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Museum Education – Meeting the Audience's Needs

Lam Yuen-man, Maria 
Assistant Curator I (Chinese Antiquities), Hong Kong Museum of Art 
2008

Alongside acquisition, research and exhibition, education is one of the basic functions of the museum. The past few decades have seen "museums [...] changing from being static storehouses for artefacts into active learning environments for people", in the words of museum expert Eilean Hooper-Greenhill. The growing orientation on "people" re-establishes the educational functions of the museum, with museum education now playing a key role in bridging the gap between the museum and its audience. Through different programming and planning, the Hong Kong Museum of Art hopes to serve as an establishment where everyone can experience, learn about and enjoy art.

The audience that we cater for is not limited to one particular niche of the public; our challenge is to provide a balanced programme of educational activities for all segments of the community. Looking at the tie-in programmes for our past exhibitions as examples, we have made a concerted effort to provide a variety of educational opportunities for all ages and abilities. These have included academic lectures, specially focused gallery talks, "Meet the Curator" forums, thematic audio tours, entertainment videos, educational publications, online resources and so on. Our hope is that the greater the range of programmes and experiences that we offer, the wider the audience the museum can attract and the greater the number of visitors who are likely to leave the museum stimulated and satisfied.

The museum also offers a range of educational programmes for schools both at the museum and in the classroom. In-house activities include free school visits to the museum, audio guided tours, video screenings, "School Culture Day" programmes, etc. To develop closer ties with art teachers, we collaborated with the Education Bureau to produce the online course "Appreciation of Hong Kong Art" and the "In Touch with Visual Arts" teachers' workshops some years ago. Other outreach programmes supply small-scale travelling exhibitions, teaching kits and audiovisual materials to schools. For the new academic year, we have produced a new set of travelling exhibitions entitled "Collection Highlights of the Hong Kong Museum of Art" for loan to schools. Based on the museum's artefacts and comprising illustrations, text panels and PowerPoint presentations, these resources aim to stimulate students' powers of observation and provide them with the opportunity to learn more about Chinese and local art by reference to the museum's collections.

Museum education is a continuously growing service industry. By offering a variety of education programmes, we hope that every seed we sow will spark an interest and encourage audience participation. In the coming years, we will continue to improve our programmes and services and strive to develop partnerships with other educational and cultural institutions in order to broaden the reach of our art education programmes and encourage public engagement in the arts in the future.

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