Changing the Past? Archaeological Museums and the Empowerment of the Visitor

By Andrea Guzzetti.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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

Among the devices employed within archaeological museums to interpret the past for the modern-day visitor, the actual configuration of the building that contains the artifacts and their spatial arrangement within it are the most immediate ones, yet they seem to have received little systematic treatment in the discussion of the ideological implications of museum displays, perhaps because of their apparent straightforwardness. In fact, the right combination of plan, accompanying decoration, lighting, and artifact positioning can produce highly complex and powerful responses. At the same time, however, the direct appeal to the visitor by such physical features of the museum exposes the choices and assumptions underlying the display to criticism - whether conscious or not - through relatively simple means, such as following a path different from the one suggested by room numbers or guidebooks. In a sense, visitors can rewrite the past simply by moving through the galleries.
Through a historical analysis of the architectural plan, the layout of the exhibit and the paths available to visitors in the Museo Civico Archeologico of Bologna, Italy, the paper examines the role of the museum as a mediator between the artifacts and the general public. The range of messages broadcast by the museum is reviewed, and the visitors’ actual or potential reactions to what is put before them are discussed, especially those involving forms of physical interaction with the building and the collections inside it.

Keywords: Archaeological Museums, Visiting Paths, Bologna, Italy

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.623MB).

Andrea Guzzetti

Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA

The author is a current Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA, U.S.A.)

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