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The Museum, The Exhibition, The Visitor. Learning in a new arena of education.

Research project we investigated the contemporary role of museums in society and meaning making. Focus: a) the museum, its identity and epistemology; b) its media and means of communication; c) aspects of visitors' use of resources.

The Project description is to be found on the website of the Vetenskapsrådet: number of application: diarienummer: 2006-23324-39457-34

Head of project

Kerstin Smeds
Professor emerita

Project overview

Project period:

2007-01-01 2010-09-30

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Culture and Media Studies

Research area

History of ideas

Project description

Museums, likes schools, were established as new institutions during the period of emerging nations in the 19th century. At the time, museums were part of a scientific enterprise to classify the world. However, museums are not anymore just places where artefacts
are classified, stored and exhibited. They are also defined as places where citizens should be able o meet, learn and communicate, by taking an active part in the construction of meaning of the
exhibits and even of the place itself. As a consequence, museum epistemologies and identities change. The new demands on museums also affect the modes of exhibitions and which media to use in communication with the visitors, as well as the role of the visitors. This is the first Project of its kind which will look at a range of distinct yet connected aspects of these changes. Our aim
is to scrutinize the role and impact of new policies, new technologies and new ways of understanding visitors’ engagement in exhibitions from the perspective of museology, designs for
learning and multimodal communication.

The project aims at investigating central aspects of the contemporary role of the museum in society, in order to develop a coherent perspective of meaning making in exhibitions. It does so by a focus simultaneously on
a) the museum itself, its identity and epistemological orientation, as conveyed in messages internally and externally;
b) its media and means of communication used in its interactions with its public; and
c) a focus on the response by the public as seen in aspects of the use made by the audience of these resources and messages. Historical museums in Sweden, England and the US will be investigated.