Museum compass 6.
The “Museums for Everyone” – Strenghtening the Educational and Role of Museums – Central Methodological Development (TÁMOP-3.2.8/A-08-2008-0002) project was launched at the end of 2008 by the Museum Education and Training Centre of the Hungarian Open Air Museum (MOKK). The primary objective of this program implemented by the help of the European Social Fund was the facilitation of advanced, comprehensive professional efforts meeting the highest international standards while promoting a respective change of perspective in order to boost the educational and training function of Hungarian museums. Consequently, its main mission is the elaboration and implementation of strategically important high standard adult education programs aimed at museum and education professionals.
The project includes four closely interrelated research programs helping to establish the foundation and promote the development of the respective training schemes. The Museums Serving Public Education Goals project examines museums from the aspect of public education institutions, the participants of the Museum Professionals Serving Public Education Goals scheme forwarded critical views in their recommendations concerning the future of museums and that of future museums, along with the expected developmental trends in addition to the personal and professional competences of museum experts of the future. Moreover, The Adaptation of European Museum Pedagogy Practices and Methods didactic development program helps to disseminate the “best practices” successfully applied in European museums while pointing out the respective opportunities for the incorporation of such methods in the Hungarian context.
The main research objectives
The goal of our fourth research program titled The Creation of a National Museum Pedagogy Data Base was a museum pedagogy-oriented examination of museum type institutions in Hungary. The inquiry aiming to assess the current status of museum pedagogy in Hungary focused on all counties and involved the infrastructure, resources, expertise, communication, and the relevant demands or development options.
Our inquiry concentrated among others on the range of educational services provided by museums along with the pertaining personal and infrastructural background. The particular questions explored the extent of the inclusion of the guidelines of the National Core Curriculum and the respective school curricula in the elaboration of museum pedagogy programs, and these programs’ capability to meet student needs. Moreover, we focused on such issues as the popularity of the educational programs provided by museums, the extent of their utilisation, and the capability of museums to provide orientation or training for teachers concerning the use of museums for educational purposes. Additional objectives included monitoring how and in what channels does educational information reach teachers, which target groups should be given more attention, and which areas have not been fully utilised yet. Another important aspect of our research effort was the examination of the support of museum pedagogy efforts within and outside the museum professional community promoting personal, infrastructural, and methodological developments. We were aware that merely by posing the question we can call attention to the significance, prestige, and potentials of museums and to that of museum pedagogy along with the respective options within competence-based training programs while highlighting the need for the acquisition of the latest professional information and encouraging the museum professional community to take advantage of the training opportunities offered by the MOKK.
The results of the present research effort will be disseminated in two ways: in the form of an electronic on-line data base summarising the essential, quantifiable data provided by museums available on the MMP e-portal and the evaluatory analysis and research report both in printed and downloadable form from the MMP e-portal. Below we provide a summary of the evaluation report of the data base established by a team led by MOKK director, Mária Káldy. The scholarly analysis was prepared by Prof. Dr. Andrea Kárpáti, the Director of the Multimedia Pedagogy Centre of Eötvös Loránd University and by a psychologist named Anna Linda Szirmai.
The composition of the respective audience is a significant factor of museum pedagogy programs. Most visitor groups have to make a considerable effort to attend a museum as such institutions usually cannot be found either in or near their home towns. Since, such excursions not only take up one’s leisure time but require a substantial financial commitment both from families and educational institutions. Governmental support must be provided in order to increase the economic and physical accessibility of museums as well.
180 museums out of the 244 surveyed institutions regularly hold museum pedagogy programs, while a quarter of the museums organise such sessions only occasionally. Furthermore, in 35 museums no pedagogical programs can be offered to visiting students. Presently, the primary target group is between age 3 and 14 and the difference between elementary and secondary school students is rather accentuated as compared to their elementary school counterparts secondary school students are given only one fifth of the opportunities to visit
museums in an organised form. The promotion of museums appears to be most successful in case of elementary school students as visiting museums is virtually mandatory, while secondary school curricula do not call for museum attendance. Moreover, relatively few students enrolled in higher education institutions visit museums primarily due to the limited range of programs responding to their needs. It is shocking, but true less college and university students visit museums than those of kindergarten age! Consequently, the familiarization of adolescents and young adults with museums and museum culture is a vitally important task as these two age groups are expected to provide the regular museum visitor population of the future.
