I was talking to my friend Jim Hakala on the phone today, and we were batting around the idea of a Wiki here on Museum-Ed that would let the community participate in writing a definition of museum education. That may yet happen, but Jim told me about a project that runs parallel to the idea: The Definition Project. In 2006, the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) with funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency organized a series of meetings with the purpose of informal education community agreement on the definitions of common terminology used by interpreters, environmental educators, historians, and others in nonformal settings such as parks, aquariums, zoos, nature centers, historic sites, and museums. A couple of folks, including Jim Hakala, attended these meetings as representatives of the American Association of Museums.
The result is the Web site, The Definitions Project, with a searchable list of terms and their definitions. That in itself is a great thing, but even greater is the ability for anyone to request adding a term, or to contribute examples or commentary on the existing terms. We’ve added the project to our list of links on Museum-Ed, and now I think we should all go over to the Definitions Project and start contributing more terms, examples and commentary to make this rich resource even more robust. And thanks to the NAI for coming up with a way to help us all speak the same language!