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Museum Management and Curatorship
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The rights of the putti: a review of the literature on children as cultural citizens in art museums
Lea Mai & Robyn Gibson
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Faculty of Education and Social Work, Building A35, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia Available online: 26 Aug 2011
To cite this article: Lea Mai & Robyn Gibson (2011): The rights of the putti: a review of the literature on children as cultural citizens in art museums, Museum Management and Curatorship, 26:4, 355-371 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09647775.2011.603930
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informaworld. Promoting children’s cultural rights shapes museums into more democratic institutions. Our views are based on *Corresponding author. that ‘the museum community continues to struggle to meaningfully document the impact of its exhibitions . In order to bridge this gap. which in turn may impact on the cultural lives of children. Lundy’s model for participation based on ‘space. the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is highlighted as an international vehicle for entrenching the participatory rights of children in cultural life and the Arts from birth. Through a reading of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). art museums. xiv). The University of Sydney.sydney. and Foutz 2007. October 2011. despite an increasing focus on children’s services in art museums. 355Á371 CURATORSHIP The rights of the putti: a review of the literature on children as cultural citizens in art museums Lea Mai* and Robyn Gibson Faculty of Education and Social Work. this paper seeks to provide an internationally ratified argument for supporting the full and free participation of children in art museums.au ISSN 0964-7775 print/ISSN 1872-9185 online # 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. Milligan and Brayfield 2004). this paper seeks to contribute to an emergent dialogue on the cultural citizenship of children in art museums. they must be accessible to citizens of the twenty-first century. art museums are developing products and programmes to attract young visitors and families into their spaces (Boland 2010. Haas 2007. It further demonstrates that through public engagement. ﬁnal version received 16 March 2011) Through a review of the scholarly and non-governmental organization (NGO) literature. 4. In response to frequent claims of sociocultural elitism. A comprehensive search of the current literature on this topic reveals a paucity of attention and understanding in this area. specifically Article 12 Á the right to participation Á and Article 31 which defines participation in the arts contexts. . voice. In order to achieve this. Increasingly. however. Leading scholars have shown. they must continue to become more democratic. museums worldwide are actively reshaping the ways they engage with their publics. 26. and to apply those findings to the creation of useful and valid frameworks of exemplary practice’ (Falk. we interpret a model for participation which art museums can use to examine their practices and ensure their work is achieving the standards set by the CRC. . audience and influence’ is interpreted for an art museum setting. No. Kino 2010. Email: email@example.com http://www.2011.Museum Management and Curatorship Vol. museum education Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 Introduction If art museums are to remain relevant. NSW 2006. museums can honour and promote children’s rights. Building A35. Australia (Received 23 October 2010. Keywords: cultural citizenship.com . Dierking. Sydney.1080/09647775. thereby activating the public art museum’s founding principles. children’s rights. In other words.
Lundy (2007. the four factors recognise that children have a right to express their views. (OHCHR 1989) . not just verbally or in writing. The CRC’s cultural rights today remain. It reads: States Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure. we offer Lundy’s (2007) model for participation as a way for museums to potentially engage their youngest audiences in more diverse and democratic ways. to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts [emphasis added]. Towards a definition of cultural citizenship in childhood Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 The idea of cultural citizenship1 rests on an understanding of what constitutes citizenship and how it can be demonstrated in a cultural context. it is essential to recognise that children benefit from opportunities to express their views in many formats. organisational and practical factors that impede a universal activation of cultural rights in childhood. and that adults need to inform children on how their views were considered. . the right to participation has received scholarly attention in non-cultural settings (Bergstrom 2010. especially in early childhood. citizenship can be described as freedom of speech in a public setting (Grayling 2007). One of the pillars of the CRC is the right to participation in the form of having a say on matters which affect the child. . In reviewing the literature on this topic. artistic. Gibson our belief that if children are given the opportunity to contribute to the making of their museums. art museums need to recognise and respect children as cultural citizens who carry the right to freely and fully participate in cultural life and the Arts as ratified in the CRC. Mindful of the complex sociocultural.356 L. Article 12 of the CRC provides that: States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child . (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] 1989) Overall. we highlight the need for further attention and elaboration of the concept of cultural citizenship in childhood in order to make it a reality in the lives of children. The CRC also prescribes full and free participation and access to cultural life and the Arts for children from birth (Article 31). States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life [emphasis added] and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural. that adults need to provide facilitated opportunities for children to express these views. Mai and R. largely theoretical. According to Lundy. Lundy 2007. museums become more democratic institutions. Shier 2001). 932) comprehen¨ sively reviews Article 12 and offers a model for implementation which considers ‘space. that adults need to take these views seriously. recreational and leisure activities. To achieve this ideal. The concept of citizenship as freedom of speech has been extended to children through the CRC. audience and influence’ as the four factors required to bring the article to life. In addition. however. voice. At its core.
