The Role of Today's Museum  book cover
1st Edition

The Role of Today's Museum

ISBN 9780367265090
Published April 17, 2020 by Routledge
204 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Role of Today’s Museum provides a thorough investigation of what museums do and why. Arguing that museums are multifunctional institutions, the book examines the consequences of this for the services that museums provide, the publics to whom they are provided and the providers themselves.

Adopting a wide perspective on understandings of the roles of museums and considering the different environments within which museums operate, Gray and McCall provide a new perspective on how transformations, as well as the gaps between intended policies and the actual work that is undertaken within museums, can be both identified and understood. By differentiating between social, economic and political visions and expectations of museums, the analysis in this book allows for a fuller understanding of what these organisations do and provide for their societies and the struggles and negotiations that surround their existence.

The Role of Today’s Museum takes a critical, interdisciplinary approach to studying museums and museum policy. As a result, the book will be of interest to academics and students engaged in the study of museums, cultural policy, social policy, cultural sociology, public policy and cultural and political economy. Highlighting the gaps that exist between policy ideals and museum practices, the book also provides valuable insights to policy-makers and practitioners.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction


Understanding Museums

But What are Museums for?

The Structure of the Book

Chapter 2: What do Museums do? What are Museums for?


Which Functions? Universal Description

Which Functions? Sources

Which Functions? Policy

Functions and Questions


Chapter 3: The Multifunctional Museum


Museums and Complexity

Whose Functions?

Institutions, Practices, Arenas

Time, Organisation, Location: The Contextualisation of Museum Functions

Which Contexts?


Chapter 4: Museums, Policy, Practice and the ‘Struggle over Space’


The Struggle Over ‘Space’ in the Museum

Symbolic Violence

Policy, the Policy Process and Museums

‘Top-down’ versus ‘Bottom-up’ Policy

Governance of Museums

Museums and Social Inclusion

Museums, Place, Regeneration and Urban Development


Chapter 5: Museums and Societies


The Evolving Social Role of Museums in Society

The Social Role of the Museum in Society

Museums in the Field of Social Production

Building a Social Role for Museums within the ‘Game of Culture’

The Impact of the Social Role of the Museum


Social Inclusion

Quality of Life and Wellbeing

Difficulties with Social Expectations in Museums


Chapter 6: Museums and Economies


Economics and Museums

Economics and Museum Functions

Museums as the Source of Economic Value

Whose Value?

The Instrumental Museum?

Chapter 7: Museums and Politics


Political Functions and Museums

Political Functions in the Museum

Political Functions of Museums

Political Functions about the Museum


Chapter 8: Conclusion


Functions: The Museum as a Social Construction

Value: Societal, Social and Economic





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Clive Gray is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies at the University of Warwick. He has previously published three books. He has published widely in public policy and administration, the politics of the arts and cultural policy, and on politics, management and policy-making in museums.

Vikki McCall is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling with work focusing on bridging the gap between policy and practice. Dr McCall is Board Director for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Parkhead Housing Association, alongside being a member of the Social Policy Association Executive Committee and Editorial Board member of Social Policy & Society.