Museums and Social Issues: Heuristics for Creating Change

Kris Morrissey, John Fraser, Theresa Ball


The field of informal learning has become increasingly adept at designing, measuring, and achieving learning goals for a range of audiences. However, addressing the critical social issues of our time may require new skill sets, areas of expertise, types of partnerships and assumptions about success.

To explore how informal learning practices are addressing social issues, we reviewed more than 200 articles, research studies, and evaluation reports (Morrissey et al. 2021). We examined the topics addressed or avoided, the types of impacts achieved, and patterns and trends that suggested gaps, opportunities, or barriers to advancing informal learning practices that address social issues.

We paid particular attention to the impacts achieved or not achieved, and to the reflections and recommendations in these articles. Drawing from what we saw, we share six heuristics that can be used as guides and, perhaps, as steps towards building generalizable principles and theories that may inform future practice: (1) Focus on how and when to engage with social issues, rather than if; (2) Develop and support talent; (3) Don’t ignore entrenched societal systems and forces; (4) Collaborate outside the box; (5) Acknowledge inequities; (6) Rethink how to measure success.


Social Issues, Museum Practice, Heuristics, Social Problems

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Copyright (c) 2022 Kris Morrissey, John Fraser, Theresa Ball

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Museum and Society

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