Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Public Trust

In Liverpool Kathryn Pieren just reported on Helen Weinstein's presentation on "1807 Commemorated," an in-depth study of the representation and commemoration of last year's bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. One part of the study used surveys, interviews, and unobtrusive observation to gauge visitor engagement and response at museums across the UK.

Yesterday Mary Stevens & Kelsey Flynn wrote from Liverpool about David Dean's talk, and in particular about a 2007 survey entitled Canadian's And Their Pasts, revealing the high level of trust the Canadian public has in museums.

Stevens mentioned a seminal study by Nick Merriman, Beyond the Glass Case (1991), which examined the British public's attitude towards museums. In the US, of course, we have Roy Rosenzweig & David Thelen's Presence of the Past.

Since many of us ask ourselves, as Kelly Britt did here on Thursday, what impact is our work having , and since we are continually required to answer funders' and stakeholders' questions about the relevance and effectiveness of our work as public historians, is anyone aware of recent or current visitor/audience studies here in the US that build on Rosenzweig & Thelen's work?

3 comments:

Cathy Stanton said...

I assume that people in the Visitor Studies Association are doing work on this - but it's interesting to me that they don't seem to have had a presence at any of the public history conferences I've been to. Am I just not seeing them, or is this a connection that somehow isn't being made?

Mary said...

I've heard of Rosenzweig and Thelen's work, but haven't read it. You've inspired me to check it out. Thanks! Mary Stevens

Bampot said...

If you are interested in visitor studies see laurajane Smith's Uses of Heritage (2006):

http://www.amazon.com/The-Uses-of-Heritage/dp/B000OT8E46/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211286753&sr=8-6

This book used data from around 800 interviews with visitors to English country houses and working class labour history sites, and is a serious attempt to theorise heritage/public history, drawing on social theory and using lots of emperical data.