Amy is a cultural historian currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Central Lancashire in collaboration with the National Football Museum in Manchester. Inspired by the ethos of the original Cultural Studies researchers, her work explores the relationship between class, cultural value and social inequality. Her current project, titled ‘The National Football Museum as a Cultural Institution’, challenges the dominance of traditionally elite cultures within the museum, the urban environment and wider society.
Contesting Culture: The Role of the Museum in Negotiating Cultural Value
Cultural Institutions are both physical spaces and symbolic entities. They are immediate places where people learn and engage, whilst simultaneously they are an emblem of what a society deems culturally valuable at a specific time. This paper will position the museum as a site where culture is contested and explore the active role of the modern museum in shaping how cultural items are collected, classified, exhibited and ultimately valued. What does it mean to create a new museum in the 21st Century, represent a particular group within an exhibition, or display an alternative history? Can this act, in itself, legitimise or validate culture?
I will draw upon my own experiences as a CDP student at the National Football Museum to explore how the boundaries of elite and popular culture are negotiated in the museum setting. In 2013, the NFM’s collection was deemed by the Arts Council England to be ‘of outstanding importance and value’, yet within the industry, sport has been considered less culturally significant than other subjects, and perhaps even in opposition to culture. Drawing upon Raymond Williams’s proposal that ‘culture is ordinary’, as well as a ‘culturalist’ approach to understanding class in the 21st Century, the NFM will be presented as an interesting case study in how hierarchies within culture are paralleled by hierarchies within ‘temples of culture’ – the museums sector. This paper will encourage fellow CDP students to critically reflect upon the institutional setting in which they carry out their research.