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The Road to Renewal: Refiguring the Art Museum in Twentieth-Century Britain

Baeza Ruiz, Ana (2017) The Road to Renewal: Refiguring the Art Museum in Twentieth-Century Britain. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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The thesis critically investigates the ways in which art museums in Britain evolved their curatorial techniques in the first half of the twentieth century, and it specifically charts the career of the scholar and museum director Philip Hendy (1900-1980), by focusing on the three museums under his care: Leeds City Art Gallery (1934-1945); Temple Newsam, Leeds (1938-1945); and the National Gallery, London (1946-1967). Through these case-studies, the thesis explores Hendy’s scheme to modernise these institutions during the interwar, wartime and post-war periods (1934-1956), and locates this reform in the context of changing discourses within the museum profession about the purpose of art museums in Britain. Specifically, the investigation is concerned with the duality that was implicated in this agenda of modernisation, as museums aimed to democratise access to their collections with new display strategies and amenities for visitors, but whose efforts were at the same time characterised by a specialisation of curatorial practice which led to concerns about the status of the profession and the improvement of museum standards. The thesis thus articulates the increasingly professionalised endeavours in the museums under study, and examines how these informed, but also competed with, the concrete methods by which these galleries sought to open their doors to the interests of larger publics. The focus of the investigation is on museum presentation - encompassing both architecture and display - which acted as a site of mediation between these professional and public spheres and shaped visitor engagement. As the thesis demonstrates, the curatorial techniques in the museums under review emphasised the need for museums to adapt to the demands of the present by updating their methods of exhibition, and secondly, they intended to make the collections visible to visitors qua viewers, in the belief that this would also make the museum more open and accessible.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: art museums; professionalisation; publics; twentieth century; Britain
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.727245
Depositing User: Dr Ana Baeza
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2017 13:36
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:56
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18708

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