MUSICEUM: Museums as spaces for early childhood music-making – a mapping exercise

<Download the final project report here>

This pilot study, funded by Cambridge University, brings together a team of experts at the University of Cambridge (Early Years Creativities & Music practice), Middlesex University (Early Childhood Education & Museum Education), Manchester Metropolitan University (Museum Education, Communities, Childhood, Sensory Ethnography and Visual Methodologies), Roehampton University (Early Childhood Education, Early Years Music Education) and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (Early Childhood Music Education and Community Music).


The study recognizes that museums represent a potentially rich space for families with young children in disadvantaged communities to access, and hence enjoy multiple benefits. Specifically, museums hold the potential to engage such families in Early Years music making programmes, which have been shown to offer myriad cognitive, social, emotional, and educational advantages (Pitt & Hargreaves, 2017; Pitt & Hargreaves, 2016; Osgood et al., 20132). However, despite the recent and dramatic increase in museum education, disadvantaged communities neither regularly access museums nor do museums offer inclusive music programmes for Early Years.

The literature shows overwhelming gaps in Early Years music making programmes, provision and practice in museums. This pilot study (2017-2018) will inform the development of a large grant application to the AHRC.

The Research Objectives for the pilot:

  1. Map an accurate and grounded understanding of the policies and practices that a sample of museums employ regarding their music programmes, Early Years provision, and/or inclusive community engagement (to be completed by early October).
  2. Gather perceptions of Museum educators and senior management stakeholders (including the chair of the Museum Association) and the attempts they are making, or have made, to include and sustain music programmes, Early Years provision, and/or inclusive community engagement (to be completed by late October).
  3. Identify and grow three regional teams (East Anglia, London, Manchester), and regional community networks; to develop the processes of teamwork (to include museum educators, community workers, Early Years artist practitioners, Early Years music educators and researchers); and to establish a basis for joint planning and collaborative practices. This phase will include a one-day team building and programme development workshop (early December).
  4. Coming to understand the crucial issues concerning programme evaluation and what this means for the development of an innovative tool for evaluating Early Years music-making in museums, emphasizing the role of collaboration and reflection in museums and community engagement.


This pilot study includes preliminary case studies at museums in East Anglia and London; and concludes with a one-day SUMMIT:

a. Two regionally diverse PRELIMINARY CASE STUDIES for the purpose of conducting fieldwork and analysis of: (a) a sample of stakeholder interviews, (b) a sample of observations of museum programmes, (c) a desk based literature review, (d) document analysis and (e) documentation and analysis of a one-day SUMMIT.

b. A one-day SUMMIT, will generate knowledge, with 40 strategically chosen/invited experts. In addition to staff from three participating museums, experts from Early Years arts practice, music education, arts council, community arts and museum research, or with an involvement in museum associations would be invited to participate.

The SUMMIT will enable:

  1. Charting and positioning a critical overview on current inclusive museum practices of Early Years music making; developing a theoretical lens on conceived, perceived and representational spaces of museums and Early Years practice;
  2. Generating understandings from a workshop led by a Finnish Early Years artist/music educator expert and researcher who has developed a BA program in higher education with learning outcomes in professional facilitation of participatory, creative music activities in museum contexts. Following a 30-minute segment with young children and their parents/carers, summit participants will reflect on the learning opportunities and potential benefits and challenges, both personally and socially, for individuals participating in this type of community engagement experience in museums;
  3. Documenting current practices in a sample of museums.
  4. Mapping and analysis of focus group discussions which facilitate network sharing and storying of museum practices, partnership/participatory programmes and the policy space from various stakeholder perspectives;
  5. Generating new understandings for developing a unique theoretical framing and thinking tools for: (a) building and evaluating diverse community partnerships and research relationships; (b) unpacking and evaluating neighbourhood issues that have impacted on museums; (c) critically thinking about theory and methods that have had impact on museum practice; and (d) identifying existing programmes and practices, challenges and expectations.

Outputs, dissemination and impact

The outputs anticipated from this pilot will include:

  1. A substantial report on the main findings drawn from interviews, observations, document analysis and the one-day forum, identifying the responses of 2 pilot case study museums. It is expected that key themes which arise from the data will be problematized and theorized in two articles submitted to two peer reviewed journals collaboratively written by researchers.
  2. Two articles, collaboratively written by research teams, each one led respectively by  Co-Is (Prof Pam Burnard and Prof Jayne Osgood), with each reporting on: (i) new and existing understandings of Early Years inclusive practices in museums and ‘good practice’ perspectives and challenges  in ways of working collaboratively to deliver Early Years music programmes in museums; and (ii) a critically annotated review of relevant literature and findings from this pilot, drawing the links between results of other research and the results of this pilot. The two journals will include (i) The International Journal of The Inclusive Museum and (ii) The International Journal of Early Years Education. We will present the findings from this pilot at The Inclusive Museum Research Network Conference held at University of Granada, Spain 6-8 September 2018.
  3. The major output of the pilot will be laying the foundation for a grant proposal to be submitted to the AHRC. The AHRC proposal will be informed by the findings from the pilot study and will provide clear evidence of established regional networks, participating museums and collaborative partnerships. Furthermore, the pilot will demonstrate an effective research team that is working to extend knowledge and inform practice in this neglected field.


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