Online Conference 2021 Recap


09-12 November 2021

As part of our strategic Creative Europe EU-Project ‘21st Century Children‘, together with organisations from all over the world, we have formulated a vision of the future for our sector over the past year.

This is why we had the unique opportunity to embed a novel training format into the conference:

  • 3 days of indepth workshops

  • 10 workshop settings hosted by 9 organisations

  • 3 expert keynotes

  • 2 parallel sessions


Home of 21st Century Education Manifesto

Recap Tue, 09. November

Keynote: Johanna Pirker ‘It’s not just a game. It’s a game changer.’

Johanna Pirker is a computer scientist focusing on game development, research, and education and an active voice of the local indie dev community.At the moment she is Ass. Prof. for game development at TU Graz and researches games with a focus on AI, HCI, data analysis, and VR technologies. Johanna was listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list of science professionals.

What do the platforms Twitch, TikTok, and Fortnite have in common? Yes, that’s right, they are all used for educational content (or they struggle with many prejudices, depending on what you were thinking).

Children today are growing up in a world where they always have knowledge and entertainment with them thanks to their smartphones and the Internet. Platforms such as Discord, Twitch, TikTok, Fortnite, or Minecraft are used on a daily basis. So how can we engage, educate, and inspire these generations outside these virtual worlds? And is that even necessary?
In order to better understand the needs of the new generations, Johanna Pirker took a closer look at the entertainment industry, focusing on the most successful entertainment medium of all time: video games. The video game industry has long since outperformed Hollywood, the music industry, and the book industry in terms of revenue. Minecraft is played by more than 200 million players. And people are not only playing video games, but also enjoy watching others play. Esports viewership is constantly growing and is outperforming sports league events like NBA or NHL.
While games still face a lot of prejudice, we should better use this time to take a closer look at what games are, what they have to do with empathy teaching, what game development has in common with rocket science, why playing video games has helped many through the lock-downs, and why the museum community should finally install Fortnite.


  • ‘Games as empathy machines’: allowing to immerse in stories and experience situations through the eyes of others.
  • Cooperation between experts and game design is crucial to make games really means of informal education.
  •  Many children’s museums seem to condemn screens and digital topics, but to develop digital literacy children need save spaces to explore computer science.
  • During the pandemic streaming platforms like twitch were repurposed for education (lectures, professionals streaming their work routines, etc). However, museums are still not using the platform.



All workshops were hosted and run by Austrian workshop leaders to provide a digital version of the locally-routed conference feeling.  To help foster and document an international discourse based on one of the 3 overarching questions in relationship with museums‘ roles as homes for 21st century education, a moderator who is closely linked to Hands On! International, joined each workshop.


Take-aways of moderator’s summary:
(in connection to the  8 characteristics of the Home of 21st Century Education Manifesto)

Cultural gateways: locally relevant entrance institutions into cultural life

  • using gaming universes might draw new audiences to the museum.
  • physically reaching out of the museum walls. Outreach is not just a marketing tool, but can be upgraded to a method of cultural education, conveying actual exhibition contents.
  • using familiar cultural techniques such as dancing to explore new topics.


Education for Humanity: encouraging children to become co-creators of and change-agents

  • active involvment in creating contents
  • serving as a sociental meeting place and platform


Digitally Aware and Active: embracing digital technology and helping children to become competent users

  • Reflecting own biases about digital tools.
  • VR and AR are already a present, not the future -> foster digital literacy
  • combining analogue and digital
  • Digital offers can also encourage to engage in analogue activities.


Recap Wed, 10. November

Expert Circles: virtual round table

Professionals from museums and institutions worldwide came together in small groups to exchange ideas and discuss current issues. Individual c0nversation starters for each profession  Hands were the starting point for exciting discussions.


Future Talk

Two initiatives exchange their ideas on new potentials and prospective roles of the sector: Museums for future Austria and Germany & Home of 21st Century Education label developed as part of 21st century children project.

Similar to ‘Museums for Future’ our label is a call to action: Be change agents, empower children, test new means of informal education


  • Do our current measurements really reflect the urgency of the climate crisis?
  • Museums only make up 8% of the cultural sector, but are responsible for 40% of all CO2 emissions of the cultural sector
  • Can/should exhibitions about climate change or sustainability be climate neutral and sustainable themselves?
  • Museums as socially responsible organisations: Can we call us advocates and save places for children if we indirectly benefit from exploitation of children in the work force ( e.g., using goods that involve child-labor to create exhibitions)
  • Adequate contemporary education for 21st century children is key to creating a more sustainable society



All workshops were hosted by a diverse mix of museums, galleries, science centres and other cultural organisations based in Vienna and Graz,  who are united in their desire to serve as 21st century learning spots for children. Due to known circumstances unfortunately they could not host the conference on-site as originally planned. To help foster and document an international discourse based on one of the 3 overarching questions in relationship with museums‘ roles as homes for 21st century education, a moderator joined each workshop to document the discussions.


