ISSN 1753-0849

Childhoods Today Online JournalChildhoods Today

An online journal for childhood studies


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Volume 6 Issue 1 - August 31, 2012

Running and Learning in the Museum: a Study of Young Children’s Behaviour in the Museum, and their Parents’ Discursive Positioning of that Behaviour

Abigail Hackett

This paper presents some findings of an ethnographic study of eight families with young children visiting a local museum. The range of different behaviours of the children in the museum, including running around and ‘schooled’ learning activities such as mark making, are seen as children’s embodied responses to an emplaced experience (Pink, 2009) of being in the museum. These responses occurred in an arena of action (Hutchby and Moran-Ellis, 1998) shaped by the parents. Therefore, the main section of this paper focuses on parents’ talk in a series of after-visit interviews. Using critical discourse analysis (Gee, 1999), I argue that parents discursively positioned children’s running around in the museum and learning as oppositional categories. I trace the origin of these cultural models (Gee, 1999) to a range of wider societal discourses, specifically the “not-yet-ready” (Nichols et al, 2009) developing child, and the role of ‘good’ parents in the learning of their young children (Nichols, 2002).