This is by far the most detailed book I have come across about organising visits to museums and using them as learning tools, resources, inspiration and stimuli. It covers preparation, logistics, legal requirements, risk assessment, time management, follow-ups, long-term strategies and building relationships with museums and cultural institutions and sites.
It provides a large amount of detail on how you can work with buildings, objects, pictorial and documentary material as well as how you can use loan services and online and digital sources.
At the end of his book, Talboys writes, 'This book has only scratched the surface of the subject, introducing you to some of the basics. The rest comes with practice and experience'. I would have to disagree; I found this book very comprehensive and I have worked both as a teacher and a museum educator for many years. I would certainly hope that the level of detail and the myriad of things to think about and plan would not put anybody off visiting museums because they feel they wouldn’t be able to do justice to Mr Talboys.
I would have liked to see more tables and perhaps short lists that could be used as a resource to help people in developing their planning and it would have been useful to use examples and/or case studies from teachers to give a more practical aspect to the book.
The world of museum and cultural learning is developing rapidly, with more places either offering digital devices such as cameras, videos, iPods and tablets or advising and allowing visitors to use their own devices as ways of capturing, consuming, creating, collaborating and communicating their experience. Talboys doesn't address these issues, and the section which deals with online and digital sources is somewhat sparse and could usefully be extended, perhaps in a future edition.
Museums are developing or adopting new learning theories such as blended learning or Philosophy for Children and experimenting with self-organising, student-generated and informal learning methods. I think students and teachers would be interested in how you might use these with collections and cultural sites.
Museums and other cultural institutions are always looking to engage with new audiences. Many adult learning institutions as well as special educational needs (SEN) schools and services, language schools, community groups and special interest groups use cultural places as learning environments. This book doesn't deal with these groups, but perhaps there’s another book that Mr Talboys could write that addresses these learners.
If you are interested in using museums as an educational resource and you work in a school, then this is a detailed and thorough book that will give you more than enough to be able to make your visits a productive, exciting and inspiring learning experience.
Paul Clifford is this month's guest reviewer. Paul is currently the Digital Programmes Manager at the Museum of London, developing, delivering and evaluating innovative blended learning sessions for a range of different audiences including primary-aged school children, families and SEN clients. Paul previously developed blended learning sessions at the British Museum and developed and managed their digital learning facility from 2000. He has been involved with many significant projects including 'Mummy: the inside story', a three-dimensional exploration of a 4,000-year-old mummy, and the National Museums Online Project. Before this Paul worked in formal education, community education and the creative arts field.
Review by (Paul Clifford, Digital Programmes Manager, Museum of London) (2012) 'Using museums as an educational resource: an introductory handbook for students and teachers' Research in Teacher Education, Vol 2 (No.2), 48-51.