University of Leicester
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An ecological examination of young children's museum-related perceptions : a Greek case study

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:45 authored by Dimitra Zapri
The purpose of this study is to provide an alternative ecological approach to exploring the nature of young children's perceptions about museums, and the conditions where these perceptions are developed. Drawing on Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory of human development (1979) and James Gibson's theory of affordances (1986), the study conceptualises museums as ecological settings, and perceptions as ecological entities, which are formed through dynamic transactions between individuals and their environment. The study attempts to identify the contextual parameters of young children's museum perceptions, by implementing ecological research principles in terms of a qualitative research ethos. The study followed a largely ethnographic approach, combining naturalistic research methods with sets of questionnaires, in the context of multiple museum visits and feedback sessions with children, museum professionals and parents. The field research focused on a Greek museum context and was conducted in collaboration with three museums, nine kindergarten schools and nineteen children of approximately five years of age and their families.;Findings suggest a weak relation between museums and young children's developmental contexts. On the one hand, museums seem to demonstrate a lower commitment towards young children and their families, which is reflected in teachers' and parents' feeling that current museum education provision is not supportive enough for their own needs or those of young children. On the other, young children seem to be able to perceive a wider range of possibilities in the museum setting, but such perceptions do not seem to be sustained in the long-term, as parents may not include museum visits in their leisure agenda. A major issue raised is the question of accessibility --- intellectual or physical --- and relevance of any cultural setting to its local community. The thesis proposes a long-term museum education for building sustainable relationships between museums and local communities at an early stage.


Date of award


Author affiliation

Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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