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Excavating Freytag's Pyramid: Narrative, identity and the museum visitor experience

Francis, David William; (2020) Excavating Freytag's Pyramid: Narrative, identity and the museum visitor experience. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis, I attempt to trace the threads that links the theoretical concept of narrative to the museum blockbuster exhibition. I adopt a qualitative dialogic approach, exploring the topic of narrative from the perspective of both exhibition makers and museum visitors. Semi-structured interviews with museum professionals provide an insight into the strategies and practices involved in the encoding of narrative in museum exhibitions. Interviews with members of the public reveal how visitors decode exhibition narratives, while also illustrating the role museums play in the stories people tell about themselves. Narrative is a term that is often used in reference to museums but is frequently under-theorised. My case studies – three blockbuster exhibitions held at the British Museum from 2013 to 2015 – each approach the question of how is narrative as a concept relevant in helping us understand the critical issue of the museum from different perspectives. Drawing on the work of the Roland Barthes and the Mikhail Bakhtin, I investigate how concepts taken from literary theory such as plot structure and narratorial perspective might manifests themselves in the space of a museum exhibition. Using the concept of cultural capital taken from the work of the French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, I also explore the role a visitor’s social background and familiarity with museums plays in their decision to follow a narrative or reject it. Two threads run throughout my thesis. One is the use of the term narrative to describe the multimodal, multi-authored nature of museum-making. The other is the role museums play in the construction of narratives about the past. It is in the dialogue between the two narrative threads that this thesis seeks to explore and untangle.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Excavating Freytag's Pyramid: Narrative, identity and the museum visitor experience
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Narrative, Museums, Critical Heritage
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118292
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