Research and Collections

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Museum-Related Education in Quebec: An Historical Survey – Page 3


– Page 3 –

Episode 3: Professionalization

The following years were characterized by an openness to the public and an awareness of the needs and expectations of different client groups, which gave added momentum to the museum’s educational mission. During the 1980s and 1990s, museum educators increasingly assumed a key role in their institutions. The lingering tendency to view educators as “museum accessories” diminished as they equipped themselves with the tools needed to accomplish their tasks. These tools were as much philosophical as technical: theories of learning based on the nature of the museum (see Vygotsky, Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi), pressure groups (GIS,* GEM,* MERT,* CECA,* GISEM* and others), structured discourse on the profession (see Allard, Dufresne-Tassé and Lefebvre, Hooper-Greenhill, Hein, Falk and Dierking), etc. The educator has increasingly defined himself or herself In this way, especially during the last ten years, as an advocate for the public and a specialist in theories of learning, communication, interpretation and evaluation.

Comparison of the Devis professionnel de l’éducateur, published in 1989, and the Analyse de la profession du chargé de projet à l’action éducative et culturelle, published in 2000:

It is interesting to note the broadening of the educational function and of the educator’s role within museum institutions during a single decade.

  1989 2000
Position title Museum educator, interpreter Project manager for educational and cultural action
Concepts Accessibility, students, hands-on learning, links with schools Mediation, interpretation, educational and cultural action


Accompaniment mission. Terms similar to those used in 2000. Educational mission that refers to museum-related education and cultural action. Enhancement of collections and making contact with target populations.


Guided tour, workshop, etc. Guided tour, workshop, etc.


Very little. Workshops, conferences, round-table talks, are mentioned. Teaching activities: conferences, round-table talks.
Play activities: games, storytelling Artistic expression: theatre, music, dance


  1. Develop programming
  2. Design teaching material
  3. Ensure that programming is implemented
  4. Manage one’s activities
  5. Do research
  6. Promote and enhance the profession’s image

  1. Programming of projects related to educational and cultural action
  2. Design and completion of a project linked to educational and cultural action
  3. Implementation of the project
  4. Management of financial and material resources
  5. Participation in the selection and conception of exhibition projects, in some instances
  6. Development of one’s expertise

Four fact-finding reports, three of American or British origin, have had a major impact on the development of museum-related education: UNESCO’s Musées, imagination et education (1973), Museum for a New Century (1984), Excellence and Equity (1992) and A Common Wealth (1997). These reports created a shock wave, which lead to the recognition of the educational nature of the museum. According to the UNESCO report: “A visit to the museum becomes a passionate adventure; it contains an element of personal discovery, of emulation, that gets children involved and puts them at ease. It is no longer a question of noting names and dates, but rather of learning to recognize, visually, the characteristics that differentiate centuries and countries, or the works of such and such an artist. This concept of visual learning constitutes the original contribution of museums to education, and it applies to all ages and every stage of intellectual development.” In his report, Anderson wrote: “By making education the raison d’etre of all their activities, museums can both reaffirm the purpose for which they were created, and meet the challenge of the learning society which the United Kingdom is becoming.” This reality is equally present in Quebec. Moreover, the latest GREM* survey indicates that most museums in Quebec have an education specialist (a term which has included, for the past few years, the concepts of interpretation and/or cultural action). Recent museum policy also reiterates the educational mission of the museum: “Museum institutions are …called upon to build on their uniqueness as places for education and delight, as much as depositories for the real, the authentic, the palpable, and the extraordinary.”


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