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Museum Publishing: Production and Reception of Museum Books

By Sarah Anne Hughes

Abstract

This thesis addresses the phenomenon of museum publishing to question why books are produced by museums. The answer to this question is sought through an empirical study that examines museum books from both their production and their reception as well as a detailed study of the relationship of the texts to the museum.\ud The case study methodology supplies interview data from museum staff involved in writing, editing, designing and project-managing the production of books at the National Gallery and the Wellcome Collection, both in London. Interviews with staff involved with publishing in other national and provincial institutions broaden the basis of these case studies. Visitor responses are obtained primarily through questionnaires delivered electronically to volunteers who purchased exhibition books at these institutions.\ud The cross-disciplinary research draws on theories from museum and publishing studies. Data are analysed from the theoretical position of an active audience (Abercrombie and Longhurst 1998) whose uses of books encompass functions of memory and representation. Genette’s (1997) concept of paratext forms the basis from which to characterise the reciprocal relationship between catalogues and their associated exhibitions.\ud Books contribute to the communication resources of museums, but rather than being viewed merely as adjuncts to the exhibits on display, they are presented in this study as integral to the visitor’s experience both during the museum visit and later, as distributed objects in personal ownership and in wider society. The authority and cultural values associated with books when combined with those of the museum make them a particularly forceful resource for meaning-making for both the producers and the consumers

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9563

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