Museum Experience through Inquiry Drama

1.   Theoretical framework: Drama in the Museum

Drama as a creative pedagogic process and the museum as a meaningful informal learning environment refer – in their own ways – to humanity and culture, aiming at spiritual, emotional, embodied experiences and experiential learning. Drama in formal education as a holistic approach to knowledge, values, attitudes and skills leads participants to inquiry, innovation, imagination, self-identification and empathy (O’ Toole et al. 2002; Neelands et al. 2003). Museums in the 21st century provide experience, knowledge and skills to visitors/students (Hooper-Greenhill 1994, 2000), offer opportunities of reflection, inquiry and application to life (Hein 2004), and produce and reproduce meanings and attitudes (Pearce 1993). In  addition to that, museum pedagogy uses several experiential methods, like workshops and dramatic events (Hooper-Greenhill 2000, 2007). Therefore, the theoretical framework of this article refers to inquiry in drama and museum experience as a keyword to museum education programmes.

1.1            Drama, museum learning and experience: experiential learning and meaning-making through drama

Drama in education suggests participation, cooperation, development of skills and attitudes; drama leads to real-life solutions and handles processes intellectually, emotionally and physically (Johnson et al. 1984; Ackroyd 2006). In a recent study on creating personal meanings and multicultural prospects by child participants constructing meanings and identity through drama, the researchers’ conclusion was that collaborative drama enriched self-understanding (Fitzpatrick et al. 2013: 19).

Drama in formal and non-formal education is increasingly attracting research, so that conferences, professional journals, projects and workshops often focus on Drama approaches. Drama for meaningful learning, creativity, personal and social development in or outside the classroom has become of great interest as the various National Drama Conferences indicate. For instance, the conversation between Dorothy Heathcote and David Booth was one of the highlights of the National Drama 2008 International Conference. Moreover, the Manchester University Centre for Applied Theatre Research presented a stimulating conference paper about museum theatre and effective learning through drama at the 6th World Congress of International Drama Theatre and Education Association (IDEA) in 2007 (Jackson et al. 2007, 2008). Also, the 21st Drama in Education Congress (2017) examined, as the website of the congress underlines, drama in and outside pedagogical environments. From this point of view, practices of theatre and drama are related to the non-formal pedagogical environment of museums. For instance, there are interesting workshops in museum and heritage locations, such as the workshop On Common Grounds? organized by the Centre for Anthropological  Research on  Museums  and Heritage in Berlin (2018-2020), as well as other projects such as Living History, a Broward Education Foundation programme in Florida (USA) that transforms classrooms into museum exhibitions through drama (Farone 2015). Consequently, experiential learning in museums and meaningful understanding through drama

have gradually become core research themes in the related international research community.

Beyond theory and research projects, drama in museums is related with interactive and enjoyable conventions, experiential learning and visitors’ motivation in museums, as education and entertainment have the greatest effect on museum visitors (Falk et al. 2004:73). Since 2010, the experiences of museum research students, through interactive elements of object-based learning, have led to a deeper and more memorable museum learning experience (Chatterjee et al. 2016: 48). A recent article titled The Power of Concrete Experience: Museum Collections, Touch and Meaning making in Art and Design Pedagogy suggests the power of senses and experiences in meaning making and encourages the development of more participatory learning environments. Thus, it meets Bruner’s requirements for motivation learning and multiple senses (Chatterjee et al. 2016: 43-56). Theatre in museums is also used as an experiential process and promotes an interesting way of visitors’ communicating with exhibits and meaning making (Bridal 2004).

Meaning-making in education is a significant issue to consider: research into cultural and intercultural meanings in drama education is a challenging process as it is also in museum education, taking into account the global cultural dimension of museum experience (Falk et al. 2013: 66) and multicultural museum experience (Filippoupoliti et al. 2015). A three-year project, The Museum, the Exhibition and the Visitors: Meaning making in a new arena for learning and communication (funded by the Swedish Research Council) examined what might be the parameters of meaning- making: visitors engage in a museum exhibition via representation and interpretation (Kress et al. 2012; Diamantopoulou at al. 2014). Another project, Performance, Learning and Heritage (2005-2008) collected data from four case studies in the UK in order to investigate how performance and drama activities in museums and heritage locations can affect experiential learning and interpretation (Jackson et al. 2007).

