Public participation as a tool for museums to take a meaningful place in the city

Sayers, Esther. 2012. Public participation as a tool for museums to take a meaningful place in the city. Display for a Display, pp. 10-11. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In contemporary society, a museum without a public is not a museum at all, but that has not always been the case. Museums only began to open their doors to non-specialist audiences 150 years ago. Prior to that, and predating the modern museum, ‘cabinets of curiosities’ would be assembled by collectors. In this piece, I explore the ways in which the museum architecture provides an opportunity for the public to make meaning or construct personal interpretations. I discuss the ways in which philosophical notions of shared ownership have been an important factor in collection care where self-regulation is vital to ensure that nothing is damaged or stolen. Changes in the ways in which policing and prisons were designed affected the new museums that were built for the rapidly changing society of the 20th century. Gallery interiors were designed with clear sight lines to enable members of the public to monitor each other as well as the objects on display. I discuss the idea of self-surveillance and its relation to Mobile Studio’s use of mirror in Portable gallery.

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Additional Information:

Essay for the exhibition catalogue which explores the importance of surveillance and participation in exhibition design


Participation, museum, meaning making, artefacts

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies > Centre for the Arts and Learning



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Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2014 10:32

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 09:52


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