Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture focuses on objects and meaning in the museum. How do museum visitors interpret the collections they see on display, and how are these interpretations influenced by the pedagogic approach taken by the museum? Questions about the character of visual narratives, cultural difference and the construction of identities present the museum as part of cultural politics. A new museum idea - the post-museum - is about to transform the familiar modernist museum. Eilean Hooper-Greenhill explores specific objects and collections in detail: the founding collections at the National Portrait Gallery, London; Hinemihi, a Maori meeting house in Surrey; the Maori collections and the books of Makereti (Margaret Staples-Brown) and of Merton Russell-Cotes; and the Lakota Ghost Dance Shirt formerly in Glasgow Museums. The construction of meaning from material things is discussed in relation to individual interpretative processes and also to interpretative communities. Museum pedagogy is analysed, with a transmission approach to exhibition being linked to the modernist museum and a cultural and constructivist approach emerging in the post-museum.
This is a multi-disciplinary study that adopts an innovative and original approach to a highly topical question, that of meaning-making in museums. Focusing its attention on pedagogy and visual culture, this work asks a lot of questions - How and why is it that museums select and arrange artefacts, shape knowledge, construct a view? How do museums produce values? How do active audiences make meaning from what they experience in museums? The author does not claim to answer them all, instead she is putting these issues on the agenda and hopes to provoke new thought and discussion on a subject that is growing in importance every day.
Eilean Hooper-Greenhill has taught in schools, colleges, museums and galleries. She has been lecturing in the Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester since 1980 and took over as Head of Department in 1996. Her principle publications are Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge (Routledge, 1992), Museums and their Visitors (Routledge, 1994) and her edited collections are Museum, Media, Message (Routledge, 1995) and The Educational Role of Museums, 2nd Edition (Routledge, 1999).