The multiple interfaces of engagement: towards a new conception of gallery learning

Christopher Whitehead, Emma Coffield


Drawing upon longitudinal research undertaken with Further Education students who visited an art exhibition, this article retheorises organised gallery learning. We argue that the significance of the gallery visit for students – and of their engagements with the exhibition and artworks – is elaborated and remediated over longer periods of time and through multiple ‘interfaces’. These include: the school or college; the gallery and the contingency of gallery events; the exhibition; internet websites, social media and mobile applications; the artwork and images of it; and an understanding of the self and other people (including the artist, teachers and gallery staff). Each of these has different possibilities that structure engagement, and sometimes interfaces ‘fail’ because of mundane contingencies or students’ dispositions. Also, interfaces don’t stand alone and need to be considered relationally for a more holistic and complex picture of ‘learning’ to emerge.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Chris Whitehead, Emma Coffield

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360