What is museum theatre?

Museum theatre is over 100 years old! It is broadly defined as the use of theatre and theatrical techniques as a means of mediating knowledge and understanding in the context of museum learning. It may take place in museums, zoos, libraries, or historic sites and it is generally presented by professional interpreters and/or actors.

Museum Theatre can include a performance of a short play or monologue/s (often interactive) related to the museum collection, educational content, or site/location. Museum theatre programming can be designed for family or school groups or the independent visitor. It can take place in the museum itself or serve as “outreach” programming in schools and the local community.

As defined by the International Museum Theater Alliance, Museum Theater is “the use of theater to enhance the educational experience that happens in a museum.”

Museum theatre:

  • Is research-based
  • Interprets the intangible cultural heritage, practices and beliefs of different eras and sociocultural milieus
  • Presents different characters who act in a specific context
  • Brings the museum narrative to life through the gaze of different characters
  • Adapts its content to different visitor groups
  • Is complementary to the museum narrative
  • Supports the educational, interpretive and communicative role of heritage sites

In support of the the educational role of heritage sites, museum theatre:

  • Unveils the multiplicity of museum narratives
  • Promotes critical engagement
  • Interprets “sensitive” and “difficult” aspects of heritage through the creation of a safe narrative environment
  • Adapts its content to a variety of visitor groups
  • Draws its methodology from theatre
  • Supports a constructivist approach to museum learning
  • Adopts contemporary historical approaches, mainly the “social history” approach

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