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Origins, public perceptions and future directions of the National Museum of Natural History in Portugal.

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posted on 19.11.2015, 09:09 by Pedro Júlio Enrech. Casaleiro
This research effort concentrates on science communication through natural history museum exhibitions, analysing the case study of the National Museum of Natural History in Portugal. Its starts by looking at the past of natural history museums in Portugal, established during the Enlightenment, and follows to the current situation of the National Museum. Scientific and cultural policies arising from a social and political context until 1975 have influenced the current condition of crisis, with closure of natural history museums to the public in an extreme circumstance, along with the identity crisis of such institutions in Europe. Museum staff has been reduced, divided and morale is low. Exhibition for non-scientific audiences has often been ignored, reflecting the peripheral situation of Portugal in relation to the industrialised centre of Europe. An approach to the changes in natural history museum exhibition in Western Europe and North America since the 1850s follows, proposing a framework in three periods based on the analysis of form, content and audience, influenced by scientific paradigm shifts. The National Museum opened its doors in 1987 with temporary exhibitions, despite its unrefurbished condition. In order to substantiate the development of a future solid exhibitions policy, this thesis proposes two approaches to studying science communication; audience surveys, identifying different public segments in an exploratory study of visitors to three exhibition cases - a temporary blockbuster exhibition, an interactive science gallery, and a guided tour of the Gardens; and an investigation of science in the media, looking at perception of television and printed media, and an analysis of science in a sample of three daily national newspapers, researching prominence of science subjects and construction of environmental news, regarding the social status of readerships.


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Museum Studies

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University of Leicester

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