Research Seminar Review: Social Inclusion and the Geography of School Visits (Anna Woodham)

On the 23rd April, the Department of Museum Studies' research seminar programme restarted with a presentation by Anna Woodham, a third year PhD student based jointly in the Departments of Geography and Museum Studies. Anna's research looks at the spatial connections between museums and schools located in so-called deprived areas of England and Wales, based upon the findings of three RCMG research projects.

For this research seminar, Anna focused in on the views of the Head Teachers at a number of her case study schools on the value of museum visiting, using a theoretical framework which made use of Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital (her explanation of which drew enthusiastic compliments from her audience for its clarity!).

After a brief, but comprehensive overview of social deprivation indicators (and the challenges which they present to the researcher), Anna introduced several very revealing quotes from head teachers of two primary and one secondary school in Birmingham. She asked each head teacher, 'what is the value of museum visiting?'. Several themes emerged: not only were museums seen as sites of learning that supported the national curriculum, they highlighted as important sites of cultural and linguistic enrichment, especially for pupils for whom English was not the primary language spoken at home. For the secondary school pupils, museums were perceived to support an overall school strategy of boosting life chances and broadening horizons for students growing up in an environment which is not only deprived socially and economically, but suffers from poverty of aspiration

Finally, Anna spoke briefly about her emerging view - as a result of her field work completed to date - that there is a paradoxical tension between what headteachers perceive museums do, and what museums think their role is.

Overall, Anna's seminar provided an entertaining and engaging introduction to an aspect of her research, which was augmented by a brief, but artful presentation of snaps of Boston she took on a recent conference trip partially funded by the Department!


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