Under the Spell of Metaphors: Investigating the Effects of Conduit and Container Metaphors on Museum Experience

Dimitra Ntzani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In 1979, Michael Reddy investigated the effects that “conduit” metaphors have on human communication. His research illustrates that people tend to conceptualize feelings, thoughts, or ideas as substances “transmitted” from one agent to another through a “conduit,” or as loosely “contained” in ambient spaces. Following a cognitive‐linguistic approach, this article investigates the effects that “conduit” and “container” metaphors have on visitors’ experiences in museums; it presupposes that our conceptual system is metaphorical in nature and that language expresses the metaphors we use to think and act in everyday life.

This article acknowledges that conduit and container metaphors shape museum communication practices and sets out to identify their effects on museum objects and museum architecture—two essential material conditions that shape visitors’ experiences. To do so, this article traces expressions of transmission metaphors in professional museum discourses—particularly those of international museum organizations—and identifies their effects on museum practice. It draws attention to the conflicts that these metaphors trigger in museum debates. Furthermore, it highlights the possibility of enhancing their positive effects, and of weakening their negative ones, by building new metaphorical frames for museum theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-76
Number of pages18
JournalCurator: the museum journal
Volume58
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2015

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