The prospect of using drama methods in the museum as a progressive and interactive practice or using Museum Movement Techniques as a way to increase understanding, engagement and comprehension of school age children in museums (Weisberg 2006), lead museum educators and animators to produce museum programmes that transform the visitor experience to an enriched, life-gaining experience, especially when students participate. Falk and Dierking (2000) have focused on the importance of ‘free-choice’ learning, as students/visitors are influenced by personal, situational and social parameters to create meanings and new experiences (Hein 2012:179). Current relevant research work indicates that a supportive environment for reflection, interactive, multiple representation of human life and activities – both past and present – may create a meaningful memorial and heritage museum visit (Macdonald 2011). From this standpoint, the educational process becomes challenging as museum educators try to create meanings for young children in museums through drama, to provide a good and deep understanding of prior knowledges, linked to meditation, social learning opportunities, critical thinking and questioning (Kelly 2012:54).

Likewise, researchers, organisations like The International Museum Theatre Alliance and museum professionals seem to pay attention to drama in museums in order to interpret objects and collections. After all, the museum exhibition environment (that is, the artifacts, architecture, lights, sounds, photos) bears resemblance to a theatrical scene. The idea of exhibits taking roles and museum visitors functioning also in roles, as if they were actors or audience in a theatre scene, is a very stimulating concept. In the U.K, since 1980, art galleries organise artists’ residencies in schools, artists construct workshops in schools or in museums (Hooper-Greenhill 1994:169). Of course, drama in museums, that is, drama as a learning and emotional process in creative settings and development, refers not only to actors and performances that create meaning for visitors, but also to visitors’ individual or shared activity through the impact of drama on critical, empathic and emotional intelligence. Role playing activities, drama methods and performances are common techniques in museums. Yet, inquiry drama in the museum could enrich further museum experience, especially when students are involved.

1.2            Inquiry drama in formal and non-formal learning environments

Inquiry, especially Inquiry Based Learning (IBL), is nowadays a significant key to learning (National Research Council 2000; Preston et al. 2015). Inquiry in drama is suggested by Neelands (1990) as an exploration and participatory process and contributes to a multidimensional and creative access to the curriculum through theatrical form (Dimasi et al. 2013). The inquiry approach to drama was also developed by Process Drama (O’ Neil 1995), Theatre of the Oppressed and Forum Theatre (Boal 1982), and Mantle of the Expert (Heathcote et al. 1995). Heathcote’s approach in which students take responsibility for constructing their own knowledge and behave as adults taking responsibility for the consequences of their decisions (Booth 2012: 102) meets Falk and Dierking’s approach to free choice museum learning, interactive museum experience and visitors’ responsibility for meaning making, personal and interpersonal plane of development through museums (Falk et al. 2013). The term Theatre Inquiry refers to a process of asking questions, giving answers, acting like an expert, being creative, having multiple perspectives of life in order

to identify and represent a human experience’ (Kolis at al. 2017:119).

Inquiry drama, the interactive pedagogical model proposed in this article, has been developed mainly through the research of Simos Papadopoulos and, as a drama process and an inquiry process, consists of five stages:

‘a) creating a suitable atmosphere among the group,

  • introducing the children to the initial environment of the story,exploring and creating the new dramatic environment,assessing and comprehending the new experience,
  • optional stage, concerning the presentation of the total theatrical


(Papadopoulos 2010: 137).

This method uses multiple drama and inquiry techniques, such as questions and answers/thoughts and social situation tracking, forum theatre, role-playing, hot seating, monologues, freeze frame, conflicting advice, writing in role, writing workshops, moments of day in life: past, present, future. As a method that involves enriched drama inquiries’ procedures and developed stages, it gives the animateur the opportunity to lead participants in many dimensional inquiry spaces: place, time, personal, social, historical, psychological emotions, needs, choices, attitudes. As regards the utilisation of inquiry drama in non-formal learning environments, inquiry drama method has been extended in museums through an on-going doctoral research proposal in Greece.

Inquiry, reflective and experiential learning is a basic term, not only in formal education (Moon 2006) but also in non-formal education, as in museum education. Hein suggested (fig.1) that experiential learning, empathy, constructing our own understanding/meaning through museum exhibitions requires participation and inquiry (Hein 1998). Dewey, also, suggested that

‘learning involves increasing our understanding of the reciprocal relationship between means and consequencesemphasises the need to eliminate the dualism between thought and action’ (Hein 2012:200).

