"Fly by the seat of your pants": building resilience through collective narrative at the Christchurch Art Gallery 2006-2013 : a thesis presented in fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Museum Studies at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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This thesis demonstrates a changing relationship between an art institution and artists, and an art institution and its public, at a time when institutions seek to engage their constituents through new forms. My work charts a single change narrative, that of the Christchurch Art Gallery, focusing on the period 2006–2013. My research asks, how has a change in the institution’s sense of self-indentity altered its relationship with artists and audience? I have drawn on organisational management literature to understand this research, framed within the conceptual foundation of Pierre Bourdieu’s three major themes, habitus, field and capital (Brourdieu, 1986; 1990). The research examines two major periods of development at the Gallery, the 2006 Paradigm Shift change management process and the Canterbury earthquakes (2010–2011). These periods of organisational upheaval are understood through the study of publicly available articles and documents, internal documents and interviews with selected staff. This case study concludes that Gallery staff have exposed the back room operations of the institution to the public in new ways. In doing so, they have also opened up their own lives to audiences, offering a more personalised experience. In addition, their approach to working with artists has changed significantly, creating working connections that are more informal and collaborative. Boundaries have also broken down between staff, due partly to the leveling effect of a natural disaster, and the resulting changes to workplace layouts and systems. While both periods of change have been pivotal to the institution’s change, to a significant extent the strategies and actions deployed by the institution during the later period are the result of practices developed in the first. In particular, this thesis argues that powerful collective narratives (Reissner, 2008) were developed through the leadership of key institutional entrepreneurs (Fligstein, 1997). These leaders brought individual habitus coupled with cultural and symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 1990), enabling the Gallery to articulate its identity as informal, adaptive and outwardly focused. Following the Paradigm Shift change process, the earthquakes have contributed to the intensification of staff culture. While these shifts in practice reflect the direct experiences of the institution, they also express a changing dynamic within museum practice around the world. Therefore, this thesis contends, the Paradigm Shift was an important catalyst for the institution, providing the Gallery with an internal and external narrative of resilience.
Christchurch Art Gallery, Art museums, New Zealand, Christchurch