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Title: Exploring the use of participatory practices in Greek museum education through the prism of identity
Author: Giampili, Ioanna Danai
ISNI:       0000 0004 7426 5757
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The research presented in this PhD dissertation provides a socio-educational perspective on the participatory representation of identity in Greek Laographic Museums. Museums are seen as an extension of formal educational spaces through their educational activities and school partnerships or outreach programmes (Hooper-Greenhill, 2007). However, they are also mainly engaging in the process of interpreting the cultures and communities represented in their collection, thus, assigning them an identity, which they then present to the public (McLean, 2005, 2008). The public, in turn, interprets it through the lens of their own identities. A result of this process is the creation and sharing of new knowledge about identity through exhibition design (Jones, Sandweiss, Mouliou, & Orloff, 2012; McLean, 2006; Newman & McLean, 2006; O’Neill, 2006). This study adopts the stance that exhibition design is the primary way museums are fulfilling their educational role. It puts forward the idea that the involvement of community members in the founding of a museum about their local identity can result in a rich, polyphonous narrative and positively affect the bond and sense of ownership the community develops in relation to the museum and their locale. This is in line with literature predicting that in the context of multicultural societies and increased mobility, bringing people together through shared cultural elements of the location they have in common, can aid social cohesion and inclusion (Graham & Howard, 2008; Hague & Jenkins, 2005; Howard, 2003). As a theoretical starting point, this research was guided by the views of Hall (1997a,1992) on changing identities and the links between identity, culture, interpretation and narrative for being potentially more reflective of current museological practice that is starting to operate within a participatory paradigm. Designed as a case study around the founding of a new museum on a small Greek island, Astypalaia, it used participatory methods in a variety of ways to engage local residents in the process of collaboratively designing the exhibition narrative of this new space that would share the story of life on the island. To frame the main case study, this research also mapped the practices of laographic museums across Greece, in order to point out what a typical museum of that type looks like in this context and assess in what ways Astypalaia is in line or deviates from this. The results of this process were compared to the findings of the case study and linked to literature on participation, education, and identity construction in museums and communities. The following discussion argues that, while collaborative projects require structure, effort and skills in their facilitation, they have the potential to make a museum narrative more representative and inclusive and benefit their participants in multiple ways. By having access to the project from its conception until its final stages, this work aims to provide a holistic view of the challenges and possibilities of implementing a participatory approach in the founding of a new museum and to discuss the knowledge such a process generates.
Supervisor: Burke, Catherine Sponsor: Vergottis Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: education ; museums ; identity ; local identity ; community ; participation ; museum education