Therefore, action and re-action is needed to construct and re-construct meanings. Inquiry in museums may be connected with perceptual and intellectual curiosity, as Perry suggests (2012: 97-98), including curiosity into the ways that help meaningful engagement in the museum.

2.     Bridging theory with practice: the museum inquiry programme

Effective museum learning environments create an urgent need to construct theory through the practice of designing museum programmes which consider inquiry, students’ motivations and expectations from a museum visit. Therefore, we designed an interactive museum education programme based on the above- mentioned method of inquiry drama. We believe that this is an alternative pedagogical proposal to museum learning and experience and we hope to contribute to the experiential meaning-making of culture and heritage. This inquiry drama museum programme concerned a field appropriate to questions and answers through drama techniques that allowed participants in a naturally different learning environment to examine life, as it is presented and represented in the museum showcase.

The museum programme is entitled Panaoulas: a part of a traditional community and is targeted to school groups with children 10-12 years old. The programme utilises one of the main exhibitions of the Historical Museum of Alexandroupoli, a

local museum in Alexandroupoli, a city in Northern Greece and the capital of Evros, regional unit in East Macedonia and Thrace. It is an important port and commercial centre of northeastern Greece, one of the newest cities in Greece (19th century) with a multicultural heritage. The Historical Museum of Alexandroupoli is a local museum with a modern museological approach with two permanent exhibitions about local history and heritage (fig. 2). Specifically, the museum programme Panaoulas: a part of a traditional community is based on Helen Philippides’ exhibition about the traditional community of Sarakatsani in Thrace. Sarakatsani is a Greek population subgroup of traditionally transient shepherds; about this community there are few sociological and ethnological reviews (Mavrogiannis, 1998; Kavadias 1991).

The museum project took place in the Historical Museum of Alexandroupoli during 2016-2017. The whole project included 22 education programmes, in which 348 students participated. Four primary schools of Alexandroupoli collaborated with the museum in this education programme and one of them (the 11th Primary School of Alexandroupoli) included this museum programme in an Erasmus Plus project, entitled European Folk Tales: Hidden treasures (2016-2017). The duration of each programme was one and a half hours. The purpose of the museum programme was to examine how inquiry drama techniques support creating meanings, dynamically involve students in the museum environment and give voice to the unknown and unspoken stories hidden below the exhibits, reflecting the prospect of the 2017 theme of International Museum Day, Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspoken in museums.

Fig. 2. The Historical Museum of Alexandroupoli, one of the main exhibitions

2.1The perspectives of the inquiry museum programme in a historical museum

The programme’s main objective was to examine the interaction between student participants and museum objects, in our case the collection of cultural artefacts from Sarakatsani culture, within the methodological framework and practices of inquiry drama.

More specifically: how could inquiry drama method contribute to enable students to internalise social roles, values and human choices beyond the exhibits, to realize attitudes in a traditional Greek community, attitudes that may still affect human relationships and gender roles? Children, who generally participate in museum interactive programmes, have the opportunity to cooperate and engage in activities (exploration, role playing, drawing), learn things about history and culture, identify themselves and others through multiple ways. Our proposition is that a museum

programme should involve students in a new dramatic environment and in a ‘free- choice’ learning process, so that they have the ability, and not just the opportunity, to create and re-create meanings through inquiry and empathy. Students who are 10-12 years of age in particular (students in 4th-6th grade in a Greek primary school) consciously develop themselves through the environment as the Constructivism Theory suggests and, therefore, museums can become zones of personal, social and emotional development (Vygotsky 1994; Hooper-Greenhill 2007) and create meanings and identities. That was the main reason that led us to focus on that particular age group. Recent doctoral research, targeted at 10-12 years old students in Northern Greece, examined how collective identity is constructed by the learning environment and by the educational process. The research presents interesting conclusions about the role of family, of community, but, especially, the role of education in this process (Vergeti et al. 2015: 456-479).

The basic theme of the educational programme, entitled Panaoulas: a part of a traditional community, was the Sarakatsanian female clothing and specifically the aprons’/panaoulas’ decorative motive in this traditional Greek community. Panaoulas is a word that in Greek folklore terminology means the handmade Sarakatsanian woollen aprons which are decorated with cycles, crosses or the tree of life as a prayer to the holy Mother of Jesus (the Greek word Panagia) so that Sarakatsana may become a mother with healthy children and, thus, complete successfully her cycle of life. The museum educator chose to utilise authentic artefacts, panaoulas, so that students could feel the woollen handmade aprons and have a museum experience full of senses. Therefore, the educator/animateur used panaoulas as objects that hid unknown life stories and called for students to explore the unspoken, creating meanings by their own feelings, prior and new knowledge (fig.3, fig. 4, fig. 5).

