Museum Audience’s Texts: Toward a Contextual Conceptual Reading

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6 Scopus citations


Museum scholars and professionals agree that audiences’ texts are under-researched and are often approached anecdotally. This state limits the ability to advance effective theorizing of, and interventions in, audience participation and engagement with museums. The article addresses this lacuna by promoting a contextual media-centered conceptualization of both audiences’ texts and the media that elicit and mediate them. The article responds to the mediatic turn in museum studies and to the recent call for on-the-ground research of media-related museum practice. Taking comment books as a case study, the concept of response vehicles (RVs) is offered, defined as onsite institutional media, serving to elicit, record, and display audiences’ texts. The study employs data-rich qualitative methods to depict the participatory affordances of two RVs in two history museums, and to analyze the texts they elicit and display. Four reading strategies (“keys”), tailored specifically to evaluate audiences texts as forms of participation, are demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalVisitor Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Visitor Studies Association.


  • Discourse analysis
  • media and communication
  • mediatic turn
  • museum audience
  • participation
  • texts


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