I finally did it! In 2008 I got my M.A. in Applied Ethics at Utrecht University with a thesis on Moral considerations in cross cultural museum education. For ethicists that is a rather eccentric topic, but it was and is a topic that is precisely at the cross roads of a number of fields of knowledge that happen to have my profound attention: education, ethics, working with knowledge professionals. And now I finally, finally gathered the courage to actually DO something with the knowledge gathered in this thesis: I wrote a proposal for a paper or roundtable session (that is yet to be decided) for the Inclusive Museum conference 22-24 April in Copenhagen, Denmark. Low and behold, it got accepted. So here we go: meet you in Denmark in April and I cannot wait!
Museums are defining themselves increasingly as educational institutions. As an ethicist I think that education is intrinsically value laden. Museums nowadays use their body of knowledge and collections to construct educational experiences whereby entertainment and education go hand in hand. Thus the moral considerations of the museum professionals deserve explicit attention and reflection. Museums are essentially mediated “things”. That might touch the visitor deeply, might enhance profound understanding of a subject. Whatever it moves in the visitor, is whatever the museum has designed. How does the museum choose what the visitor should experience? Where does what the museum offers stop and where does your own thinking and researching start? Is there such a thing as a proper balance between entertainment and education? To what extent are museums actually autonomous in the shaping of their education? In other words: to what extent is the educational message of museums a reflection of the political landscape and financial incentives? Focusing specifically on the theme of entertainment and education I will discuss the findings and considerations coming from my practice based research and why I think that, if you are serious about inclusive museums, the ethical code of museums should be broadened to include education.