Museums, discourse, and visitors : the case of London's Tate Modern

Rodney, Seph (2015) Museums, discourse, and visitors : the case of London's Tate Modern. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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This thesis examines the conceptualization of the visitor within the discursive construction of the contemporary public art museum. It takes the rhetorical formulation of the interaction between the theorized visitor figure and the discursively rendered museum to constitute the ‘visit’. This work argues that the position of the visitor within museum discourse has radically shifted in the past generation; the primary claim being that the visit is reconceived as a personally customizable experience less oriented toward the transfer of information from the curator (regarded as expert and educator) to the visitor figure (regarded as ignorant pupil), and more oriented toward meeting the particular needs and preferences of the visitor. This conception currently appears in museum discourse and in the minds of influential actors who shape this discourse. To analyze this claim, this thesis draws on the institutionalization of the visit via a case study of the Tate Modern museum, which provides the primary empirical evidence demonstrating the above claim. The resulting study relates the questions, structure, and findings of a systematic investigation into the historical, social, and museological conditions necessary to an institutionally manifested personalized, visitor-centered visit. The conceptual development of the visitor figure is traced through implicit accounts of the visit within academic studies of the museum, institutional records, marketing reports, advertisements, and the public discourse convened around Tate Modern’s opening thematic displays that served as an extension of Tate’s marketing and audience development programs. This visitor figure is now coextensive with and conditioned by a neoliberal participatory agenda that trades on the notion of personal agency and enlightened cultural consumption, which is, in turn, undergirded and conditioned by the intertwined forces of consumerism, marketing, and branding.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: London Consortium
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2016 14:29
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 12:47

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