Museums in the global contemporary: debating the museum of now

Members of UEP discussed their research finding during their panel presentation on Culture, participation and social values at the Museums in the Global Contemporary: Debating the Museum of Now conference  20-22 April 2016.

Summary of papers presented:

Brief introduction to the UEP project, Andrew Miles
UEP research brings together evidence from in-depth historical analyses, the re-use of existing quantitative data and new qualitative research to reveal the detail, dynamics and significance of ‘everyday participation’. Our aim is to generate new understandings of community formation and capacity through participation, which we will develop through collaborations with partners and participant groups to evolve better practice for policy makers and cultural organisations.

Telling stories of participation: times, tastes, territories, Andrew Miles
In this paper I explore the potential of ‘participation narratives’ and life histories from longitudinal in-depth interviews for understanding the formation, negotiation, presentation and relationality of cultural tastes and identities.

Facilitated Participation and Everyday Participation: Enabling the Agency of young people in care, Lisanne Gibson and Delyth Edwards
We have found that for children and young people living in care the facilitation of their agency through cultural programmes is limited by an assumption that such groups’ everyday cultural choices lack value. The article will discuss discussion how a broadened understanding could contribute to the development of cultural practice which reveals, recognises and, perhaps, interrogates and challenges, the relations that inform participant’s autonomy or agency, as well as the relations that inform the roles of the facilitators themselves.

Fields of participation and lifestyle in the UK: Challenges and opportunities for quantitative research in cultural participation, Adrian Leguina
The main objective of this talk is to Illustrate the way how relevant operationalisations and statistical methods help to unpack the findings from surveys and other data collection strategies, while providing entirely different ways of ‘seeing’ participation. More specifically, we review some of the different quantitative methodological perspectives adopted by the UEP project, highlighting the importance of the study of methods for understanding participation.

The Park, the Museum and the Commons: vernacular spaces and social infrastructure for everyday participation, Abigail Gilmore
This paper will look at the spaces for everyday participation and consider their relationships to local cultural policy, community ownership and cultural value. It will focus on two particular spaces for participation – the park and the museum – and consider them comparatively to see how these spaces are understood and valued by local communities. The park and the museum are chosen as focal points because of their parallel and intertwined local histories, as nineteenth century local cultural strategies for public health, regulation and education.

Non-participation or different styles of participation? Alternative interpretations from Taking Part, Mark Taylor
The analysis suggests, consistent with other work, that while about 8.7% of the English population is highly engaged with state-sanctioned forms of culture, and that this fraction is particularly well-off, well-educated and white, over half the population has fairly low levels of engagement with state-sanctioned culture, but is nonetheless busy with everyday activities. The results raise questions about policies surrounding participation: current policies aimed at increasing participation in state-sanctioned activities are likely to target those with already busy cultural lives, just not cultural in the way the state anticipates.

Cultural policy research in the real world: Curating “impact”, facilitating “enlightenment”, Eleonora Belfiore
The very identity of cultural policy studies as a distinctive field of academic pursuit rests on a well-established and widely accepted tension between ‘proper research’ and policy advocacy, which has often resulted in resistance to the idea that robust, critical research can – or even should – be ‘useful’ and have impact on policy discourse. This paper tries to navigate a third route, which sees policy relevance and influence as a legitimate goal of critical research, without accepting the pressures and restrictions of arts advocacy and lobbying.