Thinking About Audience and Agency in the Museum: Models from Historical Research

Kate Hill
University of Lincoln, England

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Ingår i: Current Issues in European Cultural Studies; June 15-17; Norrköping; Sweden 2011

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 62:24, s. 217-222

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Publicerad: 2011-11-22

ISBN: 978-91-7519-993-1

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


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.


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