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Self-representation in museums: therapy or democracy?

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This article explores the discourses of citizenship through which the museum institution is currently framing its public: museum-goers as participants. Drawing on qualitative research on the London's Voices project at the Museum of London, and 1934: A New Deal For Artists at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, this paper examines the ways in which the contemporary museum, and cultural policy internationally, has converged around the activity of inviting members of the public to 'speak for themselves' through a variety of media technologies. Discursive analysis of such mediated activities as activities of self-representation suggests that this strategy of participation is simultaneously both productive and uneasy, as questions of institutional legitimacy and citizen empowerment co-exist within the broader social context of the self-speaking or auto/biographical society

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