For art to become personally meaningful to visitors, museums need to view art interpretation as a narrative inquiry process. General museum visitors without art expertise naturally make meaning of art by constructing stories around a work to relate to it. Narrative inquiry, a story based exploration of experience, fits into contemporary museum education theory because it is a constructive and participatory meaning making process. This thesis examines how art museums can build upon visitors' natural interpretive behaviors, by employing art-based narrative inquiry practices and using the work of art as a narrative story text. Individuals learn when their personal narrative comes into conflict with the narrative of the museum and they negotiate new meaning. This kind of narrative learning is a process of inquiry that visitors must engage in themselves. The art museum interpretive experience can foster in visitors the ability to engage in an art-based narrative inquiry process by suspending disbelief,recalling personal memories, comparing different narrative versions, imagining possible meanings, and re-storying experiences into new understandings. This research text explores these topics through a narrative based method of inquiry comprised of a series of autobiographical stories describing the researcher's experiences in coming to understand the relationship between narrative inquiry and art museum education.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Visual Arts



Date Submitted


Document Type





story, narrative, narrative inquiry, art-based narrative inquiry, art museum education, meaning making, interpretation, constructive, participatory, Lisa C. Roberts

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Art Practice Commons