1st Edition

The Role of Today's Museum

By Clive Gray, Vikki McCall Copyright 2020
    204 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    204 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.


    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






    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.