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Public Engagement in Cultural Heritage Conservation: An Investigation of Museum Visitors’ Views

Koutromanou, Danai (2015) Public Engagement in Cultural Heritage Conservation: An Investigation of Museum Visitors’ Views. MPhil thesis, University of York.

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This research study examines the impact of conservation-related engagement events in the museum environment. In particular, it investigates the predominant views of museum visitors around heritage conservation in response to each event studied and captures the perception changes that occur (or do not occur) during visiting conservation exhibitions, viewing conservation demonstrations, interacting with conservators, and hands-on participation in conservation work. Findings are based on the integrated analyses of data sourced from four principal case studies: an adult learning event at the Yorkshire Museum entitled Conservation Workshop: Pieces Of The Past; a temporary exhibition at the British Museum entitled Conservation in Focus; interpretation of conservation projects at Knole House, National Trust; and
finally a permanent exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum entitled Conservation Galleries. The principal aim of this study is to provide an insight into public engagement in cultural heritage conservation and specifically into how this is received by heritage audiences in order to inform policy and practice on future projects as well as their evaluation. The total sample consists of 271 questionnaire responses and 63 interviews with museum visitors on from which both qualitative and quantitative data is sourced and analysed using a mixed-methods approach. A typology of engagement events has been developed to assist the analyses. Research findings show that each one of the events investigated has had a significant but at the same time different impact on visitors’ views on the condition in which museum exhibits are presented and their views on heritage conservation practice. Findings also suggest that cultural heritage conservation is held in very high esteem among museum visitors and there is an overall positive disposition to find out more about it. This notion of conservation’s importance is shown to be associated with values that visitors consider inherent to the work of conservators. Moreover, this study captures prevailing views on what visitors currently consider as good practice in conservation, demonstrating an overall inclination towards preventive conservation rather than restoration, and towards being offered more information about conservation work rather than participating and engaging through active forms of involvement. The study also demonstrates how notions around the concepts of authenticity, originality, integrity impact on the visitor experience, forming a key element of the attraction for museum visiting. It illustrates the existence of multiple understandings of access among visitors, with physical access to heritage material being highlighted as the most enjoyable aspect of the museum experience. Finally, the study also reveals some aspects of professional attitudes towards public engagement. Together with the principal findings, these insights can be a useful resource for conservation practitioners and policy makers involved in public engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Related URLs:
Keywords: Cultural Heritage, Conservation, Museum, Visitors, Public Engagement, Views, Visitor Studies
Academic Units: The University of York > Archaeology (York)
Depositing User: Ms Danai Koutromanou
Date Deposited: 25 May 2017 09:01
Last Modified: 25 May 2017 09:01
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17295

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