. recreation. . where the very structures and operations of the institution. however. To ‘participate fully’ may be interpreted as children being able to express their preferences and capacities in all aspects of the art museum Á as visitors. The greatest challenge for the right to participation is in affording children equal standing in what are largely adult-centred environments. Reading Article 12 and Article 31 of the CRC in unison creates an image of children as cultural citizens. in this paper we also include examples of museums working with children up to twelve years old. the academy and cultural institutions has been insufficient. (United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC] 2009. or do so infrequently. as community representatives. If. children should be given opportunities . UNICEF (2007) has developed an implementation handbook for Article 31. in this case art museums. Very young children . should be provided with particular opportunities to express their wishes. It interprets the article as incorporating ‘the right to child-centred culture and the arts . the Committee on the Rights of the Child specifically linked the right of children to be heard with the right to participate in cultural life. 25) The focus is on young children 0Á8 years. as illuminated by the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child. 15). the right of children to be both consumers and producers of the arts . . instead. which was set up to monitor the implementation of the CRC has noted that ‘insufficient attention has been given by States parties and others to the implementation of the provisions of article 31 of the Convention (on the Rights of the Child)’ (UNCRC 2005. as co-curators and as co-educators. The little attention that Article 31 has received only further contributes to a call for better recognition and implementation (United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] 2007).Museum Management and Curatorship 357 Article 31 is intended to cover children’s participation in the production and appreciation of all the creative arts from drama. as advisers. . . These should be designed taking into account children’s preferences and capacities [emphasis added]. The wording of Article 31 to include the phrases ‘participate freely’ and ‘participate fully’ may reveal the extent to which the 140 nation signatories to the CRC believe that participatory rights should be enacted. . The term ‘freely’ could be taken to mean ‘free from cost’ Á in which case art museums may find themselves unable to justify charging fees for education programmes or exhibitions to those under age. as guides. Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 Children as cultural citizens An extensive search has revealed a paucity of scholarly literature dedicated to reaching an understanding of the applications of Article 31 of the CRC to children’s lives. Despite the CRC celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009. The Committee on the Rights of the Child. to music and the visual and media arts encompassing all of the world’s cultural patrimony. stating that: children require play. In 2009. then art museums need to consider the sociocultural restrictions that currently mean that most children do not attend art museums. the response to Article 31 from governments. freely is defined as ‘being without restriction’. to dance. are designed by adults. physical and cultural activities for their development and socialization. Art museums could argue that if they deliver free programmes to children the museums should be reimbursed by the State as signatory to the Convention.
These stories are more complete and more reflective of the culture from which they arise when they are co-authored by both the museum and its visitors together. the Louvre (Paris. As Jeffery (2000. Mai and R. art museums are ideally placed to enact a cultural democracy. In fact. The design and development of the museum are then informed by a variety of voices from curators and educators. 190) has foreshadowed a participatory model in stating that ‘human rights and the politics of recognition need to be acknowledged as museums construct their displays and consider what narratives to produce for their publics.358 L. but that its contents are arranged by fallible and culturally influenced humans. museums may wish to consider what narratives to produce with their publics. We apply a visitor-centred approach which recognises the plurality of audiences in the museum. Further. ‘cultural life and the arts. He does not address how Article 31 is manifested in the lives of children. we are imposing our own themes on them [visitors]’. Gibson to participate in all forms of cultural and artistic activities’ (UNICEF 2007.’ In choosing the preposition ‘for’. ‘It is important to remember that although we [museum staff] may provide wonderfully linked exhibits. 219) has noted. In the first instance. Ultimately. ‘visitors’ and ‘audiences’ imply a passive. receptive stance Á creating an insiderÁoutsider dichotomy between the museum and its community. 1). fraternite Á transformed the Louvre from the private ´ ´ ´ ´ palace of the King of France into a cultural venue open to all. leads to the suggestion that the messages emanating from museums are themselves stories’ (Hein 1998. France). We suggest that cultural institutions can become loci for the enactment of cultural citizenship in childhood. The fundamentals of democracy Á liberte. David confirms that cultural rights are the most neglected of all human rights by governments. nouns such as ‘publics’. David (2006) has provided a detailed assessment of Article 31. Hooper-Greenhill limits the truly participatory roles of museum-goers. We would like to suggest the term ‘museum-makers’ to reflect the coproduced. was born out of the democratic ideals of 1793 France (McClellan 1994). the ‘museum-making’ approach instead recognises the potential for non-staff members to shape the museum (Janes 2010). working in partnership (Black 2005). however.’ para. meaning-making that takes place in participatory museums. as well as by the judiciary and the academy. nor does he address the role of cultural institutions in making Article 31 a reality. We would like to amend Hooper-Greenhill’s quote by substituting ‘with’ instead of ‘for’. Museums can seek a connection to the community by adopting a participatory approach. The museum can then explore how it wishes to promote this right as an essential element of defining its approach to children. to children and other community representatives. where Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 . Cultural citizenship in art museums: children as museum-makers We will now focus on one aspect of cultural citizenship: the young individual’s connection with the visual arts in an art museum setting. as the first modern museum. While traditionally museum staffs have organised the museum for their audiences. Acknowledging that ‘the museum is not the repository of the ‘‘truth’’. Hooper-Greenhill (2007. egalite. Multiple voices tell multiple stories. a museum may wish to identify how it views a child’s internationally prescribed right to cultural participation. 151). It is a comprehensive yet essentially historical and legalistic review that addresses the requirements for governments.
