What do objects do? Material approaches to (art) museum interpretation

Researcher: Alex Woodall acw18@le.ac.uk

Who am I?

I am a PhD Researcher at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.  I am now in the second year of my PhD research.  Prior to my PhD, I worked in learning and interpretation teams in several art museums.  I am a qualified teacher.  Further information about me can be found on my webpage in the School of Museum Studies: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/research/phd-student-research/AlexandraWoodall


What is my research about?

I am aiming to investigate the use of different types of material object (accessioned collection objects, artist-made resources, or other types of teaching/handling collection) as a source for inspiring individuals to respond imaginatively in art museums.  I am interested in whether different types of object elicit different responses.


Why am I interested in exploring this question?

Museums are about objects. Yet there is a paradox lying at the heart of museum practice concerning museum objects.  They are at once both present and knowable (for example in display and research) but at the same time also absent and unknowable (such as in a lack of sensory contact and in their capacity to generate a sense of awe).  It is the aim of this research to centralize the physical object back into museum practice.


How will I undertake my research?

My research will largely comprise of in-depth interviews with museum professionals, artists and teachers engaged in work with objects in (art) museums.  These interviews will take approximately one hour and will be recorded.  In addition, I will be observing sessions and speaking to participants.


Why am I doing an initial online survey?

Although I have already identified several case studies for my research, I do not want to miss any opportunities to explore additional institutions doing work in this area, hence starting with a broad online survey.  It may be that due to responses collated, I may contact you again to ask for further information, and perhaps to arrange an interview or observation.  I am also interested in finding out from organisations not engaged in such work as to why they do not do so, and what the barriers to using objects in (art) museums may be.


Informed consent

You must be over 18 to participate in this survey.  Your participation in this project is entirely voluntary and you are free to withdraw from the project at any point.  If you are uncertain or uncomfortable about any aspect of your participation, please feel free to discuss this with me in the first instance.


Protecting your confidentiality

Any information you supply will be treated confidentially.  Anonymity will be granted unless you are happy to be identified. 


If you have any questions about the ethical conduct of the interview, please contact Dr Giasemi Vavoula (Research Ethics Officer) School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, 19 University Road, Leicester. LE1 7RF.


Thank you very much.


Section 1: Background information

Section 2: Accessioned objects

3) Do you use, handle, or explore accessioned museum objects within your work?   (If ‘yes’, please go onto Question 5. If ‘no’, please go onto Question 4, followed by Question 15 onwards.)

5) What sorts of accessioned objects do you use? (please tick all that apply and give further details of specific items or reasons if appropriate)
6) Which teams have access to accessioned objects in their work at your institution? (please tick all that apply)
7) How do you use these accessioned museum objects? (please tick all that apply)
11) Do you explain ‘rules’ for handling objects to your audiences?

13) Are the objects handled with gloves?

Section 3: Other non-accessioned objects

15) Do you use, handle or explore other sorts of objects (non-accessioned) in your work? (If ‘yes’, please go onto Question 17. If ‘no’, please go onto Question 16, followed by Question 26 onwards.)

17) What sorts of non-accessioned objects do you use? (please tick all that apply and give further details where appropriate)
18) How do you use these non-accessioned museum objects? (please tick all that apply)
22) Do you explain ‘rules’ for handling objects to your audiences?

24) Are the objects handled with gloves?

Section 4: General questions

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