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By Clive Gray (auth.)

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Sample text

These institutions form the places where international, national and local expectations, demands and pressures are turned into arrays of actual practices through the choices and decisions that are made by local actors. Empirical evidence is utilised to demonstrate the importance of specific organisational factors – ranging from professional background to hierarchical position, functional role and patterns of accountability – for their effect on the specific choices that are made by those who work within museums and galleries.

Chapter 3 changes the focus to the national level. The relationship of museums to ideas of heritage, their role as part of ‘world heritage’ and their contribution to cultural tourism leads to a consideration of the use of museums and, in particular, ‘national’ museums by national governments as mechanisms for economic development and regeneration, the establishment of statements of national identity and prestige, and their use as mechanisms for educational and health provision. This raises questions about whether the museums sector is considered by national governments as being an end in itself, with the focus on cultural meanings, or whether it is utilised as simply an instrumental means for other policy ends altogether.

Instead there is a continuous process of argumentation about all these aspects of museums, with these debates taking place across a complex organisational, institutional and ideological universe that extends far beyond the borders of any one country. This chapter examines two inter-related international issues that affect how museums are understood and organised not only at the global level but also at the national 29 30 The Politics of Museums and local levels. These issues are concerned with the exercise of power in the international organisations, treaties and agreements that have been established in and for the museums sector, and with the relationship of the practices of museums curators, conservators and education staff with internationally sanctioned ideas of ‘best practice’, professionalism and organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

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