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Professor of Museum Studies takes key role at Tokyo conference


Professor of Museum Studies, Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, travelled in December to Japan in response to an invitation to give the keynote address at the Japan Museum Management Academy's one-day conference on Museums and Communication. Her lecture set the agenda for discussion groups' presentations during the day, with the proceedings brought to a close with a conference reception.

Held in Tokyo on Saturday, December 8, with a pre-meeting with the JMMA on Friday, December 7 to discuss the issues of museums and communication, the conference was attended by over 200 delegates. Some delegates came from companies that work with museums, others were curators, and some were academics teaching museum studies at an undergraduate level (for which in Japan there are many courses and modules available). 

Keynote presentation

Professor Hooper-Greenhill chose Museums, Communication and Learning: New Social Roles for Museums as the title for her keynote international presentation. 

"In the last ten years museums have become very much more interested in their role as communicators", she informed the delegates. "Where the focus of much of the work of museums in the past was on matters to do with acquisitions, collection management, conservation and storage, today the potential of the museum as a medium for communication and learning has become much more important." 

"Today, museums are developing a view of themselves as communicators, and are beginning to reflect on the approach to communication that they use. The formal, authoritative and didactic style of the traditional museum is now seen as a not very effective way to communicate with repeat visitors, and as entirely inappropriate where new audiences need to be encouraged to visit for the first time. 

"A more friendly, companionable and informal approach to communication that acknowledges the interests and prior knowledge of visitors is beginning to emerge.

"Communication and learning theory can help museums to analyse and appraise their existing practice and can suggest a conceptual framework on which to base new ways of making and sustaining relationships with their actual and potential audiences." 

Professor Hooper-Greenhill's presentation introduced two ways of understanding communication, links communication theory to learning theory, and presented examples of museum exhibitions that illustrate a formal, didactic style of communication and an informal and friendly style of communication.

The conference was sponsored by The Institute of Cultural Environments, designers of high quality museum displays in Japan and nearby countries. 

The Institute will publish an interview with Professor Hooper-Greenhill in their influential journal in March. The interview was conducted by Yuri Takeuchi (pictured nearest camera), a former Leicester student, who works part-time for the National Museum of Japanese History, and who has in the past worked for the Institute.  Professor Hooper-Greenhill with conference organisers in Japan

Nobuhiro Takahashi (pictured above, left of table, leaning forward), Director of the Institute of Cultural Environments, spent four days showing Professor Hooper-Greenhill (pictured above, right of table, centre) round Tokyo, visiting national and local authority museums and also a range of different Japanese restaurants, where different styles of eating and of drinking saki were explained and demonstrated. She was also very pleased to meet former departmental students again over dinner.

Professor Hooper-Greenhill is Director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries. She has since received warm thanks for her contribution to this very successful conference. 

January 2003

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Last updated: 3 January 2003 12:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall
Created by: Barbara Whiteman

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