Situating openness in the new museology: A social constructivist approach to the MuseWeb archive

T. Leo Cao University of Texas at Austin


From open-source software for collection management to open access initiatives for public reuse, and to the recent global pandemic that shut down most of the world, the museum community is experiencing an ongoing transformation in what openness truly means. Adopting the social construction of technology as a theoretical framework and analytical method, this study investigates the changing attitudes and practices among museum professionals, especially how the intellectual precepts of the “new museology” have influenced the conceptualization and operationalization of openness. In particular, this study explores the archive of the MuseWeb conference and conducts a qualitative content analysis of all the papers presented between 1997 and 2020 related to the topic of openness. While the concept of openness may be abstract, each paper presented a museological instantiation of the concept that carried concrete and material implications. By comparing how these papers discussed openness in the museum context, this study traces how museum professionals have socially constructed the changing meanings of openness in the past twenty years, demonstrating a gradual, albeit not definitive, shift away from an institution-oriented understanding to an access-oriented interpretation that increasingly centered on the needs of the public.



On February 25, 2020, the Smithsonian Institution launched Smithsonian Open Access, releasing three million digital images and two centuries of metadata into the public domain. Adopting the Creative Commons Zero license, the Smithsonian waived its copyright claims and allowed the public to view, download, modify, and share content from this database for free and for any purpose. The announcement came a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the majority of the world, and it allowed the Smithsonian to continue reaching, educating, and inspiring audiences during the ensuing global shutdown. However, this access-based understanding of openness has not always been the dominant expression among museum practitioners and scholars. From early adoption of open-source software for collection management to recent implementation of open access projects for public reuse, the past few decades have witnessed an ongoing transformation in how the notion of openness is being interpreted and applied by museum professionals around the world. This study considers what openness means for the museum community in a post-pandemic world.

Open-oriented museum practices are predicated on the use of digital technologies and mediated communications, which situate museums in an increasingly mediatized social environment (Drotner et al., 2019). Theoretically, this paper adopts a social constructivist approach to the use of technologies and their related rhetorics in the museum context. This approach rejects technological determinism and considers forms of knowledge as social constructs (Pinch & Bijker, 2012). In particular, this study deploys the social construction of technology (SCOT) as a conceptual framework and analytical method to investigate the changing attitudes and practices regarding openness among museum professionals. The SCOT framework emphasizes how institutionalized social values may shape the practice of individual actors (Klein & Kleinman, 2002). As neoliberal marketization and reduced public funding forced museums to search for new social relevance, one such set of social values is the “new museology,” a theoretical and philosophical movement emerging in the late 1980s that sought to redefine the role of museums in society and their changing relationships with the public (Vergo, 1989; Stam, 1993).

This study creates a connection between the two bodies of literature and examines how the intellectual precepts of the new museology have shaped the understanding and practice of openness among museum professionals. Methodologically, this study explores the archive of the MuseWeb conference and conducts a qualitative content analysis of papers presented between 1997 and 2020 related to the topic of openness. While the concept of openness may be abstract, each paper presented a museological instantiation of the concept that carried concrete and material implications. By comparing how these papers conceptualized and operationalized openness in the museum context, this study traces how museum professionals have socially constructed the changing meanings of openness in the past twenty-five years, demonstrating a gradual, albeit not definitive, shift away from an institution-oriented understanding to an access-oriented interpretation that increasingly centered on the needs of the public.

Literature Review

Social construction of (museum) technology

Sociologists Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker developed the social construction of technology (SCOT) model in the 1980s. Arguing that all forms of knowledge are social constructs, SCOT functions as a heuristic that maps out relevant elements in the development of a technological artifact. In this process, Pinch and Bijker (2012) identified several important factors: relevant social groups, interpretative flexibility, stabilization/closure, and sociopolitical milieu.

First, relevant social groups are organizations or groups of individuals whose members “share the same set of meanings, attached to a specific artifact” (p. 23). As different groups may attribute different meanings to the same artifact, an interpretative flexibility can often be observed, suggesting that “technological artifacts are culturally constructed and interpreted” (p. 34). After an alteration of variation and selection, some artifacts increasingly become the dominant form. This eventually leads to various mechanisms for the stabilization of an artifact or the closure of debate. Finally, as sociopolitical contexts may create norms and values that influence the meaning-making processes of different social groups, SCOT also highlights the importance of situating the artifact within the wider sociopolitical milieu.

