Sport, Museums and Cultural Policy

Reilly, Justine Nicola (2014) Sport, Museums and Cultural Policy. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Britain is widely considered to be the birth place of modern sport. Given this fact, it could be expected that the representation of sport within British museums would be extensive. However, the discussion of sport in museums within the existing literature is limited at best and, where it does occur, has a focus primarily on sport specific museums. Therefore, this thesis examines the development of sport in museums and the motivations and barriers which have influenced its development. Placing sport in museums within the wider context of cultural policy between the period of 1997 and 2012, the study explores the impact of sport in museums within wider social and economic agendas.

Due to the lack of existing evidence concerning the subject area, the study draws on extensive fieldwork conducted by the author with individuals working in the fields of cultural policy, museum practice, and academia. In addition, focus groups and questionnaires were carried out with members of the public to ascertain perceptions towards sport as a subject matter for museums and the potential of sport to increase and change museum audiences. In addition, there is an in-depth evaluation of the Our Sporting Life exhibition programme in order to establish the impact of sport in museum against the widely used museu-m methodology frameworks, the Generic Learning *Outcomes and Generic Social Outcomes.

The findings of this research demonstrate that sport in museums responds to a range of wider cultural policy objectives which support economic and social outcomes. These include: improving individual’s knowledge and understanding; providing enjoyment; supporting health and well-being agendas; and building stronger communities. In addition, the evidence establishes that sport attracts new and different audiences to museums and suggests that this may impact on the visiting habits of these individuals in the long-term. However, the findings also demonstrate that there are significant barriers to the delivery of sporting exhibitions in museums, most notably access to sufficient funding and inadequate knowledge and availability of relevant sporting collections.

Therefore, this thesis presents the first conclusive evidence that sport in museums is both relevant and valuable as a subject matter for museum discourse, and argues that this alone suggests a need for increased funding to support further development of activity in this field.

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