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Early Childhood Research

We are interested in how young children & those who care for them experience the Museum.

We work with families and educators to create meaningful connections between young children and artworks. Together we explore innovative pedagogies and resources to understand how best to support learning, participation and engagement.

We want to figure out how the Museum can play a role in supporting families and realising the cultural rights of our youngest citizens.

Between September 2023- August 2025, this work is supported by HEIF investment in a new Practitioner Research Associate Collections and Early Childhood. Their research builds on the findings of previous participatory research projects with young children and families to develop and test innovative, scaleable and targeted approaches to knowledge creation through museum research, programming and displays.



Family Welcome Project (2023-4)

An action research project with families as co-researchers.

Community partners: North Cambridge Child & Family Centre

Building a deeper understanding of what it means for families to feel welcome in the Museum, using co-research methodologies appropriate for very young children.


The Museum and Me (2023)

A pilot participatory action research project with families.

Community partners: North Cambridge Child & Family Centre

Design partner: Adira Andlay 

Exploring how museums can support playful and creative interactions between parents and children, focusing on the potential for scaling high quality early years museum practice with a view to tackling inequalities.

Developed and funded with ArtFund and Nesta support


Readers in Residence (2022) 

A families-in-residence project.

Community partners: North Cambridge & Chesterton Child & Family Centres

Working with a group of families with young children, we used favourite picture books as ways into the collection, thinking about how the Museum can create a supportive environment for nurturing language and communication.

Funded by Marlay Research and Impact Fund


It’s Our Museum Too (2019-20) 

A playgroup-in-residence project.

Community partners: Playlanders Playgroup

We explored storytelling, creative ways of finding things out, following children’s interests, and how to create a sense of belonging at the Museum. 

Funded by Cambridge Humanities Research Grant Scheme


Lines of Enquiry (2018-19)

A practice-sharing seminar series focusing on practitioner research with young children & families. Sessions were attended by 35 delegates from 6 different universities, 8 museums and galleries, 4 sector leadership organisations as well as independent academics, educators and consultants.

Funded by University of Cambridge ESRC Impact Acceleration Account


My Nursery is at the Museum and Garden (2017)

A nursery-in-residence project with Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Community partners: Ace Nursery

We were able to take time to observe and reflect on the encounters between children, spaces and objects in the two collections, and to develop a better understanding of what the museum and garden offer to young learners.

Funded by University of Cambridge Museums

Related publications

Peer-reviewed papers 

Wallis, N. and Noble, K. (2023) ‘The slow museum: the affordances of a university art museum as a nurturing and caring space for young children and their families’, Museum Management and Curatorship

Wallis, N. and Noble, K. (2022) Leave only footprints: how children communicate a sense of ownership and belonging in an art gallery, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal

Noble, K. and Wallis, N. (2022), "It's our museum too: co-producing research in a university museum through a nursery residency programme", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 42-55.


Wallis, N. (2024) Positioning families as co-researchers at the museum: How do we see and hear the voices of parents and children?, Ethical Research Involving Children

Wallis, N. (2024) Drawing in the museum, drawing out ideas, National Society for Education in Art and Design

Wallis, N. (2023) Young children in the museum – exercising agency through cultural engagement, British Early Childhood Education Research Association

Contributions to edited books and volumes

Noble, K (2022) Enacting Change through Rebellious Research in the University Art Museum chapter in Burnard, P. Mackinlay, E. Rousell, D. & Dragovic, T. Doing Rebellious Research in and Beyond the Academy; BRILL

Noble, K., Wallis, N., et al. 'Leaving Room for Learning: University of Cambridge Museums Nursery in Residence' chapter in Hackett, A., Holmes, R. & MacRae, C., Working with young children in museums; weaving theory and practice, (Routledge, 2020)  

Project team

Kate Noble, Senior Research Assocaiate Museum Learning and Participation

Nicola Wallis, Practitioner Research Associate Collections and Childhood

Other research projects you might like

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