QAG collaborated with the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) in Sydney to bring a survey of its most popular artworks for children to Sydney. a formal exhibition opening and artists’ workshops. was divided into 12 sections. communication. The pioneering efforts of Lois Silverman (1999) deserve recognition here. Australia Now by William Yang. By making the whole gallery child-focused. Stories from art museums Art museums as a category are not homogenous in their approach to young visitors. combining ‘rich learning. Australia. 214) has stated: ‘knowledge is structured through a three-dimensional holistic experience which is defined through its relationship to the people.Museum Management and Curatorship 359 narratives are co-constructed by museum staff in participation with the community it serves. projects. In one artwork. citizenship and meaning-making’ (Ashton 2008. Bring in people of all sorts to contribute their meanings. for instance is at the forefront of children’s programming through its Children’s Art Centre. As Hooper-Greenhill (1992. and ideas as the exhibit is created. Over a decade ago. installations and workshops for children and families. 84). Hein (1998. The act of knowing is shaped through a mix of experience. 179) casts a light on the future of museum education when he writes that designers and educators should work ‘together and with [emphasis added] their audience’. their frames of reference. One way this could be done. SCAF dismantled the traditional limits imposed on children and adults in art museums. The Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) in Brisbane. (Silverman 1999. Children were invited to fill the blank wall with self-portraits and . Silverman called for museums to provide rich meaning-making experiences for visitors. Art museums need to: Engage different perspectives in the design and implementation of any exhibit. Presenting five participatory artworks in which children completed and extended works initiated by international artists. including children. activity and pleasure. and all artworks were curated at child height so that children did not feel they were occupying an adult space. SCAF maintained its usual professional curatorial standards including the publication of a catalogue for the exhibition. a long red wall punctuated by 96 large wooden pegs. In 2010. the Centre enlists both international and Australian contemporary artists to develop exhibitions. Participation focuses on the ‘together and with’ of museum making. The interactive artworks created by the artists are tested with elementary school children before opening to the public. Many art museums are increasingly applying participatory and community-based approaches to their interactions with visitors. Each person who contributes to the design might represent yet another ‘interpretive community’. there was nothing visitors could not touch. is through participatory exhibit design. detailed text panels. Established in 1999. SCAF dedicated its entire gallery space to this innovative exhibition from October to December 2010. Silverman urges. in an environment where both the ‘‘learning’’ subject and the ‘‘teaching’’ subject have equal powers’. in an exhibition entitled Contemporary Art for Contemporary Kids (CA4CK). each representing a reinvented animal from the Chinese zodiac. Children (and adults) could move freely about the gallery. 13) Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 At the end of his seminal work Learning in the Museum.
