Exploring the Gap between Museum Policy and Practice: a Comparative analysis of Scottish, English and Welsh Local Authority Museum Services

Vikki McCall


This paper explores the gap between museum policy and practice in the United
Kingdom (UK) by offering empirical evidence from a comparative street-level
analysis of museum services in Scotland, England and Wales. Exploring
devolution in cultural services from the ground-level using Lipsky’s (1980) ‘streetlevel’
approach gives new insights to the role of ground-level workers in cultural
policy. It shows that museum workers had an awareness of national policies, but
implementation was mainly influenced by a mixture of challenges in the everyday
delivery of the museum services studied. Museum workers understood policy as
something symbolic rather than relating to action, which reinforced policy distance.
Workers at the ground-level had more similarities than differences throughout
Scotland, England and Wales and the structural challenges within museum services
indicated a complex negotiation that increased agency at the ground-level. These
findings outline the potential limitations of written national and international policy
in the cultural sector as it is the activities, values and behaviours at the front-line
of cultural services that ultimately creates policy in the cultural sector. 1
Key words: Cultural policy; museum workers; UK devolution; policy distance; street-level
analysis; Lipsky

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Copyright (c) 2017 Vikki McCall

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360