Heritage Ethnography

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  • Pa r t n e r s h i p s a nd t h e P owe r o f P o s s e s s i o n a nd P r o f i t

    Mu s eum o f t h e C i t i z e n P an e l a t t h e B r i t i s h Mu s eum

    KYVH7EthnographyARCLG209:Heritage,Globalisation,andDevelopment 22April2016

    Figure1:Kopplin,A.2016,BritishMuseumGreatCourtafterMuseumoftheCitizenPanel.(blackandwhite).

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    1.Introduction

    Name?Afterqueuingsilentlyfortenminutes,itwasnowmyturntoproduce

    proofofmyticketpurchase.TheBritishMuseum,nowclosedtothegeneral

    publicfortheevening,wasquietexceptforthesystematicshufflingofticket-

    holdersintotheauditorium.Thequestion:HowwilltheBritishMuseumpresent

    itselftothepublicandbehaveinthefaceofsuggestionsoutsidetheprofession?

    ranthroughmymindasIbegantostudythecontentanddynamicsofthe

    MuseumoftheCitizenpanelevent4March2016.

    AsoneofthemostprestigiousWorldHeritagemuseumsintheworld,theBritish

    Museumcanbeseenasconstitutingitsownprofessionalcommunitywitha

    reputationforpurposefullyclosingitselfofffromvisitorsandevenother

    museums.LizForgan,aBritishMuseumpanelmember,openlyacknowledged

    theBritishMuseumsreputationasathreatwhenintroducingtheevent

    (MuseumoftheCitizen2016panel).Slowly,sheexplained,thenew

    museologicalphilosophiescirculatingandprofessionalappointmentswithinthe

    museumhaveresultedinadesiretoextendoutwardsintothepublicand

    professionalcommunitiesandcreateadialoguebetweentheBritishMuseum

    andtheworlditlivesin(MuseumoftheCitizen2016panel).

    WhatbecameapparentthroughouttheeventweretheBritishMuseums

    assumptionaboutheritageownershipasmerelypossessionanditsassertionof

    thatpowerwithinthesectorfromthosepossessions.Theseheritageobjects,

    oftennotproducedorfoundwithintheUnitedKingdom,areusedaspawnsin

    ordertoforgepartnershipswithothermuseumsandfurtheritsownname.In

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    thecourseoftheevening,hypocrisiesarosesurroundingthemeaningof

    citizenship,ownership,andthenatureofpartnershipsamongheritage

    organizationsandtheirpublic.Theelementsofadialogicapproach(Harrison

    2013)toheritagepartnershipswerepresentinthepanelmemberswordsand

    yetareabsentwhendescribingthenatureofthesepartnerships.

    2.EthnographyatMuseumoftheCitizenPanel

    2.1Methodology

    ThisstudyconstitutesanethnographyexaminingthenetworkstheBritish

    Museumhascreatedoutsideitsownwalls.Inwritingthisnetwork

    ethnography,IattempttofollowthesuggestionsofBerthod,Grothe-Hammer,

    andSydow(2016),andapplyamixofbothqualitativeandquantitativeresearch

    methodstothestudy,thoughIrelyheavieruponmyqualitativefindings.These

    methodsareappliedwhenexaminingthestructureofaninterorganisational

    networkandhowthatplanproducesandaffectsactions(Berthodetal.2016).

    2.2QualitativeandQuantitativeResearchMethods

    Thedataforthisstudywascollectedthroughobservationsofthepanelmembers

    andphysicalaudienceparticipantsaswellastheirreactionstovirtualaudience

    questionsviaTwitter#MuseumOfTheCitizen.Additionally,textanalysiswas

    conductedontheMuseumoftheCitizenonlineresourcesandpromotional

    material.

    Myroleasaresearcherwasthatofbothobserverandparticipant.Theeventwas

    broughttomyattentionthroughsocialmedia,inthesamewayasmanyother

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    participants.Ipurchasedthesame5ticketandsatintheauditoriumseatsalong

    witheveryotheraudiencememberphysicallypresent.Thoughaudience

    membersweregrantedpermissiontoaskquestions,Ichosetonotguidetheflow

    ofconversationtowardsmypersonalresearchquestionsandinsteadoptedto

    observethepaneldiscussionprogressorganically.

    2.3TheResearchField

    ThecentralsettingforthisethnographywastheMuseumoftheCitizenpanel

    thattookplacebetween18:00and20:00intheauditoriumoftheBritish

    MuseuminBloomsburyon4March2016.ThoughIestimatedbetweenone

    hundredandone-hundred-and-twentyphysicalaudiencemembers,Ifocused

    primarilyonthepresentationsandanswersofthefivepanelmembersandthe

    twoadditionalspeakersattheevent.Asecondary,onlinesettingwasalsousedin

    thisstudyastheeventcreatedavirtualcommunitythroughtheuseofsocial

    mediaandawebsite.

    2.4ResearchEthics

    ForthisstudyIconductedmyresearchcovertly,butwithinanentirelypublic

    setting.Theobjectsofmyresearch,thepanelmembers,alreadyhadtheir

    identitiespublishedinadvertisementsfortheeventsandwerepreparedto

    speakinapubliccapacity.Withtheirwordsandprofessionalidentitiespublicly

    knownandadvertised,therewasnotaneedtocontactthespeakersbeforehand

    fortheuseoftheirspokencontentorconcealtheirnamesandprofessions.

