Not satisfied with the assertion that museums have taken great strides in becoming representative, relevant and open in their preoccupations, A Museum in Public contends that the supposedly public nature of their institutional role continues to be a rhetorical one. This book critically examines museums as institutions of the public sphere, questioning what assumptions are made about the publicness of their operations.
Using as a case study the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Canada’s largest museum, the book interrogates the public nature and political dynamics of the ROM as it completed a multi-million dollar architectural project and adopted a new vision of the museum. Providing an engaged cultural analysis of how publicness is reflected in the attitudes and behaviours of management, staff and visitors, Ashley claims that museums often function as a boundary zone between the needs and concerns of the public and ideas of publicness that serve corporate and managerial interests and practices. Asking the reader to seriously consider whether the ideals of contact zone and engagement are practically possible within an administrative setting, the book offers insights into how museums might achieve political publicness through transparent, open and democratic communicative action.
A Museum in Public raises questions at the intersection of disciplines and, as a result, will appeal to academics, researchers and postgraduates in a number of fields, including: museum studies, heritage studies, cultural studies, cultural policy, public policy, political science, sociology, geography, architecture, art history, public history, tourism studies, and cultural management.