The texts in the gallery spaces of art museum– in particular, wall texts, hand-outs and interpretive labels on the walls near the works – ostensibly mediate the art and enable visitors’ interpretive experiences, however open-ended those experiences may be. Yet even when a text provides interpretive cues about an artwork, it simultaneously points to ‘yonder’ meanings, for instance to the museum’s own institutional aims and agendas, to assumptions about visitors, to the authority of the author and the artist, to ideological assumptions, political/historical issues, the exigencies of writing something short, or any number of other meanings. In this M.A. thesis, I explore these meanings by analysing the gallery texts from two permanent exhibitions at Bergen Art Museum – J.C. Dahl and Babel – and one permanent exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London: Constable, Turner and the Exhibition Landscape. I pursue three research questions. First, I look into how the gallery texts generate meaning by analysing some of the tools used to produce them.Secondly, I inquire into what the gallery texts can mean above and beyond providing cursory information and interpretation of the art. This I do through close readings of the selected texts and through comparative analysis of what I see as the most important tools used in the three case studies. Thirdly, I inquire into the relation between the text formats and the discourses and meanings they enable.The method of analysis used in these case studies provides a calibrated set of tools for analysing mediational texts in the gallery spaces of many an art museum. The analyses complement studies of exhibition design and gallery display and other research on interpretive practices in art museums. It reappraises the assumption that the texts one finds in the gallery spaces of art museums are there mainly to mediate and interpret the art.
Key words: art mediation, kunstformidling, museum text, education, art museums