A correlation between the above-mentioned poor interest and the quality of youth-oriented programs offered by museums appears to be substantiated. While designing their programs almost half of the museums do not take teachers’ views into consideration or make no effort to become familiar with the position of educators. When the primary causes of the lack of museum programs for the over 14 age group are sought surprisingly many people are aware that the greatest obstacles are not the limited funds, but the generally unsupportive attitudes and unsatisfactory qualifications.
While numerous museums offer well-designed and attractive programs, the lack of or limited relevance to the respective curricula restricts their wide-spread educational application as in most achievement-oriented schools museum attendance is limited to an extracurricular activity. Moreover, half of the museum pedagogy professional community is not familiar with the guidelines of the National Core Curriculum. On top of the list of preferred subjects are History, Graphic Arts-Art History, and Literature followed by Natural Science subjects. It is unfortunate that museum-based education provides the least amount of information concerning Physics.
While museum pedagogy further training schemes are attended by many people, most participants are in-service teachers motivated by personal interests and the hope of better cooperation with museum professionals. Although the representatives of the museum professional community do not participate in these training programs as frequently, the mutual exchange and familiarity with each other’s achievements is the foundation of any productive cooperation.
Adequate financing is required for the elaboration of an appropriate range of museum pedagogy programs. Most museums are maintained by local or municipal government provided sources with the central government as the next level of community fund providing entity. As far as general education programs are concerned, the government can have a significant impact on museum pedagogy with a potential capability of harmonising it with the goals and demands of public education. This objective, however, has not been realised so far as only elementary school curricula call for the attendance of museums. Two thirds of local and municipal governments support museum pedagogy efforts only partly, while one fifth of them do not provide any assistance to such aspirations.
Consequently, two third of Hungarian museums lack a full time museum pedagogy expert and out of the 148 institutions only 43 employ such staff member. The number of institutions listing a department or person responsible for public relations, the realization of general education goals, or fulfilling cultural management tasks is even smaller with 39. Unfortunately, museums employ relatively few retired people as well. Thus in more than half of the museums museum professionals or museologists are compelled to interrupt their research efforts to welcome the visitor groups and the representatives of the media.
While the appearance of the museum interpreter or facilitator, a specialist combining interactive presentations with museum guiding efforts along with that of the museum andragogy expert or adult education specialist gives cause for hope, museums sometimes assign staff members for museum pedagogy tasks who lack the appropriate higher education qualifications required for this position. Although few would argue for the necessity of possessing a college degree for practicing folk arts and crafts, any teaching effort in Hungary requires that
the respective person undergoes training.
While it is also positive that museum pedagogy as a profession has gained legitimacy, only one quarter of the whole museum staff work in such positions. The versatile applicability of “temporary or ad hoc museum pedagogy experts” implies that despite the widespread agreement on the importance of the profession economic and financial restrictions can force managers to release museum pedagogy professionals or transfer them to positions with an increased assignment load.
Museum communication with its primary objective of maintaining the public presence of museums while improving attendance figures and widening the range of target groups has become a unique pedagogical tool as well. This is the very field in which significant changes could be realised in the least possible time at the most cost-effective manner. Presently visitors can hardly find their way in museums as only a small portion, about one fifth of these facilities offer information brochures, guiding maps, or even signs. Moreover, hardly more possess adequate general education infrastructure as 40% have lecture halls and museum pedagogy publications only amount to 20% of all informational materials published. It is obvious that changes are necessary and significantly more informational materials applicable for educational purposes should be produced.
The quality of the programs is the most important indicator concerning the evaluation of museum pedagogy efforts. Museums offering pedagogical programs often include guiding or other attractions. Comparing this data with other institutions it becomes obvious that one quarter of such facilities dedicated to public education purposes does not attempt to add any other services. Replies to another question reveal that the museum professional community is aware that these efforts are not sufficient by themselves and more interactive programs facilitating direct hands-on experiences are needed. The reasons for the limited availability of these programs include economic considerations, the lack of appropriate infrastructure along with that of the know-how of the dedicated and appropriately trained museum pedagogy expert. More than 10% of museums resort to a popular, yet over 100 year method for the implementation of project- based objectives. Thus it can be concluded that despite a relatively limited scope the available selection of programs is methodologically justified, diverse, and appropriately documented in relevant brochures. Moreover, these programs are affordable with the average per capita cost of 620.09 HUF demonstrating the social commitment and sensitivity of museums.
