Blockbustering Australian style: Evolution of the blockbuster exhibition in Australian museums
My research question is: How have blockbuster exhibitions evolved within the context of Australian museums? By responding to this question, my project advances industry understandings of the blockbuster exhibition genre in Australian museums and presents best practice examples for industry practitioners to advance this form of visitor engagement. The first section of this research consists of three chapters that each make a distinctive contribution to our understanding of how blockbusters
... blockbusters evolved in Australia, and what impact they have had on museum practices, especially visitor engagement strategies. The first chapter outlines the core characteristics of the 'blockbuster' by drawing on debates in film studies where the concept has been given the most attention from scholars. I then demonstrate how the notion of blockbuster exhibitions overlaps with and diverges from the features and debates that have characterised blockbusters in the film industry, arguing our understanding of blockbuster exhibitions need to account for the particularities of the museum context. The second chapter constructs in detail and critically evaluates the historical development of blockbuster exhibitions in Australian museums. I argue that since 1982, when the first blockbuster exhibition was held in Australian museums, the blockbuster exhibition has significantly impacted museum practices. Specifically, blockbuster exhibitions stimulated new creative, operational and business practices distinct to this genre; encouraged the establishment of a program in Australian museums for major temporary and travelling exhibitions; and fostered a renewed vision for visitor engagement in Australian museums more generally. In the final chapter, I undertake a deeper, more sustained investigation into current iterations of the blockbuster genre in Australian museums, arguing that the practices broadly associated with blockbuster exhibitions have given rise to a new ecology of 'attractor' exhibitions within the industry that, while varying in scale and content, have nevertheless become fundamental to museum visitor engagement strategies in the 21st century. iii In the second section of my research, conceptual research findings are operationalised through the production of an instructional guide on blockbuster exhibition practices. In this guide, I discuss crucial practices for the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of blockbuster exhibitions, providing new knowledge for the Australian museum practitioner to learn from and employ in contemporary industry practice.