Therapeutic museum? Social inclusion and community engagement in Glasgow museums
MetadataShow full item record
In this thesis, I address the role of museums in contemporary Scotland, with specific reference to Glasgow Museums, the city of Glasgow’s municipal museums service. The empirical research focused on both the policy landscape within which Scottish museums are emplaced, and the activities and practices of museum staff. The research involved interviews with museum professionals, and participant observation within the museums service. The research findings emphasise the complexity of the role that museums play in contemporary society. In the thesis, I attempt to articulate the policy concept of social inclusion insofar as is it articulated within Glasgow Museums. I argue that in recent years Glasgow Museums has attempted to re-orientate its service around social inclusion, and yet the diffuse nature of the concept, coupled with the complexity of the institutional and organisational configurations within which it is implemented, means that many different – and extremely diverse – activities come to be considered part of the social inclusion agenda. The complex set of power relations through which social inclusion is articulated often results in conflict between different museum venues, departments and cohorts of staff. Through an examination of the theory underpinning the concept of social inclusion, and the practices privileged as part of Glasgow Museums’ commitment to social inclusion, I argue that it could usefully be understood as a therapeutic technology. I also suggest that community engagement has become an increasingly important part of socially inclusive practice within Glasgow Museums, yet I contend that community engagement represents a new and largely uncharted territory for many museum professionals. Through an exploration of the planning and execution of a community engagement project – entitled Curious – I argue that community engagement could usefully be thought of as a form of care. As a result, I contend that community engagement requires distinctive skills, and that these skills are often explicitly gendered.