Understanding the past in the history museum. Visitor research in two Mexican museums.
thesisposted on 11.04.2016, 10:48 by Cintia Velazquez Marroni
This research analyses peoples’ historical consciousness (how they make sense of the past) in relation to their visit to two history museums in Mexico City. Through the combined use of interpretative qualitative visitor studies and a historical perspective it was possible to identify five different approaches or ways in which people made sense of the past in the museum (remembering, imagining and empathising, explaining and interpreting, believing and belonging, and perceiving and experiencing the material). This finding will help broaden current debates about historical consciousness, which have tended to focus mostly on explanatory patterns developed through school history education. Furthermore, the research argues that although there is individual variability depending on how people use those five approaches, there is still an intimate connection with the historical culture (broader social patterns of history-making specific to the way people relate to the past). Through a holistic analysis that placed the museum within a social environment, coexisting with different agents of history-making (for example the State, school, family, the historical discipline and the media), the research shows how those connections impacted on peoples’ interpretation of the past in the museum. It also shows the pervasive influence of present conditions on peoples’ historical consciousness as they visited the museum. Thus, by bringing together theories and methodologies that had not been used together in this way, the research has contributed to the historical discipline, and to museum and visitor studies alike. The contribution is enhanced by addressing a particular context – Mexican museums – that is currently underdeveloped in both Spanish and English literature. Finally, the thesis allows further reflection on issues such as State intervention, family socialisation, nationhood, and knowledge and trust building.