Hannah Rachel Errington

Museum shopping: objects, practices, and meanings

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

This study aims to expand our analysis and theorising of the museum by examining the role played by museum shops in contributing to the wider visitor experience.

Start Date: October 2012
End Date: February 2016
Theme: Objects, meanings
Research discipline: Sociology
Locations: UK
Staff member: JD Hill
Roderick Buchanan
Department: Learning, Volunteers, and Audiences
University and department: Department of Sociology, University of York
University supervisor: Sharon Macdonald
Profile: University of York

Why study museum shops?

The museum shop is a key feature of the museum environment, and therefore offers an interesting angle from which to examine the visitor experience.

What factors drive museum shop purchasing?

This study will ask why particular products are chosen, who they are for, where they are going, and what their intended use is.

How are objects in museum shops and collections connected?

Many items in museum shops are exclusively designed or bought to link with specific museum objects or collections; how important is this for visitors?


About my research

The museum shop offers a fascinating avenue through which to explore the museum visitor experience.

Drawing on insights from a range of sociological and anthropological theory, as well as existing research, this study takes the area of museum shopping as a lens through which to better understand visitor’s experience of the museum. Through on-site empirical research with visitors, the project will explore the role which the museum shop has to play within the context of the museum as a whole, and, in particular, the way in which shops are received, used, and understood by the public.


Aims of my research

This research aims to provide a new understanding of museum shops and shopping. This study argues that the museum shop can be understood as a key element of the museum experience.

The research, therefore, aims to examine the role of shopping in museums to assess the validity of this argument, and to better understand the way in which museum shops contribute to the overall museum experience for visitors.

Shopping and consumption are significant areas of interest and consideration within contemporary academic study, and to examine these fields within the museum setting will add not only to our academic understanding of museums as institutions, but also to the fields of consumption studies, and material culture studies more generally. Furthermore, it is hoped that a better understanding how museum shops are used by visitors will help to inform future museum practice.