Achieving ‘parity between education and curatorial departments’ (Toohey and Wolins 2000. talents and attributes of each individual (including the children) were honoured. . although it does require an ideology which Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 . 102) can be challenging enough. can be found even when children are not involved as curators. CA4CK was unique in that it saw children as a visitor group that deserves to be given the entire gallery space for exhibitions curated specifically for the young. The Wallace Collection’s efforts were exceptional. Mai and R. 36). marketers and designers working towards a common goal. . project plans need to accommodate longer decision-making times. Trusting the children to make good decisions. wrote ‘we were able to tell the adults what we liked and how we liked it and I think that the family exhibition will inspire other museums and adults to ask children what they like. The Wallace Collection acknowledged some obstacles in working with children. 9Á11 year old students from St Vincent’s RC school over the course of a year to take the show from conception to exhibition. as well as an extended time commitment and clear role allocations. Working with children also carries additional legal and ethical implications for museum staff who have previously worked only with adults. . is not surprising. . The skills. reported ‘I felt very excited about curating this exhibition. 16). .360 L. Even in large museums. it’s a Secret. milestones were celebrated and challenges acknowledged and resolved (Bryant and Mileham 2010). . as the museum staff and students adhered to many of the processes of successful multidisciplinary teams (Toohey and Wolins 2000). it’s a Secret (Bryant and Mileham 2010). guides and designers through its innovative 2010 exhibition Shhh . UK) in 2010. The success of Shhh . Foremost. it’s a Secret remain the exception.2 The museum collaborated with 12. one of the young curators. Successful participatory experiences. but in also achieving parity with children. and the extra workload of managing many relationships and building trust and respect (Bryant and Mileham 2010. The multidisciplinary exhibition team involved not only educators and children but also curators. gave life to these young museummakers’ cultural citizenship. museums need to develop integrated multidisciplinary. 11). but these are not insurmountable if museum staff are committed to enacting children’s cultural rights. curating. marketers. children were not seen as the concern of the education team alone. as demonstrated by The Wallace Collection (London. children and the contemporary artists we approached to create for them Á were overwhelmingly responsive’ (Clark 2010. The children’s own voices reflect their sense of pride in making the museum their own. Time and money were set aside for the exhibition. educators. . It is perhaps due to these added organisational complexities that projects such as Shhh . ongoing involvement in exhibition development. By the end of the exhibition. however. Beatriz. the wall held approximately 700 portraits with many more visitor-artists electing to take their portraits home. For full cultural citizenship. CA4CK confirmed what the QAG had experienced in their previous shows for children: that their ‘two key stakeholders . . Toohey and Wolins 2000). Gibson autobiographies. rather than the rule of. Cecilia. children can be catered for in the main gallery spaces rather than occupying the fringes in education rooms and children’s areas. The Wallace Collection has proven that children can indeed be curators. In practice. I had no idea this magnificent opportunity would pop into my life’ (Bryant and Mileham 2010. project-based programming where children can shape exhibitions (Enseki 2007) through their intimate. the school calendar. what they think and what are their views’ (Bryant and Mileham 2010. While another child-curator.
her model is flexible enough to be applied to free-choice learning environments. We recognise that individual programmes are often age-dependent. audience and influence’ may prove to be a useful tool. community-activated artwork.Museum Management and Curatorship 361 recognises the museum’s role in nurturing the cultural rights of its young visitors. showing not only that curators and educators need to work more closely. 7). Let’s say that without the participation of the user there is nothing. so perhaps this kinaesthetic trend will add a sense of egalitarianism to the museum experience. where new. the focus is not only on what programmes are offered. Eliasson has spoken directly of the art user being the art work. audience and influence can be applied from infancy in an ever-increasing scale of involvement. (Eliasson and Irwin 2007. but also on how full and free participation is built into these programmes. . 33) Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 Eliasson’s 2009Á2010 show Olafur Eliasson: Take Your Time. He states: The key issue is the role of the engaged spectator or user. However. Although Lundy writes specifically about Article 12 of the CRC in relation to formal educational environments. The constructions were then added to by other visitors and displayed around the perimeter of the gallery in an ever-evolving. the four elements of space. Olafur Eliasson. Lundy’s model of ‘space. Such a participatory approach may be easier to apply to contemporary art collections. A model for participation This paper will now assess how Lundy’s model for participation could be deployed by museums to provide participatory opportunities for children.’’ para. voice. if adults approach children with a ‘presumption of ability’ (Lansdown 2005. reflected his art-user stance. For museums that wish to assess how new and existing programmes and exhibitions promote children’s cultural and participatory rights. The internationally acclaimed artist. All of these relationships require museum departments to be porous Á absorbing ideas from others into their domains. Australia. The key issue. Interestingly. both the Eliasson exhibition and the SCAF show relied on artist-directed visitor interactions. childcentred works can be commissioned or where artworks are inherently participatory. but perhaps that museums need to work more closely also with children and with artists to realise the cultural rights of their young visitors. such as art museums. The research sought to identify ‘areas where children’s rights were ignored or underplayed’ (Lundy 2007. rather than requiring visitors to enrol in an education course in order to participate. The New York Times noted in December 2010 that participatory artworks are on the rise in modern art museums (Smith 2010). visitors sat at a long white table filled with three tons of white Lego bricks and were encouraged to create anything they could imagine. Such interactivity provides opportunities for private visitors working to their own timetable. at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney. For those museums that are committed to making Article 31 of the CRC a reality in children’s lives. refers to museum visitors as ‘art users’. 928). ‘‘OE: Yes. voice. Lundy’s model grew out of a large-scale audit of children’s rights conducted by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People. The question is whether the activities or actions of that user in fact constitute the artwork. For The Cubic Structural Evolution Project (2004).