The applicability of the SCOT model to openness as a concept requires a special note, considering the prevalent focus among SCOT scholars on technological artifacts and infrastructural systems as material entities. The intellectual premise of SCOT is centered on the constructed nature of knowledge, which includes both tangible artifacts and intangible ideas. Hughes (2012), for example, considered elements of technological systems to include physical artifacts, organizations, scientific concepts, legislative artifacts, and natural resources. Therefore, this study adopts a broad understanding of artifacts that includes intangible concepts, values, and ideologies. Moreover, the concept of openness, when adopted in practice, will inevitably be embodied in material processes that involve specific uses of tangible artifacts and systems.

Since its original formulation, SCOT has received criticisms due to its omission of several important factors. The most prominent criticism centers on the inadequate attention paid to “social structure and power relationships within which technological development takes place,” including “the reciprocal relationship between artifacts and social groups” (Kline & Pinch, 1996, p. 767). In other words, SCOT fails to consider “systematic asymmetries of power” (Klein & Kleinman, 2002, p. 31) between and within social groups, some of whom may be excluded from participating in the design of technological artifacts, so the “very existence of groups is a fact to be explained” (p. 36).

Another strand of criticism argues that the original SCOT framework “dealt mainly with the design stage of technologies. The notion of closure was a little too rigid. What was missing was a sense of how and in what circumstances the ‘black box’ of technology could be reopened as it was taken up by different social groups” (Kline & Pinch, 1996, p. 767). In other words, the interpretive flexibility of an already stabilized artifact may become reactivated in the use stage, making “users of technology […] agents of technological change” (p. 764). Expanding SCOT to examine both the design and use stages of technological development reveals the non-linear nature of interpretive flexibility and a dynamic tension between stabilization and uncertainty. In response to this iterative process, Lievrouw (2010) proposed the determination–contingency framework, in which determination represents “the effort to specify conditions or ‘impose coherence’ in a situation with the intent of achieving some desired outcome,” whereas contingency signals “the existence of many possible conditions in an uncertain situation” (p. 258). Lievrouw suggested that scholars identify moments of determination or contingency, which are “notable or conspicuous elements having the potential to move development in one direction or another” (p. 258).

Finally, Klein and Kleinman (2002) argued that SCOT places an excessive emphasis on agency and tends to neglect elements of structure, which they defined as “formal and informal, explicit and implicit ‘rules of play,’ which establish distinctive resource distributions, capacities, and incapacities and define specific constraints and opportunities for actors depending on their structural location” (p. 35). Adding structural considerations to SCOT, Klein and Kleinman argued that access to and control of resources may affect interorganizational relationships, that such internal relationships may “allow internal factions to embody their particular meaning in an artifact” (p. 38), and that “deeply institutionalized social values” (p. 40) may shape the practices of and interactions among individual actors. All in all, these are important structural considerations that might affect how a particular institution, or the museum community at large, interprets the meaning of openness.

The new museology as institutionalized social values

What are the overarching social values that have become deeply institutionalized in the museum community in the past few decades? One such set of social values is the “new museology,” a movement emerging in the late 1980s that critically interrogates and redefines the role of museums in society and the changing relationships between museums and the audience they serve.

Desvallées and Mairesse (2010) traced the early development of a new museology in French literature to the 1970s that considered the visitor as a participating creator instead of a docile consumer (Laws, 2015). In the Anglophone discourse, the “new museology” was formally introduced by Vergo (1989), who described a widespread dissatisfaction with the “old” museology that focused “too much about museum methods, and too little about the purposes of museums” (p. 3). The old museology “was seen to privilege both its collections-based function and its social links to the cultural tastes of particular social groups” (McCall & Gray, 2014, p. 20). Internally, museum practices “were functionally based around collections and held curatorship as being central to the museum enterprise” (p. 20); externally, museums held the position of a cultural authority in relation to the public and functioned primarily to “civilize” and “discipline” the mass population (Bennett, 1990). In contrast, the new museology reframes the museum as a social institution with inherently political roles, emphasizing its informational base and educational function, and arguing that meanings do not reside in museum objects but have been socially determined and assigned (Stam, 1993). Weil (1999) observed a transition of the museum from an “establishment-like institution” that primarily focused inward on the growth, care, and study of collections to an “entrepreneurial institution” that increasingly focused outward on providing educational services to the public (p. 229). This transition was accompanied by a corresponding shift in the identity of museum professionals from that of a “legislator” to an “interpreter” of cultural meanings (Ross, 2004).

