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Title: Local authority museums after the cuts :a study of other-than-public forms of management
Authors: Rex, Bethany
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Museum asset transfer is a process where responsibility for the operation and management of museum buildings owned by local authorities are transferred to external groups. Instances of museum asset transfer are increasing as local authorities attempt to reduce expenditure in response to austerity measures. While the politics of austerity have been thoroughly described and critiqued, its repercussions for local authority museum services are yet to be grasped. This thesis examines one of these repercussions, seeking to understand the processes, people and rationales involved in asset transfer. The methodology for the thesis takes the writings associated with actor-network-theory (ANT) as a point of departure. This provides a way into the detail of how asset transfer works, both inside the local authority and for the groups of local people involved. Chapter 4 illustrates the influence of limited numerical data and reductive valuation frameworks on decision-making, showing how certain types of museum are more vulnerable to cuts than others. Chapter 5 describes the mechanics of asset transfer, showing that transfer groups have limited leverage to shape transfer conditions. Chapter 6 investigates how organisational practices shape relationships, structure actions and circulate implicit logics as a means to understanding the experience of members of transfer bodies entering the museum profession for the first time. I show that perceptions of professional identity are important and are informed by encounters with organisational practices as much as with people. Chapter 7 provides empirical evidence of how the public nature of these buildings complicates as well as motivates transfer, with attempts to ensure this publicness was maintained having both limiting and enabling effects. While asset transfer involves separation from the public infrastructure of the local authority and the withdrawal, in part or in full of their financial support, this thesis seeks to show that transfer bodies and council officers remain concerned with the public nature of these buildings, exploring how this concern is translated into action in this context. The forms of management resulting from asset transfer are termed ‘community’ or ‘alternative’ management in professional debates. The term ‘other-than-public’ is proposed as a productive prefix as it highlights the central conceptual tension of transfer: interpreting and maintaining publicness in a setting where public support has been removed.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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