Museums, material culture, and cultural representations

Robert John NEATHER*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Museums are key sites for the public presentation of culture. As such, they bring into focus a cluster of different issues relating to the display of objects, modes of interpretation, and cultural representation. These include such macro-level concerns as the role of the museum, curatorial power, and cultural ownership, and at the more micro level, questions of audience engagement, spatial arrangement of exhibits, and the use of texts in the exhibition medium. Museum representation intersects with translation in two main ways. First, it may be understood as one form of ‘cultural translation’: museums ‘translate’ cultures through the selection and combination of objects, texts and other representational apparatus in the exhibitionary space. Second, in the narrower, interlingual sense, translation is an essential aspect of multilingual museum representation that seeks to cater for different language user needs. This central distinction may be conveniently summarised as the difference between ‘museums as translations’ and ‘translations in the museum’, a formulation that draws closely on the distinction made in museum studies between ‘museums as texts’ and ‘texts in the museum’ (see e.g. Ravelli 2006; Whitehead 2012). The present chapter will explore both dimensions of this duality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Translation and Culture
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781317368502
ISBN (Print)9781138946309
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Museums, material culture, and cultural representations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this