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Title: The 'chalkface' of cultural services : exploring museum workers' perspectives on policy
Author: McCall, Vikki
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 7224
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2012
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The difficulties faced by services in the cultural sector have been immediate and challenging. Public services that are cultural in nature have faced funding cuts, closures and redundancies. Museum services are low in political importance and unable to provide clear evidence of their policy impact. Despite these challenges, there has been limited evidence about the policy process at ground-level. This thesis builds on theoretical and empirical ideas in social and cultural policy to present museum workers’ perspectives within a cultural theory framework. Following Lipsky’s (1980) work on street-level bureaucrats, this thesis presents an analysis of street-level workers’ roles in delivering social and cultural policy. Museum workers’ perspectives are presented through a series of case studies (drawing on qualitative interviews and observations) from three local-authority museum services in England, Scotland and Wales. The findings showed evidence that top-down cultural and social policies have had an influence on workers actions, but service-level workers’ understandings were central to the policy process. Museum workers actively shaped museum policy through ground-level interactions with visitors and groups. Workers experienced policy in the cultural sector as fragmented, vague and difficult to engage with at the ground-level. Workers mainly viewed policy as meaningless rhetoric. Despite this, those working at ground-level often utilised policy rhetoric effectively to gain funding and manipulate activities towards their own needs and interpretations. Policy evaluation was also fragmented and underdeveloped within the services studied. Workers found themselves under pressure to fulfil policy objectives but were unable to show how they did this. Furthermore, there was a perceived distance from managers and local authority structures. This allowed a space for workers to implement and shape policy towards their own professional and personal ideals. Vague policies and a lack of formal mechanisms for evaluation led to high levels of worker discretion at ground-level. Economic policy expectations were resisted by workers, who tended to have more egalitarian views. Museum workers effectively managed policy expectations through a mixture of discretion and policy manipulation. Delivery at the ground-level was seen as effective – despite, not because of, cultural sector policies.
Supervisor: Birchall, Johnston; Wright, Sharon Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: culture ; policy ; museums ; street-level workers ; social policy ; cultural policy ; devolution ; policy process ; Great Britain Cultural policy ; Museums Great Britain Management ; Museums Employees Great Britain ; Museums Great Britain Finance