‘The house’ as a framing device for public engagement in STEM museums

Louise Whiteley, Anette Stenslund, Ken Arnold, Thomas Söderqvist


In the last five to ten years, several science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) museums have been experimenting with new forms of public engagement, aiming to be places for curiosity-driven investigation of the cultures of science via multiple perspectives, bringing artists, scientists, researchers, clinicians, members of the public and others together. Yet these diverse and rapidly evolving sites lack a clear definition of their family resemblances – something we argue is crucial for better understanding, advocating, and evaluating what they do. As a starting point for this definitional project we propose ‘the house’ as a metaphor and framing device for public engagement in STEM museums, grounded in experiences at Medical Museion in Denmark and Wellcome Collection in the UK. We further suggest that a Goldilocks principle – the notion of lying between two poles of a continuum in a ‘just right’ position – captures several key features of what it is about the idea of a house that resonates with the approach to public engagement in these museums.

Key words: STEM museums, science communication, public engagement, house.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v15i2.833

Copyright (c) 2017 Louise Whiteley, Anette Stenslund, Ken Arnold, Thomas Söderqvist

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360