In my latest book Museum Practice, which was published by Wiley Blackwell last year, the final section includes chapters dealing with the public face of the contemporary museum at work. Chapter 24 grapples with a central dimension of museum practice, namely learning and public programmes. It was written by two leading scholar-practitioners with years of experience at the front line of museum education as well as academic research and teaching in universities.
“The role and place of learning in museums has been transformed in the past twenty years,” write Reeve and Woollard, not just in the UK and the USA, “but also through a shared global community of practice from Brazil to Japan.” These transformations in museological practice have seen education and learning move “from margin to core” of what a museum or gallery is. The chapter surveys this transformation in numerous examples of current practice, where there has been much progress but a lot still to do to make learning the core of museum work in a sustainable way. The authors claim that “Museum learning specialists should continue to expect and claim a major role in the increasingly multi-skilled museum profession.” “They should themselves become more multi-skilled and more often leave their comfort zones and education centres to advocate, campaign, curate, lead, direct,” they add, and thereby “become a less uncertain profession however uncertain the times.”
Authors John Reeve and Vicky Woollard assessed the nature of the changing UK museum in The Responsive Museum – Working with audiences in the 21st century (with Caroline Lang, Ashgate 2006.) Both authors have been museum education officers in major museums and subsequently as university teachers of MA students in museum and gallery learning, management and cultural policy. Both have also advocated museum learning as leaders of professional organisations and in campaigning for change. They have worked with museums and students from all over from the world.