Chapter 5: Information literacy and cultural heritage: a proposed generic model for lifelong learning – Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage


Information literacy and cultural heritage: a proposed generic model for lifelong learning


This chapter summarizes the key factors taken into account in the development of the proposed generic model for information literacy and cultural heritage for lifelong learning. These factors are drawn from the overview in previous chapters of museums, archives and libraries, digital information contexts, information literacy models, and critical thinking and lifelong learning. An illustration of the model is provided, and the five main categories of the model are outlined: catalysts; components (carrier, content and context); core processes and tasks; generic learning outcomes; and contextual fluidity.

Key words

media literacy


constructivist learning

didactic learning

digital museums

digital archives

ethical use of information


data security

cultural sensitivity


worldview literacy

Summary of key factors in the development of the model

This book has covered a vast terrain, from how cultural heritage is considered, collected, described and presented in museums, archives and libraries, to how digital information contexts have challenged previous traditional paradigms and cultures of practice in these institutions. Information literacy models have been explored and critical thinking skills, together with issues such as cultural sensitivity, learning styles and types of intelligence, have been highlighted.

So far, we have discovered that museums and archives are engaged with postmodernism and have been critiquing the very nature of their existence, practices and narratives. Museums and archives are fully conversant with matters of contested history, and the role that memory plays in shaping cultural heritage, and have engaged with questions regarding the materiality, temporality and spatiality, inclusion and exclusion, identity, interface, representation, interpretive narratives and the cultural biases that can influence what is presented as cultural heritage. Context emerged as a key factor in relation to how cultural heritage and the collections in museums and archives are regarded and used, and thus the dimension of context has become an important factor in the model. Libraries in turn have highlighted the issues of censorship and multiculturalism.

In addition, the fact that digital media can be so easily manipulated, raising questions of authenticity as well as representivity, highlighted the importance of digital and media literacy. The exploration of social responses to a digital world highlighted how cultural views can influence activity and behavior with regard to issues of privacy and data security, and religious, cultural and political groupings and related activism. The fluidity of the digital world has led to information flux and instability, and further contested narratives.

Information literacy models provided insight into the importance of knowing how to find and locate information, the qualities and competencies required by facilitators, the feelings that accompany the various processes during the information literacy learning experience, and the need for some form of outcomes measurement. In the context of cultural heritage, critical thinking skills, evaluation and analysis – as well as a focus on context combined with cultural sensitivity – emerged as essential elements in the skills development of learners in an environment of lifelong learning. It emerged that fluid intelligence could be cultivated to complement existing crystallized intelligence, resulting in worldview literacy.

Thus, all the elements above have been included in the generic model, which is described in the next section.

A generic model of information literacy and cultural heritage for lifelong learning

The model is first presented textually below and has then been collated into Table 5.1 (see pp. 127–31) to give a clearer overview of the five categories of the model and their explanations. The five categories are: catalysts; components (carrier, content and context); core processes and tasks; generic learning outcomes; and contextual fluidity.

Table 5.1

Proposed generic Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage for Lifelong Learning Model


The learning environment

 museums (including galleries)



These converge to create courses cooperatively, blending positivist and constructivist approaches. Course delivery is spread to all sites to provide the learners with an integrated learning experience of the different environments. Courses include the exploration of digital and virtual museums, archives and libraries from on-site networked computers. Courses are evaluated and revised based on feedback and learners’ needs.

Instructors and facilitators

 Trained as curators, archivists or librarians.

 Fully knowledgeable about their collections.

 Culturally sensitive and attentive.

 Enthusiastic and passionate, able to make the learning experience pleasurable and inspirational.

 Fluent in critical thinking skills.

 Fully knowledgeable about the content and pedagogy of courses delivered.

 Able to facilitate learning in groups, and mediate where necessary.

 Sensitive to the different learning styles, and to the feelings of learners.

 Able to evaluate and assess final learning outcomes of learners and provide constructive feedback.

Components (carrier, content and context)


Carriers are print, analog, digital and hybrid formats which may be grouped in collections or individually, and include: books, documents, manuscripts, records, journals, diaries, maps, newspapers, television, film, radio, photographs, drawings, artworks, the Internet, web pages, databases, online catalogs and finding aids, social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, wikis), objects, artifacts and buildings, physical and virtual museums, archival and library collections.


Cultural heritage includes: cultures, customs, beliefs, rites, rituals, ceremonies, indigenous knowledge, social customs and traditions, arts, crafts, music, political and ideological beliefs that influence culture and behavior, history, practices concerning the natural environment, religious and scientific traditions, language, sports, food and drink, calendars, traditional clothing, cybercultures in the digital world, and emerging new cultures which will become the heritage of the future.

Related issues: contested history and conflicting narratives, cultural imperialism, memory, identity, censorship, multiculturalism, repatriation of human remains (museums), inclusion, exclusion, nationalism and national identity, cultures of practice in museums, archives and libraries, moral rights to cultural heritage, intellectual property, privacy and data security issues, ethical use of information, the role of communications media in the representation of cultural heritage, and critical thinking applied to cultural heritage.


This is found by asking questions. Who created it? How was it created? Why was it created? Who decided to collect it as cultural heritage, and why? What was not collected? How does it relate to other cultural heritage practices? How is it described? Who described it and what cultural biases did they have? What was the socio-political and economic context surrounding its creation? When was it created? Who contested it, and why? Who agreed with it, and why? How is it displayed? Who chose what to display, and why? Who contests the narrative in the display, and why? Whose memory and identity is represented? Whose memory and identity is excluded? Where are the linkages, and where have linkages been omitted?

