The Marketized Museum: New Museology in a Corporatized World

Davina DesRoches


As a contemporary communications medium, the museum has undergone significant reinvention and reorientation of purpose within the past several decades. While the late twentieth century saw the rise of a fundamental reimagining of the museum as a visitor-oriented space where questions of representation, ownership, and voice were of paramount concern, the early twenty-first century has seen a repositioning of museums as market actors with a role to play in the economic aspects of social life. This article considers the growing disconnect between the corporatization of museums as a consequence of marketization policies and the paradigm shift within the museum profession emphasizing equity, inclusiveness, and community engagement. My aim here is both to reflect on the potential consequences of increasing museum marketization, as well as draw attention to several of the key issues that are emerging as foci for investigation and debate. Beginning with a discussion of the shift towards new museology in the latter half of the twentieth century, this article then explores how the ambitions of museum professionals are being sidetracked and corralled by the pressures of corporatization and a policy environment dedicated to the reduction of state subsidies and organizational restructuring. Particular attention is paid to the shifting basis of museum finance, emergent processes of commodification in museums, and finally, the role of museums in polices for economic regeneration around notions of cultural economies and the ‘creative city’.

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