Weil (1999) identified several factors underlying this paradigm shift. The first was a significant decrease in public funding since the 1980s, along with a corresponding increase in pressure for museums to generate more income and seek corporate funding. Second, there was an increase of professionalism within the museum community, in which professional organizations played an important role in articulating the museum’s ideologies, professional standards, and cultural norms. Weil cited the growing influence of museum educators as evidence for the changing emphasis from collection care to public service. Finally, Weil commented how cultural institutions were increasingly required to provide and prove their “added value” to the public. Ross (2004) echoed the last point and observed a “new climate of audience-awareness and reflexivity” (p. 100), which moved museums towards greater accessibility and wider participation, but simultaneously thrusted them into forces of neoliberal marketization that construed the public as consumers rather than citizens.

Despite the changes in rhetorics, Stam (1993) problematized the new museology and asked how this theoretical framework could be translated into practice. He observed mixed responses to the new discourse among museum professionals and many programs to be “suspiciously ad hoc, desperate in tone and curiously at odds with the basic educational purposes of the sponsoring institutions” (p. 268). Weil (1999) also found a divergence in sentiment between distress about tampering with the centrality of collections and sympathy towards the museum’s evolution to a more educationally oriented organization. Ross (2004) noted that new curatorial strategies were “only partial, contingent and limited by what one director described as ‘an in-built resistance to change’” (p. 100). Therefore, the new museology discourse in the 1990s was a primarily “attitudinal change,” one that provided “no blueprint for change” and was “less helpful on praxis” (Stam, 1993, p. 281). McCall and Gray (2014) observed an absence of empirical studies assessing the practical impact of new museology. Based on investigations into museums in the UK, they found an inconsistent adoption of new museological principles because of organizational hierarchies and managerial limitations.

Applying SCOT in the museum context

The previous sections have provided several points of convergence between SCOT and the new museology. For instance, the new museological emphasis on the constructed nature of values and meanings bestowed upon museum objects strongly resonates with the social constructivist approach to the nature of human knowledge. Likewise, the growing influence of educators inside both museums and professional organizations has paved the way for a transformation of institutional identity that increasingly centered on the needs of the public, suggesting, as SCOT scholars would agree, that the empowerment of certain relevant social groups could impact the allocation of resources and the prioritization of different social values. Finally, empirical studies have demonstrated how the new museology discourse can encounter resistance and negotiation among museum workers as users of digital technologies, therefore reopening the interpretive flexibility of seemingly stabilized museological principles. It is based on these points of convergence that this study hopes to contribute to the field of museum studies by mobilizing SCOT as a conceptual framework and analytical method to interrogate the evolving meanings of openness in the museum context.

If new museology presents an “escalation in rhetoric” from providing the public with mere refreshment, to education, and to communal empowerment (Weil, 1999, p. 236), then to what extent has the understanding and practice of openness escalated along with the movement’s rhetorical development? In other words, if the new museological precepts can be summarized as “from being about something to being for somebody” (Weil, 1999), then to what extent have museums changed how they conceptualize and operationalize openness to better serve the public rather than merely managing their collections?


To address the evolving discourse and practice of openness within the museum community, this study explores the archive of the MuseWeb (MW) conference and analyzes conference papers presented between 1997 and 2020 related to the topic of openness. The MW conference started in 1997, convened every year, and claims to be the world’s largest museum innovation and technology conference (Museums and the Web, 2020). This study focuses on the MW conference because these participants are designers, users, and advocates of museum technologies, those considered agents of technological changes in the SCOT literature. Meanwhile, it is important to note the limitation of focusing on one body of texts generated from one professional forum that, due to its nature of selectivity (e.g., language and regional focus), may have excluded other museum professionals and their alternative voices. Therefore, the following analysis serves as a heuristic that maps out major elements that address the research question and should not be generalized to represent the entire museum community.

