Visitor Experience and the Translation of Identity: The Case of Visitors to Museums of the Chinese Diaspora

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In the expanding literature on museum translation, the visitor experience remains an under-researched area. While an increasing body of work by Translation Studies scholars has explored such issues as multimodal interactions in the exhibition space, curatorial perspectives on translation quality, or the effect of shifts in the target text, there has to date been relatively little empirical evidence of the role of translation in the visitor experience – whether translation is understood in the sense of interlingual transfer or of broader cultural representation. Equally, in the Museum Studies context, while much has been done to explore the visitor experience, such work frequently comes from monolingual or monocultural perspectives.

Museums of diaspora form a particularly interesting focus for such enquiry since they raise a number of questions relating to the translation of identity in the exhibition space, and how visitors both from different linguacultural backgrounds and from different sectors of the home culture variously respond to the experiences of the diaspora in question. The present study focuses on museums of the Chinese diaspora in the US. Employing a mixed methods approach that includes detailed visit diaries and follow-up interviews, as well as online reviews, the study examines how the collective lived experience of the diaspora as “translated” in the museum exhibition is in turn translated in terms of the visitor’s personal experience through a series of intertexts that are “cognitively-realized” (Neather 2012). The study further considers how interlingual translation plays a part in shaping these visitor interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2022
EventMuseums as Spaces of Cultural Translation and Transfer - University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
Duration: 10 May 202211 May 2022


ConferenceMuseums as Spaces of Cultural Translation and Transfer
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