The Inclusiveness of a Museum's Appeal Using Principles of Visual Persuasion: A Case Study

By Richard Bello and Terry Thibodeaux.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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

The appeal of most museums is inherently primarily visual. This paper makes use, therefore, of the theoretical work of Paul Messaris on visual persuasion to add insight into the persuasive messages present in the visual layout and design of one particular museum: the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. In the process, Messaris' key concepts of indexicality, iconicity (and an extension, analogical visual representation) and syntactic indeterminacy are first explained and then applied to the structure of the museum, as well as to the nature and layout of the collections themselves. The persuasive messages identified focus on, but are not limited to, the manner in which the museum reinforces the notion that it is inclusive both in the attributes of its collections and in the diversity of the types of patrons to which it appeals. Furthermore, reference to the public outreach materials offered by the museum are used to support the idea that these visually-oriented messages are intentional.

Keywords: Museums, Museum Visitors, Visual Persuasion, Inclusiveness

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.69-88. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.702MB).

Dr. Richard Bello

Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA

After obtaining a minor in speech communication at Louisiana State University in 1977, Richard Bello decided to make the study of human communication his life’s work. In 1979, he earned a master’s degree with a concentration in communication theory and research from LSU. Rick spent most of the last thirty years as an assistant professor of speech communication at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. While there, he earned a Ph.D. in LSU’s Department of Communication Studies in 1999 before moving to Sam Houston State University in 2003. Rick enjoys both teaching and research, with over thirty-five research presentations at professional conferences and twenty articles in scholarly journals to his credit. His research interests focus on language in interpersonal communication and visual communication.

Dr. Terry Thibodeaux

Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA

Born and grew up in Louisiana in large Cajun family (of French-Canadian ancestry). Attended McNeese State University (B. A. in 1978, M. Ed. in 1980) and University of Southern Mississippi (Ph.D. in 1986). Taught high school in Louisiana before moving to Texas to teach at Sam Houston State, since 1987. Primary interest areas: interpersonal communication, classroom communication and culture. Co-authored the historical novel "Catherine's Cadeau" published in 2008 chronicling the story of a contemporary Cajun character who time-travels back to 1755 to live through the expulsion of her ancestors from what is now Nova Scotia. Previously served as academic associate dean and interim dean of college. Now Professor of Communication Studies.


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