Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Martha Easton, Ph.D


museum, education, juvenile, offenders, programs, community


Museums are important to their communities and serve many significant purposes to society. The traditional viewpoint of a museum’s function is that they are there to preserve and interpret collections for the sake of facilitating deeper understanding and education for museum audiences. However, museums are also viewed as institutions that can bring people in the community together, promote social activism, and develop programs aimed towards creating positive changes within communities. In today’s world, museums are finding this task increasingly difficult due to financial challenges and struggling to stay socially relevant for diversified audiences. In facing this challenge, it is imperative that museums actively reach out to members of their communities in order to discover ways in which they can engage the needs of their audiences and how they can help make their communities better places.

Developing meaningful programs for children and teens is one way in which museums can help establish greater connections with wider audiences, while also giving something beneficial back to their communities. Children who are economically and socially impoverished, defined as “at-risk youth,” are becoming more of a priority within museum education and outreach programs. Museums can go even further in their outreach efforts by developing educational programs specifically designed for adolescents who have already crossed the social line of criminal behavior and have spent time in juvenile detention centers. Not only could this kind of outreach provide museums the chance to establish connections with local justice systems, but it would give youthful offenders the opportunity to visit and engage in museums, while potentially enriching their education and possibly providing them with a means to see and work towards a brighter future.

Through research and case studies, this paper explores the new and creative ways in which museums can create meaningful learning experiences for children and teens who have already gotten in trouble with the law, thereby also helping museums to establish stronger community relationships. By examining what some museums have already done to establish programs for youthful offenders, this paper will also outline what other museums can do to reach out and engage the kids labeled juvenile delinquents within their own communities.