Examining Museum Visits as Literacy Events: the role of mediators

Publisher:
Centre for Language & Literacy UTS
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Literacy and Numeracy Studies, 2013, 21 (1), pp. 85 - 113
Issue Date:
2013-01
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Museum exhibitions are literacy rich environments. Visitors may engage with a range of texts including texts that constitute the exhibition objects themselves, those that convey information about the objects and those that instruct visitors about how the visitors are expected by the museum to navigate through the exhibition. The ways in which visitors engage with these diverse texts are important defining factors of the visitors museum experience. For museums, understanding how texts in their exhibitions are influencing the museum experience, and the possibility of a museum experience for the broad public community is important in the fulfilment of their public mission as cultural and education institutions. In this paper, we adopt a view of literacy as a social practice, the perspective of New Literacy Studies (NLS), that offers a fruitful way for museums to consider the interactions between exhibition texts and their audiences. Such considerations, we argue, can inform museums approaches to broadening their visitor demographics to more strongly fulfill their public mission. We show that the goals of NLS resonate with some of the goals of the New Museology movement in museum studies, a movement that aims to democratize what museums represent and how.
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