The Immaculate Perception project : exhibition creation and reception in a New Zealand regional art museum : thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Museum Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University. School of Maori Studies
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Internationally, museums have increasingly come under review since Bourdieu's (1969) research focused on art gallery visiting patterns and cultural codes. Museums exist within a post-modern milieu that demands a more democratic approach to defining their cultural and educational role within society. Over the last decade in particular, art museums, criticised for being elitist and insular within their communities, have been challenged to be more inclusive, accessible and relevant to their local communities.The literature suggests that a review of the core mission and the culture of museums is required to provide the catalyst for change. However, there is little evidence or few models offered as to how such re-visioning could be implemented. New Zealand art museums have been slow in responding to the issues, or to conducting research involving either their visitors or their communities. These emergent issues provided the context for this study, which is focused on the creation and reception of a community based exhibition within a contemporary regional art museum.This exhibition project brought together community participants and established artists, and the study evaluates the responses of the exhibition creators and the exhibition audience. In line with action research methodology, evaluation surveys and observational data were collected during the distinct phases of the project and resulted in a number of findings that have implications for regional art museums.The findings from this present study indicate that curators working alongside the community with an action research methodology, while developing exhibition projects, can produce positive outcomes for the participants, the audience and the museum. Creative partnerships can be established that enhance life-long-learning opportunities and contribute to the relevance of museums within their communities.The present study also proposes that museums re-vision their mission to become 'learning organisations' (Senge, 1994, 2000) and provides a model that could be appropriate for museums intent on enriching their organisational culture and enhancing their significance and profile within their community.
Art museums, Exhibitions