What is the Role of University Art Galleries in Contemporary Britain?

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 11.41.23The research was conducted as part of my MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick.

This piece of research focused on two main research questions:
What do university gallery staff think the role or roles of the gallery are?
Do university gallery workers believe university galleries and local authority galleries fulfil different roles?

The main objective of this research was to get a firsthand account of what museum workers think the role of their art gallery is. Undertaking this research has contributed to the understanding of the role of university art galleries and determined whether the current literature is justified in talking about identity crisis in museums. It will also highlight a neglected area of research, by representing the views of different gallery workers, rather than being limited to the views of decision makers. Most importantly this investigation will help university museums re-define their role and modify their practice accordingly.

In order to unravel these questions, staff were interviewed from three different university art galleries; the Mead Gallery of the University of Warwick, the Courtauld Gallery of the University of London’s Courtauld Institute and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts of the University of Birmingham. Each of these galleries is registered with the UMG and receives core funding from their parent institutions. In each of these galleries the director, the curator, an education officer and a front of staff manager were interviewed[1]. All interviews were held on a one-to-one basis and recorded. Interviews were deemed the best research method as they allowed us to obtain firsthand accounts of what the gallery staff thought their gallery’s role was. The interviews were semi-structured in order to allow the interviewees to develop their ideas freely[2]. All interviewees were asked what roles they thought the gallery fulfilled and which of these roles they felt was the most important. Interviewees were specifically probed about the role of university museums in regards to conservation, education, entertainment, social engagement and aesthetics.

[1] We could not get hold of one of the gallery’s curator. Additionally, one marketing officer was interviewed.
[2]Descombe, 2010, p175

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