Museum Educators Do Still Read Books … Even the Classics

We recently discovered that museum educators certainly do have the time to read books! This past July, a group of us participated in the inaugural ArtMuseumTeaching Online Book Club to look at the new book Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections, and Collaboration (2013), edited by Viv Golding and Wayne Modest. With student-centred and community-centred practice at the core of what we do as museum educators, the book raised lots of ideas in relation to theory and practice and how different roles across the museum consider or enact participatory practice.

learninginthemuseumFor our second Online Book Club, we thought it might be a good idea to visit (or for many of us, re-visit) a classic text Learning in the Museum (1998) by George Hein, Professor Emeritus at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. In this pivotal book, Hein presented an overview of the traditions and history of museum education, and developed a key framework for understanding educational theories as well as making connections with visitor studies research. Hein raised education and visitor experience as important considerations for museum professionals overall as museums are forced to “justify their existence”.

View the video archive below of the October 1st On Air Google Hangout with Michelle Grohe (Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum) and myself.

Some provocations for readers as we near the Online Book Club discussion:

    • Does Learning in the Museum influence the practice of museum educators today? How so? Are we still in a position of having to “justify [our] existence”?
    • Have new learning theories emerged from within art museum education research and practice since the book was written? Did Hein pave the way for this thinking?
    • Does ‘education’ and ‘constructivism’ have a specific meaning for museum educators? Does meaning change across the organisation?
    • Have art museums changed to become constructivist-learning spaces for visitors as Hein advocates? Can we share examples from our practice to demonstrate this?
    • You can also check out a great Q&A with George Hein posted on the Getty’s blog while he served as their Guest Scholar back in 2011.

We would love to know if or how your practice today connects to the ideas outlined in Hein’s book (now 15 years old). Then help us to decide if this book deserves ‘classic’ status!

To learn about this and future Google Hangouts and Online Book Club discussions hosted via, join the Art Museum Teaching Google Community.

Read on!

Note: Thanks to everyone who participated in the October 1st Online Book Club Hangout. Here is a link to the video archive:


5 thoughts on “Museum Educators Do Still Read Books … Even the Classics”

  1. Dear Colleagues,

    I’ve jut come across this post. I’m delighted that you’re reading my older book. Maybe later you can also try my newer one, Progressive Museum practice: John Dewey and Democracy (Left Coast Press, 2012).

    Unfortunately, I can’t join the conversation, it conflicts with the time I’ve been invited to talk about john Dewey at a doctoral seminar at Lesley U. But I’ll always be glad to respond to comments on this blog or to emails sent to me at ghein at lesley (of course edu)


  2. Dear George,
    Thank you for stopping by. It would have been terrific to have you join us in the Hangout conversation and we will be certain to follow up and find a time that also suits you when we do discuss Progressive Museum Practice. Many of us enjoyed reading that book and Briley Rasmussen did an excellent review here:
    An older book was selected for our Book Club this time in the hopes that more people would be able to access it and join in.
    I look forward to continuing the conversation with you.

  3. Dear colleagues,

    Unfortunately, I’m teaching about John Dewey in a class tomorrow when you’re having a discussion about Learning in The Museum. But I’ll be glad to respond to any comments you post that come out of the discussion.

    All the best,

    George Hein

    1. George — it would be great to find a way to reconnect with you after tomorrow’s online discussion, and I really appreciate your offer to be connected with the community here at Enjoy your class tomorrow, and we look forward to being in touch after the Online Book Club. Cheers, -Mike

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