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Title: Victorian street life : performance, browsing and interaction in the museum
Author: Gann, Jack Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 8505 9406
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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The museum exhibit of the reconstructed Victorian street scene is one of the most popular theatres for the interface between the public and the nineteenth-century past and yet it remains unstudied in any depth. This thesis is the first study to outline how meaning is made from the Victorian past on the museum street scene. The thesis is an interdisciplinary comparative case study with a tight focus on four specific museum sites in Yorkshire (where the museum street scene is most prevalent and has the longest pedigree). Inspired by Erving Goffman's dramaturgical sociology, Michel de Certeau's philosophy of the practice of everyday life, Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogic imagination, and the contextual experience model of the museologists John Falk and Lynn Dierking, this thesis examines the gestalt of the museum street experience from the perspective of the various stakeholders involved, from curators to visitors. Using a mix of archival sources and primary on-site research involving interviews with museum staff and recorded observations of museum visitors, the thesis creates an argument that contradicts the prevailing view that 'doing the Victorians' in populist, immersive, and active forms of heritage present a sanitised view of the past which is not open to interrogation from the audience. Instead, it understands the museum street scene as a form of participatory theatre, a recreation of the familiar environment of a real-life street that provides the opportunity for a street-level engagement with the history of ordinary people. It concludes that the reconstructed Victorian street creates a unique form of engagement with the past in which the public can step through the proscenium divide that traditionally separates them from the authority of the museum and participate in the creation of a collaborative, polyglossic narrative, one which points the way toward a more personalisable form of public history.
Supervisor: Sayer, Karen ; Mitchell, Rosemary ; Westgarth, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available