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Bringing museal silence into focus: eight ways of thinking about silence in museums

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rhiannon MasonORCiD, Dr Joanne Sayner



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2018 Rhiannon Mason and Joanne Sayner. Published with license by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group In recent years memory studies scholars have begun to focus on how silence is an integral part of processes of remembering. As places of memory we would expect museums to be at the heart of such debates. However, until now there has been no systematic attempt to delineate different ways that silence is present and operating within museums. In this article we draw on a series of international examples to ask how the specifics of museums as forms of media, representation and cultural practice produce certain kinds of silences. We focus on eight ways of thinking about silence in museums: silences in the historical record as collected by museums; museums being silenced by external pressures; museums’ collusion in society’s silences; museums using silence obliquely; museums thinking they have nothing to say; silence by design; museums staying respectfully silent; and communities wishing to remain silent. By bringing these silences together and exploring how they come into focus in individual museums at different points in time we hope to provoke future work within museum studies which looks at the intersections between different silences across and between museums and geographical contexts and, in doing so, contributes to the wider debates in memory studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mason R, Sayner J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Heritage Studies

Year: 2018

Volume: 25

Issue: 1

Pages: 5-20

Print publication date: 01/01/2019

Online publication date: 07/02/2018

Acceptance date: 01/11/2017

Date deposited: 02/11/2017

ISSN (print): 1352-7258

ISSN (electronic): 1470-3610

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2017.1413678


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