Literature Review

Museums & Museology / nineteenth- and twentieth-century museums-

1. The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics (Culture: Policy and Politics)

In a series of richly detailed case studies from Britian, Australia and North America, Tony Bennett investigates how nineteenth- and twentieth-century museums, fairs and exhibitions have organized their collections, and their visitors. Discussing the historical development of museums alongside that of the fair and the international exhibition, Bennett sheds new light upon the relationship between modern forms of official and popular culture.

Using Foucaltian perspectives The Birth of the Museum explores how the public museum should be understood not just as a place of instruction, but as a reformatory of manners in which a wide range of regulated social routines and performances take place.

This invigorating study enriches and challenges the understanding of the museum, and places it at the centre of modern relations between culture and government. For students of museum, cultural and sociology studies, this will be an asset to their reading list.

2. Hands-On Exhibitions: Managing Interactive Museums and Science Centres (Heritage: Care-Preservation-Management)

The development of interactive displays has transformed the traditional museum world in the last decade. Visitors are no longer satisfied by simply gazing at worthy displays in glass cases – they expect to have hands-on experience of the objects and be actively involved with the exhibits, learning informally and being entertained simultaneously. Hands-on museums and science centres provide the most remarkable example of how museums are redefining their roles in society – improving access to real objects and real phenomena, so that they can be enjoyed by more people.
In recent years museums have been thrust into intense competition for the public’s time and money with all branches of the leisure industry, from commercial theme parks to retail shopping and home entertainment. This has upset the traditional stability of the museum and their visitors. A hands-on approach encourages a broader visitor base, which in turn helps to bring in additional revenue at a time of declining public subsidy.
Tim Caulton investigates how to create and operate effective exhibitions which achieve their educational objectives through hands-on access. He concludes that the continuing success of hands-on museums and science centres hinges on attaining the very best practice in exhibition design and evaluation, and in all aspects of operations, including marketing and financial and human resource management. Hands-On Exhibitions provides a practical guide to best practice which will be indispensable to all museum professionals and students of museum studies.

3. Digital Technologies and the Museum Experience: Handheld Guides and Other Media

The biggest trend in museum exhibit design today is the creative incorporation of technology. Digital Technologies and the Museum Experience: Handheld Guides and Other Media explores the potential of mobile technologies (cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, PDAs) for visitor interaction and learning in museums, drawing on established practice to identify guidelines for future implementations.

4. Museums in a Digital Age (Leicester Readers in Museum Studies)

The influence of digital media on the cultural heritage sector has been pervasive and profound. Today museums are reliant on new technology to manage their collections. They collect digital as well as material things. New media is embedded within their exhibition spaces. And their activity online is as important as their physical presence on site.

However, ‘digital heritage’ (as an area of practice and as a subject of study) does not exist in one single place. Its evidence base is complex, diverse and distributed, and its content is available through multiple channels, on varied media, in myriad locations, and different genres of writing.

It is this diaspora of material and practice that this Reader is intended to address. With over forty chapters (by some fifty authors and co-authors), from around the world, spanning over twenty years of museum practice and research, this volume acts as an aggregator drawing selectively from a notoriously distributed network of content. Divided into seven parts (on information, space, access, interpretation, objects, production and futures), the book presents a series of cross-sections through the body of digital heritage literature, each revealing how a different aspect of curatorship and museum provision has been informed, shaped or challenged by computing.

Museums in a Digital Age is a provocative and inspiring guide for any student or practitioner of digital heritage.

5. Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations

This is an innovative interdisciplinary book about objects and people within museums and galleries. It addresses fundamental issues of human sensory, emotional and aesthetic experience of objects. The chapters explore ways and contexts in which things and people mutually interact, and raise questions about how objects carry meaning and feeling, the distinctions between objects and persons, particular qualities of the museum as context for person-object engagements, and the active and embodied role of the museum visitor.

Museum Materialities is divided into three sections – Objects, Engagements and Interpretations – and includes a foreword by Susan Pearce and an afterword by Howard Morphy. It examines materiality and other perceptual and ontological qualities of objects themselves; embodied sensory and cognitive engagements – both personal and across a wider audience spread – with particular objects or object types in a museum or gallery setting; notions of aesthetics, affect and wellbeing in museum contexts; and creative and innovative artistic and museum practices that seek to illuminate or critique museum objects and interpretations.

