Changing Histories: museums, sexuality and the future of the past

Mark Liddiard


The dawning of the new Millennium coincided with intense change within museums, as new technologies and new approaches towards history and the past raised profound questions about the identity and direction of UK museums. The paper discusses these matters in terms of the construction and reception of museum exhibitions. The first part, which draws on 49 exploratory interviews with a sample of staff in UK museums, considers the processes determining both the choice of appropriate exhibition topics and the inclusion or exclusion of particular artefacts and perspectives. The second part, drawing on the core findings from 200 semi-structured interviews with visitors, argues that many museum visitors are highly active and discerning in their interpretation of exhibitions and museum-mediated histories. An implication of the findings is that the preferences of visitors may have a proactive influence upon the flavour and direction of museum accounts. The final part considers the implications of the data for contemporary museum practice and its context. It concentrates upon the increasing validity of sexuality as topic within UK museums and as way of illustrating the shifting milieu within which museums are currently working. Ultimately, museum accounts of the past may never be the same again.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Mark Liddiard

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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