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To view two views : a case study of cross-cultural communication in museum exhibitions

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posted on 15.12.2014, 10:45 by Hsiao-Ying. Tseng-Chang
Cross-cultural communication occurs when a museum located in Culture A stages an exhibition representing Culture B. By analysing data gathered from a questionnaire presented in such an exhibition, this study aims to reveal the patterns of visitors' interpretations of the displays. This thesis highlights the importance of the museum as a location for cross-cultural communication while stressing the significance of information gathered from 'the visitor's point of view'. It continues with an outline of the structure of cross-cultural communication in exhibitions. The categorisation of exhibitions is discussed, and the question of communication models is raised. The methodology of the study proceeds with a definition of key concepts of quantitative and qualitative methods appraising the contribution of semiotic theory with the concomitants 'emic approach' and the principle of empathy. Semiotic terms and concepts and the possible process of cross-cultural communication are presented. The site and nature of the exhibition (T.T.Tsui Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum) gives evidence of the Chinese-British context. Both Chinese culture and the displayed objects are emically analysed. The gallery presentation is treated as a narrative consequent upon which sign-function analyses of the displayed objects may be compared with the visitors' interpretations of the inherent messages. Collected quantitative and qualitative data coupled with findings from the investigations enable informed comment to be made on the performance of cross-cultural communication in exhibitions. Subjecting various types, needs and issues of code-switching to detailed examination confirms its pertinence in cross-cultural communication. The study is appraised and further study of cross-cultural communication in museum exhibitions recommended. Practical suggestions for mounting these kinds of exhibition are offered, and the value of this study is verified.


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Museum Studies

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University of Leicester

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