When I decided to critique the British Museum’s website, I didn’t expect the breadth of material geared towards children. There is an entire section, titled “Young Explorers“, dedicated to the museum’s younger audience. There are 4 main categories in the Young Explorer section; Create, Play, Discover, and Post. This is the most extensive kids page I’ve ever seen on a museum’s website. I can see kids spending hours on the website and not running out of new things to try. Most of the material on the website is educational and successfully teaches about objects in the collection. Information is presented in multiple ways to appeal to multiple intelligences. The goal of putting this resource online may have been to reach out to children who could not visit in person. It allows kids to explore the museum’s collection from home. Children usually visit the museum with an adult, so they may not be able to get to the museum on their own even if they’re interested in visiting. On the other had, many kids would not be excited to be dragged to a museum by their parents. Playing games and doing activities from the website may get them excited before a visit to the museum. By creating a connection with the objects before the child visits, the website is building anticipation for what can be seen in person during a museum visit.
Create is a section with outlines of activities and crafts kids can try at home. Exciting activities include creating a cuneiform tablet, making a prop from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and cooking ancient Greek porridge. Each activity relates to an object in their collection. The activities can be done at home, and a brief interpretation is given along with instructions. Out of all the sections this one had the least amount of interpretation and at times I found myself questioning what would be learned from certain activities. However this may be the best way of learning for kinesthetic learners and also offers more of an opportunity for families and kids to learn together. If I could change one thing about the site, I would offer more opportunities for kids and parents to play together.
Play is a section with online games. I tried out three games and was more satisfied with some than others. The Explorer is a game that allows you to learn about the collection travelling “back in time for the ultimate adventure” and to save relics of the past. Little or Large is a game that asks you t guess an objects size in comparison to your own height. It starts off by asking you to enter your own height and then gives an introduction about how the size of some objects can be surprisingly large or tiny. I can see this being a fun game for younger children and adults. However it only included 3 very large objects from the collection and I felt could have used more variation. The last game I tested was The Great Dig which was supposed to put you in the role of an archaeologist digging up ancient artifacts. As a former archaeology major I had high hopes. Unfortunately this was the least user friendly of the games. There were no instructions and the game wasn’t very intuitive even for someone with background knowledge of archaeology. The game didn’t teach about the archaeological process, but it did teach about objects from the collection as they are dug up. All the games accomplished teaching kids about the objects from the collection and the civilizations they came from. More attention was obviously given to developing some of these games than others. I would improve by at least giving clear instructions for each game. I also think that this would be a good section to create more games that children can play with their parents or a friend since museums are often a social experience.
The Discover section had information presented in many different ways. An interactive world map showed where objects in the collection came from; Images of sculptures could be rotated and zoomed into for a closer look; Museum staff provided interpretation on various topics through brief videos. The developers of this website obviously put a lot of thought into the many different ways they could present information. With all the various media and techniques used, there is something engaging for every type of learner.
The last section, post is simply a place for kids to post whatever they’d like to share with staff and other museum visitors. Kids can send images of activities and projects they’ve completed inspired by the British Museum. They can also look through what other kids have submitted. It is a great way for young visitors to have a voice and feel some ownership of the museum. Children like to be recognized and contribute to the site. Hopefully this sense of ownership will motivate them to become lifelong learners and supporters of the museum.