Phenomenological and other approaches to embodied experience in an emphatically material world are current in a number of academic areas, most particularly strands of material culture studies within anthropology and cognate disciplines. Thus far, however, there has been no concerted application of this kind of approach to museum collections and interactions with them by museum visitors, curators, artists and researchers. Bringing together essays by scholars and practitioners from a wide disciplinary and international base, Museum Materialities seeks to make just such a contribution. In so doing it makes a valuable and original addition to the literature of both material culture studies and museum studies.

6. Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning (American Association for State & Local History)

John H. Falk and Lynn D. Dierking investigate these questions in Learning from Museums. Synthesizing theories and research from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, education, anthropology, neuroscience and museum research, Falk and Dierking explain the nature and process of learning as it occurs within the museum context and provides advice on how museums can create better learning environments.

Suzanne Macleod

Museum Architecture: A New Biography

Recent decades have witnessed an explosion of museum building around the world and the subsequent publication of multiple texts dedicated to the subject. Museum Architecture: A new biography focuses on the stories we tell of museum buildings in order to explore the nature of museum architecture and the problems of architectural history when applied to the museum and gallery. Starting from a discussion of the key issues in contemporary museum design, the book explores the role of architectural history in the prioritisation of specific stories of museum building and museum architects and the exclusion of other actors from the history of museum making. These omissions have contemporary relevance and impact directly on the ways in which the physical structures of museums are shaped. Theoretically, the book places a particular emphasis on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Henri Lefebvre in order to establish an understanding of buildings as social relations; the outcome of complex human interactions and relationships.

The book utilises a micro history, an in-depth case study of the ‘National Gallery of the North’, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, to expose the myriad ways in which museum architecture is made. Coupled with this detailed exploration is an emphasis on contemporary museum design which utilises the understanding of the social realities of museum making to explore ideas for a socially sustainable museum architecture fit for the twenty-first century.

Contents

Telling stories of museum architecture

Museum Making: Narratives, Architectures, Exhibitions

Over recent decades, many museums, galleries and historic sites around the world have enjoyed an unprecedented level of large-scale investment in their capital infrastructure, in building refurbishments and new gallery displays. This period has also seen the creation of countless new purpose-built museums and galleries, suggesting a fundamental re-evaluation of the processes of designing and shaping of museums.

Museum Making: Narratives, Architectures, Exhibitions examines this re-making by exploring the inherently spatial character of narrative in the museum and its potential to connect on the deepest levels with human perception and imagination. Through this uniting theme, the chapters explore the power of narratives as structured experiences unfolding in space and time as well as the use of theatre, film and other technologies of storytelling by contemporary museum makers to generate meaningful and, it is argued here, highly effective and affective museum spaces. Contributions by an internationally diverse group of museum and heritage professionals, exhibition designers, architects and artists with academics from a range of disciplines including museum studies, theatre studies, architecture, design and history cut across traditional boundaries including the historical and the contemporary and together explore the various roles and functions of narrative as a mechanism for the creation of engaging and meaningful interpretive environments.

Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and are Changed

This single-volume museum studies reference title explores the ways in which museums are shaped and configured and how they themselves attempt to shape and change the world around them.

Written by a leading group of museum professionals and academics from around the world and including new research, the chapters reveal the diverse and subtle means by which museums engage and in so doing change and are changed. The authors span over 200 years discussing national museums, ecomuseums, society museums, provincial galleries, colonial museums, the showman’s museum, and science centres. Topics covered include: disciplinary practices, ethnic representation, postcolonial politics, economic aspiration, social reform, indigenous models, conceptions of history, urban regeneration, sustainability, sacred objects, a sense of place, globalization, identities, social responsibility, controversy, repatriation, human remains, drama, learning and education.

Capturing the richness of the museum studies discipline, Museum Revolutions is the ideal text for museum studies courses, providing a wide range of interlinked themes and the latest thought and research from experts in the field. It is invaluable for those students and museum professionals who want to understand the past, present and future of the museum.

Reshaping Museum Space: Architecture, Design, Exhibitions

Reshaping Museum Space pulls together the views of an international group of museum professionals, architects, designers and academics highlights the complexity, significance and malleability of museum space, and provides reflections upon recent developments in museum architecture and exhibition design.

Various chapters concentrate on the process of architectural and spatial reshaping, and the problems of navigating the often contradictory agendas and aspirations of the broad range of professionals and stakeholders involved in any new project.

Contributors review recent new build, expansion and exhibition projects questioning the types of museum space required at the beginning of the twenty-first century and highlighting a range of possibilities for creative museum design.

Essential reading for anyone involved in creating, designing and project managing the development of museum exhibits, and vital reading for students of the discipline.

 

 

 

 

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