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Living histories: performing work and working lives in the Industrial Museum

Williams, Polly (2011) Living histories: performing work and working lives in the Industrial Museum. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This research uses theory from the field of performance studies with which to analyse museum performances, and more specifically, considers the notion of the ‘interpretive performance’. Using a case study approach and being based on a collaboration with the National Coal Mining Museum, it considers a range of interpretive activities characteristic of the industrial museum and heritage site. Other case study sites chosen for comparison specialise in the representation and display of work and working lives from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries in the North of England. This research looks how these museums/sites produce ‘first’ and ‘third person’ interpretation as well as guided tours and demonstrations in order to interpret this history. A wide definition of performance is used with which to consider a range of interpretive activities, so that both the scripted and acted, theatre-like scenarios produced by ‘first person’ actors can be considered alongside the under-researched ‘third person’ performance that uses less characterisation and acting. The idea of ‘bringing history to life’ is central to this research, as ‘performed interpretation’ aims to restore the presence of the people from the past, and animate museum space. The interpretive aspects of this type of performance are that they produce a dialogic space where visitors/audiences are invited to be more active in their meaning-making. The interpretive performance uses the museum’s materiality: its architecture, spaces and artefacts and the histories connected with it to explain, illustrate and illuminate and relate to the visitor’s memory and imagination. However, although desirable in its ability to produce a sense of liveliness, presence and living, performing history also has the effect of questioning the representational practices of the museum, as this ‘bringing to life’ is always re-making history in the present. This research therefore considers the relationship between performance and authenticity in the museum through these interpretations of history.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-182-5
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Performance and Cultural Industries (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.557377
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2012 14:57
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2592

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