MATERIAL CULTURE IN MUSEUMS

Material Culture

is the physical aspect of culture in the objects that surround people. It includes usage, consumption, creation, and trade of objects as well as the behaviours, norms, and rituals that the objects create or take part in.

Material Culture Studies 

is an interdisciplinary field that tells of the relationships between people and their things: the making, history, preservation, and interpretation of objects. It draws on both theory and practice from the social sciences and humanities such as art history,  history, historic preservation and museum studies, among others.

 

Overall Nature

A visual material culture studies;

Presentation: objects systems in museums, display strategies used in Bristol Museum, the relationship between text and image (labels and objects).

Observation/Consumption : visiting style of museum visitors; consumption by visitors

Questions

§Presentation:

How do objects achieve cultural value and significance? (The visual narrative of objects)

 What are the new icons/objects of significance?

§Observation/Consumption:

How do the public consume culture? How do the public engage with museum culture? How can the graphic arts facilitate this?

Overall Aims

Translate academic material culture studies into graphic arts via visual language.

Bridge the public and museum collections with graphic arts.

Pre-Project Sketches, 2017

Visitors and Museums Identities, 2017

Two Studies in Museum Souvenirs, 2018

Bristol Museum and its Iconic Objects (Textile Design), 2018

Iconic & Uniconic, 2018

Specific Area

Understanding how individuals interact and navigate physical space is at the heart of museum visitor studies, or what has increasingly become known more broadly as ‘user experience’. We like to think we are individuals, but do we fall into pre-visualised paths and patterns?

 

Veron and Levasseur’s 1991 theory categorises four different patterns comparing visitors’ paths in museums with animal’s behaviours: 

The ant visitor, spends a long time observing all the exhibits and moves close to the walls avoiding empty space.
The fish visitor, walks mostly through empty space making just a few stops and sees most of the exhibits, but within a short time.
The grasshopper visitor, sees only exhibits they are interested in. They walk through empty space and stay for a long time only in front of selected exhibits.
The butterfly visitor, frequently changes the direction of the tour route, usually avoiding empty space. They see almost all exhibits, but times vary between those exhibits.


Based on my own field observations from Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, and Oxford University Museum of Natural History, I propose an addition to Veron and Levasseur’s theory to cover the visiting style of group visitors. Here I present :

The wolf visitors, that number three or more in a pack, and always follow a lead person in the group. They change directions frequently. They only view the selected exhibits and avoid empty spaces. The visiting time span for single objects vary between different groups.
 

Visiting Style Study, 2018