April 2009 saw the publication of the documents generated by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport's museum Peer Review Pilot. This Policy Review offers both an overview of the process and a conceptual critique both of the Peer Review Pilot and the McMaster Review criteria on which the pilot was based. It is argued that the McMaster Review is grounded on a reading of excellence as “life-changing experiences” predicated on an imagined transformative aesthetic moment and that it is only by defining excellence in this way that McMaster could secure peer review as a legitimate means of identifying excellence. When transferred for the purposes of the Peer Review Pilot to the museum sector - with its long traditions of pedagogic and civic reform - this narrow reading of “changing lives” is no longer sustainable. The dislodging of the McMaster grounding assumption within the practice of the Peer Review Pilot creates conceptual fissures that can be traced throughout the Pilot's documentation. Specifically, a reading of the Pilot suggests both a need for a more careful reading of “peer”, a recognition of museums' multiple lines of accountability (including to the public) and the ongoing need for methodologies that might allow for an understanding of “life changing” within a much border frame
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