Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-16-1971


Statement of Purpose. The purpose of this investigation is to identify which elements are operating in a museum in order to determine the underlying structure of space and thereby build a model. A second­ary purpose is to synthesize various fields, including the social sciences, in order to understand better how space operates in a museum. The study treats the use of space as an educational problem.

Procedure. The method of structuralism is applied to identify which elements operate in a museum in order to find the underlying structure of space. After these elements are identified, they are used in constructing a model.

Three classifications of the source literature are used in under­standing the museum as an environment and microworld. The writers from the sources used in the study are classified as environmentalists, perceptualists, and interactionists. The literature is composed of sources from a wide range of fields, including the social sciences, the humanities, general systems theory, and mathematics.

Included in the study are (1) a general review of the state of the museums in America and a discussion of museum history and philosophy, pointing out the deficiencies and suggesting possible corrections; (2) a structural examination of the processes of perception, interaction, and environment in the museum; (3) an examination, through the method of balance theory, of these processes and their composite elements; (4) the construction of a model leading to a better understanding of education.

Data. Data for this study was obtained from three years of par­ticipant observation at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology of the Uni­versity of New Mexico, where the writer served as Chief Docent and head of the Education Division at this museum.

Conclusions. The following conclusions were reached:

1. The spatial structure in the museum is composed of three ele­ments. These elements are defined as the space of and around bodies, the space of and around objects, and the space in between these two categories. These three elements are also examined in a total systems framework.

2. Space (as it has been defined) is the underlying structure in the museum.

3. The spatial structure of the museum has more effect on education than any verbal efforts in that institution.

4. In the museum, space operates as time.

5. Perception is gestalt, but the method of structuralism allows for separate analysis of perceptual elements.

6. By examining the elements using the method of balance theory, cycles are found to be operating in the museum. These cycles are the interaction of at least two, but usually three or more elements. The balance, either positive or negative, of these cycles was determined. It was found that some cycles could be negative and still contribute to an overall positive balance in the museum.

7. A model was constructed that contained all the cycles in the museum.

Implications for Practice. Based on these conclusions, space is the most important element in the museum and other institutions. This concept should be an integral part of educational programs to effect better education. Ways may be found to operationalize this study in educational institutions other than museums.

Document Type


First Committee Member (Chair)

Lewis A. Dahman

Second Committee Member

George Hirshfield

Third Committee Member

Richard Gorman

Fourth Committee Member

Albert Vogel