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Trust, control & translation in the new participatory practice: a critique of the processes, dynamics & impacts of community participation in the curation of new city histories in English museums

Sarre, F.J.; (2012) Trust, control & translation in the new participatory practice: a critique of the processes, dynamics & impacts of community participation in the curation of new city histories in English museums. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

In this thesis I argue that history galleries work to construct place and culture and that, within this work, the new participatory practice offers a means to materialise participants’ agency in the gallery and interrupt hegemonic conceptions of belonging. I initially identify a growing trend for participatory practice in the curation of English museum galleries. Debates on relations between museum and community and of ethics and justice provide the foundations to the new work. A case-study methodology allows me to understand the practice from the perspectives of those involved. Actor-network theory provides a model to map both the enduring associations, which frame the projects, and the new voluntary associations with community members. I recognise all those involved as actors translating their personal agency into the project, and theorise the participants’ direct and indirect influence on the galleries as transformative translation. These actions include direct control of curation and influences on staff learning. The dynamics of trust, agency and participation are theorised as critical to the success of the practice. In order to assess the impact of participatory practices I apply discourse analysis to the finished galleries. This reveals the dominant discourses being constructed. These narratives are counterpointed with the co-present discourses on cultural diversity. More or less inclusive constructions of belonging for the city are noted as an unresolved debate on the terms of belonging arises in the relationship between these narratives. Finally I bring together analyses of process and product to discuss ways in which the participatory practice can help museums to re-imagine the gallery and the city. I note the ethical benefits of participatory working practices but highlight the role of staff choice in inviting such participation. I argue staff have an obligation to act ethically and offer guidelines to assist in this process.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Trust, control & translation in the new participatory practice: a critique of the processes, dynamics & impacts of community participation in the curation of new city histories in English museums
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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