – the evaluation and the recommendations of the research - closing the work and the book is to advance the shift in attitude, which had started following the unanimous opinion of the researchers of the museum sector, but it is not sufficient yet neither in its contents nor in its impact. Another purpose is to foster the all-comprehensive modernisation of the institutions.
The lessons drawn from the research
The evaluation of the present situation enables us to establish what kind of knowledge is needed by the museums’ leaders and museum staff, how they have to change in their attitude, means and communication. We have asked ourselves the question, whether the ideal museum’s professional exists and how big is the distance between the ideal and the real professional. How the areas of deficiency could be remedied, which changes are necessary so that we can serve the visitors’ demand in an appropriate way?
We are of the opinion that one – and maybe the most important lesson drawn from the research is the following: it is necessary to start with trainings in both the higher education and in the adult education in order to increase the theoretical and practical knowledge of the museum professionals and at the same time to increase the museums’ openness to public education. In addition, it is indispensable to review the present forms of education and the implementation of new demands as well as of good Hungarian and European practices.
It is the unanimous opinion of the colleagues participating in the research and in the focus-group discussions that it remains the museologist’s task to carry out such work as research, collecting, revealing, inventory and description (although new models appear in these fields as well), but he should also convey the profound knowledge at the same high level to student, adult and pensioner group alike with the help of new technologies and with the co-operation of professionals having experience in museum education.