Self-oriented or visitor-oriented? Exploring the stance of museums online



Abstract – Websites play a double role in museum communication: on the one hand, they serve as powerful branding tools, through which museums affirm their identity, and, on the other, they are bridging tools, able to reach out to the public and reduce distance with visitors. Both from the perspective of linguists and that of practitioners, little attention has been paid on the interplay of these two dimensions, which defines the quality of the relationship established online with visitors and identifies the museum’s commitment to participation and ethical engagement.

Based on the observation of forty British and American museum websites, the study focusses on the analytical description of the homepage, the showcase par excellence through which museums establish relation with the audience. The methodological toolkit for the analysis relies on a combination of multimodal analysis and discourse analysis techniques. The study lays the foundations for a theoretical distinction between a ‘self-oriented’ and a ‘visitor-oriented’ stance in websites, suggesting that a balance between the two is key to the pursuit of ethical engagement in museum communication.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v56p223

Keywords: museum communication; museum websites; discourse analysis; multimodal analysis; ethical engagement.


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