This study conducts a qualitative content analysis of select MW conference papers. Between 1997 and 2020, a total number of 1,416 papers have been recorded in the archive. A total number of thirty-seven articles include the word “open” in the title or the list of keywords; one paper was excluded from analysis because it discusses openness in passing as “openness to interchange.” The remaining thirty-six papers were analyzed using a combination of open and axial coding (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Specifically, this study summarizes each paper based on the following template: Through [open interpretations], museums can achieve [goals] for the benefit of [relevant social groups], if [challenges] can be overcome. Here, [open interpretations] refer to the open-related practice, concept, or device presented in the paper (e.g., an open-source software); [relevant social groups] refer to specific social groups (e.g., researchers or educators) that the [open interpretations] are intended to serve. Adopting the SCOT framework, this study aims to map out what [open interpretations] have been presented over the years, and whether, according to the new museology, the intended [relevant social groups] have changed to signal a shift from fulfilling the functions of internal departments to serving the needs of the wider public. Additionally, [goals] and [challenges] provide important contextual information that grounds the discussion of these open-related practices.


A total number of seventeen [open interpretations] and seven [relevant social groups] have been identified based on the thirty-six conference papers. These [relevant social groups] are:

  • museums: including other types of cultural heritage institutions (e.g., historical centers).
  • staff: within the museum, whenever specified (e.g., curators).
  • educators: outside the museum (e.g., schoolteachers).
  • researchers: outside the museum (e.g., universities).
  • users: including on-site and online visitors.
  • subjects: humans subjects that appear in photographic images.
  • collaborators: outside the museum (e.g., software developers).

Figure 1 presents the list of all the [open interpretations], along with a distribution of the groups and interpretations. Each row represents an open-related paper: the date column shows the year in which the paper was presented; relevant social groups mentioned in the paper are marked (with solid dark dots) in columns to the left; open-related practices discussed in the paper are marked in columns to the right. The number of occurrences for each keyword is counted and shown in brackets, but due to the limited sample size, these numbers should not be used to perform any inferential analysis.

Figure 1. The distribution of all [open interpretations] and [relevant social groups] based on the thirty-six MW conference papers.
Figure 1. The distribution of all [open interpretations] and [relevant social groups] based on the thirty-six MW conference papers. API: application programming interface; GLAM: gallery, library, archive, and museum; MOOC: massive open online courses.


Relevant social groups

Analyses of the thirty-six papers have identified a wide range of relevant social groups, but the notion of the public was not always explicitly recognized, especially in early papers presented before the 2010s. Understandably, “museums” are included in all the papers, but when they are the only relevant group (e.g., Goodman et al., 2007; Kelly et al., 2007; Walk, 2009), it suggests that the [open interpretations] were intended to only serve the museum itself and its inner workings, as opposed to the needs of the public. In fact, many papers failed to explicitly recognize a public to serve at all. Although most of these institution-centered papers were presented in the 2000s, they continued to be featured well into the late 2010s (e.g., Roddis & Farquhar, 2018; Wilson, 2019). It is therefore difficult to claim a complete shift away from the more museum-centric approach to openness. However, museum “staff” became increasingly understood as constituting heterogenous relevant social (sub)groups with different values and priorities inside the museum, signaling a growing awareness that the museum was not a homogeneous entity without differentiated internal responsibilities and expectations (e.g., Winesmith, 2013).

“Collaborators” were increasingly recognized in papers presented since the 2010s, ranging from developers of open-source software and hardware (Ketner, 2012; Langer & Alderman, 2016), content creators who reused museum collections for creative cultural production (Oomen et al., 2012), and digital platforms such as Wikipedia and Flickr Commons (Antonini et al., 2014; Kingston & Edgar, 2015). The contributions of external collaborators were explicitly acknowledged in one paper through what is known as Joy’s Law: “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else” (quoted in Oomen et al., 2012). However, even though the collaborators were outside the museum institution, their contributions were still tied to the functions of the museum, namely the production and dissemination of cultural content, rather than the needs of the wider public. In other words, despite growing collaborations with social groups outside the museum, what the public needed and how the museum could serve those needs were still yet to be prioritized.

