708: Art and Its Publics, edited by Andrew McClellan

by Gerard


708: McClellan, Andrew, ed. Art and Its Publics: Museum Studies at the Millennium. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003. 200 pp. ISBN 0-631-23046-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
  • 708: Galleries, museums, and private collections of fine and decorative arts

Art and Its Publics collects essays from various museum studies professionals to engage the reader to think about museums and art galleries and other exhibition spaces and how the public thinks and acts in them. It’s quite a heady subject as each person has differing agendas when going to a museum. The editor’s essay on the types of publics reveals that throughout history there has always been a discussion about who goes to museum and why, and if knowing those reasons attracts or detracts more visitors.

Other essays looks at private museums, public art exhibitions, how the public evaluates what is art in the first place, and how exhibition layouts and signage play into patron bias. Each essay is insightful (or at the very least informative) in its own right, and all throughout reading, I felt compelled to go to a museum to see how various tidbits from the book were present, so it does get the reader thinking about museums.

Is it a fun read? Decidedly not. But, if you are at all interesting in how museum directors and curators make decisions about their collections and exhibitions, then there are probably far worse books you could read. All in all, it was worth the time I put into it.