Museums and heteronormativity : exploring the effects of inclusive interpretive strategies
thesisposted on 16.06.2014, 09:20 by Maria-Anna Tseliou
The thesis contends that museums are inevitably bound up with a powerful heteronormative frame and specifically explores promising interpretive strategies that have sought to interweave sexual minorities’ stories into mainstream museum narratives and disrupt long-standing heteronormative narratives and practices. Informed by a selection of literature from the fields of museum, cultural and sociological studies, it draws upon broader debates within the profession concerning the social roles and responsibilities of museums with reference to disadvantaged communities and their cultural representation. In order to investigate the potential for museums to subvert heteronormative ways of seeing through reformist exhibitionary strategies, I explore the process of development (primarily) and reception (secondarily) of two projects: Hitched, Wedding Clothes and Customs at Sudley House in Liverpool and Queering the Museum at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Both exhibitions were appreciated as unconventional examples of museum practice, featuring, respectively, a subtle -thematic and spatial- integration of sexual minorities among regular exhibits. In line with other researches, the empirical findings of this research respond to the insufficiency of museum literature in critically reviewing a specific set of curatorial methodologies intending to reveal the benefits of a more subtle and inclusive museum practice when previously disparaged groups are portrayed. The thesis concludes with the need for museums to research and employ a range of innovative interpretive devices for exhibiting references to gender, sexual, and other kinds of, difference, refraining from a constant repetition of stand-alone exhibitions. The adoption of a diverse curatorship of difference seems to be the only way for a fairer inclusion of a minority’s plurality, and consequently, for practically rejecting restricting fixed understandings of gender, sexual and other types of identity. And, as I argue, embedded exhibits among regular collections are a very promising curatorial method to communicate this plurality to the widest possible audience.