This paper will report on research on different design aspects of museum displays in a permanent and a mobile museum context. This research has been undertaken in order to understand how different aspects of museum displays contribute to meaning making. It looks at the interrelationship between different design elements and how these influence meaning making. Drawing on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (1996; 2001) theory of multimodal discourse and on recent research on communication in museums (Ravelli: 2006; Meng in O’Halloran: 2006), this study considers why it is apposite to consider museums as multimodal, co-deploying different modes to make meaning. The paper investigates the design elements employed in museum displays, which include: linguistic design (labels and captions); visual design (objects on display, photographs and drawings); audio design (video recordings) and spatial design (lay-out of the display). The paper discusses a multimodal analysis of the rock art and rock engraving displays, drawing on inter alia the work of Kress and van Leeuwen (1996; 2001), which is done with the intention of formulating a metalanguage. It is envisaged that this metalanguage will enable museum practitioners and educators to talk about and better understand meaning making in museum displays and contribute to current debates on communication and meaning making in museums.
|Keywords:||Social Semiotics, Multimodality, Rock Art, Museum|
Director, Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
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