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Title: Allowing objects to speak, people to hear : the effective display of inconspicuous objects from Egyptian collections
Author: Monti, Francesca
ISNI:       0000 0004 2722 1786
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Museum objects which are striking engage visitors more easily than objects of inconspicuous appearance. As Bitgood has shown, because visitors have a limited budget in terms of time and mental and physical resources, they calculate, usually unconsciously, the value of an object experience as the ratio between the perceived effort and the assumed pay-off. In this scenario, charming objects are not only better equipped to draw the attention of visitors, but also perceived as more worthy of interaction. This is unsatisfactory because it encourages viewing centred on visually magnetic and/or prominently placed objects, at the expense of more potentially rewarding experiences with unassuming objects. Despite a wealth of literature on the relationship between visitors and objects both in a museum context and in a social setting, current museum practices are still uncertain about the effective display treatment of inconspicuous objects. This study hence pursues a set of guidelines for the treatment of unassuming objects to raise awareness among visitors of the interesting content of material, therefore re balancing viewing patterns in museum galleries and allowing people to make an informed choice of what they want to see and the extent of their interactions. This work comprises a theoretical element and three empirical phases. The conceptual framework consists of an exploration of relevant notions and practices across the disciplines of architecture, design, cognitive science, and museology, and of the selection of five concepts to explore the multifaceted dimension of the visitor-object encounter. The practical component entails the creation and evaluation of different display and interpretation solutions. They are: 1. comparative evaluation of the five concepts at the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Horniman Museum (Chapter 5) 2. experiments with factors of the ideal display at the Petrie Museum and Horniman Museum (Chapter 6) 3. analysis of the object-visitor-narrative dynamics in Egyptian Funerary Gallery 63 at the British Museum (Chapter 7). The results have provided new insights into the visitor-object encounter, offered practical guidelines as to the treatment of problematic objects in different settings, and ultimately proposed a reflection on the relationship between visitors and museums.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available