‘Engage the World’: examining conflicts of engagement in public museums

Susan Ashley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Public engagement has become a central theme in the mission statements of many cultural institutions, and in scholarly research into museums and heritage. Engagement has emerged as the go-to-it-word for generating, improving or repairing relations between museums and society at large. But engagement is frequently an unexamined term that might embed assumptions and ignore power relationships. This article describes and examines the implications of conflicting and misleading uses of ‘engagement’ in relation to institutional dealings with contested questions about culture and heritage. It considers the development of an exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls by the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto in 2009 within the new institutional goal to ‘Engage the World’. The chapter analyses the motivations, processes and decisions deployed by management and staff to ‘Engage the World’, and the degree to which the museum was able to re-think its strategies of public engagement, especially in relation to subjects,issues and publics that were more controversial in nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-280
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


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