Before ‘us’ and ‘now’: developing a sense of historical consciousness and identity at the museum

Rosemary Dunn, Shirley Wyver*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Young children seem to begin to develop a sense of historical consciousness and associated belonging to a wider collective identity prior to the commencement of formal schooling. Historical consciousness is a capacity to differentiate and also make connections between the past, present and future that contributes to a growing understanding of one’s own life and identity in the context of a historical past. The responses of 24 young children aged from 3 to 7 years visiting a small social history museum were analysed through photo-elicitation and parent reports. It would seem that the museum experience assisted in the development of foundational concepts of historical consciousness. Growth of a sense of historical identity was evident for some children, related to a sense of belonging to the ‘we’ of contemporary times in contrast to the ‘they’ of the past. The role of language to support young children’s understanding and thinking is highlighted by this research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)360-373
    Number of pages14
    JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date11 Jun 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019


    • historical consciousness
    • identity
    • museums
    • young children


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