Skip to main content
Leicester Special Collections

Museum Education

Listed in both the Museum’s Association UK and ICOM’s definition of a museum, education plays a prominent role in showing what a museum is there for and the desired results that it should achieve.[1]

Museums are there to educate everyone. Whether this is through workshops, lectures, exhibitions, outreach days, it is seen as one of the ‘essential’ and ‘priority purposes’ that people expect from a museum.[2] They share their ‘expertise’ with their visitors, educating and teaching them in engaging and fun ways.[3] The collections that museums hold are of use to researchers too and often form the basis of academic articles and books. Ultimately, these studies will filter through back to a museum to educate the general public. Museums are in a wider circle of education.

Seeing as education is so heavily ingrained in what a museum does, have museums evolved how they educate visitors? Recent academic thought argues that the past twenty years have seen a transformation of learning within museums, moving ‘from margin to core’.[4] But is this transformation as recent as suggested or has it been a longer development? Has education in museums been, until now, on the margins of the museum?

[1] Museums Association, FAQs, <> [accessed 9/8/2017]; ICOM, Museum Definition, <> [accessed 9/8/2017].

[2] Britain Thinks, Public perceptions of – and attitudes to – the purpose of museums in society: a report prepared by BritainThinks for Museums Association, 2013, <>, [accessed 9/10/2016], p. 4.

[3] Ibid. p. 16.

[4] John Reeve and Vicky Woollard, ‘Learning, Education, and Public Programs in Museums and Galleries’, in Conal McCarthy, The International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museum Practice (1st ed), (John Wiley &Sons, Ltd., 2015), p. 551.