Redefining the Role of the Art Museum in the 21st Century: A Look at the Detroit Institute of Arts
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Art Museums have historically alienated their visitors and have had trouble bringing in underrepresented segments of the population. In recent years, art museums have begun redefining their role in society and have focused more on accommodating visitor experiences. The visitor experience is shaped not only by the individual, but also by the museum staff, the museum community, and the local community. To illustrate this redefined role, I use the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), which recently underwent a major reinstallation, as a case study. I interviewed museum staff members about reinstallation initiatives and visitors about their experiences in the museum, and compared their responses with Pekarik et al's four categories of satisfying experiences: object, cognitive, introspective and social. I argue that while the DIA 's reinstallation initiatives generally promote richer, more satisfying visitor experiences, their outreach programs have failed to expand and diversify the visiting populations. Following Bourdieu, I argue that the DIA did not recognize the socially reproduced alienation that may have been preventing some segments of the population from visiting museums with their current habitus. The DIA should reevaluate the effectiveness of their outreach programs, while finding new ways to reach out and build strong relationships with these communities in order to change their habitus of being alienated from museums, and welcome them into the newly reinstalled DIA where possessing a cultural code is not a prerequisite.