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Film: Starting with play – the Children’s Gallery

Paul Bowers
Head, Exhibitions
Museums Victoria

The Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum is the first entirely play-led space in an encyclopaedic museum to focus on children aged 0-5 and their families. This presentation will reveal the underpinning approach to creating this unique exhibition.

Development was based on learning theory and neuroscience, government policy, and the needs of this specific audience. Not on content, story or objects: they came last and are the least significant aspects of the exhibition.

An early learning reference group brought academics, government, and practitioners into the project early.

Iterative consultation and extensive prototyping with the audience of 0-5 year olds in agile action-research cycles was next. Over 18 months, our sessions ranged from babies rolling on mirrors as we developed concept design, to toddlers running through full-size mock ups of a train tunnel prior to production.

This yielded a safe and welcoming space with integrated staff and volunteer-led activations. The result is 2000sqm of multimodal play-based learning that fosters ‘parent as first teacher’ behaviours.


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