including on how they wish to engage with the museum. which may mean developing programs that are adaptable to different artworks or at least to different themes. Education programs can be shaped around the particular wishes of the attendees. overcomes the tendency of education programmes and children’s art centres to segregate child-visitors into specific spaces within museums. joys and fears. the art-making process.’ There are two ways in which museums can facilitate children to express their views on art. to teach. 933). This requires museum staff to see their space as: A forum for the exchange of views. We do not argue that childspecific spaces should not appear in museums. Evans 1995). art museums could commission a contemporary artist to create new and participatory artworks for children inspired by artworks from its historical collection. thereby keeping children in contact with original artworks as freely and fully and for as long as possible.’ Young visitors can be invited and encouraged to provide their views. which could be experienced kinaesthetically by visitors (child and adult alike) as part of the main exhibition. Cultural rights are fragile entities. such as participatory artworks in the main gallery spaces of exhibitions. For instance. especially in environments which have historically been designed by adults. Presenting childcentred elements. beliefs. which cannot be touched. to find their connections to the world and people around them. in a sense as visual interpretations of the original works. Gibson Space Lundy (2007. to create meaning. 607). and to a variety of artistic media based on the choices of the children in attendance. While many art museums now feature programmes and guides for children. Mai and R. 933) defines space as: ‘Children must be given the opportunity to express a view. 299) Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 Recognition of each child’s ability to direct their own aesthetic journey is central to full and free participation. First. with which artworks and for how long. Art museums may be able to curate spaces for ‘safe and independent use by children’ (De Visscher and Bouverne-De Bie 2008. and then allow children to direct their own explorations based on their intrinsic motivations (Csikszentmihalyi and Hermanson 1995. but rather we encourage museums to integrate young visitors as much as possible into the principal spaces of the museum. In specific circumstances. Attention to the physical space of the museum is also important in promoting cultural rights in childhood. Enseki 2007. it may be possible to afford children the opportunity to occupy the central spaces of the museum. and how the exhibition was planned and hung communicate the context within which art is created and displayed. enlisting adult educators to devise add-on elements to exhibitions for children can fall short of enabling children to action their cultural rights. The use of visual ´ communication in panels is an easy way to enfranchise (not only) the pre-literate. Such hands-on artworks could form part of the main exhibition. Photographs and video of artists. potentially limiting the full participation required by the CRC. as demonstrated in the SCAF’s Contemporary Art for Contemporary . Voice According to Lundy (2007. (Morrissey 2002. a place where individuals come together to learn. ‘Children must be facilitated to express their views.362 L.
become the megaphone of a child’s unique voice and vision. stencils and templates. exhibitions. both ‘learning best by being engaged and by doing. creative endeavour rather than working from pre-produced materials such as booklets. 10) may prove to be useful to museum educators’ work: ‘When [children] have a discussion about a work of art. busily writing and printing the booklets. What if a young visitor is unmoved by locating a snake in a painting chosen by the education department for said booklet. exhibitions curated specifically for children provide free and full interaction with artworks and expression through co-creating a work of art. staff. Educators may seek to explore. . visually and verbally. ideally in front of the original artwork. are they consuming the culture or actively constructing understanding about the work that is unique to each child? Do we celebrate this construction. for instance. on the gallery floor. yet would provide deep insights. This would allow children to inform how the museum educates and communicates with their Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 . art production can be an open-ended. Art production need not be confined to education programmes but can be made available to private visitors (who form the majority of the visitorship to museums) in the main gallery space.’ para. an art production activity associated with art viewing gives a visual voice to children’s experiences. to give them an audience. but transfixed by a sculpture of a man wrestling a snake in the next gallery? Has the young visitor failed at looking? Or has the education department. would be reported back to the museum community as a symbol of the museum’s genuine interest in the views of visitors. children’s views ‘must be listened to’ through formal channels of communication. as cultural producers . After which. and children’s activities are rare in the scholarly literature. design. an attentive educator observed the young visitor absorbed in the sculpture and encouraged and extended her inquiry through conversation and creating her own art work in response? The educator and the visitor then become co-constructors of knowledge. In order to give voice to the original ideas of the viewer. by experimenting and researching with others Á not by being told’ (Moss 2010. and the museum’s role is to provide opportunities for each child to express this connection. Children’s citizenship is activated by enabling ‘children themselves to participate as artists in their own right. participation could be extended further by inviting children to dialogue with curators. Second. Two questions posed by Pat Tarr (2003. Results of the feedback. for permanent collections and non-participatory artworks. On the other hand. layout. it’s important that children get their own products and their own space that they can talk about with each other’ (Richer 2003. High quality artist’s paper and pastels on handheld easels made available in galleries. According to Lundy (2007. 933). signage. booklets which ask children to spot a detail in a painting are closed-ended. 4). . ‘Conclusions section. failed the visitor? What if. instead. Reports of formal feedback opportunities by children on a museum’s architecture. or do we try to replace it with cultural replication?’ For at the core of each aesthetic journey is the connection between object and self (Dewey 1934/1958). provoke and extend the visitors’ own ideas. 1). unimaginative and overly directive. Audience There is a requirement to actively listen to the voices of children.Museum Management and Curatorship 363 Kids. educators and marketers about how to make a museum more inclusive of children. which can be sought in visual as well as verbal formats.
