Perception and Wellbeing: A cross disciplinary approach to experiencing art in
the museum
Highlights of Annual Report
The aims of this project are to explore through a new interdisciplinary framework how
viewing public art in museums and galleries may impact upon the wellbeing of the
viewer, and to contribute through knowledge and understanding gained to both
academic studies and to practical work within museums and galleries. To do this,
both eye-tracking and ethnographic techniques will be used to gather data, and an
interdisciplinary framework of anthropology, aesthetics and neuroscience will be
developed to explore how art in museums and galleries is experienced.
This project incorporates the Beyond Text research theme of ‘mediations’. This is
being done through the exploration of the relationships between images and their
accompanying textual information. Within the present pilot study, the accompanying
text is concerned with a monetary value, which could be true or false. These values
may impact on the participants’ perception of the images they see and thus could
influence how they rate the artistic value and also their own preference for the
image. In future studies within this project the accompanying texts, such as titles,
descriptions and other information, provided, for example by curators, will be
investigated and considered as a factor in overall perception of images and artwork.
Once the results of this pilot study are fully analysed they will give some insight into
whether viewers look at images of paintings classified as ‘art’, differently from similar
images which are not instantly recognisable as something which has the importance
of a famous artwork. It will also indicate whether images made to resemble paintings
are viewed in the same way as images of real paintings or the photo they were
originally augmented from. This is of methodological relevance to see if results taken
from experiments using digital images of artwork can be representative of
experiments using the real paintings themselves.
So far the pilot study has been discussed at a Museum Studies departmental
research seminar and will also be presented in poster form at an international
conference , ‘Art and Science: Exploring the limits of human perception’ conference
in Benasque, Spain in July 2009. This latter opportunity will prove to be a highlight of
the current work being done for this project as it will provide the opportunity for the
work to be discussed, criticised, and possibly improved through exposure to the
leading academics with particular interest in this area. Reference to this new
interdisciplinary research area represented by this award has also been made in S.
Dudley, in press. 'Museum materialities: objects, sense and feeling', in S. Dudley
(ed.), Museum Materialities: objects, engagements, interpretations, London:
Routledge (2009), though the publication concerns the experience of objects in
museums more widely.
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