Policy Press

What Are Museums For?

By Jon Sleigh

Published

Jun 25, 2024

Page count

166 pages

Browse the series

What Is It For?

ISBN

978-1529231397

Dimensions

203 x 127 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

Jun 25, 2024

Page count

166 pages

Browse the series

What Is It For?

ISBN

978-1529231403

Dimensions

203 x 127 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

Jun 25, 2024

Page count

166 pages

Browse the series

What Is It For?

ISBN

978-1529231403

Dimensions

203 x 127 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press
What Are Museums For?

The days when museums were dusty, stuffy institutions displaying their wealth and wisdom to a reverential public are over. Museums today are a cultural battleground. Who should decide what is put on display and how it is presented? Who gets to set the narrative?

In this passionately argued book, Jon Sleigh maintains that museums must be for all people and inclusion must be at the heart of everything they do. But what does good inclusion look like in practice? Cleverly structured like a museum tour, Sleigh uses seven illustrative museum objects from seven very different museums to explore such wide-ranging issues as trust-building, representation, digital access, conflicting narratives, removal from display and restitution.

"The coffee conversations with museum changemakers we have been waiting for. Emotional, insightful, and deeply human." Angela Stienne, University of Leicester

‘Revealing the museum experience to be emotive as well as intellectual, this book presents a succinct and articulate clarion-call for equitable access.’

Sophie Hatchwell, University of Birmingham

“Cannot recommend this heartfelt, generous and expansive book enough. Never didactic or patronising, Sleigh is endlessly curious, thought provoking and socially conscious – the perfect guide to our museums and the people who make them today!” Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum

“A lovingly written, generous book that gives voice to the art workers who are at the heart of shaping the museums of today and tomorrow.” Alice Procter, author of The Whole Picture

“Sleigh explores museums as sites of discomfort, community and emotion, revealing not just what they are, but what they could and should be."

Sean Curran, Historic England

"Inclusion isn't just a task for a select few — it's a collective responsibility. Through heartfelt personal narratives, expert insights, and a real time live tour, Sleigh empowers us to redistribute power beyond the confines of the museum worker, fostering a culture where everyone plays a vital role in creating the museums our communities deserve." Dhikshana Turakhia Pering, Museum of London

Jon Sleigh is a freelance arts and heritage Learning Curator, working nationally connecting audiences with artworks and collections for their advocacy. He was formerly Learning Officer for the Arts Council Collection based at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

1. Introduction: The Emotional Museum Encounter

2. The Classical Museum

3. The Museum in Service of Others

4. The Digital Museum

5. The Museum and Trust

6. The Queer Museum

7. The Changing Museum

8. The Future Museum?