value and embrace the voices of children in their work. establishing connections. The children’s voices and visions of Pistoia’s piazze. this is cultural citizenship by children as co-constructors of their community. community-based practices will not flourish in museums. Lundy (2007. and cherish the creation of a richer. in his call for museums to be mindful. by contributing their own words and images or as marketers promoting the exhibition to their community. 193).364 L. Curators and educators need to accept. more meaningful and collaborative outcome. 17). In Pistoia. Children’s Museums have taken the lead in involving children in all aspects of museum management. a small Tuscan town in Italy. how exhibitions are curated. monuments and architecture were then incorporated into a high quality publication on the cultural assets of Pistoia for visitors. 130). there is no reason to exclude anyone based on age.’ Children can enact their cultural citizenship when they are invited beyond the public facade of the museum and into its inner workings. without change. . Cultural change is extremely difficult for any organisation. imagination. While Janes does not specifically refer to children. Creating such two-way communication and other inclusive measures ‘means change for the entire setting and all practitioners who work there’ (Nutbrown and Clough 2009. i. intuition. When children are allowed to contribute they become active citizens by ‘making and reproducing a community by using it.e. Mai and R. the municipal council invited children to explore and document their cultural patrimony (Galardini and Iozelli 2007). By celebrating the artistic treasures of Pistoia through the words and images of young Pistoians. the council recognised the citizenship and unique perspectives of these children. Children can be involved on a number of levels. sculptures. Influence Finally. and reflection that are essential to catalyse and sustain the museum’s mindfulness’ (Janes 2010. including how to present panels through word and image. the Canadian’s Children Museum (CCM) actively talks about how the rights of children influence the management of the museum: Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 . Curatorially. Children can work with artists to create new artworks and present these to the museum community. where producers and consumers co-create museum experiences (Skramstad 2004). Budgeting and project management are also not beyond the abilities of many children. In a museum setting. however.. children can contribute to decisions about what is to be displayed and how. Children can actively influence how museum spaces are designed. envisions multifunctional work groups made up of a diverse representation of members of the museum community. He writes: ‘ . In Canada. Gibson youngest visitors. . self-aware and connected. transforming it and giving it meaning’ (Golombek 2006. and how the museum relates to its young public by taking a place on multifunctional exhibition teams. as appropriate. non-traditional staff will be a key source of the emotion. Janes (2010). 330). This is a participatory model predicated on dialogue and interdependence between the museum and its community in ‘a continuous conversation of mutual respect’ (Skramstad 2004. 933) deals with the outcomes of giving children a voice: ‘the view must be acted upon. Children can be involved in the design of exhibition catalogues.
361). its philosophy can be embraced by art museums. (CCM n. and make connections based on personal experience’ (Weier 2004. Visual communication need not be overlooked. 36). risks being little more than tokenism. All aspects of the Museum’s programs. when. Children’s museums see themselves as being for someone rather than about something (Enseki 2007). During private visits. so the children’s parents and caregivers become central to the museum experience. Research with five 13 year old children leading tours for their adult partners across 10 different museums has shown that ‘participating children learned that they could actively connect with museums and artworks and do so on their own terms’ (Jeffers 1999. Participation.Museum Management and Curatorship 365 In the belief that children contribute to their own futures and must be given a voice. help adults to discover aspects of the museum they might not have otherwise seen (Jeffers 1999). in fact. significant adults need to make a decision about who should take the lead in the visit.) Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 While the Canadian Children’s Museum is a part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. and well presented but opportunities for independent exploration are often limited’ (Enseki 2007.d. create stories. audience and influence. and these ‘someones’ are respected and valued for their youth. caregivers) in contributing to making Article 31 of the CRC a reality. thereby activating adults’ own rights to . . not just for children. 240). such child-led experiences may. Significant adults are able to facilitate their children’s cultural participation by ‘expertly support[ing] connections made between the artwork and the child’s life history’ (Mai and Gibson 2009. Listening to children ‘form hypotheses. bringing charcoal and sketchbooks to the museum gives children another way to communicate their responses to artworks and creates a permanent record of their visual ‘voice’. age-appropriate. voice. casual visitors who do not attend an education programme (Falk and Dierking 1992). as well as to articulate their own theories and experiences of art. which). . the CCM involves them in the development and planning of services and products. Once children have selected which works to view. confirms that a museum must ‘set as its goal to be for somebody’. 50). where. Following a trajectory of artworks chosen by the children can mean a very different visit from one where the adult selects which artworks to view. The role of significant adults We will now address the role of significant adults (parents. We argue that children’s activity booklets or audio tours are not enough to satisfy the CRC requirement for full and free participation in the arts. who. Falk. Allowing children to take the lead tells them that they are valued members of the museum community with valid tastes and ideas. therefore. Even though adults on their own might have selected different works. In many art museums today. citing Weil (2009. unless these are introductory steps towards more involved citizenship activities which encompass space. 113) promotes children’s citizenship by allowing them to have a voice in the museum. however Á even those with large educational budgets Á still ‘the predominant message is that the museum is adult turf . Most museum visitors are private. their adults can successfully support and scaffold their children’s learning (Weier 2004) by initiating conversations about the artworks and using a series of whquestions (why. what. build meanings. educational programs for children may be participatory. services and exhibits are designed with children.