Substantial innovation efforts result in the elaboration of modern methodology-based programs. Every fifth scheme required human resource and/or material improvement, and hardly more than one out of ten can be considered a product of the “museum pedagogy trend” launched in 2008. Most programs are connected with permanent exhibitions and do not take advantage of the achievements of the information and communication technology revolution. Moreover, due to the limited number of devoted museum pedagogy experts qualified to teach students within the context of museums such study groups or circles are rarely held.
While a general understanding exists on the need for a separate, specialized environment for museum-based education, efforts to formulate or construct such attractive, functional, and comfortable sites are frustrated by the lack of financial resources. The missed renovation or renewal opportunities lead to wasteful management and several governmental entities responsible for the maintenance of museums view the latter not as an institution dedicated to general education purposes, but as a weakly performing enterprise in need of financial assistance.
Summarising the collected research data it can be concluded that despite the difficulties and low prestige of museum pedagogy, the profession became an integral element of museum profiles in Hungary. There are many modern, innovative programs and dedicated experts whose number would improve if the respective conditions were enhanced as well. Our recommendations facilitating the realisation of said objectives are compiled by the help of museum professionals.
There is a great need for the general and full scale recognition of the museum pedagogy profession along with the availability of material and financial resources serving exclusively the general education-related goals of the given collection, that is, spendable only for museum pedagogy purposes. Similarly to instruction technology or educational informatics support plans museum pedagogy per capita allowances for the promotion of museum attendance should be introduced as well.
Cooperation and relations between the educational specialists of museums and in-school teachers should be improved. It is our experience that many teachers are willing to participate even on a volunteer basis or in their leisure time in planning activities that would make their jobs easier and make knowledge acquisition more effective and livelier. This possibility should be taken advantage of in addition to the elaboration of a museum consultancy network accessible cost-free. Local and municipal governments could help their own museums and collections by recommending the inclusion of museum visits into regional and local curricula. Just as regional and local curricula have been developed, theoretically local museum pedagogy profiles can be developed as well.
The provision of further training opportunities to unqualified museum pedagogues via methodological courses, targeted, intensive practice-oriented training sessions is an urgent task. While the tradition of volunteerism has not been established in Hungary, this type of contribution could provide tremendous help. In responses given to the questionnaires the very term rarely can be found and the erudite retired professional or the dedicated housewife with adequate free time as the primary “human resource” of Western European and American collections have yet to take root in our country.
Previous examinations revealed that museum staff entrusted with the promotion of general education includes very few members with a pedagogy or teacher training background. Furthermore, we can safely guess that a university or M.A. diploma cannot guarantee that its holder is able to teach his or her research topic as well. Consequently, intensive museum pedagogy courses should be introduced, which are not only tailored to the qualifications and educational background of adult learners, but their short term and affordability make it attractive for museum professionals as well. At the same time preparation should be provided to pedagogues and teachers while it is recommended that museums become more active in this field by the launching of accredited training programs. (Presently less than 5% of the institutions surveyed offer such training programs)
Moreover, in case of museum pedagogy programs separate grant and project application opportunities should be elaborated as present European Union supported projects demonstrate such schemes do not limit the availability of professional support or the attendant financial and grant opportunities. Similarly to instruction technology developments a pedagogical per capita support scheme should be introduced in recognition of the public education promoting efforts of museums in addition to facilitating such developments, which museums are unable or unwilling to implement by themselves. Said improvements include the placement of childrens’ instruction room, and the installation of state of the art presentation devices in lecture halls. Moreover, such projects should be introduced, which promote museum attendance since group-based or organised museum visits by the 14 year old age group is one half, while in case of the over 18 age group a quarter of their younger counterparts. Further recommendations include establishing channels of cooperation with instructors of secondary schools and higher education institutions via personalized information provision, inauguratory exhibition guiding plans, and their inclusion among the members of the Friends and Supporters of the Museum groups.
