Museum and Gallery Studies : The Basics book cover
1st Edition

Museum and Gallery Studies
The Basics

ISBN 9780415834551
Published December 5, 2017 by Routledge
246 Pages

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Book Description

Museum and Gallery Studies: The Basics is an accessible guide for the student approaching Museum and Gallery Studies for the first time. Taking a global view, it covers the key ideas, approaches and contentious issues in the field. Balancing theory and practice, the book address important questions such as:

  • What are museums and galleries?
  • Who decides which kinds of objects are worthy of collection?
  • How are museums and galleries funded?
  • What ethical concerns do practitioners need to consider?
  • How is the field of Museum and Gallery Studies developing?

This user-friendly text is an essential read for anyone wishing to work within museums and galleries, or seeking to understand academic debates in the field.

Table of Contents


What this book will do

Who is this book for?

What are museum and gallery studies?

Museum and gallery studies around the world

‘Theory’ and ‘practice’?

Why study museums and galleries?

Culture as ‘soft power’


Further reading

Chapter 1: First principles

What is a museum or gallery? *

‘New museology’

Origins of museums

The Louvre: a turning point

Museum development: nationalism and colonialism

Do all cultures have museums?

Can anyone call any space ‘a museum’?

What is an art gallery? What is an art museum or a museum or art?

How many different kinds of museums and galleries are there?

What are museums and galleries for?

Why do societies have museums and galleries?

Public Trust


Heritage as institution, adjective or tradition

Elite or ‘everyone’s’ heritage


Further reading

Chapter 2: Collecting and Collections

Curating and collecting

Collecting the past

Reconceptualising the discipline of ‘history’

Acknowledging your own standpoint

Tradition versus history

Collecting ‘the present’ for the future

Collecting historical art

Collecting contemporary art

Collecting the intangible

Collecting the digital

The lives of objects

Acquisitioning and accessioning

Disposal and de-accessioning

Creating Value

Priceless objects and ‘market value’

Regimes of Value: Exchanges and Exclusions

Protecting the nation’s interest: exports of cultural property

Managing and caring for collections

Conservation, preservation or restoration?

Conclusion *

Further reading:

Chapter 3: Visitors and Audiences

Who are museums and galleries for?

Who visits museums and galleries? Understanding visitor profiles and global trends

Understanding the statistics: an example

Does it make a difference if museums are free or charge?

Why do people visit? Understanding visitor motivations.

Audience segmentation

What is the difference between audiences, visitors and communities?

Understanding ‘non-visitors’ motivations

Understanding access, and barriers to access

Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital

Are museums and galleries ‘white spaces’?

Visiting patterns in relationship to staff demographics

Inclusion initiatives and policy agendas

Audience Development

Building new audiences through community engagement

Models of ‘community engagement’

If communities can tell their own histories do we still need curators?

Is working digitally one answer?


Further reading

Chapter 4: The Business of Culture

Who pays for what, for whom, and on whose behalf?

What it costs: capital and revenue

External funding sources: the state, the lottery, charities, donors, business

The museum as entrepreneur: income generation and enterprise

Fundraising, sponsorship, philanthropy, and ‘the gift’

Autonomy and instrumentalisation

Implication of cultural policy

Governance, legal status and funding models

The public interest and the private market

Tourism, leisure and marketing

Regeneration through culture (the ‘Bilbao effect’)

The ‘museum boom’, 1980-2010 – costs and consequences


Further reading

Chapter 5: Display, interpretation and learning

What does ‘display’ mean in a museum or gallery context? *

Classic exhibition genres

Telling and showing histories in space and time

Working with spaces

What are the relationships between display and knowledge?

The gallery as ‘white cube’

The ‘poetics’ and ‘politics’ of display

Taking responsibility?

Co-producing displays and sharing authorship

Can objects ‘speak’?

Making sense of what we see: the active visitor *

Visitor behaviour in gallery settings

From ‘education’ to ‘learning’

Creating accessibility for everyone


Further reading

Chapter 6: Looking forward

Power and politics

Museums as a means to foster mutual understanding

Museums and galleries as social activists


Changing perspectives

Valuing culture

Visitor trends

Further reading




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Rhiannon Mason is Professor of Heritage and Cultural Studies and Head of the School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University, UK. Her teaching and research focuses on the role of heritage and memory institutions in mediating public understandings of people’s histories, cultures and identities.

Alistair Robinson is Director of Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, having held positions at the Victoria & Albert Museum and National Museum of Photography Film & Television. He is undertaking research into museums of modern art collecting contemporary art.

Emma Coffield is an Early Career Academic Fellow in Media, Culture, Heritage (MCH), at Newcastle University, UK. She is currently the MA programme leader for Art Museum and Gallery Studies. Her research focuses on contemporary art history, production and display, and the spatial politics of artistic practice.