Museums As A Center For Educating Citizens

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Museums have a long history of providing for enjoyment, beauty, and education. Since museums went from being exclusive organizations to open forums for the general public in the 17th century, they have evolved into essential parts of our society and have attracted visitors for hundreds of years (Alexander, 2008). In the early 19th century, museums focused on displaying government wealth to the public by means of their colonization conquests. After the industrial era, museums became a center for educating citizens (Hein, 1998). Today, museums try to expand the methods they use to reach their audiences by introducing new and improved interactive programs and technology. The increase in the number of museums has begun a shift in the way museums operate. Due to the competitive environment, museums are competing with each other for the attention of the target audience. Museums are now focusing on the visitor experience and on developing tools to engage their audience instead of relying simply on the worth of the objects in their exhibits. The common belief is that museums are responsible for actively engaging their visitors and constantly developing new ways to broaden the role of museums in society (Vicente et al., 2012). In recent times, educational theory has moved towards interactive environments to engage and stimulate knowledge instead of rote memorization of facts. Despite these shifts, however, museums continue to take an informal approach to education, as compared to the formal, more structured approach taken by the school systems (Hein, 1998). Therefore, it is crucial for museums to display its collections in a way that is informative and memorable. Unlike class, where students have a desire to reach a definite goal, i.e. ... ... middle of paper ... ...tors ' questions and interests to create successful exhibits (Jeffery-Clay, 1998). Complementary to the constructivist theory is Falk and Dierking 's Contextual Model of Learning. This model integrates three main contexts: personal, socio-cultural, and physical. The visitor provides personal context, the surrounding environment provides the socio-cultural context of the visitor, and the museum provides the physical context. This model states that museums allow free choice learning which tend to be personally motivated (Falk, et al., 2000). Although learning in museums has traditionally been through physical means of exhibits, galleries, and brochures, the new frontier of digital learning resources in the 21st century means new, strong potential for innovative learning techniques. This new potential may be able to address many the shortcomings of traditional methods.
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