Challenging notions of Homogeneity and celebrating 'difference' in display, education and interpretation strategies in museums and galleries

Lahav, Sylvia. 2018. 'Challenging notions of Homogeneity and celebrating 'difference' in display, education and interpretation strategies in museums and galleries'. In: European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management: 6th Workshop in Managing Arts and Cultural Organisations. Oxford, United Kingdom 30 November - 1 December 2018. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Against Homogeneity. Paper for the Oxford conference-4.pdf - Accepted Version
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Abstract or Description

Against Homogeneity: Finding a new Museology for Arabia.

Art History has taught us that as well as creating grand narratives and establishing an artistic canon that continues to dominate notions of what is great art and who are the genius artists, we have also made some devastating mistakes, including many glaring omissions and an obstinate unwillingness to look at world art as precisely that, a history of the art produced in all corners of the world, rather than simply that of white Western dead men.

Happily this situation is now changing and museums of art are aggressively and actively collecting art from all those countries that have suffered neglect and a distinct lack of interest.

But as the focus of art historical shifts away from growing and expanding the collection and focuses its attention instead around the spaces and places of displayed art, we find ourselves asking the following questions: what is the most desirable architecture for a modern museum, how do we cater for a twenty first century visitor, is now the time to discard a belief in universally acknowledged notions of what it means to provide an aesthetic environment, how do we make decisions about accepted methods of interpretation, what are the aims and objectives of museum education, what is the nature of a successful museum welcome and how do we train our staff to deliver excellent visitor services. These are questions that will have to be answered if we want to avoid making even more mistakes, prioritising Western display methodology as the dominant mode of museological practice and treating all museums as a homogenised mass rather than understanding their differences and accepting that cultural will always play a major role in understanding audience and making museums accessible.

This paper will address these difficult areas of museum development and suggest that Museums in Arabia are well positioned to establish themselves as pioneers in a new museology, one in which they might address how cultural difference affects not only the work that is collected but also the needs of the visitor and importantly how to attract local audiences as well as tourists, opening hours and access, income generation, exhibition policy, education and a museum strategy that takes the best examples of good practice from the west but also encourages debate around what it means to build a museum for the 21st century museum in the Arabian peninsula.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


11 September 2018Accepted
30 November 2018Published

Event Location:

Oxford, United Kingdom

Date range:

30 November - 1 December 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Nov 2018 14:26

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 09:33


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