Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG)

Making Meaning in Art Museums 1

This research project was a joint venture between RCMG, the West Midlands Regional Museums Council, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Museum. It was the first of two six-month projects that investigated art museums and their interpretive communities, the second of which took place at the Castle Museum in Nottingham.

Aims and objectives

Making Meaning in Art Museums 1 explores the ways in which visitors to Wolverhampton Art Gallery talked about their experiences, both of the art works that they looked at and of the museum itself.  It looks at the question of how visitors make their experiences meaningful to themselves and what interpretive strategies they use to do so. The research also assesses, in a preliminary way, whether these meaning-making strategies indicate that gallery visitors might be considered an 'interpretive community' and whether this might be similar or different to internal, art museum interpretive communities.

  • What sets of ideas, ranges of vocabulary, and personal associations do visitors have when discussing paintings?
  • What are the implications for those involved in presenting visual art in museums and galleries? 

This is an ethnographic study, which uses qualitative methods.


Making Meaning in Art Museums 1: Visitors’ Interpretive Strategies at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (Report, 2001) (PDF, 170KB)

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