Elee Kirk

Children, Nature, Museums

Research

Doctoral Research

Boy photographing badger at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Boy photographing badger at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Elee completed her PhD at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester in 2014. Her thesis title was “Crystal Teeth and Skeleton Eggs: Snapshots of young children’s experiences in a natural history museum”. The project took a child-centric approach to exploring what children aged four and five years experience when they visit a natural history museum with their family. The research was carried out at the beautiful Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The research can be summarised in two main questions: What are young children experiencing when they interact with natural history in a museum setting? And what methods can we use to understand children’s experiences in these settings? Elee’s intention was to find ways of providing pre-literate children with a voice within the museum literature, to which end she used children’s photography as a way of actively focusing the participants on communicating their experiences within the museum. Her findings included a detailed exploration of children’s observation skills, their fascination with ferocious predators, the ways in which they and their families navigate the museum together, and confirmation of photography as an excellent research tool in museum settings.

Elee always wanted to publish her research in book form. Unfortunately, she died whilst the book was still in draft form at the planning stage. Dr. Will Buckingham helped bring the project to completion, and Elee’s work is now published as “Snapshots of Museum Experience: Understanding Child Visitors Through Photography” (Routledge, 2018).

For more detailed findings, please see Elee’s other publications. You can also hear her talking about her research on this podcast from the group Boundary Objects.

After graduating from her PhD, Elee worked on a project outside of museum studies, whilst continuing to write and give talks drawing on her doctoral research. She was Research Associate on the project Law in Children’s Lives at the University of Leicester, using digital games as a means of exploring primary school children’s understandings of the law. This drew on her experience of carrying out participatory, experiential research with children, of using innovate research technologies, and of working with schools.

In 2015, Elee took up a senior lecturer position at the Institute of Education, to continue her research and teaching in museums.