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Title: Crisis management, reinvention and resilience in museums : the Imperial War Museum during the Second World War Era, 1933-1950
Authors: Deans, Phillip William
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis is about museums and crisis. Through research on the Imperial War Museum, known today as IWM, during the Second World War era, 1933-1950, it reveals how crises disrupt museums, and the contrasting defensive and revolutionary strategies which museums must adopt when mitigating crisis situations. The thesis is situated in a small but emergent literature concerning museums and crisis. Existing work comprises contemporary case studies on difficult museum experiences, predominantly financial difficulty, wherein crisis has been applied to describe an institution’s general state of organisational malaise. This thesis, by contrast, is innovative in that it comprises a historical case study on a museum facing wholesale physical and ideological collapse, and deploys newly developed crisis concepts to analyse different critical situations that can impact museums and to analyse the pathology underlying them. It draws on methodology informed by various case study, archival and historical theorists, and is produced using data extracted principally from documentary sources researched at the IWM museum archive and The National Archives. Through investigating the experience of the Imperial War Museum during the Second World War era, this thesis finds that museums can be harmed by two crisis types. The first comprises a surface-defensive crisis, where the impacted museum must rebut the crisis effects. This type was conceived through considering the impact of the wartime aerial attacks against London on the Imperial War Museum. The second type comprises a deep-revolutionary crisis, where the museum must transition from its existing crisis-ridden state to some new, more sustainable paradigm. This type was conceived through considering the threats posed by cultural irrelevancy, perceived during the war, against the Imperial War Museum after the conflict. Delivered via an original synthesis of historical, museological and crisis research, the outcome of these findings comprises a novel understanding of crisis in the museum context.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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