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Making Space for Curiosity and Innovation: Reshaping Sheffield Museums

Gardner, Pippa (2018) Making Space for Curiosity and Innovation: Reshaping Sheffield Museums. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This collaborative doctoral project, in partnership with Museums Sheffield, examines a redevelopment project at Weston Park Museum from 2014-2016. This research addresses the question: “What is the relationship between adults’ curiosity, meaning-making and innovation, and museum space?” An ethnographic methodology was used including: 85 participant observation sessions; 9 interviews with 11 members of Museum Sheffield staff; a workshop with 13 members of Museum Sheffield staff; 130 observations of visitors in public gallery spaces; 70 write-draw submissions from visitors; and ongoing documentation of the museum redevelopment project. The collaborative nature of the research blurs the boundaries between researcher and research participants: museum staff contributing to the design and development of the research project, and the researcher contributing to the daily work of the museum. The findings show that space is made by all museum users. Therefore, the curiosity, meaning-making and innovation activities of staff, visitors and those in-between each impact upon how space is made. In turn, the type, intensity, duration and location of these various activities is influenced by the institutional form of the museum generally, and specifically that of Museums Sheffield. Institutional curiosity shapes how a museum acquires new information, how it empowers staff and how it engages audiences. Institutional form also influences how meaning is made in the museum. Additionally, the context of a particular museum or other institution, in this case Museums Sheffield, is part of the specificity inherent in vernacular innovation. This thesis builds three distinct contributions: a theory of institutional curiosity; the application of the concept of ‘professional meaning-making’ to a new context (i.e. the museum); and the identification of a new concept - vernacular innovation. The research findings also informed the knowledge held and practiced within the museum, and within Museums Sheffield in particular, such as through processes of prototyping new design with visitors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Geography (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.749473
Depositing User: Dr Pippa Gardner
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2018 10:58
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:55
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20676

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