Bouverne-de Bie. . they seem to be focused on older children and youth (Neale 2004). Ideally a museum visit might then become a collaborative learning experience for both children and their adults. Bourdieu found that ‘museum visiting . One limitation of participatory efforts is that. ‘it is not possible to initiate visitors into a community that is not there . Without staff who are trained in both art history and education on the gallery floor. and Vandevelde 2009). which has been defined as ‘the cultural values of parents.. Even when children are invited to participate.366 L. UNESCO has stated in its Seoul Agenda that one of the global goals for art education should be to ensure that ‘learners from all social backgrounds have lifelong access to arts education in a wide range of community and institutional settings’ (UNESCO 2010. if children’s voices are to be truly heard.e. as the professional middle classes are still disproportionately represented among art museum visitors (Savage and Bennett 2005). in practice. Another limitation of the participation discourse is the essentially Western. 239). In a three-way conversation between parents. facilitated by museum staff. we recognize that universal cultural citizenship is limited by the uneven distribution of cultural capital (Chaney 2002). . as children are born into societies which exercise continuous cultural production. In order to do this in real time. In Australia. 2009). While we have promoted children’s engagement with art museums as an act of cultural citizenship. middle-class model that is promoted by formal participation efforts (Alanen 2010. many children are still less likely than others to ever enter an art museum. including in art museums. as imbibed by their children’ (Savage and Bennett 2005. museum staff and children. Gibson enjoy cultural life and the arts under Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948). 2). in practice. Even though the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC 2005) states that Article 12 of the CRC applies to even the youngest children. galleries require human mediation Á i. knowledgeable others are difficult to simulate’ (Schauble 2002. If adult visitors are to provide art historical or museological details to children. Today. children under 8 years of age are much less evident in participatory dialogues (Reynaert. The role of museum staff may often be to support the discoveries of children and their significant adults in situ. they may need the help of experts. 15). Neale 2004. there is a risk that such participation may be only tokenism (Lundy 2007. knowledgeable staff available in galleries to answer visitors’ questions as they arise (Mai and Gibson 2009). the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) tri-annually surveys participation in cultural and leisure activities by children aged 5Á14 years. the adults need to be aware of the power dynamics between adults and children. Shier 2001). for instance. Over 40 years ago. While this approach may require additional staffing. 4). they are entitled to participate in the production of that culture from their very first day (of course we recognise that most do not). The limits of cultural citizenship in childhood We believe that. While we know that less than half (41%) of children 5Á14 years old Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 . Reynaert et al. Mai and R. . it reflects a commitment by museums to enable meaning-making and active participation by children as part of the museum community. . is almost exclusively the domain of the cultivated classes’ (Bourdieu and Darbel 1990.