Fig.3. The museum case of Panaoulas
Fig.4. Theatricality and authentic artefacts
Fig.5. Museum experience through authentic artefacts

The idea of the museum programme was based on McCarrolls’ point, examined in an interesting article titled The Historical Body: Cultural Pressures on Embodied Cognition, that clothing reflects social beliefs and how bodies experience the world (Blair et al. 2016:141).

According to this point of view, panaoula, as a cultural dress code, reflects on the community and female socially accepted roles. The choice of each panaoulas’ decoration, as an influence of the community, embraces each female social and gender role (Varvounis 1999). For example, the main decoration motif is the cycle of life, as a woman’s basic role in the Sarakatsanian traditional community was to become a bride and to give birth to children. After all, clothes as a code in everyday representation of life (Coffman 1959); clothes as performance concepts support our

proposition to use drama techniques in order to construct meanings for heritage and social roles though a museum case of folklore costumes.

We designed the steps of museum inquiry drama as follows:

  1. familiarizing with the museum environment
  2. exploration and inquiry in the museum
  3. creating a new dramatic environment for inquiry
  4. evaluation of the museum experience
  5. a short performance of the total museum experience.

We propose these developed steps, because we consider that this process creates space for conversation, wandering and exploring, knowledge and understanding, emotional involvement. Inquiry drama in museums encourages participants to communicate with exhibits, both as artefacts of material and spiritual traces of humanity, and connect present with past, heritage with daily life, human choices and attitudes with society, history, culture. The most interesting element of inquiry drama’s method in the museum is that it is developed through many different drama techniques, as indicated below.

The museum inquiry drama programme, using drama techniques, was designed to support:

  1. familiarisation with the museum environment, cooperation, creativity and exploration (through the mantle of expert and day in life)
  2. experiential knowledge, heritage approach, connecting past with present (role playing, role on the wall)
  3. self and others’ understanding (social situation tracking)
  4. emotional involvement (the Hot seating drama technique, monologues) and empathy (especially when children in role may explore the Sarakatsanian community and take responsibility for making scenarios of the unspoken female stories)
  5. personal development and socialization (Forum theatre, conflicting advice)

2.2The museum exhibition and the context of the inquiry museum programme

The case study presented in this article focuses on a museum collection rich in symbolisms: that of the ethnologist Helen Philippides. Helen Philippides was honoured in 1975 by the Academy of Athens for her contribution to heritage  through her collections, her historical and ethnological studies. She is the original collector of the artefacts, which includes authentic exhibits, photographic compositions, dioramas and representational materials about the traditional way of life and art of Sarakatsani in the 20th century. Nowadays, in Greece, Sarakatsani protect their heritage through associations, festivals, cultural activities and museums (for example, Sarakatsani Folk Museum).

This exhibition was chosen to be utilised in this inquiry museum programme because of its unique and authentic handmade artefacts, its significance for protecting heritage, its previously unspoken story telling. The exhibition narrative mainly connects the female presence with exhibit textiles, embroidery and costumes. The collection is a unique one in Greece, holding as it does, the authentic folklore sarakatsanian aprons, panaoulas that cannot be traced anywhere in Greece, because, owing to poverty and war experiences, Sarakatsani sold all their handmade artefacts. After all, a folklore collection is significant because most of the people, not only visitors in a cultural institute, try to find their identity (personal, social, collective) through heritage. This emotional situation is more common when people join folklore groups, or visit places of heritage, like a historical or ethnological museum, where collective memory is created or recreated, and visitors want to answer questions such as, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Where do I belong?’, ‘Who are we?’ (Vergeti 2000; Wetherell 1996). The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property (1954) supports the significance of protecting culture through collecting and, therefore, each museum educator should inform children about the significance of protecting International Heritage.

