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Museum Studies terms

Words and phrases used in Museum Studies.

Agency, Deaf Agency (N)

"In social science, agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.

By contrast, structure are those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and their decisions. The influences from structure and agency are debated—it is unclear to what extent a person's actions are constrained by social systems.

One's agency is one's independent capability or ability to act on one's will. This ability is affected by the cognitive belief structure which one has formed through one's experiences, and the perceptions held by the society and the individual, of the structures and circumstances of the environment one is in and the position they are born into.

Disagreement on the extent of one's agency often causes conflict between parties, e.g. parents and children."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)

"Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.

With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."

BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016

Appropriation (N)

The act of appropriating or taking possession of something, often without permission or consent.

Archives (N)

A place where historical documents or materials are stored.

Also: documents or materials that have been archived.

"There are two main archiving options that all open access journals should consider—“dark” archives and publicly accessible archives.

    • Dark archives: A dark archive is a private archive that cannot be accessed by any users. The purpose of a dark archive is to secure access to content in the event of a publication being lost or discontinued. Dark archives will only release content when there is a “trigger event” such as confirmation that a journal is no longer in publication. Commonly used dark archives include Portico and CLOCKSS.
    • Public archives: As the name suggests, public archives are openly accessible to users. Public archiving options include preprint servers, public archive databases, and institutional repositories. Some well-known public archives include SSRN, arXiv, PMC, and Deep Blue.


Many archives have specific article formatting and deposit requirements to ensure that they can properly process content. In the past, we’ve written about how indexes must ingest conent in machine-readable formats in order to parse it, and archives are much the same. Most archives require journal publishers to deposit machine-readable, front-matter XML metadata files into them. Front-matter XML files contain the front matter of the article-but do not include the article’s actual body text."

From: https://blog.scholasticahq.com/post/why-archiving-essential-for-open-access-journals-how-to-get-started/

Artefact (N)

An object made by a human being, typically an object of cultural or historical interest.

NB: in American English, the word is spelled as artifact (with an i instead of an e).

Assessment Phase (N)

The production cycle ends with an assessment phase where the exhibition development process is evaluated.

The intended outcome is a number of suggested improvements to the production process and ideas for future exhibitions.

A large number of evaluation methodologies exist, including questionnaire surveys, in-depth interviews, structured and semistructured interviews and behavioural observation. Often, several of these evaluation methodologies are combined to triangulate the findings and strengthen the conclusions of the data analysis.

Source: http://cid.nada.kth.se/pdf/258.pdf

Asset (N)

    • A useful or valuable thing or person.
    • Something valuable belonging to a person or organization that can be used for the payment of debts:
      * A company's assets can consist of cash, investments, specialist knowledge, or copyright material.
      liquid assets (= money or things that can easily be changed into money).

Augmented Reality, AR (N)

Augmented Reality or AR is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image or video on a the real world. 

AR can be used by a museum to add 'virtual' sign language explanations to objects or texts. The visitor sees the explanations on a mobile phone or tablet, superimposed on the real world.

It is for example used by the The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre,  see the video (BSL):


Source: https://heritageinmotion.eu/himentry/slug-c8679f0b53a689cb8d6d0fa84fb9fcf2

Benefactor (N)

A person who gives money or other help to a person or cause

Brand (N)

A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer.Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising.

A powerful brand can result in higher sales of not only one product, but of other products associated with that brand. Examples of well-known brands are Apple, Lego, Disney.

Catalogue (N)

A predetermined and systematically organized filing structure or database. 

Also a verb: to catalogue, to enter an item into a database.

Collection (N)

A group of accumulated paintings, documents, or artefacts, grouped together by a particular theme.

Collection Manager (N)

A Collection Manager (in some museums known as the registrar) is responsible for the the care, inventory, and maintenance of the museum object collection.

Depending upon the museum set up, collection managers may also be in charge of exhibit design and installation of museum objects.

from: https://lucidea.com/museums/the-museums-and-collections-management-primer/

Conceptual Phase (N)

New exhibition projects typically begin with a conceptual phase in which a subject and a visitor target group are selected.

It is common to make use of a front-end analysis to generate subject candidates. In such an analysis, previous projects are assessed and demographic data of the visitor population is acquired.

It is also common to assess the kinds of knowledge the target group have of the chosen subject, their interests and priorities, or to attempt to find ways to attract visitors from community groups that seldom visit museums.

After the production team has generated a number of ideas, available resources for completing the project are assessed, together with the appropriation of a suitable time slot in the exhibition schedule.

Source: http://cid.nada.kth.se/pdf/258.pdf


Conservators are the caretakers of objects. They are specialists, trained in the preservation and restoration of artifacts. Their tasks: to repair damage and to mitigate object deterioration, in an effort to preserve the object as long as possible and make it stable enough for display.

from: https://lucidea.com/museums/the-museums-and-collections-management-primer/

Conserve (V)

To treat a work so to prevent it from deteriorating.

The noun: conservation.