Core processes and tasks


Facilitator’s tasks

Provide tours of the learning sites, physical and virtual; provide instruction on searching and using tools of discovery; highlight the differences between print and digital carriers.

Learner’s tasks

Searching, using tools of discovery, including catalogs, finding aids and online search engines.


Facilitator’s tasks

Facilitate the learning of the group, paying attention to any individual difficulties; outline moral, legal and ethical issues in the use of information, including privacy and data security.

Learner’s tasks

Read, listen, watch, absorb, make notes, integrate, summarize key points.


Facilitator’s tasks

Provide training in critical thinking skills; facilitate group role-play in analyzing information; include media analysis.

Learner’s tasks

Critical analysis; question, deconstruct arguments; practice cultural sensitivity; note moral, legal and ethical issues.


Facilitator’s tasks

Provide training in basic writing, use of computers, PowerPoint, social media.

Learner’s asks

Create and write a story of cultural heritage, using visual and audio material.


Facilitator’s tasks

Ensure a supportive and receptive environment for the presentations; provide further assistance in the use of social media, and media literacy.

Learner’s tasks

Orally present the story to the group, using PowerPoint; write a blog entry, or create a page on Facebook, link to them using Twitter.


Facilitator’s tasks

Ensure a supportive and receptive environment for the feedback; mediate when any negative feelings are experienced.

Learner’s tasks

Receive feedback on own creations; give constructive feedback to others on their creations.


Facilitator’s tasks

Provide support for the modification process; note where the courses themselves may need to be adapted, modified and updated based on learner feedback.

Learner’s tasks

Modify the creations based on feedback, to add context or correct any errors.

Generic learning outcomes


 information literacy

 cultural heritage awareness

 worldview literacy

 critical thinking skills

 lifelong learning

 media literacy.

Attitudes and values

 cultural sensitivity


 able to apply critical thinking skills in a manner that is culturally sensitive

 tolerant of different worldviews.

Knowledge and understanding

 development of fluid intelligence, recognition of crystallized intelligence;

 ethical use of information; understanding of moral rights, copyright and intellectual property issues; privacy; data security;

 knowledge of a variety of cultural heritage practices and traditions;

 understanding of the resources and activities available from museums, archives and libraries.

Behavior and activity

 engages in continuous lifelong learning of cultural heritage and other areas

 ability to give and receive constructive feedback

 engages in constructive dialog

 visits museums, libraries and archives to learn more and to enjoy ongoing cultural programs, exhibitions and activities.

Enjoyment, inspiration, creativity

 lifelong learning for pleasure

 continuously explores new areas of learning in the cultural heritage field, and beyond

 creates, communicates, presents and modifies narratives in a variety of formats for enjoyment.

Measurement (PMM)

 extent of knowledge and feelings

 breadth of understanding

 depth of understanding

 mastery possessed by an individual on a given topic.

Contextual fluidity

This model is contextually fluid, and can be constantly updated, adapted and revised in response to:

 country-specific contexts, languages and cultures;

 feedback from learners, the changing needs of learners, different groups of learners;

 changes to the environment (in museums, archives and libraries) and world events globally;

 new developments in the fields of cultural heritage, information literacy and lifelong learning;

 new digital media and technological developments.

The proposed model has adapted and integrated parts of other models reviewed in previous chapters, and these are noted below.

The focus on requirements for trainers has been influenced in part by the model developed by Pappas and Tepe (1995), and adapted from the original context of schools to take into account the context of lifelong learning in informal learning environments.

Credit for the concept of museums as catalysts of lifelong learning (and extending this to archives and libraries as well) is given to Kraeutler (2008a).

Credit for the conceptualization of the components of this model is given to Tanner (2009). One adaptation has been made in the use of the term ‘carrier’ instead of ‘container,’ and credit is given to UNESCO for the term ‘carrier’ as defined in UNESCO (2002).

The main categories outlined in the section “Generic learning outcomes” (pp. 124–6) were developed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (2005), and outcomes unique to information literacy and cultural heritage training for lifelong learning have been listed under these categories.

In place of information literacy performance measures, in a context of free-choice lifelong learning of cultural heritage, the preferred and recommended method of the measurement of outcomes is PMM, developed and described by Falk et al. (2006). As noted previously in Chapter 4, this does not preclude the model from being adapted for use with any of the traditional information literacy performance measures described in Chapter 3 if it is considered that these would be more appropriate and applicable in a given context, since the model is generic and contextually fluid.

Concluding comments

Throughout the world, there are many different countries with different worldviews, learning styles, and cultural, religious, economic and political contexts. The proposed model for information literacy and cultural heritage is thus necessarily generic in order to accommodate these differences, and is intended to be fluid so that it can be adapted to accommodate the relevant context. No particular worldview or political system is promoted or imposed as being preferable to others. The common consistent factors are the five main categories of the model, and the role that museums, archives and libraries should play as catalysts of lifelong learning, the awareness of cultural heritage, and information literacy skills. This role necessitates convergence and cooperation between these institutions. Chapter 6 will provide some guidelines to assist with the convergent creation and planning of courses by museums, archives and libraries, some indicators of factors to consider in adapting the model and then applying it to the design of training courses, and guidelines for the continuous review, evaluation and revision of the model and training courses.