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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mediating and negotiating culture in an art museum Dent, Sandra


Cross cultural education in art museums is an interesting and complex issue. While cultural exhibitions have received attention in research, studies have usually focused on the nature of the exhibitions and have not explored the audience's understanding about culture in relationship to the exhibition. This qualitative study explores how and what First Nations cultures have been mediated by a civic art museum and negotiated by the museum audience, and the relationship between the two. Observations of the exhibition and audience and interviews with 99 adults in the museum were collected and analyzed to identify patterns and relationships. Analysis of the exhibition found the mediation of culture was distinguished by a partnership of the museum and First Nations cultures which reflected both their languages and voices. Audience responses illustrated a range of affective, factual and conceptual responses. Positive affective responses reflected the stimulation and satisfaction with learning which occurred. Visitors indicated enlightenment, exposure and revision of previously held ideas and assumptions, similarities and differences among cultures, and insight into perspectives of others. Partnership between the museum and the exhibition of masks from Northwest First Nations cultures is seen as a complex undertaking requiring reflection and examination of these two cultures. Visitor responses to the exhibition indicates learning, thinking and innumerable ways individuals construct meanings and understanding from art museum experiences.

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