The interpretation of collections is a vital element in the public engagement work of most contemporary museums and galleries. Curators, learning departments and exhibition designers all influence how objects are presented and interpreted, often by telling stories, making cross-cultural connections and by providing context and history.
But like almost every area of communication in the 21st century, museum interpretation is becoming a two-way exchange. The rise of social media and its many channels for multiple, personal voices, means that more and more people expect to share their own stories and contexts and offer their own interpretations. This idea is rippling through the arts and cultural heritage world, demonstrated by last year’s Arts Marketing Association conference which focused specifically on shifts from marketing to people towards ways of marketing with people.
This idea of visitor input underpins a project by the Yorkshire Regional Museums Hub to promote the county’s oil painting collections.