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The role of collections of classical antiquities in UK regional museums : visitors, networks, social contexts

This thesis explores the role of collections of classical antiquities in UK regional museums through qualitative research in six case study museums, with a focus on previously under-researched collections outside London, Oxford and Cambridge. First, an analysis of their history and intended role provides new insights into the broad picture of the development of foreign classical archaeological collections, in a range of contexts: two municipal museums; two university museums; and two galleries founded by private art collectors. The collections' contemporary role is analysed through the related concepts of outputs, benefits and meaning, situated within an exploration of the personal, physical, and socio-cultural contexts. Despite evidence of under-use, in some contexts, classical collections are shown to be made accessible in multiple ways. Focusing on casual visitors to permanent exhibitions, and drawing on interviews with museum visitors, staff members and stakeholders, I use the categories of the Generic Learning Outcomes and Generic Social Outcomes to analyse the perceived benefits of encounters with classical collections. I also discuss the wide range of meanings made from classical antiquities, presenting categories of meaning which emerged from analysis of the interview data. In the final chapter, I discuss the role of collections of classical antiquities, both within the specificity of each case study context, and also drawing general conclusions. I compare their intended role with the role they are expected to play today, and trace some effects of their history on the ways they are now perceived and used. I point, in particular, to tensions between the elite associations of classics and the socially-engaged, inclusive, post-modern museum, and between the foreign origins of classical antiquities and the local focus of many regional museums. I suggest that, within this context, interpreting the history of classical collections offers a productive means of enhancing their role in contemporary society.
Date January 2015
CreatorsDonnellan, V. C.
PublisherUniversity College London (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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