Exhibitions for Social Justice: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Exhibitions for Social Justice

1st Edition

By Elena Gonzales


194 pages | 45 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9781138292598
pub: 2019-07-22
Hardback: 9781138292611
pub: 2019-07-23
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315232812
pub: 2019-07-17
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Exhibitions for Social Justice assesses the state of curatorial work for social justice in the Americas and Europe today. Analyzing best practices and new curatorial work to support all those working on exhibitions, Gonzales expounds curatorial practices that lie at the nexus of contemporary museology and neurology. From sharing authority, to inspiring action and building solidarity, the book demonstrates how curators can make the most of visitors’ physical and mental experience of exhibitions.

Drawing on ethnographic and archival work at over twenty institutions with nearly eighty museum professionals, as well as scholarship in the public humanities, visual culture, cultural studies, memory studies, and brain science, this project steps back from the detailed institutional histories of how exhibitions come to be. Instead, it builds a set of curatorial practices by examining the work behind the finished product in the gallery.

Demonstrating that museums have the power to help our society become more hospitable, equitable, and sustainable, Exhibitions for Social Justice will be of interest to scholars and students of museum and heritage studies, gallery studies, arts and heritage management, and politics. It will also be valuable reading for museum professionals and anyone else working with exhibitions who is looking for guidance on how to ensure their work attains maximum impact.


"This is one of the finest works published in the field of museum studies in recent years. In this exhaustively researched book, Elena Gonzales maps out the current state of museum practice as it relates to the work of social justice. This book needs to be in the hands of scholars and practitioners alike as they seek to transform museums and inspire social change in the 21st century." – Amy Lonetree, University of California Santa Cruz, USA

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations



Chapter 1: From Empathy to Solidarity

Chapter 2: Physical Experiences – Building Memories and Empathy

Chapter 3: Inspiring Action

Chapter 4: Welcome, Inclusion, and Sharing Authority


About the Author

Elena Gonzales is an independent scholar focusing on curatorial work for social justice and the roles of museums in society. She received her doctorate in American Studies at Brown University in 2015 and her Master’s in Public Humanities from Brown in 2010. She has curated exhibitions since 2006 and has taught curatorial studies since 2010, becoming a 2012 Ford Dissertation Fellow and a visiting scholar in American Studies at Northwestern University from 2011–2015. She is co-chair of the exhibitions committee at the Evanston Art Center and co-editor of Museums and Civic Discourse: History, Current Practice, and Future Prospects, a digital public humanities project.

About the Series

Museum Meanings

Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role, as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide-ranging disciplines.

Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).

Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies, amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – including art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.

The Series Editors invite proposals that explore the political and social significance of museums and their ethical implications. If you have an idea for a book that you think would be appropriate for the series, then please contact the Series Editors to discuss further.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology