Museology Master of Arts Program

November 13, 2019

Place in space: what moving means for a museum’s identity

Thesis by Elizabeth Wiley (2019)

The purpose of this study was to describe how staff perceived and understood their museum’s institutional identity as their museum constructed a new building and moved to a new location. The research focused on how staff described their museum’s identity, their role in the museum, and the impact of the change in architecture and location before, during and after the move. There was precedent to understand how these new facilities and moves were impacting these institutions. Current literature suggested that the co-creation of identity of institutions by staff was difficult to define. Literature also suggested that museums were finding that they needed to evaluate their identity to remain relevant. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with Executive Directors and focus group discussions at three museum sites. The results of this study suggested that staff understood the identity of their museum was connected to changes in physical visibility, changes in community connections, and changes related to mission and vision. This study also suggested that staff perceived that, during a move, their museum’s identity was not stagnant, and even after the move, their museum’s identity continued to change and shift. The limitations of this study included the small sample size and the geographic location of the sample museums.

Keywords: Class of 2019, museum, museum studies, museology, identity, place


Wiley, E., & O’Donnell, Wilson. (2019). Place in space : What moving means for a museum’s identity. Seattle]: University of Washington.