Aims and Objectives
Enhancing Interpretation is a project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board AHRB. It is concerned with conduct and interaction in art museums and galleries and the development and deployment of novel interpretation resources to enhance the visitorsÕ experience of the artwork.
There is a growing interest amongst curators, museum managers, educationalists and designers exploring ways in which they can enhance public understanding of and access to the arts and decorative arts. They are exploring novel ways of organising exhibitions and displaying objects as well as developing and deploying distinctive resources for interpretation. As yet however, we know little of how visitors respond to these developments and whether they indeed serve to enhance interpretation and engagement in the arts and decorative arts.
The project consists of three key strands of work:
video-based field studies of the conduct and interaction of visitors in museums and galleries and in particular the ways that they respond to art and decorative art and use the resources available;
ethnographic studies of curatorial work and exhibition design to explore the practices, concepts and theories that inform the design of interpretation material and devices;
practical interventions and naturalistic experiments with innovative, low and high-tech resources; designed to enhance interpretation and engagement.
The project interweaves innovations in the social, cognitive and computer sciences with contemporary developments in art and decorative art museums to address the ways in which we can facilitate engagement in and access to the arts and decorative arts. The project is undertaken in close collaboration with museum managers, curators, educationalists, artists, and designers. We are working with members of a range of museums and galleries including Tate Britain, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of Childhood and the Manchester City Art Gallery.
First and foremost the project is concerned with contributing to our understanding of the ways in which people, both alone and with others, respond to art and decorative in museums and galleries:- to examine ordinary, everyday practical aesthetics and how it arises in and through interaction between people. The project will also contribute to our understanding of the design process and the ways in which ideas and theories of the visitor and their response is embodied within the material resources designed to enhance their engagement. The project will also contribute to our understanding, and the design and development of, resources, techniques and technologies to enhance engagement and access. It will generate recommendations for the design and evaluation of novel interpretation resources and techniques that aim to enhance and engender co-participation and collaboration. The project will also produce a body of findings and insights concerning the ways in which information and communication technologies can create new and distinctive forms of social interaction with and around the arts and decorative arts; issues of some importance to disciplines such as CSCW, HCI, Sociology and Computer Science, as well as museum studies.
Heath, C.C. & D. vom Lehn. 2004. Configuring reception: looking at exhibits in museums and galleries. Theory Culture and Society. Vol. 21(6): 43-65.
Heath, C., Luff, P., vom Lehn, D., Hindmarsh, J. and J. Cleverly. 2002. Crafting Participation: Designing ecologies, configuring experience. Visual Communication, 1, 1, pp. 9-34.
vom Lehn, D., C. Heath, et al. 2002. "Video based field studies in museums and galleries." Visitor Studies Today. V(III): 15-17; 20-23.
vom Lehn, D., Heath, C.C. and J. Hindmarsh. 2001. Exhibiting Interaction: Conduct and Collaboration in Museums and Galleries Interaction. Symbolic Interaction. 24(2): 189-217.