Work identities and the mission of art education
Burgamy, Aimee M.
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This praxis‐oriented study combines interviews with 11 museum educators and an ethnographic investigation of the midsize American Association of Museums (AAM)‐accredited art museum in the Southeastern United States where the educators began their museum careers. With tenures that span more than 20 years from 1986 to 2007, the presentation of data begins with the voice of the first professional curator of education, a solo practitioner, and continues with the 10 educators who joined her. As the museum grew and professionalized, the position expanded into an enclave of consecutive, and sometimes concurrent, practitioners who were given various assistant and associate curator titles. The resulting case study, a history of one department over time, informs the understanding of the emerging field of art museum education by recording and considering the varying ways participants answer for themselves the question of museum education’s mission. Current museum education policy, or the museum educator’s functional understanding of the purpose of their work, is referred to in the study as a “philosophy of work identity” or simply as “work identity.” The study’s conclusions address issues of feminization in museum education, perceptions of early childhood art exposure on future museum participation, cultural diversity and museum audience development, museum educator preparation and retention, and the role of instructional technology in museum education.