Estonian Museum Association
Muuseumi tee 2, Tartu, tel 735 0412
Peter van Mensch „Towards a methodology of museology” (PhD thesis, University of Zagreb, 1992)
The structure of museology
In 1980 the International Committee for Museology organised a symposium about 'Systematics and systems in museology'. The original intention of the symposium was to discuss the internal structure of the discipline. The theme was considered to be relevant for (a) the structure and the theoretical field of museology, (2) for teaching in universities, and (3) for practical structure of museum organisations (Jelinek 1981: 69-70). It was felt that like any other academic disciplines museology has - or should have - its own scientific structure, i.e. a system of related fields of research. As opinions differ among museologists concerning subject and purpose of museological knowledge, the proposed structures of the discipline differs accordingly. The subdivision into 'heuristic fields' (Stransky) depends on the scope of the discipline as such. Throughout museological literature simple two-fold structures have evolved into four- or five-fold structures.
Toward a five-fold structure
When ICOFOM took up the theme of the identity of museology as an academic discipline many authors referred to the model as developed by Neustupny. Traditionally, distinction was made between general museology and applied museology [note 1].Neustupny added the distinction between general museology and special museology [note 2].The combination of both subdivisions gave a three-fold structure which was generally applied since [note 3].The three study areas are: general, applied and special museology. General museology deals with the principles of preservation, research and communication of the material evidence of mankind and its environment, and with its institutional framework. It also examines the social pre-conditions and their impact on the tasks mentioned above. Applied museology concerns itself with the implications of the general principles of museology on museum practice. Special museology connects general museology with the particular subject-matter disciplines and concerns museums and collections in the field of art, anthropology, natural history, etc. Special museology also deals with other groupings of museums, for example museums of A certain geographical area, like a country, a continent or an otherwise defined part of the world.
The concept of special museology was rejected by the Arbeitsgruppe Museologie (German Democratic Republic). In their opinion there was only one museology, applicable to all types of museums. However, it cannot be denied that different types of museums are confronted with different problems following from their collections or their social role. In this sense the concept of special museology was used during the ICOFOM Hyderabad 1988 conference. It was stated that special museology represents a lower level of abstraction than general museology, forming a bridge between general and applied museology. In his earlier publications Neustupny did not use the term theoretical museology. In his opinion museology has no organised set of theories of its own. At the ICOFOM London 1983 symposium, however, some authors (re-)introduced the concept of theoretical museology, which prompted Spielbauer to suggest a four-fold structure: theoretical museology, general museology, special museology, applied museology [note 4].Some authors, like for example Stransky, suggested to add historical museology as special branch of museological research. As separate field of research it provides the overall historical perspective within museology.
The resulting five-fold structure is (since 1982) used by the Reinwardt Academie to provide a frame-work for the curriculum and to provide a basic classification principle of the library of this institute. This structure is to be considered a methodological-didactical division of a consistent field of knowledge.General museology deals with the principles of preservation, research and communication of the material evidence of mankind and its environment, and with its institutional framework. It also examines the social pre-conditions and their impact on the tasks mentioned above. Theoretical museology lays the philosophical, epistemological, foundation of these principles, while applied museology concerns itself with the methodological dimension of museum work, i.e. the application of theoretical concepts in practice. Special museology connects general museology with the particular subject-matter disciplines. It deals with museums and collections in the field of art history, anthropology, natural history, etc. Special museology deals with other groupings of museums as well, for example museums of a certain geographical area, like a country, a continent or an otherwise defined part of the world. Finally, historical museology provides the overall historical perspective.
It should be noted that these terms are not used univocally. Although gradually adopting the five-fold structure as such, Stransky presently uses the term general museology for the whole field of museology. The term socio-museology (later social museology) he used to replace Neustupny's general museology. In doing so Stransky seems to be influenced by Tsuruta (see below).
In the curriculum of the Instituto de Museologia, Sao Paulo (Brazil) the term special museology is used in the meaning of 'special subjects in museology', such as museum architecture and community museology. Finally, some authors use the term historical museology for special museology concerned with historical museums (see below).
Although working from a different theoretical background, the American museologist Burcaw gives a subdivision that comes close to the proposals of his East European colleagues (Burcaw 1983: 15). Speaking about 'the system of museology' Burcaw mentions history, philosophy, education (pedagogics), the social sciences, and organisational theory as fields that make up museology. His approach, however, reflects the concept of museology as an conglomerate of methodologies rather than as an academic discipline in its own right.
Pearce developed a structure in which the terminology of Neustupny and others is avoided, but which in fact comes rather close to their general approach (Pearce 1992: 10). Pearce distinguishes between three fields: museum theory as part of critical culture theory, museum theory of resource management, and museum theory at specific work level. Within the five-fold structure of museology as given above these fields can be identified as theoretical museology, general museology and applied museology respectively.
A completely different structure is proposed by the Japanese museologist Soichiro Tsuruta (Tsuruta 1980: 49):
1 auto-museology (individual museology),
a museum taxonomy,
b morphological museology,
c functional museology;
2 specialised museology;
3 syn-museology (population museology);
5 museum management.
This structure, in which we recognise the biological background of the author, is based on the museum as a 'minimum unit' in museology. Automuseology, specialised museology and syn-museology refer respectively to individual museums, categories of museums and the museum field as a whole. Socio-museology refers to the museum as a socio-cultural institution. Museum management speaks for itself. In 1992, after the participation of Tsuruta in the International Summer School of Museology, Brno, Stransky adopted the concept of socio-museology (later changed into social museology) to complete his hitherto three-fold subdivision (historical, theoretical and applied museology). Social museology (also referred to as structural museology) is equivalent to the field of general museology. Tsuruta's and Stransky's concept of socio-museology is different from Mario Moutinho's use of the term. Moutinho is director of the Centro de Estudos de Sociomuseologia (Universidade Lusofona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Lisbon). Here sociomuseology is equal to "community museology" (see Chapter 5).
Although the five-fold structure underlies many of the training programmes all over the world, it does not function yet as a logically concise system of knowledge. The 'units' often use their own languages, based on quite different sets of predicates, which are in themselves based on (and claimed by) different disciplines (Gluzinski 1980: 441). Their connections are based on pragmatic relationships only. This is also reflected in some detailed subdivisions. Each field might, for example, be subdivided in areas of study or areas of application. Subdivisions of the field of theoretical museology mirror the different practical areas within the field of applied museology: preservation (i.e. collecting, conservation, registration) and communication (i.e. exhibition design and education). In this respect Neustupny uses the term museological disciplines, where Stransky speaks of heuristic fields.
Apart from his basic distinction between general and special museology Neustupny distinguishes between following museological disciplines (Neustupny 1971: 11):
- theory and methods of collecting source material of the individual branches of science, such as prehistory, history, ethnography, biology, mineralogy and others;
- theory and methods of the safe keeping and protection of source material, i.e. museum collections (conservation, restoration);
- theory and methods of scientific information (registration, catalogues, inventory work, machine-processed information, scientific publications describing source material);
- theory and methods of research at the museum (identification, classification, work on collections, problems concerning the participation of museums in basic and applied research);
- theory and methods of mass communication, popularisation of arts and sciences;
- theory of the role and function of museums in society, science and culture;
- the history of museums, museum work and museology;
- architecture and technical museum problems.
Throughout literature the terms museology as well as museography can be found. Museography seems to be the oldest availabe term as it was already used as far back as in 1727 in the famous publication by Caspar Friedrich Neickelius called Museographia (see Chapter 2). The term museology came into use in the course of the 19th century. From 1969 onwards ICOM used museology and museography in a distinctive way. Museology was defined as museum science, whereas museography was defined as covering methods and practices in the operation of museums. Following these definitions, most authors consider museography synonymous to applied museology. Klausewitz, however, very clearly distinguishes applied museology from museography (Klausewitz 1980). In his view applied museology includes the more theoretical questions of collecting, documentation, museum education, etc., while museography deals with techniques and methods on a day-to-day level, for example security and exhibition techniques. Klausewitz' use of the terms echoes Jahn's distinction between 'Museumstheorie', 'Museumsmethodik' and 'Museumstechnik', although she uses the term 'applied museology' for both 'Museumsmethodik' and 'Museumstechnik' (Jahn 1979: 283). Jahn suggests to use the term museography for the descriptive aspect of the discipline, whereas museology should be used for the explicative aspect. Her proposal have not met any approval, neither within ICOFOM nor elsewhere.
