Interpretation, Narration and Display of East Asian Collections
: An Analysis of Irish Museum Approaches

  • Stephanie Harper

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The interpretation, narration and display of East Asian collections shapes how they are perceived, understood and recalled by the museum visitor. In particular, these elements play a significant role in determining what objects are seen to represent and signify in the museum space. This thesis employs a multidisciplinary approach to explore and analyse the role of interpretation in the display of East Asian collections in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, focussing on four prominent East Asian collections. To date the study of museum narrative has been limited, the study of the display of East Asian collections in the context of Ireland is also an inadequately researched area. Museum display strategies are increasingly significant for East Asian collections in the West today, as interpretation and display practices largely define the community relations, cultural understanding, social value and identity representations made through objects. An examination of current displays therefore determines a broad picture of the representation of East Asian history, culture and identity in museums in Ireland.
This thesis is divided into two sections. Section One focusses on museum display, this establishes an overview of the interpretation and narration approaches in operation for the four case study collections. It offers an examination of the social, cultural and political ideologies underpinning the narration of East Asian collections in Irish museums. Contributing original and significant knowledge to debates surrounding the role of interpretation in twenty-first century museum practice. The focus of Section Two is museum objects, here emphasis is placed on the contexts and storylines currently disregarded in existing display strategies. It makes a significant contribution to museum theory and practice, by providing an understanding of museum interpretation and its influence on themes such as inclusion and representation. Further advancing the depiction of multiple stories, identities and contexts in the museum display environment. The findings from this thesis provide direction for how museum interpretation and display practices can be used for the representation of multiple stories and identities, making previously overlooked contexts visible, and for building cross-cultural relationships and understanding.
Date of AwardMar 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorElizabeth Crooke (Supervisor) & Philip McDermott (Supervisor)


  • East Asian collections
  • Irish museums
  • Museum interpretation
  • Museum display

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