Museums, Society, Inequality

By Richard Sandell | Go to book overview

4

Architectures of inclusion: museums, galleries and inclusive communities

Andrew Newman and Fiona McLean

Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to contribute to the debate about the social value of museums 1 and their potential contribution to inclusion within society. This will be achieved by using the concepts of cultural identity and citizenship as modes of analysis. The result of such an approach is the construction of a taxonomy of the social role of museums, which aims to identify all the major elements involved and the relationships between them. It is hoped that such a theoretical framework will aid museums wishing to develop strategies aimed at increasing their value to society.

The chapter is organised in the following way. First, we investigate the concept of cultural identity and the museum’s role in identity negotiation. As repositories of cultural property museums have always played an important part in constructing identity. An understanding of this process is essential if a museum’s social value is to be clarified. Once this has been achieved the chapter progresses to consider the contested concept of citizenship. The contribution museums could make to the inclusion process within a citizenship framework is then explored through illustrations of past initiatives. It is only once the contribution of museums to the construction of identity is understood that their role in fostering citizenship can be fully explained. Finally the relationships between the various elements are analysed by viewing museums as processes.


Background

The potential social value of museums within society is an area that remains underresearched and thus contested. It follows that the contribution that museums can make to resolving the problems of exclusion is not fully understood. Without this understanding it is difficult for museums to effectively address social problems, since basic questions about their potential remain unanswered. In the academic discourses of sociology and social studies, the process of social exclusion is debated within a citizenship structure, whilst one of the most important

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