The Public and Contemporary Artworks: an analysis of the relationship between the education and conservation functions of the museum.

Posted on Tue, 10/06/2020 - 14:00

PhD Thesis.

Author: Flavia Parisi, PhD: Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.

Supervisor: Dr. Rosario Llamas Pacheco, PhD, Full Professor, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Department of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

Viva held on June 15th, On-line platform, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.


The thesis examines the challenges posed by the complex relations between ‘the public’ and contemporary artworks, both on a conceptual and material level. This research brings together the perspective of conservation, which usually focuses on the needs of the artworks, with the perspective of education and cultural mediation, which usually focuses on the needs of the visiting public.


The thesis analyses the processes determining the ‘loss of value’ of the specificity of the artwork and the subsequent ‘the public’ response when enquiring into its meaning. The research studied and gave value to the possibilities offered by the conservation viewpoint, as a field of knowledge able to respond to this difficulty of public meaning generation and aims to provide an accessible framework and tools necessary for public analysis and understanding of the artworks.

This study required the integration of concepts from conservation, museology, history of art, education and museography. The study was conducted through the exploration of numerous research tools, including interviews with conservators, educators, and other museum professionals from well-known European museums, online surveys, the production of short videos, and the consultation of a wide range of sources, from scientific publications to press articles.

The study highlighted the need for museum professionals to recognise the variety of visitor characteristics and valorised the existing research tools in the field of visitor studies. Museum professionals, in the diversity of their specializations, mediate the relation between ‘the public’ and the artworks. The thesis analyses the possible physical and conceptual consequences generated by visitors' interest in the meaning of the works, and the means and strategies adopted by museums, which may, depending on the cases, challenge or facilitate the relationship between the public and the artworks.

The study encourages a collaboration between conservation professionals and museum education professionals, both on a theoretical and practical level, with the aim of fostering understanding and appreciation of contemporary artworks.

One of the videos realized for the thesis, showing a selection of interviews with visitors experiencing Piero Gilardi's interactive artworks, is available on YouTube at this link: The video was presented at the SBMK day of the SBMK Summit on (inter)national collaboration Acting in Contemporary Art Conservation, on Wednesday 14 November 2018.

For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch: Flavia: