University of Leicester
2022MoystadMPHD.pdf (2.99 MB)

Lived experiences in museums: Engaging visitors’ hearts and minds

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posted on 2022-05-23, 12:29 authored by Mari Ø. Møystad

In this PhD thesis, I analyse the different ways in which museums incorporate experiences and knowledge we call lived experiences, in museums dealing with difficult subject matters.

I define lived experiences as non-formal knowledge based on people’s own empirical experiences, ways of life or local knowledge. The incorporation of lived experiences in museums is often a result of collaboration between museums and their communities, but their use can also give communities a direct voice in museum displays and programmes that do not depend on formal collaborations of this kind. The use of video- and audio-stories, where victims of war, conflict, and other difficult subjects present their stories and experiences, are examples of lived experiences used in museums.

Although I am generally interested in how lived experiences are used in museums, the focus of my thesis is primarily on the impact these have on museum visitors.

In my research, I study two cases which show how lived experiences are used in curatorial work and in educational programmes in institutions that can be defined as memory museums, aiming at counter prejudices in visitors and in wider society.

The selected museum cases are The Centre of 22nd of July in Norway, and Museo Casa de la Memoria in Colombia. I give examples of how these museums use lived experiences in different ways, and how this is perceived and interpreted, primarily by museum visitors, but also by victims of war and violence.

The findings of this research suggest that the incorporation of lived experiences in museum work adds an important dimension to the programmes and exhibitions we, as museums, present to our visitors. The use of lived experiences tends to evoke affect and emotions - something that makes visitors identify with individuals and, hopefully, also prompts them ultimately to act against injustices, violence, and prejudices.



Richard Sandell; Sheila Watson

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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