Social Inclusion, the Museum and the Dynamics of Sectoral Change

Richard Sandell


In the last two years, the term social inclusion has been widely adopted, though frequently misapplied, within UK museum sector policy and rhetoric. Originally understood by many to be simply a synonym for access or audience development, (concepts that most within the sector are at least familiar, if not entirely comfortable, with), there is now growing recognition that the challenges presented by the inclusion agenda are, in fact, much more significant and the implications more fundamental and far-reaching1. A growing body of research into the social role and impact of museums suggests that engagement with the concepts of social inclusion and exclusion will require museums - and the profession and sector as a whole - to radically rethink their purposes and goals and to renegotiate their relationship to, and role within, society. In short, if museums are to become effective agents for social inclusion, a paradigmatic shift in the purpose and role of museums in society, and concomitant changes in working practices, will be required. Though the focus of this paper, the instigation of change, draws upon government policy development and research within the UK context, a consideration of the relevance of the concept of social inclusion to the museum highlights the broader, international relevance of this discussion.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Richard Sandell

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360