Researching primary school children's "museum theatre" experiences
As the number of museums that employ theatre as part of their educational provision is increasing there is a need for the articulation of the theoretical framework and an in-depth insight into the children's "museum theatre" experiences. The aim of this empirical research is to examine how primary school children "make meaning" of the form and content of the experience in two forms of "museum theatre": a) a participatory theatrical experience in the heritage site of Clarke Hall and b) first person interpretation events in the Museum of London. Based on the principles of the constructivist qualitative paradigm, the research attempts to offer an insight into how the children understand the content and format of the "museum theatre" experience. The research focuses on the interrelationship between the children's prior-to-the-event agenda and their "museum theatre" experiences and examines the children's experiences as products of relationships between the involved parties: the museum's agenda and the schools' agenda. The constructivist paradigm and the interpretive sociological approach illustrate the epistemological position that underpins the formulation of the research questions and the methodological framework employed. The data generation methods derive from ethnographical research methods and mainly involve interviews, observations and children's drawings. The research attempts to elucidate the parameters that shape the children's "museum theatre" experiences. These include the museum's setting and objects, the children's willingness to suspend disbelief, the interactive/participatory aspects of the experience and the opportunities given to children for reflection and generation of new understandings. The research findings underline the subjectivity of the theatrical experience, as shaped through the various objectives and expectations of the involved parties. They suggest that interplay between the event's format/content and the experience's fictional/real context is evident in the children's interpretation of their "museum theatre" experience.