International Journal of Art & Design Education

Young Children as Curators (pages 29–40)

Volume 37.1   2018



Literature that addresses young children's learning in galleries and museums typically concentrates on what is already offered and discusses what has proven to be effective, or not, in accommodating their needs. This article offers insight into how objects can be explored with early years children at school, to create greater understanding of galleries, museums and their collections. I argue that through an exploration of curation as a meaning making process, children transfer experiences to make meaning in other contexts that place high value on learning in and through art and artefacts. I present a case study carried out in a Tower Hamlets primary school where children, aged 4–5, were invited to collect and display objects in a role-play ‘museum’, with the aim of presenting artefacts typically used in their classroom. They were encouraged to make new meaning from familiar objects through a curatorial process involving creative display and role play. This project enabled young children to address their own ‘heritage’ rather than the more typical situation in which children are taken to museums in order to learn about that of others. The findings of this study highlight values that young children place upon museums, emphasising the need for greater interaction and play when engaging with objects in educational contexts. When young children are allowed to assign their own meaning to objects by transforming their purpose, they are more likely to develop an understanding of the intentions of museums and develop more curiosity towards the curatorial decisions made by others.