A very interesting element of this exhibition is its architecture and design, especially its theatricality (fig.4), because it suggests a theatre scene where exhibits are the actors and visitors are the audience in a museum performance. Feral’s point that the sense of the theatrical scene is not limited to the theatre stage, but out of stage, where symbols and fantasy exist, (Feral 1982), and associates museums’ scenes (and synergies) with theatrical staging and relates artefacts to stage objects. These parameters allow the museum environment’s drama approach, as the participants are going to be a part of their own inquiry drama performance, as actors and as a participatory audience.

Using the museum display of traditional aprons, primary school students discovered the ways that panaoulas described life stories through the handmade needlework decoration, through the fairytale of hands. For example, a married woman decorated her own woollen apron with the tree of life as the symbol of motherhood and birth; whereas an old woman would choose a black woollen apron without colours or decoration, symbolising the passing of life.

The drama process of meaning-making and interpreting cultural heritage (based on the context of the described exhibition) focused on the female social roles and the silent stories of women as females: wives, mothers, grandmothers. These life stories could be discovered through inquiring into women’s activities and their handmade artefacts. Students in roles realised meanings, which were socially embodied in daily life and in social practices of Sarakatsani. Making meanings from this exhibition through drama techniques gave students in role the ability to realise human relationships in traditional communities, the importance of motherhood and generally the social female profile, the difficult conditions of nomadic life, where women played a key role, and also to understand the differences between modern, educated, working independent females in the 21st century, and traditional female

roles, as housewives, wives, mothers, even if the Sarakatsana woman was generally very dynamic (for example, the Sarakatsanian women build large huts in which a whole family lived).

In this museum programme, we considered five broad questions about museum representation; these questions allowed us to encourage meaning-making:

Who and what is represented?

What is the role of woman in this community?

What kind of decoration and stories does panaoula present?

Why and how are these exhibits represented in a museum? (how and why is this exhibition meaningful for the children?).

The programme was developed in the five stages suggested by the inquiry drama method and they are presented below:

  1. First stage: the cycle of introduction and familiarization with the museum environment.

The animator welcomes students and leads them to the exhibition where the music of nature’s sounds creates a different atmosphere. Children sitting in a cycle introduce themselves energetically by moving hands as birds or trees in the countryside (fig. 6). The museum educator/animateur has prepared  cards, the same number as in the group, which display the words based on the basic questions of the museum programme: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, WHY, and placed in different hidden places in the museum. The educator/animateur suggests wandering around the exhibition, gathering the cards and standing as a frozen figure in front or beside the exhibit that impressed him/her most. Every child explains his/her thoughts.

Fig. 6. Familiarization with the museum
  • Second stage: exploration and inquiry in the museum.

The animateur, using the Mantle of the Expert, introduces four groups in role of experts: museologists, ethnologists (folklore experts), theatrologists, painters. The students create groups and use the collected cards, trying to find or explore information and answers about who, what, how, where, when. Each group has the same headwear, different colours for each group, notebooks, pencils and markers. Each group in role takes responsibility for gathering or exploring information about the exhibition and the exhibits, cooperating in activities and creating stories (fig. 7) or monologues as Sarakatsani, paint an exhibit or a person that could use an artifact/object from the exhibition. Each group presents what kind of information it has gathered or explored (in the museum information is given in different ways: texts, wall panels) and what each group has created (monologue, scenes, drawing). The animateur encourages every effort and reminds children to use all senses, body, speech, voice for their presentation.

Fig. 7. Creating stories
  • Third stage: creating a new dramatic environment.

When each team ends the presentation, the animator in role asks the members of the team to assume roles in order to investigate the place, the time, the character of the community, the social situation of women in this traditional community. The animator suggests moving and acting as members of a Sarakatsanian small village (shepherds, women making their handmade panaoulas) in order to familiarise themselves with roles and to realise alternative perspectives of their roles through the Day in life drama  technique (fig. 8). Using drama techniques of freeze frame and social situation tracking participants give their own point of view about this community. A volunteer from each group takes a role of a woman, a teenager, a married women, a mother, a grandmother, – and sits on the hot seat. In our case, the place to act in Hot Seating drama technique is a tree trunk, as several tree trunks’ seats are placed in this exhibition. The other

classmates participate by asking questions; for example, questions such as: why do you feel so sad…because you can’t give birth to a child? why your panaoula has no coloured decoration? how is life on the mountains? Likewise, participants can ask questions and also give answers trying to change the situations through a Forum Theatre technique. The third stage of inquiry drama’s method ends with conscience alley and conflicting advice. The participants in two groups, forming their bodies as a tunnel, let the child in role walk through the tunnel and give advice about what to do (for example: pray for a child, you can be strong, give colour to your life).

