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1999 "Pleasures of Dicovery"

Exploring a museum should also include an element of play. We should feel the same excitement as when starting out on a journey where every object and testimony bring to light phenomena that are new and unknown. This is how Jacques Perot, the President of ICOM, has greeted the theme for the next International Museum Day. On 18th May 1999 museums throughout the world will be celebrating the Pleasures of Discovery, the enjoyment for all museums visitors that goes hand in hand with acquiring knowledge. The museum as a learning tool calls upon our sensitivity and our feelings, and enables us to understand the world in which we live as we set out to discover ourselves, our technical, scientific and natural environment and that of the living beings around us, as well as the discovery of the other in terms of time and space.

Pleasures of Discovery
George H. Hein

Professor Emeritus, Senior Research Associate, Program Evaluation & Research Group, Lesley College, Cambridge MA, United States.
Former Chairperson of ICOM's International Committee for Education and Cultural Action.
Board member of ICOM's American National Committee.

sticker 1999I applaud ICOM's decision to assign the theme Pleasures of Discovery to the 1999 International Museum Day, and to highlight the idea of enjoyment associated with museum visits. Recent emphasis on the educational role of museums has sometimes obscured the extent to which museums should provide pleasure for all ages and awaken all our senses, as ICOM's press release mentions.
I hope, however, that no one will misunderstand the statement and conclude that we need to make a choice between pleasure and education. Acquiring knowledge and leisure and entertainment have been artificially separated for too long, and today, an essential aspect of modern educational theory is that these two activities are closely linked. While children learn through natural play activities, we have come to recognise that adults, too, in combining entertainment with education can be ensured to provide enjoyable educational experiences.
Visitor studies indicate that museum visitors, like theatre goers, come for entertainment and education and do not necessarily separate the two.
That combination of motives, and the opportunities museums provide to satisfy them simultaneously, powerfully associate museums with other cultural activities, such as attending theatre performances. And for as long as humans have reflected on their development, drama has been recognised as a form of entertainment providing both pleasure and education. Similarly, museum visits allow us to discover ourselves by awakening all our senses. That is education.

Articles published in: "ICOM News", Volume 52 - 1999 N°1&2

Updated: 20 September 2005