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The othering museum: How power performs in co-curatorial participation, 2013-2020

Westwater, Carolyn Ann 2021. The othering museum: How power performs in co-curatorial participation, 2013-2020. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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In the context of this research the term “othering” refers to a persistent Us and Them dynamic between museums and their participating public. To reframe a subject-positioning of and by museums as “providers” of postcolonial paternalistic engagements, professionals working in the sector have made several attempts in recent years to promote museums as egalitarian spaces. New identities have been explored such as The Open Museum (Glasgow Life, 2000), The Happy Museum (2011), Our Museum (Paul Hamlyn Foundation, 2012) and more recently, The Activist Museum (Janes and Sandell, 2019). Whilst language goes a long way to communicate desired-for changes in power (Lynch, 2011) between the museum and the participant, this research shows that more must be done for the situation to be ‘no longer ... Us and Them’ (Bienkowski, 2016). In order to examine how power performs in co-curatorial practice, three case studies and a survey will pursue how power performs in a museum context with different groups of people: working with volunteers, community participants, and professional partners. The survey asks museum professionals their opinion on the language used as best practice in participation. Using a combination of Critical Arts-based Enquiry (Finlay, 2014) and Critical Discourse Analysis (Sarantakos, 2015) the research investigates whether the performance of power is relational to who participants are, how the processes of participation are constructed, and/or the language used to frame them. To inform this discussion, I use my own practice as a participatory artist to test out a method of non-selective curation which further examines these issues. The findings build on the work of Bernadette Lynch on empowerment-lite practice (Lynch, 2011) and the Our Museum initiative (2012-2015). It finds that embedding necessary openness and shared authority into participatory work, as recommended by Lynch (2014) and Our Museum, will not effectively change the Othering found in museums, unless this change is also embedded in the structure of the museum, funders and government policy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Acceptance
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 April 2021
Date of Acceptance: February 2021
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2021 14:17

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