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    Sincetheaudiencememberswereinformedbythemuseumthattheeventwas

    beingrecordedinaudioandvisualformat,theywereawaretheirwordscouldbe

    usedpublicly.Theiridentitieshowever,wouldstillremainanonymousunless

    voluntarilyofferedbytheparticipantsthemselves.Myresearchwasnot

    concernedwiththepersonalidentitiesoftheparticipants,merelythepanel

    membersreactionstotheirwords(whetherverbalorvirtual).Therefore,the

    contenttheaudiencemembersprovidedhasbeenusedinthisstudyto

    contextualizepanelmembersresponses,butthepersonalidentitiesofthe

    individualsremainanonymouseventothisresearcher.

    2.5Reflexivity

    IrecognizemypositionasaMuseumStudiesmastersstudentandcurrent

    volunteerfortheBritishMuseumsCommunityEngagementDepartmentcan

    complicatemyanalysisofthistopicandpotentiallyleavemeopentobias.These

    factorssimultaneouslyprovidemewithadeeperinsightintothemuseological

    practicesoftheBritishMuseumandthehistoricalcontextsoftheseheritage

    policies;however,muchofmypersonalworkinmuseumshasbeeninthefieldof

    audienceresearchandoutreach,makingmesensitivetotheconcernsofthe

    publiccommunities.Iseekthentobetransparentinhowtheseexperiences

    mightaffectmyanalysis.

    2.6TheoreticalFramework

    Theacademictheorythatshapesthisethnographyishingedupontheideathat

    heritagepoliciesaremoreaccuratelyunderstoodasprocessesratherthan

    products(Howard2003;Harrison2013).Themuseumhistoricallyhas

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    perpetuatedandheighteneditsownculturalpracticesthroughauthoritativeand

    socialandpoliticalplatforms(Bennett1995).Thepracticestheybringintothe

    futurearedependedupontheircurrentvalues,butthesevaluesarestrongly

    perpetuatedbythemorepowerfulactors(Harrison2013).

    Therearemultipleactorsthatcontributetoheritage-productionandby

    wideningthenetworkofdialogue,thepreviouslyexcludedactorsaregivena

    chancetoactivelyparticipate(Harrison2013).Naturallythen,heritagecanbe

    seenasasocialactandbyexaminingtheconversationshadamongpartnersand

    thenatureoftheirrelationshiptooneanother,heritagebeginstopresentitselfin

    amoreholisticform.Heritagepoliciesarecreatedthroughnetworksof

    inseparableactors,bothtangiblepeopleandobjectsaswellasintangible

    practices(Harrison2013).Aswithanysocialinteraction,powerdynamicsexist.

    Onceweidentifythemorepowerfulactors,wecanbegintoseewhyparticular

    setsofvalueshavebeenhighlighted,andmoreimportantly,whatsetsofvalues

    havebeensuppressed.

    Theaimofadialogicapproachtoheritageistodemocratizetheprocessof

    heritage-makingandactivelyseekoutthediversitythatexistsintheworldand

    begintoincorporatethemintomainstreamheritagepoliciesasequallyvaluable

    producersandconsumersofheritage(Harrison2013:229).Differenceand

    diversitymustbepresentednotasintrinsic,butassomethingtobechosenand

    activelypromoted;notassomethingthatissimplyrootedinthepast,butasan

    effectivechoicetowardswhichsocietiesmustworkinthefuture(Harrison

    2013:230).Incirculatingthenotionsthatothergroupshaveaboutheritage,

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    thoseactorsaswellastheirideasbecomemoreacceptedandlesscontested

    throughouttheworldandtheentiresectorbenefits.

    3.DefiningCitizenoftheMuseum

    Theeventwaspublicizedwiththetagline:Haveyoursayandhelpshapethe

    museumofthefutureatthisspecialevent(Appendix1).Theeventaimedto

    demonstratetheBritishMuseumsdemocraticpracticesinproducing

    collaborativeheritagepoliciesbyengagingwiththeircitizens.Citizenryisoften

    definedintermsofinclusion,butMillerandYdice(2002:105)warnagainst

    thatfallacy,consideringtheexclusionsaswell,thenon-citizen,andtheirfate.

    Thetermcitizengenerallyproducesideasofnationalismandevenpatriotism,

    buttheincreasingemphasisondiversityandmulticulturalismsincethelate-

    twentiethcenturyintheUnitedKingdomhasgeneratedmorefluidnotionsofthe

    term(Feldblum1997:103).TheBritishMuseum,anationalmuseum,hasa

    diverselyinternationalvisitorbase.Thiscausesonetoquestion:whatterms

    definethepanelsusetodefineacitizenofthemuseum?

    LizForgan,theBritishMuseumTrusteepresentatthepanel,stressedthegoalof

    theBritishMuseumistomakeitselfavailabletothewidestpossibleaudience.

    ShespecifiedwhotheBritishMuseumisaimingtoinitiateadialoguewith;

    definingthetermcitizeninthiscontextaseverybody;Britishcitizensand

    citizensoftheworld(MuseumoftheCitizenpanel).

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    Thedifficultyinthisisthatcitizensoftheworldarenotaunitedcommunity;

    theyhavedifferentideasandneedsthatcanconflictwithoneanother(Boniface

    1995:41).Touristsprefertoseeasmuchheritageinonelocationforefficiency;

    theycannotbeexpectedtotraveltovariouspartsofthecountrytoseea

    distributedcollection.Ontheotherhand,manyBritishcitizensdonotregularly

    traveltoBloomsburyandtheywouldbenefitthemostfromUKobjectloans,

    whichhaveincreasedfrom151locationsto170locationssince2009("The

    BritishMuseumCelebratesSuccessesInLondon,TheUKAndAroundTheWorld:

    AnnualReviewLaunch2015").In2015,moreBritishcitizenssawBritish

    MuseumobjectsoutsidethemuseumthaninBloomsbury(Museumofthe