Don't Touch! Examining the Role of Hands-On Children's Programs in Museums
Mentor:Dr. Kristen Chiem, Professor of Art History , Pepperdine University
Until the 20th century, museums were designed mainly for scholars to conduct research on rare and endangered objects. In the past few decades, museums have broadened their outreach to the general public to include people of all ages and demographics. Many museums now offer children’s programs that include hands-on activities as a way to stimulate a love for learning in a more relaxed and independent fashion. At two institutions targeting the same demographic, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], children are able to learn about endangered animals and rare works of art through hands-on activities. Although the LA Zoo and LACMA are challenged by exhibiting subjects that cannot be touched, they have succeeded in bringing children closer to both animals and art through the construction of children’s spaces, interactive children’s programming and supplemental materials. Through a comparative analysis of the Los Angeles Zoo’s Critters n’ Kids Program and LACMA’s NexGen program, this paper investigates the role of hands-on activities in museum children’s program as a way to bridge learning for a younger demographic. My analysis of the recent development of the interpretive media, programs, and spaces at the LA Zoo and LACMA provides a basis for redefining the role of the public museum in society. This will highlight the idea of the importance of using interpretative media as a way for museums to serve as a perpetrator of education for society.