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Museums visiting and social inclusion: the geography of school visits to museums

By Anna Lucy Woodham


This thesis takes as a starting point the results of three large scale evaluations of museum education programmes, which presented an unexpected and potentially highly significant geography of school visits to museums, with 46% of school visits in one evaluation made by schools located in areas classified among the 20% most deprived areas in England. These research findings appear to challenge the wide-spread popular perception of museums as rather elitist and exclusionary, drawing attention towards the potential for museums to contribute to social inclusion. The findings also chimed well with contemporary government social inclusion agendas.\ud The study combines both quantitative and qualitative investigations to examine and explain the social geography of school visits to museums. Application of the Townsend index and Experian MOSAIC to the original datasets suggests that the pattern of school visits remains broadly similar when each of these measures are used. Pupil postcodes and free school meal (FSM) data are also used to address the ecological fallacy, concluding that analysis at school level is useful to appreciate school contexts at a finer spatial level. Through further quantitative analysis it is concluded that the location and size of museums is particularly significant, emphasising the importance of the local.\ud An interpretive framework based on the concepts of economic, social, cultural and emotional capital is also used to consider the impacts that museums may have on teachers and pupils, which might contribute to social inclusion. Analysis of qualitative data reveals the interplay of the different forms of capital, particularly how each form influences and conditions school visits. It is concluded that in the museum setting social, cultural and emotional capital are potentially more likely to be acquired. It is argued that discussions presented in the research substantiate the results of the original evaluations and help to move discussions beyond the shorthand thinking of museums as either elitist or non-elitist

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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