Thinking about audience and agency in the museum: models from historical research

Hill, Kate (2011) Thinking about audience and agency in the museum: models from historical research. Current Issues in European Cultural Studies (062). pp. 217-222. ISSN 1650-3686

Full content URL: http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/062/ecp11062.pdf

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Abstract

This paper examines a current trend within museum studies to conceptualise the contemporary museum as democratic, open, and working in partnership with its community, which is seen as a fundamental change from museums at some point in the past, when they were didactic and produced or encouraged a passive audience. This trend, it maintains, is not just produced by museums needing to fit into various agendas for social inclusivity, but also by some of the most important texts in museum history, which look at the ways in which various forms of agency worked to deny agency to the public. It argues that such a view radically understates the forms of agency available to ‘outsiders’ to museums in the past; and that as a corollary, analyses of the contemporary museum need to be wary of seeing shared agency as already achieved. By exploring the forces which work to distribute agency widely inside and beyond the museum, alongside those which worked to centralise agency in the institution of the museum and its curators, we can gain a much fuller understanding of museums past and present.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:This paper examines a current trend within museum studies to conceptualise the contemporary museum as democratic, open, and working in partnership with its community, which is seen as a fundamental change from museums at some point in the past, when they were didactic and produced or encouraged a passive audience. This trend, it maintains, is not just produced by museums needing to fit into various agendas for social inclusivity, but also by some of the most important texts in museum history, which look at the ways in which various forms of agency worked to deny agency to the public. It argues that such a view radically understates the forms of agency available to ‘outsiders’ to museums in the past; and that as a corollary, analyses of the contemporary museum need to be wary of seeing shared agency as already achieved. By exploring the forces which work to distribute agency widely inside and beyond the museum, alongside those which worked to centralise agency in the institution of the museum and its curators, we can gain a much fuller understanding of museums past and present.
Keywords:Museums, history, bmjtype
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V390 History by Topic not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:4798
Deposited By: Kate Hill
Deposited On:25 Nov 2011 13:10
Last Modified:22 Feb 2015 15:49

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