UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Changing permanent exhibitions: an exercise in hindsight, foresight, and insight Mayer, Carol E.


Traditions associated with conservatism, scholarly content, and durability inform the ideology of the permanent exhibition. Once installed it is usually considered complete, and will remain unchanged until its content is questioned or considered outdated, or its physical deterioration becomes embarrassing. Museum curators work on very few, if any, permanent exhibitions during their career, and when they do their primary focus is on the scholarly content. It has only been in the past few years that museums, and curators, have looked to the discipline of visitor studies as being integral to process of exhibition development and the accessibility of content. A permanent exhibition constructed prior to this collaboration is revisited by its curator who applied five visitor studies' methodologies to the gallery to ascertain whether the curatorial/design concept was accessible to the visitor. This paper presents some ideas and findings from that study.

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