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Museums into the millennium: The construction, reception and future of the past.

Liddiard, Mark (2000) Museums into the millennium: The construction, reception and future of the past. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The dawning of a new Millennium has encouraged global debate and reflection upon the significance of our past, our present and our future. This period of self-reflection has also coincided with intense uncertainty and reflection within museums, as new technologies and changing approaches towards history and the past have raised profound questions about the very identity and even existence of museums. This thesis explores some of these themes and presents a variety of empirical data on both the construction and reception of museum exhibitions. Underpined by wider theoretical debates about the cultural transmission of ideology, the first part of the thesis draws upon 49 exploratory interviews with a variety of museum staff to unpack the processes determining both the choice of appropriate exhibition topics and the inclusion or exclusion of particular artifacts and perspectives. I argue that a number of developments - such as the growing dominance of commercialism - are impacting upon the treatment of the past by museums in a number of significant and sometimes disturbing ways. The second part of the thesis presents my findings from 200 semi-structured interviews with visitors, which attempted to explore the nature of audience reception within museums. The analysis of this data suggests that, in contrast to the views of some museum professionals and academics, many museum visitors are highly active and discerning in their interpretation of exhibitions and can sometimes be acutely aware that they are witnessing a highly selective presentation of the past. The practical implications of these findings for the work of museums are also drawn out. The third and final part of this thesis draws together these empirical findings to consider their wider implications for the future of museums. I conclude by suggesting that, as we enter the new Millennium, museums and their work seem set to undergo radical change. The future of our past is never likely to be the same again.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Museology
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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