Skip to main content

Museums and the Public Sphere


Museums and the Public Sphere investigates the role of museums around the world as sites of democratic public space.
  • Explores the role of museums around the world as sites of public discourse and democracy
  • Examines the changing idea of the museum in relation to other public sites and spaces, including community cultural centers, public halls and the internet
  • Offers a sophisticated portrait of the public, and how it is realized, invoked, and understood in the museum context
  • Offers relevant case studies and discussions of how museums can engage with their publics' in more complex, productive ways
List of Images vii

Introduction 1

1 The Public Sphere 15

2 Historical Discourses of the Museum 45

3 The Museum as Public Space 81

4 Audience, Community, and Public 118

5 The Museum as Public Intellectual 143

Conclusion 164

References 175

Acknowledgments 191

Index 193

"[Barrett]constructs a framework within which it is possible to both confront some startling realities about the gap between museums' purported ‘public' role and their efficacy and relevance in the ‘public sphere', and consider initiatives that might rectify this situation." (Visitor Studies Journal, 9 March 2012)