Take-aways of moderator’s summary:
(in connection to the  8 characteristics of the Home of 21st Century Education Manifesto)

Dynamic and Evolving Organisations: constantly adapting and responding

  • Unlocking our superpower: True commitment of serving society.
  • Turning theoretical potentials into actions.
  • Advocating and serving our audience, regardless of the situation

Education Labs: develop, test and research innovative educational practices

  • Culture as a powerful tool of education: USP of children-focused museum work
  • ‘Museums should feel like home’


Recap Thu, 11. November

Keynote: Elizabeth Rasekoala ‘Hands On Into the future: Future-proofing today’s children and youth to become scientifically engaged future adults’

President of African Gong –, professional background in Chemical Engineering, ong-term professional focus on transformative developments through advancing diversity, socio-cultural inclusion and gender equality issues in STEM. Cherished advisor for various UN bodies, EU & African Union Commission.

The pressing need to ‘future-proof’ our work with children and youth in science communication through platforms such as Children’s Museums has never been greater. How can the Children in Museums’ sector better prepare (future-proof) children and youth to be the engaged future adults that will better navigate current and future challenges across the nexus of the conflicting dimensions and trends that are increasingly playing out in the global science communication arena? The universal adage that ‘today’s children are the future’ uniquely then, positions and exhorts the Children in Museums’ sector with the critical undertaking to deliver this future-proofing, so that today’s children and youth are holistically and inclusively empowered and transformed into the scientifically engaged adults of the future.

  • not just preparing children, but also preparing our organisations for new realities
  • crucial skill to detect ‘alternative facts’
  • ‘catching them young’: preparing children to be better adults
  • Diverse understanding of family realities.
  • Methods: outdoor activities to encourage risky play



  • Participants from 27 different countries
  • 18 workshops
  • 10 different workshop settings
  •  9 hosting organisations
  • 3 overarching questions
  • 54 take-aways documented by 7 moderators


Take-aways of moderator’s summary:
(in connection to the  8 characteristics of the Home of 21st Century Education Manifesto)

Polyphonic, Participatory and Inclusive Approach: responsive and audience-focused institutions, where interactivity is at the heart of every visitor’s experience

  • New developments raise new ethical questions
  • avoid ‘single story’, provide representation to a multitude of perspectives

Holistic Education: in the form of meaningful experience grounded in  Hands On! Minds On! Heart On! principles

  • combine various methods, formats and activities
  • create immersive environments by implementing cultural techniques such as dance, theatre, digital art, visual art, etc.


Recap Fri, 12. November

This last conference day offered different setting: input in the form of lectures, new perspectives & additional people joining us.

Keynote: Richard Sandell & Ceciel Brouwer ‘From the margins to the core: children and museum activism’

Richard Sandell is Professor in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and co-director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG). His research and practice, carried out in collaboration with museums, galleries and heritage organizations, explores the potential that museums might play in supporting human rights, social justice and equality.

Ceciel Brouwer is a postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, at the School of Museum Studies in the University of Leicester. Since completing her doctoral training program, she has focused on museum ethics, censorship and children’s rights, areas in which she also delivers teaching.

Museums, art galleries and heritage sites are actively seeking to address the social inequalities through narratives, exhibitions and the everyday practices that shape people’s lives. Many of these cultural institutions and the researchers that support them have evidenced how socially purposeful museum practice can open up new opportunities and change the conditions in which human rights are experienced. Despite this trend, the potential for museums to advance the rights of children remains largely untapped and underexplored.

In the majority of museums, children are viewed primarily as consumers of programs rather than active agents in the shaping and making of culture, with the capacity to influence and make decisions. Children’s absence in the shaping of museums holds important implications for their visibility; the ways in which they are seen, perceived and understood in and beyond the museum. Arguing that advocating and advancing children’s rights should be a responsibility shared by museums of all kinds, Ceciel Brouwer and Richard Sandell make the case for a new discourse.

What would museums, galleries and heritage sites look like if they were truly collective spaces shaped and shared equally between adults, children and young people?


Parallel Sessions

  1. Who’s in a Family? Design for Including Family of All Kinds by Margaret Middleton
  2. Profiling children’s museums: Past, Present, Future by Sarai Lenzberger | Linklist
  3. Exhibit Design by Elisabeth Wohlschlager
  4. Hands On!’s EU Project: 21st Century Children by Tereza Dobiášová Krejčí
  5. Children and Well-being by Antonella Russo-Ball and Kim Bryan
  6. Museums as agents of change: Studio Olafur Eliason and Museum for the UN by Molly Fannon


Keynote Panel

All keynotes got together to discuss the most burning issues raised during the workshops.


Children in Museums Awards Ceremony 2021

A public ceremony showcasing innovative 21st century children’s programmes towards a broader audience.







Find more about the 13th HO! Conference


View Conference Programme



The main motivation behind this EU-cofunded Creative Europe project is that children-focused museum work is still lacking elaborated international working standards and mapping.

We created a global vision in the form of a manifesto of 8 characteristics museums can commit themselves to and in a second step receive a detailed assessment of their quality/meeting these standards.

The over-all objective of this project, which is generously supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, is to showcase and to tackle the potential of the unique quality and character of children-oriented museums for benefiting society as future-oriented, 21st Century learning spots.

Actions of the project:
  • Unite stake holders of the field to create a global mission & quality standards
  • Create a global brand and marketing tools for the sector
  • Map the sector and provide capacity building tools and content for professional development


Learn more