Other relevant social groups include researchers, educators, and users. Many early papers focused exclusively on the benefits of open-oriented initiatives for scholarly research (Perkins, 2001; Cole et al., 2002; Fleming et al., 2008). “Educators” (e.g., schoolteachers) were not a primary relevant social group until around 2015 but have been frequently featured in papers since then. Similarly, “users” were rarely mentioned in papers presented in the 2000s, with Kelly et al. (2008) being an exception, imagining what openness could mean in hypothetical scenarios rather than reflecting on existing museum practices. In contrast, Oomen et al. (2011) emphasized not only the “roles mobile devices can play in meeting demands by users expecting to play an active rather than passive role as they seek to explore ‘their’ heritage,” but also the “bigger trend within the heritage domain of facilitating active user engagement using emerging technology.” Similarly, it has also been recognized that “for [museum] content to be truly accessible, it needs to be where the users are, embedded in their daily networked lives” (Waibel & Erway, quoted in Baltussen et al., 2013). These comments demonstrated a growing emphasis on the museum’s educational functions, resonated with the broader participatory turn in museum studies discourse of the 2010s (e.g., Simon, 2010; Giaccardi, 2012; Laws, 2015), and recognized the mediatized environments in which museum communications with the public were increasingly embedded (Drotner et al., 2019). Moreover, the idea of “meeting users where they are” signaled exactly the “marketing” mode Weil (1999) observed, where museums, responding to the increasing marketization in the cultural sector, actively attempted to identify and satisfy the needs of the public instead of convincing the public to buy whatever they had to offer in the traditional “selling” mode. Overall, the thirty-six papers have presented a growing range of relevant social groups, and while an institution-oriented understanding of openness has persisted, the public did become progressively recognized over the years, indicating an overall attitudinal change in line with what the new museology literature has prescribed.

Interpretive flexibility

The most frequently discussed open interpretations are open source (14), open data (12), open license (6), and open access (5), exhibiting an imbalanced focus more on the internal functions of the museum than on its external social responsibilities. Open source and (linked) open data have been utilized to support museum initiatives that aimed internally to improve database useability and collection management and externally to facilitate research and collaboration (e.g., Oomen et al., 2012; Henry & Brown, 2013; Newbury, 2017; Villaespesa & Navarrete, 2019; Lemmens, 2020). In contrast, open license and open access are unambiguously public-oriented because they specify the conditions under which the public can access and use the museum’s collections, with the former providing a legal and technical basis for the latter. In light of this difference, it is important to observe that practices based on open source and open data have been regularly presented over the years, while only four papers (Bray, 2009; Kingston & Edgar, 2015; Roddis & Farquhar, 2018; Ross et al., 2018) discussed real-world open access initiatives. The only other paper mentioning open access (Muñoz, 2011) in fact reflected on its very limitation, regarding whether the museum had the legal and moral rights to share images of members from Indigenous communities. Therefore, despite the wide variety of open-related interpretations, these papers have revealed a consistent focus on using openness to serve the museum’s internal functions and scholarly research; it was not until the late 2010s that the rhetoric of openness expanded to include wider public access as one of the museum’s primary concerns.

In addition, some papers exhibited a heightened interpretive flexibility regarding openness by critically reflecting what it means for the community at large. Kelly et al. (2008) explored the potential benefits and limitations of openness, including open standards, open source, open content, open services, and open culture. Although this paper did not refer to any existing museum practice, it performed an interpretive act by outlining the different dimensions of openness and exhibited great flexibility in terms of how they could be applied in practice. Similarly, Dawson et al. (2017) used the umbrella term “open movement” to capture such aspects of openness as open standards, open source, open hardware, open data, open participation, and open innovation, before providing empirical evidence based on what happened at a Canadian museum complex. While these two papers explored the benefits of openness, Ross et al. (2018) cautioned against what they called “progressive openness,” where issues such as digitization and copyright were prioritized over open data and open standards. The authors considered it a “utopian” conception of openness, one that overlooked its political implications such as closure and exclusion that might result from the pursuit of openness. In any case, these three papers attributed different meanings to the notion of openness, which in turn demonstrated the culturally constructed nature of the concept.

Sociopolitical milieu

Multiple layers of contexts – international, national, institutional, and non-profit – have informed the situation of open-related museum practices within the broader sociopolitical milieu. This was exemplified by Kingston and Edgar (2015), who described how the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa undertook an open access initiative in response to three different contexts. Internationally, the Museum referenced well-known open access projects around the world. In New Zealand, “open government, open data, and open access licensing were emerging as a government priority.” Internally, the museum itself also began to prioritize “the principle of sharing authority” and recognize “the public good aspects of previously commercial areas.” For Kingston and Edgar, these contextual considerations played an important role in informing the museum’s long-term commitment to open access initiatives.