may become alienated and disenfranchised before they have a chance to develop their own relationships with their cultural patrimony if their caregivers are not museum-goers. it is no wonder that most people feel that they are unable to perform these often unspoken rituals and therefore feel that they do not belong in an art museum (Duncan 1995.Museum Management and Curatorship 367 attend museums and art galleries (ABS 2009). and museums tacitly require visitors to be ‘perfectly predisposed socially.’ With such a high standard to scale. If children are able to participate freely and fully in their art museums. (30) While the arts should be for everyone. theatre and music. which is in itself telling of the Government’s lack of focus on cultural rights in early childhood. in her pioneering work Young Children’s Rights. 24). More than a decade after Duncan presented her thesis on civilising rituals. With each museum visit. which further entrenches the social categories of museum visitors. art museums still tend to curate . in particular. not only are many people today denied their cultural rights. helping them to access high-quality painting and sculpture. psychologically and culturally to enact the museum ritual. Lack of visitation makes creating participatory experiences difficult for museums. Alderson (2000). O’Neill 2002). museums and exhibitions. Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 Conclusion As late as 2007. Duncan (1995. 13). so that when they become adults (and some of them curators and educators). this lack of engagement from non-visitors is still ‘attributed to a sense of alienation from the museum. In other words. who rely on their significant adults to take them to museums and introduce them into the community. Such a socially inclusive model would provide all visitors with ‘access appropriate to their background. 13) argues that art museums. Hooper-Greenhill argued that museums were still not ‘thinking from the visitor’s perspective’ (4). this will lead to a generational change where a greater diversity of children and parents will attend art museums because museums have become more inclusive and more enjoyable. the data are not reported by type of museum so that art museums are at best a decent percentage of the overall figure. In many exhibitions. ability and life experience’ (O’Neill 2002. Hopefully. the function of art museums as places for the performance of civilising rituals may serve to limit such egalitarianism. calls for a removal of the: barriers between the elitist professional art world and children’s everyday lives. a child becomes more acculturated to the practices of the museum. level of education. Children. enriching their lives inestimably. they may help to propagate socially inclusive rituals. are secular sites for the rituals of society. Conversely some middle-class parents actively seek out arts experiences for their children as a way of acquiring cultural capital (Vincent and Ball 2007). but these rights are also denied to their children and possibly future generations. The children who presently attend museums need to see the opportunities for participation and for having a voice. The ABS does not collect data for museum visitation by those under five years old. they may rewrite the museum ritual so that it becomes a more participatory and inclusive experience. particularly in terms of how audiences are addressed and assumptions made by curators about the knowledge and experience audiences bring to the museum’ (Barrett 2011. The arts are for everyone.
Mai and R. as Black (2010) has highlighted in his call for equality in history museums. Hooper-Greenhill 1992). highly orchestrated displays which offer a smattering of didactic historical details (Duncan 1991. many children’s rights. however. Her other academic research uses interdisciplinary methodologies including arts-informed inquiry. National Portrait Gallery. Australia http://www. Notes on contributors Lea Mai is completing her Ph.g. The authors would also like to thank the reviewers of this article whose insightful comments greatly evolved our thinking. . Creative Minds.php.368 L. Her research interests include the cultural and participatory rights of children. Black (2010) has chosen the term ‘civil engagement’.com/) which ﬁrst brought our attention to the exhibition Shhh . money and organisational change required to become more participatory. She lectures in the Creative Arts in Early Childhood at the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney. We have stayed with the term cultural citizenship. blogspot. however.gov. . as we have noted it used at conferences on museums and the Arts. Even for art museums which are committed to their youngest visitors. . e. Presently. It is as if curators are curating for each other rather than the community-at-large Á making for stunningly beautiful gallery spaces but severely curtailing personal meaning-making and active engagement by visitors. Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge and thank Dr Gene Sherman and her staff at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation for their support of the research we conducted at the Foundation during the Contemporary Art for Contemporary Kids exhibition in 2010. For museum teams that need to justify the extra time. art making and art education. Gibson abstracted. 8 October 2010. Canberra. Downloaded by [Lea Mai] at 16:51 30 August 2011 Notes 1.au/site/creative_minds_forum. the shift towards recognising and facilitating their cultural citizenship can be challenging. It is our hope that if today’s children are invited into art museums as citizens they will. we hope that this review has provided an internationally ratified argument for championing cultural rights in childhood. 2. in turn. The term ‘cultural citizenship’ has also been used to refer to ethnic and multicultural rights and to mass media and mass culture.0 (http://museumtwo. Art museums. are ideally placed to redress this breach and become promoters and defenders of children’s cultural citizenship. She also authors museum education programmes for the University’s Art Gallery. These deﬁnitions are considered alternative interpretations which do not apply to this paper. including the right to cultural life and the arts. on aesthetic experiences in early childhood. 136). curators must be willing to share authority for content. Her current research focuses on children’s attitudes to art. Robyn Gibson is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney. and this is best achieved in a partnership of equals’ (Black 2010..portrait. The authors would like to acknowledge Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2. She writes about primary-school education in the visual and creative arts. it’s a Secret at The Wallace Collection. which is more closely aligned with our deﬁnition. are routinely overlooked. grow into adults who will strive to entrench cultural rights for all.D. Black writes ‘If a museum is committed to reflecting the voices of the communities it serves.
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