Fig. 8. Students engage in ‘A Day in Life’ technique
  • Fourth stage: evaluation of the museum experience.

Children in circle and out of role share thoughts and feelings about their experiences and how they related to the museum programme. On a large paper placed on the floor, participants write small sentences about what they learned, felt, acted, enjoyed. Each of them, reads aloud his/her thoughts.

  • Fifth stage: a short performance/presentation of the total museum experience.

The programme ends with a frozen frame, where children pose as Sarakatsani in their village. The animateur invites children to dance a folklore dance of Sarakatsani, as the music changes to a traditional song.

2.3   Evaluation of the museum inquiry programme

Evaluation measures the degree of achievement in relation to the aim and objectives of the programme, in our case, the museum programme, in order to improve practice and future planning (Simon 2010). There are various methods to museum evaluation; the data forms used in this research programme were questionnaires filled out by teachers, museum educators’ observation and students’ comments about their museum experience.

Most of the participating teachers evaluated the museum programme as an interesting one, pointing out the creativity, participation and cooperation, knowledge, emotional involvement and the museum meaning making process enriched by inquiry drama techniques. Beside teachers’ evaluation, which is useful as it brings their professional judgment, we considered students’ comments, written on a paper placed on the floor during the fourth stage of the inquiry museum programme, equally valuable, as participants create meanings, express themselves and share freely thoughts and emotions. Therefore, below we present some qualitative remarks made by the students during the evaluation process (fig.8), which underline their museum experience through inquiry drama:

The views of participants above (we considered them as the most representative) point out the feedback of the museum programme. Even if we are still in the process of collecting more evaluating data about inquiry drama as an effective tool in museum experience (and we hope to gather some more data to the next phase of our research), we consider these comments as a positive feedback of the Panaoulas: a part of a traditional community museum programme. The museum learning experience seemed to involve intellectual, sensory and emotional faculties and

drama supported these skills by motivating meaning making in museums. Students’ evaluation led us to some conclusions, related to the main purposes (mentioned on level 2.1) of the programme:

  1. Children easily familiarised themselves with the museum environment and explored and enjoyed the museum by gathering information as experts (the Mantle of the Expert technique); they discovered knowledge actively by wondering around the museum and formulating questions (‘I learned things’; ‘I liked asking, wondering and discovering’). Children developed creativity through imagined scenarios and roles (‘I liked creating my own stories’) and evaluated positively the drama format (‘Theatre helped me understand’), even if some of the participants seemed to feel uncomfortable in a role (‘It was difficult for me to act, but it was a different and interesting experience in a museum’). Most of the students described the whole museum experience as an interesting one (‘It was not boring’; ‘I would like to come again’; ‘It was a perfect experience’).
  2. Children approached heritage, discovered unspoken behaviours and values. They tried to recognise social roles in a traditional community, bridging past with present with their own and others’ understanding (‘Now I understand why my grandmother prefer to nell circles and flowers’; ‘Today I realised what my grandmother said about her village’). Some children created meanings about memory, collective identity and museum memory (‘the word ‘museum’ means ‘things to remember’) and some of them were more interested in heritage by sharing the idea of learning folklore dances (‘I want to learn folklore dances and to needle handmade aprons’).
  3. In addition to the approach to heritage through drama, as researchers we noticed that, even if participants in role playing were free to improvise actions within or without the social rules, children didn’t choose to change social rules in their imagined scenarios: they strongly considered that motherhood and birth of a child are very important paraments in the community (‘birth of a child is very important’). Students’ scenarios, through a day in life drama technique, supported social beliefs and human behaviours with proper respect to heritage; children chose (free choice is a very significant process in drama and museum education) to preserve the ethics of the 20th century traditional Sarakatsanian community, maybe because they recognised the social codes and beliefs of a Greek traditional family in the 21st century (for example, the significance of motherhood and the important relationship of mother and child).
  4. Children experienced social roles and situations and were emotionally involved (‘She was very strong…the Sarakatsana woman’; ‘I liked acting as a Sarakatsana, she is dynamic’), although the way of life in a 20th century Sarakatsanian village seems to be unfamiliar to young people nowadays. However, most of the students gladly performed a day in life of a Sarakatsanan woman, expressed feelings on hot seating procedure and

embodied a role that was remote from their age and experience in a way that improved personal development.

