Visitor emotion, affect and registers of engagement at museums and heritage sites

Laurajane Smith (School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University),


6pm, 21st May 2013, Room 209, Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, University College London


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Joint Institute of Archaeology Heritage Section and UCL Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies Research Seminar


Visitor emotion, affect and registers of engagement at museums and heritage sites

Laurajane Smith (School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University)

6pm, 21st May 2013, Room 209, Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, University College London

This seminar will outline some of the findings of ongoing research which, to date, has included 4,400 visitor interviews undertaken at 45 sites of heritage in Australia, England and the USA. The work compares visitor responses to the representation of history at heritage sites and museums representing national narratives, as well as those museums and heritage sites that represent challenges to master narratives and/or represent dissonant understandings of history and the present. The presentation identifies a number of themes emerging from this research and in particular explores the role emotions play in allowing visitors to either engage or disengage with the histories and heritage they are visiting. It also introduces the idea of ‘registers of engagement’ and the implications this has for understanding the emotional and intellectual investments that visitors can make in their visits to sites and museums and the ways emotions and critical insight interact to reinforce or challenge visitor understanding and viewpoints. Documenting the ways in which people use and engage with sites of heritage allows a greater understanding of the ways in which history and the past are not only understood, but actively used in the present by individuals to negotiate contemporary social and political issues and their sense of self and place.

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