Revisiting the utopian promise of interpretive media

An autoethnographic analysis drawn from art museums, 1991–2017

Authored by: Peter Samis

The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Media and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138676305
eBook ISBN: 9781315560168
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter surveys the evolution of digitally delivered in-gallery interpretive media in art museums since 1991. Despite the increasing capacity of computers over this period, fundamental structural challenges persist, including the development of a public-facing interpretive language and the integration of digital interpretive content within the “white cube” gallery. Unlike history or science museums, it is observed that art museums have tended to constrain the potential that digital technologies offer to deepen their visitors’ understanding and appreciation of art. Through an analytic auto-ethnographic account, the author draws extensively upon personal archival records and published proceedings from significant international conferences that have helped define the field of museum media and communication. Examples that successfully blend analogue and digital interpretation in the galleries are discussed, focusing primarily on American and European art museums.

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