  • The cooperative and experiential process through drama seemed to increase self-awareness and socialisation, as participants gladly responded to the procedure. (‘Now I understand why..’; ‘Today I realised what…’;‘I would like to come again’; ‘I liked creating…acting’).

We strongly believe that the drama techniques used in the museum created a supportive environment and challenged students to develop a dialogue with the artefacts, to perform, to imagine, to create new meanings and understandings. Meaning making through drama in the museum helped children realise adults’ beliefs about motherhood and how heritage interacts with contemporary acceptable behaviours. The students who noticed that ‘theatre helped me understand… Today I realised what my grandmother said about her village’ support the theoretical framework that the drama helped participants build deeper understandings of concepts and meaning making, connected prior knowledge to new knowledge and transformed the museum visit into a life experience.

3. Conclusions/Discussions

The article described a case study of how inquiry drama can be implemented as a method in a museum education programme. We strongly agree that enriched interactive museum experience, personal development and meaning  making through drama facilitate visitors/students into what Falk and Dierking suggest as free choice museum learning (Falk et al. 2013), where participants have the main role: students involved in an inquiry drama process, act, react and interact not only with exhibits, but interact with themselves. In addition to emotion and understanding, in the described case study participants engaged in experiential knowledge. In Museum and Theatre Studies there have already been research projects that use performances

as interpretation strategy deliberately designed to activate sensory, personal and experiential responses to an interesting, but static, historical display’. (Niblett et al. 2016: 576),

as performance offers modern perspectives in multiple environments (Shepherd 2016). We regard drama techniques as an effective interactive alternative tool in developing the learners’ communicative competence in the museum environment and as an interesting aspect of understanding the hidden stories of the exhibits. Education programmes through inquiry drama may effectively transform the museum experience to an embodied and enriched one, as participants engage with the museum environment, realise the historical, cultural and social conditions which lead to certain human behaviours, choices or products of heritage. The animateur helps participants, especially children, to create meanings in museums through drama, to connect attitudes of the past with the present. We considered the most creative part of the museum programme was the fact that most of the students

enjoyed the drama procedure and accepted happily the challenge to give voice to the artefacts, to create a whole new life story, based on panaoulas, so that interesting meaningful performances took place in the museum. As museum educators, not only as researchers, we were interested in capturing two perspectives of student engagement: creativity and meaning making in the museum. As researchers, we try to improve practices and to find new ways of connecting visitors, especially students, with the museum, with life and the representation of life in cultural institutes, in order to change attitudes in a meaningful way.


We would like to thank Anastasia Filippoupoliti, Assistant Professor in Museum Education and Pedagogical Applications in the Department of Education Sciences in Early Childhood of Democritus University of Thrace, for her assistance and comments that greatly improved the manuscript.

Notes on authors

This research is co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Social Fund- ESF) through the Operational Programme Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning in the context of the project ‘Strengthening Human Resources Research Potential via Doctorate Research’ (MIS-5000432), implemented by the State Scholarships Foundation (ΙΚΥ).


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Αgni L. Karagianni graduated from the department of History and Archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1987- 1993) and is working on a post graduate degree in Pedagogy of Theatre in museums (2016) in Democritus University of Thrace. The ongoing doctoral research about Inquiry Drama in Museums is founded by the State Scholarships Foundation (ΙΚΥ). She has a masters degree in Theatrical Studies (2007-2009) and works in the Historical Museum of Alexandroupoli (2015-2019) in museum educational programmes.

Dr. Simos Papadopoulos graduated from the department of Primary Education and earned a Ph.D from the Faculty of Philosophy, both at the University of Athens. His Ph.D thesis has the title: The Use of Drama and its Implications in Teaching in the Course of Language in Primary School. Currently, he is Assistant Professor of Theatre Pedagogy at the department of Primary Education of the Democritus University of Thrace and drama animator. His work focuses on drama and pedagogic research and writing. He has published in journals and collective volumes, edited academic books, attended national and international scientific conferences, as instructor or presenter and has participated in research programs and committees. Two of his most noteworthy studies are: Drama Language: Using Inquiry Drama on Language Teaching (Kedros Editions, 2007) and Theatre Pedagogy (2010). He is particularly interested in theatre pedagogy, drama teaching, drama text analysis, theatre for young people, in Brecht’s and Chekhov’s plays etc.

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