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Master's Thesis Exam: Katalin Deme

Participatory Museums in Transition from Citizen Science towards Citizen Humanities: Concepts, Methods, and Goals

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Friday 29 January 2021,  at 13:00 - 14:00


This Master’s thesis critically investigates the so-called Participatory turn in museums. The Participatory turn changed the traditional one-way communication of knowledge from the museum towards its visitors by replacing it with new forms of interactions between the institution and visitors, and among the visitors themselves. The critical implementation of the participatory model is crucial in order to enable control over the confluence of academic scholarship, and lay volunteers’ experience during the collaboration. The thesis focuses on History and Heritage Museums’ participatory models drawing from the field of Citizen Humanities - an auxiliary branch of Citizen Science -, and its subfields, Public History, and Digital Public History. My point of departure is that the Participatory turn had triggered History and Heritage Museums into reconsidering their institutional identities, scientific methods, and ethical codes. Furthermore, Participatory turn challenges museums’ expertise based on their collections and the understanding of the social impact of these collections. In my analyses, I am paying special attention to the socio-political biases embedded in museums’ participatory projects on the one side, and the ethical and epistemological dilemmas arising from museums’ implementation of digital technologies, on the other. The core questions that I am investigating in my thesis are the following: What type of participatory models are developed by History and Heritage Museums, and which analogies manifest these models with Citizen Science, implemented in Science museums? How does the outsourcing of museums’ research and exhibition activities to outsider volunteers impact museums’ core tasks (to collect, to preserve, to study, to interpret, and to exhibit)? Who are the initiators and actors of museums’ participatory activities; what are their agendas, and how do these agendas fit particular museums’ original mission statements?

Keywords: Participatory turn, Citizen Science, Citizen Humanities, Public history, shared epistemic authority, crowdsourcing, digital transformation.

Supervisor: Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen