When Words of Wisdom are not Wise: A Study of Accessibility in Museum Exhibition Texts

Anna Karina Kjeldsen, Matilde Nisbeth Jensen

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    Abstract: This article presents a study of the linguistic accessibility of Danish museum exhibition texts. The point of departure is the well-established paradigm shift in the international museum field proclaiming that today’s museums should strive to give physical and intellectual access to all visitors regardless of their social, cultural and intellectual backgrounds. The study explores to what extent Danish museums provide broad linguistic accessibility in their exhibition texts through the analysis of 33 texts from ten Danish museums. The results show that in relation to some elements (e.g. text length, use of paragraphs and straightforward writing style), the museums write in an accessible manner. However, several other elements (e.g. excessive use of jargon, officialese and compounds and unnecessary use of passive voice) are of great detriment to the overall accessibility of these texts.
    The article concludes with a range of operative recommendations for museum
    professionals who wish to write accessible texts.
    Keywords: Museum, exhibition text, label, museum communication, accessibility, comprehensibility, readability, learning, visitor.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalNordisk Museologi
    Pages (from-to)91-111
    Number of pages21
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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