Naomi Hamer’s Research on Children’s Museums


Naomi Hamer’s Research on Children’s Museums

Dr. Naomi Hamer is Assistant Professor of English and an affiliate of the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures (CRYTC), which is housed at the University of Winnipeg.

Her current research project, entitled “The Children’s Story Museum: The Design of Spaces for Interactive and Immersive Experiences with Children’s Books,” investigates children’s museums and exhibits that focus on children’s authors and illustrators, fairytale and folkloric narratives, and general concepts of story and storytelling. Dr. Hamer is interested in how children’s story exhibitions critically engage children’s literature while also revealing tensions between interactivity and the cultural discourses articulated in children’s literature texts, as well as other artifacts in the collections. For example, while some of the exhibitions Dr. Hamer investigates avoid controversial discourses articulated in young people’s texts by omitting any trace of them in the exhibitions, other exhibitions provide opportunities for young readers to creatively engage such discourses.

Key among Dr. Hamer’s aims is examining how children’s story exhibitions may continue to reinforce historically entrenched discourses of gender, socio-economic class, and race. Accordingly, she troubles the ways in which curators, education directors, and researchers idealize stories by omitting or eliminating content that may be deemed controversial or inappropriate for young people.

The existing research on children’s museums is primarily confined to Museum and Curatorial Studies and Education, with much of the focus being on interactive play and informal learning in science museum contexts. In contrast, Dr. Hamer’s project is interdisciplinary in its orientation, as she proposes to expand upon existing critical studies of children’s museums with the application of theoretical and methodological approaches from the fields of Children’s Literature criticism; Cultural Studies; Museum and Curatorial Studies; and Media Studies.

Dr. Hamer’s is also one of the first Canadian research projects to examine children’s literature exhibitions both nationally and internationally outside of an educational context. Significantly, many of the sites she investigates have been developed only within the last decade, allowing her to address current practices in extracurricular spaces, particularly around the use of mobile applications in children’s museums. Her research may have significant implications, not just for how we understand children’s story exhibits but for curriculum and educational policy.

Dr. Hamer’s research has taken her to the United Kingdom, where, as part of her stint as a David Almond Fellow in 2013, she investigated the Seven Stories collections in Newcastle, not to mention a number of other key children’s museums in that part of the world. Other exhibits and sites that Dr. Hamer has visited as part of her research program include the Maurice Sendak collection at the Toronto Reference Library and Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books; the “ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” exhibit at the New York Public Library; and the “Go-Betweens: The World Seen through Children” exhibit at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

During her research leave this year, Dr. Hamer plans to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst and the Boston Children’s Museum. She will meet with curators and education directors at both sites to set up the next fieldwork phase of the project.

In addition to giving a keynote address at the graduate student research conference at the University of British Columbia in April, Dr. Hamer will present some of her research at an upcoming conference on “The Child and the Book” in Wroclaw, Poland, in May. The paper she will deliver is entitled “The Role of Immersive and Interactive Play with Picture Books in Children’s Book Exhibitions and Children’s Museums.”

Following her research leave, Dr. Hamer will teach a cross-listed Honours/Graduate course that focuses on the children’s museum:

ENGL-4160/GENG-7160: Advanced Studies in Young People’s Texts and Cultures: The Children’s Museum: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Young Audiences and Participatory Cultures

Fall 2016 M 6:00-9:00 PM