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Alternative title

Local Museums, Global Publics

Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Fisher, Josh

Second Advisor

Young, Kathleen Z.

Third Advisor

Bruna, Sean


In the peri-pandemic ‘new normal,’ museums occupy physical and online spaces. Many museums responded to the COVID pandemic by moving much of their programing to online modalities. One consequence of the dramatic increase in online programing compelled by COVID-19 is that previously location-based museum programs are suddenly more accessible to global publics: worldwide populations of cultural heritage stakeholders, defined more by common interest than by geographic location. I hypothesize that increased interaction with global publics during the pandemic has inspired an expansion of museums’ concept of Publics (or key audiences) to include a broader Global Public in addition to their traditional local stakeholders. After the pandemic, moreover, museums will maintain many of the online programs they started in 2020 with the intent to continue engaging Global Publics as part of their patronage. Drawing from a survey of 56 North American Museums and seven ethnographic interviews, representing 18 US States and three Canadian Provinces, this study seeks to contribute to the discourse around the role of museums as cultural heritage institutions amid and following the COVID-19 pandemic. As museums continue to adapt to additional, unprecedented challenges, continual re-evaluation of how the field defines publics will help cultural institutions adapt to fulfill their mandates in an ever-more globalized world.




Museum publics, globalisation, digital museology, public programming, critical museology, digitization, globalization, audience segmentation, digital communities


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Virtual museums; Museums--Public relations; Human-computer interaction; Computer interfaces




masters theses




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