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Interpreting Hybridity: A Decolonizing Analysis of Museum Interpretation Strategies

Research Thesis by Shiro Burnette

The purpose of this study was to determine the ways in which museums engage in decolonizing practices through their interpretation of hybrid material culture. A case-study based design was implemented in order to explore the interpretive methods of hybrid materials in exhibitions across two institutions. Semi-structured interviews with staff and a document analysis of online exhibition materials presented the qualitative data for analysis. The findings delineate that within the given case studies, hybrid materials are prevalent and the interpretive strategies surrounding them are just as diverse. These interpretive strategies include shifting vocabulary, live-interpretation and comparison-based presentation. This study builds upon decolonization-based literature and offers additional insights for museums pursuing the goal of decolonizing their spaces. Such work aids in combining the theories of museology and material culture theory through a decolonizing lens. This research is limited in scope given minimal literature that bridges hybridity and decolonization, the diverse missions and values instituted by museums towards decolonization and the inherent specificity of a case-study design.


Burnette, S. E. (2020). Interpreting hybridity: A decolonizing analysis of museum interpretation strategies. (Order No. 28001572). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2437116275). Retrieved from


Decolonization, Material culture, Museums