Museum-Audience Interactions: A Threefold Comparative Study of Identities and Entitlements

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Chaim NOY, Ashkelon Academic College, Israel
Museum-Audience Interactions: A Threefold Comparative Study of Identities and Entitlements

This presentation, based on a book project, undertakes a comparative study of audiences’ discourse (comments) in three history museums: The National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA), the Florida Holocaust Museum (St. Pete), and the Ammunition Hill National Museum (Jerusalem, Israel). The presentation brings together a theoretical focus on language and power, as specifically articulated by research in Critical Discourse Studies and Linguistic Anthropology, and the richness of naturally occurring discourse, produced by ‘lay’ visitors to museums (during and as part of their museum visit ritual). In this way, the project looks at power and language across sites as well as media.

The presentation commences with background information on the institution of the museum, and on the far-reaching changes it is currently undergoing – changes that centrally embody a shift from collections and knowledge to audiences and experience (Macdonald, 2006). I then proceed to discuss the different onsite media which these institutions offer their visitors/audiences, and through which the latter produce public contributions to the museums’ display: what audiences write becomes instantaneously part of the public display.

The comparison looks at the audience-museum interactions specifically in terms of how the former and the latter establish entitlements (communicative entitlements) for participation in the public sphere, and relatedly, how audiences’ identities are publically constituted (Montgomery, 2010; Shuman, 2005). Pursued via institutional media, these interactions are conceptualized as producing institutional identities through communicative entitlements involved in accessing the (institutionally afforded) public sphere. The study thus also illuminates struggles over knowledge and legitimacy.


Macdonald, S. (Ed.). (2006). A Companion to Museum Studies. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Montgomery, M. (2010). Rituals of personal experience in television news interviews. Discourse & Communication, 4(2), 185-211.

Shuman, A. (2005). Other People’s Stories. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.