Bringing technology back in: a critique of the institutionalist perspective on museums

Nicholas J. Rowland, Fabio Rojas


Sociologists that study organizations often analyze the museum from a cultural perspective that emphasizes the norms of the museum industry and the larger society. We review this literature and suggest that sociologists should take into account the technical demands of museums. Drawing on insights from social studies of technology, we argue that museums are better understood as organizations that must accomplish legitimate goals with specific technologies. These technologies impact museums and the broader museum field in at least three ways: they make specific types of art possible and permit individuals and organizations to participate in the art world; they allow actors to insert new practices in museums; and they can stabilize or destabilize museum practices. We illustrate our arguments with examples drawn from the world of contemporary art.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Nicholas J. Rowland, Fabio Rojas

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360