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Who Are Art Exhibitions For?: An Investigation into Narrative Choice and Public Reaction in Art Museums

Thesis by Grace J. Rotwein (2017)

Museums are no stranger to controversy and contention surrounding exhibitions and interpretation. Curators and exhibit developers have the power, whether unintentionally or by design, to prioritize, overtly or subtly, certain groups over others. This thesis explores responses to one somewhat contentious exhibit, Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Dutch Golden Age, and describes how an alternative interpretive technique, the Ideas, People, Objects, Physical (IPOP) Framework, could be implemented in such an exhibition. To understand responses, this study looked at reviews from both academic and popular media sources, as well as social media channels. Through this analysis, it was found that responses were complex and nuanced for a number of reasons. When considering Asia in Amsterdam through the lens of IPOP, it immediately becomes clear how differently this exhibition may have looked had the curators utilized an interpretive framework designed to facilitate a wider variety of visitor experiences.

Keywords: Class of 2017, museum, museum studies, museology, research, art museums, exhibitions, visitors


Rotwein, G., & Schmidt, Benjamin. (2017). Who are art exhibitions for? : An investigation into narrative choice and public reaction in art museums. [University of Washington Libraries].