I have an academic background in Social Anthropology (graduating from Queen’s University Belfast) but since returning to Wales, I have decided to explore my own society. This interest has been developed through my experience of working in Wales, particularly in the heritage sector and work as a tour guide at the Senedd (Welsh Parliament). These experiences have informed my research interest in the intersection of heritage/ museums and devolved politics in Wales.
Key research question:
How can local museums in Wales use the idea of young people as ‘active citizens’ to demonstrate social value?
To gain an understanding of whether and how local museums in Wales engage young people in political education.
To demonstrate the value of museums in helping young people to become active in their local communities, through volunteering and activism.
To identify and explore factors affecting young people’s level of engagement around these themes e.g gender.
To recommend how museums can further contribute to young people’s political empowerment in Wales.
To gather evidence of how museums are currently engaging young people with political issues/ citizenship.
To address gaps in knowledge regarding museum work relating to active citizenship in Wales by focusing on local museums.
To inform future development of policy and practice regarding political engagement work in museums through analysing and comparing work across different locations in Wales.
The Senedd and Elections Bill 2019 will lower the voting age to 16 in Wales. Changes to the National Curriculum in Wales emphasise young people as ‘ethical, informed citizens’, but there is a current gap in political education in Wales as demonstrated by a report by the Welsh Youth Parliament ( 2019).
I am interested in how, as educational institutions, museums can address this gap.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines that:
Article 12:‘Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.’ and:
Article 31 ‘Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities’.
I am interested in how these two rights intersect in the context of young people’s ‘‘informal’ political action such as local volunteering and activism.
Museums are increasingly under pressure to articulate their value in terms of ‘social impact’. ( Kidd 2016:7) and I propose that contribution to young people’s political engagement is a key way in which museums can demonstrate social impact.
I am particularly interested in using a transformative approach and participatory methodology such as visual and creative methods to work closely with groups of young people in conducting my research.
I hope that my research can contribute to practice around increasing young people’s interest in and engagement with politics in Wales as well as becoming ‘ active citizens’ as emphasised in the new curriculum.