When the term museology is to stand for all the theoretical notions as opposed to (museum) practice, Klausewitz' proposal should be followed. In the above mentioned five-fold structure of museology applied museology refers to 'Museumsmethodik' rather than 'Museumstechnik'. It is interesting to see that the first recorded use of the term museography referred to theory and methodology rather than practice, whereas the first recorded use of the term museology was referring to museum practice only (see Chapter 2). Some authors seem to use the term museography for the practice of (museum) communication work only. For example, in France the term museography is usually used for museum exhibition work [note 5].For this specific field of applied museology/museum practice Swiecimski introduced the term expositiology (Swiecimski 1979: 16), comparable to scenography which is used in Brazil (Scheiner 1988).
Apart from the museologies mentioned above other differentiations can be found. However, terms like critical museology, new museology, and economuseology represent different lines of approach rather than fields of research. They are discussed as such in Chapter 5. As methodology rather than field of study the terms experimental museology (Van Mensch, Pouw & Schouten 1983: 87) and comparative museology (Van Mensch 1988: 185) are introduced. Experimental museology is suggested as branch of museology that experimentally investigate the influence of factors that add or erase information in the course of an object's biography. Comparative museology is expected to study the differences between different special museologies.
There is a tendency to divide the field of special museology into a series of separate museologies. The descriptive terminology depends on the perspective of the author. Those in favour of the concept of museology as applied science will use terms like museological anthropology (Mey 1988), others might prefer constructions like ethnographical museology (Stransky 1982), historical museology (Hofmann in Grampp et al. 1988; Dufrčsne in Coté ed. 1992) and 'muséologie scientifique' (Schiele 1989, Maitte 1989, Gros in Goery et al. 1989) or 'Kunstmuseologie' (Lemper in Arbeitsgruppe Museologie 1981) and 'Literaturmuseologie' (Kovac 1982), or zoomuseology, anthropomuseology and ethnomuseology (Stransky 1983).
Arbeitsgruppe Museologie (1981) Museologie (Berlin).
Burcaw, G.E. (1983) 'Basic paper', in: V. Sofka ed., Methodology of museology and professional training. ICOFOM Study Series 1 (Stockholm) 10-23.
Cialdea, R. (1988) 'On theoretical museology', Museological News (11): 199-212.
Coté, M. ed. (1992) Museological trends in Quebec (Quebec).
Feilden, B.M. & G.Scichilone (1982) 'Museums: the right places for conservation?', Museum 34 (1): 10-20.
Giraudy, D. & H.Bouilhet (1977) Le musée et la vie (Paris).
Gluzinski, W. (1980) U podstaw muzeologii (Warszawa).
Gluzinski, W. (1983) 'Basic paper', in: V. Sofka ed., Methodology of museology and professional training. ICOFOM Study Series 1 (Stockholm) 24-35.
Goery, C. et al. (1989) Panorama de la culture scientifique, technique et industrielle Alsace (Mulhouse).
Grampp, H.D. et al. (1988) Museologie und Museum. Beitraege und Mitteilungen 15 (Museum fuer Deutsche Geschichte, Berlin).
Herbst, W. & K.G. Levykin eds. (1988) Museologie. Theoretische Grundlagen und Methodik der Arbeit in Geschichtsmuseen (Berlin).
Hodge, J. (1983) 'Basic paper', in: V. Sofka ed., Methodology of museology and professional training. ICOFOM Study Series 1 (Stockholm) 58-65.
Jahn, I. (1979) 'Zur Anwendung quellenkundliche Forschungsmethoden im Museum', Neue Museumskunde 22 (4): 282-285.
Jelinek, J. (1981) 'Systematics and systems in museology - an introduction', Museological Working Papers (2): 69-70.
Klausewitz, W. (1980) 'Museological provocation', Museological Working Paper (1): 11.
Kovac, M.A. (1982) 'Das Museum als semiotisches System', in: Museologische Forschung in der CSSR. Schriftenreihe des Instituts fur Museumswesen 17 (Berlin) 101-120.
Lewis, G. (1981) 'The systematics of museology', Museological Working Papers (2): 74.
