Hacking the museum? Collections makerspaces and power in London cultural institutions

Braybrooke, Kaitlyn Marie (2019) Hacking the museum? Collections makerspaces and power in London cultural institutions. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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What happens when the spaces of grassroots digital subcultures encounter those of institutions? This thesis examines the phenomenon of ‘collections makerspaces’, or public spaces within cultural institutions that encourage experimental interactions with cultural artefacts through digitally-mediated making and learning practices.

I begin by working from a genealogical approach to locate collections makerspaces as parts of a wider historical lineage of sociotechnical transformations amongst makerspaces (from hackspaces to media labs) and cultural institutions in the U.K. from the 1970s onward, relations increasingly characterised by institutional partnerships. I engage with a critical theoretical framework of space and power to explore how the spatiality of collections makerspaces is constituted out of the practices, imaginaries and relations of multiple actors. This enables me to situate space-making as a process, which may reinforce or resist institutional logics.

I then explore the empirical findings of my fieldwork as researcher-in-residence at four collections makerspaces in London at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the British Museum and the Wellcome Collection. Working with a qualitative ethnographic and action research methodology, I draw from 255 hours of participant observation, 67 chats with site users, expert interviews with 38 facilitators, and 4 creative interventions to explore the circumstances of each field site, the experiences of those who are involved in it, and how it interacts with its host institution.

I conclude by arguing that collections makerspaces provide significant value to cultural institutions and publics alike, because they facilitate new opportunities for the cultural hegemony of museum logics to be examined, contested and transformed through material participation. I propose the spatial frame of ‘decoupaged space’ as a lens to explore the informal cultural production of other kinds of co-creational digital spaces within institutions. This allows me to assert the broader social impacts of sites of this kind, by articulating the powergeometries of agency, access, diversity and mobility that they can reframe.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2020 12:41
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2020 12:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/89394

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