Who cares about factual accuracy?

I’ve just been asked by heritage-key.com (an on-line journal about all things Ancient World) about whether as a museum educator I think there is value in ‘edutainment’, (also see this recent Independent article) with publishers and movie producers playing fast and loose with the facts, or whether traditional and more strait-laced methods are better.

Image, An archive image of The Manchester Museum. Is traditional always best?

As a long-standing advocate of ‘stealth learning’ I’m all in favour of anything that stimulates people’s interest in a subject. I’ve lost count of the number of times young museum visitors have said, when asked what they’ve learned, that they were too busy enjoying themselves.

It’s true that new myths are created when artistic licence and factual accuracy come to blows but in my experience even young children understand that there is a difference between storytelling and reportage. They enjoy the thrill of mummies coming back to life while being completely aware that it doesn’t happen.

The real problem is in the subtle anomalies and inaccuracies that are harder to spot. Through our learning programme we encourage learners to be critical of all sources, including the museum and their teachers, when they are researching a subject. The more discriminating they are the less worrying ‘edutainment’ becomes. And finally… as we all know truth is often stranger and more fascinating than fiction so maybe it’s up to us to beat the dream weavers at their own game!

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