Introduction: Museum Exhibition Design Histories

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


This introduction offers an accessible historiography of exhibition design and a new, three-part theoretical framework for analysing museum exhibition design histories. First, the chapter presents the value of attending to historic museum exhibition design as an evolving process – an active, ongoing task of experimentation and interaction involving intellectual, creative and technical choices. Second, it highlights the impact of labour, emotion and embodiment in the making of museum exhibitions, presenting design as forged through and replete with personal and professional demands on the body, the senses and emotions. Third, it emphasises the need to decentre exhibition design through a focus on histories of identity, collaboration and hierarchy ‘behind the scenes’ of the museum. It argues for an emphasis on the everyday objects of museum design, as well as the centrality of a diverse range of actors from within and beyond the museum, from carpenters and label writers to volunteers and local communities. A range of methodologies for exploring museum exhibition design histories are then presented, followed by a brief description of the structure of the book and the individual chapters. The four sections of the book - ‘Exhibition Makers’, ‘Beyond the Museum’, ‘The Material Culture of Display’, and ‘Exhibition Lives’ – are introduced.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistories of Exhibition Design in the Museum
Subtitle of host publicationMakers, Process and Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Sept 2022


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