Accepted paper:

Budding Photographers: Young Children's Use of Digital Cameras in a Museum


Elee Kirk (University of Leicester)

Paper short abstract:

Young children took part in research that used their digital photographs of a family visit to a natural history museum. This paper explores their photographic practice, and the ways in which the camera impacted upon their museum experience.

Paper long abstract:

In 2011, 32 children aged four and five years took part in research investigating their experiences in a UK natural history museum. Children visiting the museum with their families were given a digital camera, asked to photograph things that they liked or found interesting, and were then interviewed about their photographs. This visual methodology, the resulting 1,597 photographs, and the children's own words, have revealed many aspects of their museum experience, from social negotiations to coming face-to-face with dinosaurs. It was also clear from the research that there was something interesting in the way the children related to the camera. This paper firstly proposes that the success of this methodology results from allowing children to mirror adult behaviour in the museum, taking photographs and then using them to remember and discuss the visit. Secondly, the paper discusses what the research has revealed about children's budding photographic skills, and their adoption of photographic behaviours and techniques, including framing, portraits and even selfies. Thirdly, it explores the impact of the camera on the children's museum visit more broadly, including on their dealings with family members, and possible positive or detrimental impacts on their engagement with museum objects. Cameras are an increasingly important tool in educational research with young children. The success of the above research project suggests that the existing culture of tourist photography in museums makes this a particularly useful and interesting methodological tool in this setting, with much potential for further exploration.

panel P02
Museums and Visitor Photography