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Museums and the future of education

Scott Kratz (Vice President for Education, National Building Museum, Washington, DC, USA)
Elizabeth Merritt (Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums (CFM), American Association of Museums, Washington, DC, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




The US educational system is on the cusp of transformational change. Signals that the current educational structure has been destabilized include rising dissatisfaction with the formal educational system and the proliferation of non‐traditional forms of primary education. In the coming era, museums will play a key role in the new educational landscape. A broad and shared understanding among policy makers, reformers and practitioners of the unique capabilities of museums will ensure that the new educational infrastructure takes full advantage of these strengths. This paper seeks to discuss these issues.


This paper provides an overview of educational innovation in a broad cross section of US museums, citing selected examples.


There is an emerging consensus that whatever the new educational era looks like, it will focus on the development of a core set of skills. This paper reviews some ways in which museums are helping learners develop the core skills of critical thinking, synthesizing information, ability to innovate and think creatively, and collaboration. The USA needs to scale up the educational resources and skills provided by its museums via online access, better indexing of online resources, physically incorporating museums into schools and schools into museums, and making museums central points for teacher training. This will ensure museums can provide equitable access to their unique resources and fulfill their potential in the new educational landscape.


By applying the techniques of forecasting to the field of education, this paper provides glimpses of potential futures as seen in the vibrant innovations in education currently taking place outside traditional schools.



Kratz, S. and Merritt, E. (2011), "Museums and the future of education", On the Horizon, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 188-195.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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