Our research data further prove that the previously dominant position of guiding visitors through the exhibitions has been eliminated due to the increasing modernisation and diversity of museum services. While exhibition guidance can be considered the equivalent of teacher centred instruction several types of interactive sessions, workshops, theme-oriented lessons, and other programs requiring active student participation were introduced as well. The museum pedagogy profession as compared to that of the teaching profession has incorporated
the latest instruction methods faster than schools did where the teacher centred instruction is still dominant. Unfortunately, the older the given student, the less possibilities and options are provided for interactive museum visits. It is lamentable that only one out of every 5 programs is geared to secondary school students an age group potentially capable of taking advantage of organised museum visit options. Moreover, less than one tenth of the programs are addressed to college and university students. The establishment of a museum supporter group for secondary school teachers could significantly improve this unfavourable program-age distribution in a fastest and most cost-effective manner.
In the first phase of museum-based learning the potential target audience receives information on the respective learning and knowledge acquisition options. The formulation of a “virtual reception space” providing adequate information in an easily understandable manner could be helped by targeted project grants.
As far as the respective educational infrastructure is concerned we are pleased to note the existence of visitor-friendly museums whose primary mission is entertaining via learning. These facilities enabling visitors not only to view the respective artefacts but to increase their knowledge include an arts and crafts workshop next to the lecture hall with models, costumes, and take-home replicas complementing the actual tangible displays. In museums with more limited financial resources children and families can work on creatively compiled tests. Consequently, regardless of the size and economic background of museums an instructional space or at least a corner where a small group of children sitting on the floor could learn in an informal manner should be established.
Unfortunately in greater number than their counterparts committed to the promotion of general culture we can discern so-called “aristocratic or elitist museums”, which never allocate funds for the implementation of pedagogical programs. As long as the community financing the museum with its taxes and the respective supervisory authority accept this situation no improvement or change can be expected in this area. Consequently local and municipal governments have to monitor whether the given museum serves the respective public education and general culture objectives for which it was established.
At the same time much more pedagogical publications should be issued. An informative brochure or exercise sheet or even a digital teacher’s guide freely downloadable from the web-page of the given museum can be easily compiled by the incorporation of the text and pictures found in temporary exhibition catalogues. Furthermore, if the temporary exhibitions are enhanced with lectures, those presentations should be shared with the teachers as well. It would be vital to integrate natural science, art, and social science related information at least on the level of complementary pedagogical programs into the materials of such exhibitions which focus only on one of these areas. Consequently, an essential national and international objective, the modernization of the methodology of natural science instruction could be realized via the provision of support or grant opportunities for these innovative programs promoting art and science in an integrated perspective.
As it was pointed out earlier more than half of the museum professionals have never read the National Core Curriculum and is not aware of the guidelines contained in its introductory section. Consequently, short-term pedagogical training programs should be introduced with special emphasis on training visitor guides who are experts of the disciplines connected with the theme of the respective exhibitions.
Modern exhibition methods are needed for attracting additional target groups. The performance of a feasibility survey before the implementation and launching of a new exhibition cannot be expected from all museums. The lack of this know-how could be alleviated by the inclusion of a museum facilitator consultant in the exhibition planning process, whose responsibilities would include the selection and installation of appropriate information and communication technology devices and demonstration apparatus, in addition to the performance of the impact analyses. These efforts would prove that interactive solutions and approaches increase the popularity and scholarly standards of the exhibitions thereby proving to be directly useful to the given museum.
It is obvious that the better programs require more financial resources and any increase of the attendance prices will lead to a diminishing number of visitors or rising prices will result in a smaller demand. Since most schools and families have limited resources, as recommended by international experiences, a greater governmental role in supporting the employment of museum pedagogy experts could provide a potential solution. As museum pedagogy people are dedicated professionals they will create their own optimal working conditions. Thus the final and principal conclusion of the present inquiry is that since expertise and know-how can only be achieved via training, no effort should be spared in strengthening the social and professional prestige of museum pedagogy.