Bringing Meaning into Making: How Do Visitors Tag an Exhibit as Social when Visiting a Museum

By Dimitra Christidou.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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

It has been 20 years since the adoption of the 'meaning-making' paradigm as a lens for reaching a better understanding of the museum experience. My paper presents parts of my doctoral research which micro-analyzed visitors' encounters in order to explore the ways and means they use to shape and share their meaning-making. It argues on the nature of meaning-making as a social activity by exploring the process of making rather than evaluating the depth or validity of meaning. Towards this direction, I conducted qualitative research across three non-national museums in London, UK, and collected data by implementing audio and video-based research that successfully captured visitors' interactions in their context. Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis provided the key concepts of the analysis which revealed three major patterns, all highlighting the performative, social and sequential character of the meaning-making process. By bringing together theory and practice, my paper invites museums to consider meaning-making as a process as well as the product of this process through which visitors socially make meaning about themselves, others, the exhibits as well as the institution in which their interaction occurs.

Keywords: Meaning-making, Social Interaction, Museum, Visitors

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.73-85. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (; 694.680KB).

Dr. Dimitra Christidou

PhD in Museum Studies, Institute of Archaeology, University College of London, London, N/A, UK

Dimitra Christidou holds a PhD in Museum Studies from the University College of London, UK (2012). Funded by the Greek State Scholarships Foundation (I.K.Y.) (September 2008 – March 2012), her doctoral research sought to explore visitors’ social interaction by focusing on the sociocultural means they use in order to achieve shared attention and subsequently, meaning making. Dimitra has worked as a museum educator at the State’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece and had a six month internship at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK at the Department of Learning, Interpretation and Resources.

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