Interpreting the Art Museum

The successful interpretation of art collections can be both challenging and contentious. How to avoid damaging the relationship between viewer and art work? How to tackle esoteric, complex or controversial themes? How to present the “meaning” of a work? How to involve audiences for whom looking at art is an entirely new experience?

As galleries search for ever-greater access, inclusion and engagement, in Interpreting the Art Museum experienced museum professionals share some of today’s most successful initiatives in art interpretation. Through thought-provoking essays and illustrated case studies, the work of leading international museums in interpreting both contemporary and classical art is explored, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, J Paul Getty Museum, MoMA, Van Gogh Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery.

Sample chapter: Building Meaningful Interpretation Around Unsettling Contemporary Art

Judith Koke, Chief, Public Programming and Learning, Art Gallery of Ontario

Graeme Farnell


Visitors Enter Here: Interpretive Planning with Audiences
Swarupa Anila, Director of Interpretive Engagement
Detroit Institute of Arts

Interpreting Vincent van Gogh: Telling New Stories and Tackling Myths
Ann Blokland, Curator of Education
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

The New Interpretive Strategy at the Corning Museum of Glass
Kris Wetterlund, Director of Education and Interpretation
Corning Museum of Glass

Artist Biographies: Developing a Style Guide
Troy Smythe, Education and Interpretation Supervisor
Corning Museum of Glass

Framing as an Interpretive Strategy
Elizabeth Manekin, Assistant Curator of Education; Jessica Sack, Senior Associate Curator of Public Education; Elizabeth Williams, John Walsh Fellow
Yale University Art Gallery

Can An Exhibition be a Discussion?
Ashley Gallant, Collections Access Officer; Maggie Warren, Collections Access Assistant
The Collection and Usher Gallery, Lincoln

Audiences as Interpreters
Janice McLaren, Head of Education & Projects
The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Sally Stafford
Learning and Evaluation Consultant

Building Meaningful Interpretation around Unsettling Contemporary Art
Kristin Bayans, Interpretive Media Specialist; Mike Murawski, Director of Education & Public Programs; Phillippa Pitts, Kress Interpretive Fellow
Portland Art Museum

An Archival Approach to Interpretation
Cheryl Avery and Dee Gibson, Archives & Special Collections
University of Saskatchewan


The Interactive Learning Lounge Initiative at MoMA
Jackie Armstrong, Emily Fisher Landau Fellow in Education

Emotional Mapping in Interpretation Planning
Emily Fry, Lead Interpretation Planner
Peabody Essex Museum

Art for the Whole Body
Andrew Westover, Associate Education Specialist
J Paul Getty Museum

Mobile Technology and Interpretive Content
Jennifer Foley, Director of Interpretation
Cleveland Museum of Art

Stepping Stones to Engagement
Guy Turton, Consultant
Morris Hargreaves McIntyre
Erin Hogan, Director of Public Affairs
Art Institute of Chicago

Visible Thinking and Interpretation
Claire Bown, Museum Educator
Thinking Museum

Late Events as Tools for Interpretation
Henrietta Hine, Head of Public Programmes; Sarah Green, Programme Manager - Gallery Learning; Charlotte De Mille, Music Programme Curator
Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Creating Interpretive Programs for Adults
Bethany Corriveau, Audience Engagement Specialist
Cleveland Museum of Art

Life Is a Highway: Prints of Japan’s Tokaido Road
Allysa B Peyton, Assistant Curator of Art
Samuel P Harn Museum of Art, Florida

Object Dialogue Boxes and Unknowing
Alexandra Woodall, Consultant and Researcher
School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

Graeme Farnell is a museum professional with experience in curation, management, and the leadership of UK national museum organisations as the Director of the Scottish Museums Council and of the Museums Association. He holds an MA in Fine Art from Edinburgh University and a post-graduate film-making qualification from the London Film School. He is the founder and publisher at MuseumsEtc.

Interpreting the Art Museum
Colour illustrations: 91
Size 216 x 140 mm
Date 2015
Editions £49 [paperback] | £39 [eBook] 
ISBN 978-1-910144-66-4 [paperback]  

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