Heritage and Education

moving away from art for art’s sake…

Museums and heritage sites’ approach and interpretation have changed
substantially in the last decade in two particular ways which have opened
them up for education. Firstly, strong anthropological forces have broadened
the world’s definition of “heritage” and “art”. As a result, for the
traditional there are museums of portraiture while for the unorthodox there
are cartoon museums, clock museums, and whaling museums.

Multi-media and new technology have played invaluable roles facilitating
this multifaceted viewpoint and wider-storytelling take on heritage.
Scholars understand more when they can use a robot to fly through a computer
reconstruction of an ancient palace complex. Museum curators can present
their information using computers, films, lights, sound, etc. There are ever
more stories to tell and ever more ways in which to tell them. These are
crucial developments in heritage and education in an era when man has a
notoriously short attention span.

Increasingly, heritage lends itself to education in and of itself, and in
partnership with other educational institutions. It has been successful in
this educational mode for two reasons. The first reason is that it offers
tactile experiences.

  • After visiting the extensive exhibition of Ancient Greek and Roman ceramics, the Getty Villa in Malibou, California has a full room dedicated to children where visitors can draw, copy and erase designs on plastic versions of typical vases.
  • The Resistance Museum in Warsaw, Poland combines propaganda sheets, audio speeches, army clothes, simulations of sewer hiding places, and real weaponry with an exhibition on the underground postal system. Here again, visitors can make their own version of the postal stamps and codes.

Hereby, viewing heritage and learning about history becomes an active
instead of a passive experience.

The second reason heritage has become greatly successful in education is
simple numbers. In the last two decades museum attendance, heritage site
visits, and tourism have all increased exponentially.
Additionally,  educational institutions have seized upon these opportunities
and made long term relationships with heritage sites and institutions.
Relationships are strengthened by multi-visit programs i.e. long-term relationships between schools and museums; tactile  experiences with objects, models, and child-friendly – permanent exhibition and special exhibitions.

Heritage has an enormous capacity to propagate information, shape
impressions, and form identity through education. The page Heritage and
Politics touches on the political and ethical sensitivity of this power. It
is of equal, if not more, importance to stress the potential and dangers
inherent in Heritage and Education, a topic which covers the method and
tools with which information and view points are exhibited.

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