Stories of what one family values as revealed through their experiences at the Denver Art Museum
Houdyshell, Mary Angela
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My narrative case study focuses on how one family uses the exhibitions and educational resources at the Denver Art Museum. I gathered stories of the family’s experiences at the museum in order to determine what their choices reflected about their family values and how they integrated those experiences into their daily lives. This study draws upon socio-cultural and constructivist learning theories by proposing that each family member contributes their prior knowledge and life experiences to the process of making meaning and drawing connections within the art museum. Moreover, even though the family acted as a social learning group, each member constructed personal knowledge in different ways from their shared experiences. I used narrative analysis and coding as means to interpret the meanings of the family’s stories. In addition to identifying the family’s values regarding art museum learning, findings pointed to the imperative need for museum educators to address preparing adult learning partners for visits to art museums with children. The lack of current research pertaining to family learning in art museums was a chief motivator for conducting this study (Sterry & Beaumont, 2006). Research of family interactions in museums has largely focused on non-art museums (Borun, 2002; Borun et al., 1998; Ellenbogen, Luke, & Dierking, 2007). Family art museum experiences are distinct and should be studied separately from those in other types of museums. Research, such as this study, that look specifically at how families use art museum exhibitions and educational resources will address the lack of literature and emphasize the value of art museum experiences for life-long family learning.