Lewis, G. (1983) 'Basic paper', in: V. Sofka ed., Methodology of museology and professional training (Addenda 3). ICOFOM Study Series 5 (Stockholm) (1-5).
Maitte, B. (1989) 'Le developpement des etablissements et les mouvements de difussion des sciences et des techniques: une esquisse historique', Brises (14): 5-11.
Mensch, P. van (1987) 'Practice and theory', Museological News (10): 115-118.
Mensch, P. van (1988) 'What contributions has museology to offer to the developing countries?', in: V. Sofka ed., Museology and developing countries - help or manipulation? ICOFOM Study Series 14 (Stockholm) 181-185.
Mensch, P. van, P. Pouw & F. Schouten (1983) 'Basic paper', in: V. SofkA ed., Methodology of museology and professional training. ICOFOM Study Series 1 (Stockholm) 81-94.
Mey, W. (1988) 'A museum promotes change', in: V. Sofka ed., Museology and developing countries - help or manipulation? ICOFOM Study Series 14 (Stockholm) 187-192.
Neustupny, J. (1968) Museum and research (Prague).
Neustupny, J. (1971) 'What is museology?', Museums Journal 71 (2): 67-68.
Pearce, S. (1992) Museums, objects and collections (Leicester).
Russio, W. (1983) 'Basic paper', in: V. Sofka ed., Methodology of museology and professional training. ICOFOM Study Series 1 (Stockholm) 114-125.
Schiele, B. (1989) La muséologique scientifique au present (Montreal).
Schreiner, K. (1982) Einführung in die Museologie (Neubrandenburg).
Schreiner, K. & H. Wecks (1986) Studien zur Museologie 1. Schriftenreihe des Instituts für Museumswesen 27 (Berlin).
Scheiner, T. (1988) 'Society, culture, heritage and museums in a country called Brazil', in: V. Sofka ed., Museology and developing countries - help or manipulation? ICOFOM Study Series 15 (Stockholm) 179-193.
Sofka, V. (1980) 'Museology is the study of the museum and its activities', Museological Working Papers (1): 12-13.
Spielbauer, J. (1983) 'Summary and analysis of the papers prepared for the symposium on methodology of museology and the training of personnel', in: V. Sofka ed., Methodology of museology and professional training. ICOFOM Study Series 1 (Stockholm) 133-145.
Stransky, Z.Z. (1982) 'Die Herausbildung der Museologie in der Tschechoslowakei', Schriftenreihe des Instituts für Museumswesen (17): 1-26.
Stransky, Z.Z. (1983) 'Museologie: Mode oder tatsächliche Notwendigkeit?, in: Jahresbericht 1982 (Landesmuseum Johanneum Graz, Graz) 161-165.
Swiecimski, J. (1979) 'The museum exhibition as an object of cognition or creative activity', Museologia (13): 11-17.
Tsuruta, S. (1980) 'Definition of museology', Museological Working Papers (1): 47-49.
 Also given as museology vs. museography, or theoretical vs. practical museology. See Gluzinski 1983: 33, Stra nsky 1983: 129, Arbeitsgruppe Museologie 1981: 3, and Jahn 1979.>back<
 Neustupny 1968: 146. The term 'special museology' has already been used by W. Schäfer in his contribution to the 1965 ICOM General Conference. After Burcaw (1983: 21), Hodge (1983: 62) and Russio (1983: 118) credited Lewis for this model, Lewis hastened to mention his source (Lewis 1983: 1). >back<
 Lewis 1981: 74, Sofka 1980: 12, Schreiner & Wecks 1986: 43, Burcaw 1983: 14. >back<
 Spielbauer 1983: 139. The same four-fold subdivision was given by Jahn in Arbeidsgruppe Museologie 1981: 47-48. Of course, the term 'theoretical museology' has already been used abundantly during the 1965 ICOM General Conference, as opposed to 'practical museology'. As was explained in Chapter 1 the concept of theoretical museology in 1965 differs considerably from the use of the term throughout the ICOFOM 1983-1 conference. >back<
 Giraudy & Bouilhet 1977. In A similar way the term was used by Guerin in 1957 (see Chapter 1). See also Feilden in Feilden & Scichilone 1982: 12, Cialdea 1988: 201. >back<
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