Performance as a medium of learning in museums and at heritage sites - an investigation

Project start date: 2005-07 Project end date: 2008-11
The PERFORMANCE, LEARNING AND HERITAGE research project is an investigation into the uses and impact of performance as a medium of learning in museums and at historic sites. The Centre for Applied Theatre Research (CATR) undertook research into the increasing and varied use being made of theatre and other drama-based activity as interpretive tools with visitors to museums and historic sites - an expanding but relatively under-researched field of performance practice. We observed, documented and analysed a variety of performance styles in relation to their site-specific contexts; encompassed the experience of, and response to, performance, of independent adult visitors, family groups and organised educational groups; in collaboration with Manchester Museum , commissioned a new professional performance piece to test and build on research findings as they began to emerge (performed in 2007); mapped the extent, style and functions of performance as a learning medium in museums and historic sites throughout the UK and abroad (an ongoing enterprise). The three year project began work in July 2005 and has culminated in publications (including journal articles, plans for an edited book, a searchable database and a DVD) and an international conference in Manchester in Spring 2008. The book, "Performing Heritage" will be published in late 2010 or early 2011.
Methods usedCategory
2d scanning and photographyData capture
Audio interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Cataloguing and indexingData structuring and enhancement
Coding and standardisationData structuring and enhancement
Collaborative publishingData publishing and dissemination
CollatingData analysis
Content analysisData analysis
Desktop publishing and pre-pressData publishing and dissemination
Disk publishingData publishing and dissemination
DocumentationStrategy and project management
General project managementStrategy and project management
General website developmentData publishing and dissemination
Moving image captureData capture
Moving image capturePractice-led research
PhotographyPractice-led research
Resource sharingData publishing and dissemination
Searching and queryingData analysis
Sound editingData structuring and enhancement
Sound editingPractice-led research
Sound recordingData capture
Sound recordingPractice-led research
Textual interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Use of existing digital dataData capture
Video editingData structuring and enhancement
Video editingPractice-led research
Video post productionPractice-led research
Video-based interaction (asynchronous)Communication and collaboration
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Software tools used: 
Source material used:  
documents, photographs, DVDs, websites of museums, heritage organisations & theatre companies whose work we investigated. All logged, & scanned where appropriate into the project database.
Digital resource created:  
A searchable database and a DVD of examples of performances in museums and at historic sites. The full, detailed report + executive summary (Nov. 2008) are available in hard copy, via the project website and as cd-rom.
Access to digital resource:  
Open Access
Data Formats created: 
[all by Jackson except where stated otherwise]

(2010) Co-author, with Jenny Kidd, ‘Museum theatre: cultivating audience engagement. A case study’, in J. Shu & P. Chan (eds.), The IDEA 2007 Dialogues: planting trees of drama with global vision in local knowledge. Hong Kong: TEFO & IATC, pp. 240-254.

(2007) Co-author, with Catherine Hughes and Jenny Kidd, ‘The Role of Theater in Museums and Historic Sites: Visitors, Audiences and Learners’, in Bresler, L., ed., International Handbook of Research in Arts Education. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 677–693.

(2008) Performance, Learning & Heritage – DVD, giving selected highlights of museum performances documented by the PLH research team, with voice-over commentary by Jackson. Also contains selected extracts from keynote speeches given at the Performing Heritage International Conference, Manchester, April 2008.

(2010) ‘Visitors becoming audiences: negotiating spectatorship in museum performance’, in About Performance v.10 (July 2010: University of Sydney)

(2008) For the AHRC: Performance, Learning & Heritage, a report by Jackson & Kidd (155 pages + 17 page Executive Summary). Report also available online at:

Kidd, J. (2007) ‘Filling the Gaps: Interpreting museum collections through performance’ in The Journal of Museum Ethnography, vol. 19, pp. 57-69.

At press:
Edited book: 'Performing Heritage: research, practice and innovation in museum theatre and live interpretation' (co-edited with Jenny Kidd). Expected publication: November 2010.

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
University of Manchester
Other institutions involved:
Partner museums (see above)

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Anthony Jackson
Other staff:PhD student(s), Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:Partner museums, providing case study sites: The Manchester Museum; The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Llancaiach Fawr Manor, S. Wales; Herbert Museum & Art Gallery with Triangle Theatre Company, Coventry.

Metadata on this record
Author(s) of recordAnthony Jackson
TitlePerformance as a medium of learning in museums and at heritage sites - an investigation
Record created2010-08-18
Record updated2010-08-18 10:03
URL of record
Citation of recordAnthony Jackson: Performance as a medium of learning in museums and at heritage sites - an investigation. <> created: 2010-08-18, last updated 2010-08-18 10:03
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