How Popular Music is Exhibited in Portugal at the Beginning of the 21st Century: A Case Study

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Popular music is deeply embedded in the dynamics of the contemporary world by means of itscapacity to engender modes of privacy and publicness, to communicate emotion, and to enable us to createconnections—and so to work within communities. Museums have traditionally addressed art-music throughthe exhibition of musical instruments. But now that the exhibition of popular music has presented newchallenges and opportunities worldwide for museum professionals, examining popular music discourses inmuseums is of the utmost importance in order for it to be meaningfully celebrated as instances of heritage.This paper expands on the representation of Popular Music in museums in Portugal at the beginning of thetwenty-first century by discussing a case study: the exhibition No Tempo do Gira-Discos: Um Percurso PelaProduc~ao Fonografica Portuguesa at Museu Nacional da Musica, Lisbon, Portugal, in 2007. Two methods ofanalysis are deployed: interviews with the curators, which revealed insights on their understanding ofpopular music, and analysis of the exhibition through discourse analysis, specifically through the lens of theanalytical concepts genre and register. Although the curators had themselves previously developedinsightful and innovative concepts with regard to popular music, discourse analysis reveals how, in thisinstance, the museum practices were primarily inherited from past traditions, and so failed to convey themeanings previously envisioned by the curators. In order for genuine public engagement with museumexhibitions about music, a collaboration is required between the music studies and museum studiesprofessionals. Only through such a collaboration can it be ensured that those contemporary dynamics arepresent and meaningful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-176
Number of pages24
JournalCurator: The Museum Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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