Similarly, Dawson et al. (2017) pointed to “open government” in Canada as driving an open movement on a social level beyond the cultural heritage sector. Several papers also echoed Kingston and Edgar, commenting on the changing organizational context and articulating the need for structural changes within the museum (Dawson et al., 2017; Ross et al., 2018), resonating with the SCOT model’s focus on structural elements as “rules of play” that influence the distribution of resources, professional capacities, and ultimately institutional power. Additionally, although not a paper presented at MW, Kapsalis (2016) highlighted the role of private donors and charitable foundations in promoting open access. Several major funders of the cultural sector in the U.S. “have made open access either a requirement for grant recipients or a factor in assessing potential grantees” (p. 6). Considering the museum’s ongoing transformation into an entrepreneurial institution and its increasing reliance on private funding, it is important to consider this fourth level of context, one that centers on the role played by the non-profit sector, in which museums are incentivized to prioritize open access over other open-related goals in order to attract and justify private donations.

Closure and stabilization? Openness as a boundary object

The discussion so far has identified a gradual, albeit not definitive, shift away from a museum-centered understanding of openness, with occasional references to facilitating scholarly research, to a broader public-oriented interpretation of openness that increasingly centered on the needs of new relevant social groups such as collaborators, educators, and users. Although this overall observation is aligned with the discourse of new museology, the various interpretations of openness have never become stabilized enough to reach a complete closure. The ideal of open access, based on the right of the public to reuse museum collections, has become increasingly mainstream in contemporary museological discourse, but the multifaceted meanings of openness have never completely strayed away from practices based on open source and open data that prioritize the museum’s internal functions. Using Lievrouw’s (2010) determination-contingency framework, one might argue that despite moments of determination that gravitated to an access-oriented interpretation of openness, moments of contingency simultaneously persisted to pull museums in multiple directions, perpetuating the interpretive flexibility inherent in openness as a culturally constructed concept. Rather than a unidirectional transformation “from being about something to being for somebody,” museums now understandably undertake the dual mission of simultaneously being about something and being for somebody.

To better make sense of this unrealized stabilization, it is useful to theorize the notion of openness using what Star and Griesemer (1989) termed “boundary objects”:

Boundary objects are objects which are both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and the constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use, and become strongly structured in individual-site use. These objects may be abstract or concrete. They have different meanings in different social worlds but their structure is common enough to more than one world to make them recognizable, a means of translation. (p. 393)

Indeed, openness is one such abstract “object” (in a broad sense of the word), plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of museum professionals, yet robust enough to maintain a common meaning across the cultural heritage sector. Different interpretations of openness have informed open-oriented practices presented at the MW conference and beyond. The concept of openness may be abstract, but each museological instantiation of the concept carries concrete, material, and sometimes infrastructural implications. Therefore, openness exhibits such “boundary” quality and plays the role of translation among different relevant social groups within and outside the museum community, who may engage with open-related practices in different manners, but ultimately serve a common goal to fulfil the museum’s social functions.


From open-source software to open access databases, the museum community’s increasing use of digital technologies has transformed how the notion of openness is understood and applied in practice. At a time when museums around the world have gradually reopened in a post-pandemic world, what the ideal of openness truly means for the museum as a social institution has never been more important. Analyses of thirty-six papers presented at the MW conference have revealed a growing range of relevant social groups, and the wider public – including collaborators, educators, and users – did become increasingly recognized over the years, notwithstanding a persistent institution-oriented emphasis on the museum’s inner workings. Similarly, the broad array of open interpretations has gradually foregrounded an access-centered interpretation of openness since the late 2010s, despite an unwavering commitment to alternative interpretations that prioritize collection management and scholarly research. Underlying these changes are contextual factors – international, national, institutional, and non-profit – that influence how museums prioritize the distribution of resources to pursue open-related goals. These findings suggest a partial and incomplete shift away from a museum-centered to a public-oriented understanding of openness, demonstrating the overall attitudinal change described in the new museology discourse. Openness may be an abstract concept, but its every museological instantiation carries important organizational and sociocultural implications. Ultimately, the ideal of openness serves a function of translation both within and beyond the museum community, with diverse relevant social groups participating in different open-related practices to fulfil the museum’s continually evolving social functions.


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0 T. Leo Cao University of Texas at Austin
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