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Museums for All. A Utopian Fantasy?

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Museums for All. A Utopian Fantasy?

By 27 November 2023No Comments

Blog post by CREATe Deputy Director Professor Philip Schlesinger who chaired the lecture.

On 15 November, the second event in the CCPR/CREATe ‘Reflections on Culture’ series was held in the ARC. Dr Mark O’Neill, a former Head of Glasgow Museums and subsequently Director of Policy and Research for Glasgow Life, the city’s cultural agency, gave a wide-ranging lecture.

Now an international consultant and researcher, he began with an absorbing photographic account of the little-known history of Glasgow’s museums. He underlined how, over a period of 150 years, the city’s public had sustained a deep sense of collective ownership in its museums. The local civic culture had encouraged those of all social backgrounds to visit the main collections regularly – a unique situation in the UK, and highly distinctive internationally.

Dr O’Neill next drew on his five-years’ experience as a judge in the European Museum of the Year competition. He lavishly illustrated the breadth of museum practices across the continent while casting an ironic illustrated eye over some institutions that had failed to welcome their visitors due to poor signage and obscure entrances.

In conclusion, Mark O’Neill called for new research into fostering the widest possible range of museum attendance. He argued that we really should know much more about those who, over generations, had persistently overcome social and economic obstacles to visit museums. It was time to recognise how, despite all the well-meaning cant and misguided evaluation projects, museums still super-served the most well off. This needed to be changed by using research-based knowledge.

Dr Mark O’Neill delivering his lecture