Popular Scholarship: Will Museum Scholarship Survive the Economic Downturn?

By Jean Dyson.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Museum attendance has steadily increased since the 1980s in America, France and Britain. The Pompidou Centre, Paris, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Tate Modern, London have all had, or are about to have, major extensions or refurbishments due to massive increases in visitor numbers. Schubert (2009)
Over the last twenty-five years the roles of the museum, artist and audiences have changed dramatically. During this time museums have had to adapt, sometimes with criticism, to the tourist and leisure industry, the use of new technology and huge changes in funding structures. At the same time artists’ relationships with audiences and curators have moved to a more collaborative partnership. Audiences have changed from that of a passive spectator to an interactive participant and curators, artists and audiences are now encouraged to join in the debates surrounding contemporary art and display. Schubert (2009)
Whilst museums remain popular, education and scholarship still have an important function within the organisation, even if they do occasionally become sidelined by more popularist activities. Much of this change has been made possible by corporate funding and sponsorship Wu (2002) and the question that now faces institutions such as the Pompidou Centre, MoMA and the Tate Modern is, “In the present world economic downturn will corporate funding be reduced or even withdrawn altogether and if this is the case will museums have to rely solely on ticket sales to finance the institution resulting in activities that target mass audiences and abandon scholarship?”

Keywords: Museums and Tourism, New Technology, Corporate Funding, Collaborative Partnerships, Mass Audience Participation, Contemporary Art and Display Debates, Education and Scholarship

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.93-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 599.719KB).

Jean Dyson

MPhil/PhD Student, School of Art and Design, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK

Jean Dyson is currently working on a PhD thesis entitled, “The Long Term Dynamic of Museum Education c. 1930 to the Present” From the development of MoMA in New York to the creation of the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the refurbishment of a disused power station into the Tate Modern in London my thesis will examine why these modern and contemporary institutions have become so popular. It will look at what draws the public to visit these galleries in larger than predicted numbers, where the visitors are coming from and how they interact with the visual arts. The thesis will also examine the importance placed on the artist’s intentions, in terms of how they wish their work to be displayed and understood both inside and outside the gallery walls.


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