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The engaged experience: visitor narratives in the art gallery

Sharp, Arabella (2014) The engaged experience: visitor narratives in the art gallery. PhD thesis, UCL Institute of Education.

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Within contemporary cultural climates there has been a significant instrumentalised focus on the role of museums and galleries in the promotion of positive mental health and well-­being. The emotional and psychological components embedded within such aspirations however present a number of fluid and intangible challenges that require in-­‐depth research if deeper understanding of such processes and claims are to take place. My research addresses philosophies, strategies, and practicalities through searching for a better understanding of individual encounters with paintings in gallery settings. It provides a possible framework for evaluating affectivity and emotional engagement in cultural organisations. While acknowledging the intellectual and social impact of the visitor experience, this research focuses on the affective encounter of the individual, unaccompanied visitor. Both the successes and complications of evaluating the complexities of visitor experience have been addressed through multi-­‐methodological research. The research demonstrates how art galleries are an important resource for inspiring emotionally engaged and affective experiences beyond the organised social activity predominantly used to promote positive mental health and well-­‐ being. The focus on emotion and affectivity also provides an alternative to the emphasis on cultural organisations as a vehicle for narrowly defined learning. Through the collection, correlation, analysis and presentation of visitor’s experiential narratives I uncover a ‘rise of the visceral’ in the cultural sector and greater differentiation of audiences in Museum Visitor Studies. I achieve this through positioning the engagement with paintings as a form of memento mori and memento vitae, which provide an emotionally affective and engaged impact potentially conducive to an altered state of mental health and well-­‐being.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Controlled Keywords: Well-being, mental health, affect, emotion, memory, narrative, museum visitor studies, art gallery, paintings
Subjects: Departments > Culture, Communication and Media
Depositing User: Mr Julian Zerfahs
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2015 09:28
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2015 10:41
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