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Peter van Mensch | Professor of Cultural HeritageTERUG Amsterdam School of the Arts

Over De leertheorie van Kolb in het museum. Dromer, Denker, Beslisser, Doener. Els Hoogstraat en Annemarie Vels Heijn.

"In the museum world the relation between theory and practice is not without problems. Where, for example, as to conservation and restoration theory is well accepted

    as necessary framework for practice and the reflection
  on practice, practitioners in the field of exhibition design
  seem to be less interested in theoretical concepts.
  Paradoxically, theory concerning exhibiting is well
  developed. It is, however, not very well used. There may
  be different reasons for this, two of them being
Afbeelding: illustratie van publicatie De leertheorie van Kolb in het museum  

accessibility and applicability.

One body of theories available for use but too often neglected is the theory of learning. Since many professionals working in the field of museum education have an academic background in didactics, learning theories have been known and applied for a long time in educational programs. Exhibition design is considered to be another specialism, and practitioners in this field are hardly prepared to conceptualise exhibitions in terms of learning environments. In her book De leertheorie van Kolb in het museum (Nederlandse Museumvereniging, Amsterdam 2006) Els Hoogstraat tries to bridge the gap between museum education and exhibition design, using the concept of “experiential learning” as developed by David Kolb in the 1980s.

Besides providing a clear introduction to Kolb´s theory, the value of the book is in its applicability. The reader – hopefully an exhibition designer – is invited to discover his own learning style. The test illustrates the theory of the preceding chapters. Even more illustrative is the list of technical recommendations for making exhibitions more attractive and effective for different types of learners. Finally, the book shows how learning theory can (should) be involved in the successive phases of the process of exhibition design.

Kolb´s emphasis on learning as a process, is also implemented in the design of the book. The book respects the different learning styles of the reader, i.e. exhibition designer. Those looking for concrete examples are served by detailed information about how learning theory was used in designing the British Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum (London). Also the experiments of the Dutch Zaans Museum are described as a case study of success and failure.

The publication of the book is timely, not only because of a general need to improve the standards of exhibition design, but in particular also because reflection on learning styles is a crucial element of the theory and practice of social inclusion. Being socially inclusive is one of the key conditions for a sustainable future of museums."