Artworks and Real Things - download pdf or read online

By Arthur C.Danto

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The illusion of objective representation of the world has found critique. In the late twentieth century, period rooms were described as a ‘form of fiction posing as history’, and visitors as ‘unreliable’ for ‘read[ing] the rooms as real historical spaces’ (Bryant 2009, 75). Natural history habitat dioramas can likewise furnish constructedness. Lifelike dioramas can constitute places that cannot actually be visited, as the biogeographical zones they purport to represent are too large, too varied in their flora and fauna and too undefined in their borders (Voss and Sarkar 2003).

Quite simply, museums grew in consciousness about being sites of mediation for a diverse public. Ramifications for exhibition design centre on ways to deconstruct and achieve inclusivity. This complex exhibition design mantra seeded in the ‘new museology’ in the 1980s, gained traction with the accessibility agenda in the early 1990s and continues strongly today. As publically accountable and socially responsible institutions, museums are urged to ‘enrich and empower citizens from all racial, ethnic, social, economic, and educational backgrounds’ (Pitman 1992, 82; reviewing Excellence and Equity, a report issued by the American Association of Museums).

Accessibility not only encompasses the previously mentioned concerns of representation in exhibitions, but also attends to the needs and preferences of individuals: ‘creating environments . . for all visitors, regardless of ability or disability, age, educational background, or preferred learning style . . user friendly in the broadest sense’ (Burda 1996, 24). The intention to mediate access prompted new professional roles, such as ‘audience advocates’ (Hooper-Greenhill 1991, 190–93) and ‘access advisers’ (McGinnis 1994, 29).

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Artworks and Real Things by Arthur C.Danto


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