Museums Places of Child’s Play?

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By Rob Peoni @RobPeoni
A recent study in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy created a stir in the museum community. The reaction was spurred by coverage in the press, where attention-grabbing editorial tactics and divisive quotes from prominent artists misrepresented the author’s conclusion as a call to allow children to run free in museums. This reaction comes despite the fact that the museum served solely as the setting of the research, rather than the planned target of its results.

Regardless of the intended audience or reaction, Abigail Hackett’s study Zigging and zooming all over the place: Young Children’s meaning making and movement in the museum has people talking. This is due in part to a shift in museum marketing in recent years, which finds the industry redefining its target audience. “There’s been a huge push for family audiences across the board,” says Elee Wood, Director of IUPUI’s Museum Studies program, “both in terms of catering to the needs of younger children … and trying to think about how to be more responsive to audiences in general.”

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