Museums and translation

Robert Neather
Table of contents

Museums are important sites for the presentation of culture, in which translation plays a key part. Translation can be understood here as referring to two levels, the interlingual and the cultural (see also Cultural approaches), a distinction summarized by Sturge (2007) as “translation in museums” versus “museums as translations”. On the first of these levels, interlingual translation is vital in catering to visitors from different linguacultural groups; on the second level, museum exhibitions “translate” cultures, constructing cultural representations (see also Cultural translation). This entry begins by examining issues at this broader representational level. It then turns to consider interlingual translation in the intersemiotic exhibition space as a part of such representational practice, before discussing questions of textual modification to suit target language visitors. The entry concludes with pointers for future inquiry.

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Bennett, Tony
2006 “Exhibition, Difference, and the Logic of Culture.” In Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations, ed. by Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja, and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, 46–69. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
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Jiang, Chengzhi
2012 “Visual Pragmatic Effects of Distance Representation in Bilingual Museum Catalogue Entries of Chinese Landscape Paintings.” Journal of Pragmatics 44 (12): 1639–1660. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
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2015 “One Photo, Two Stories: Chinese Photos in British Museums.” East Asian Journal of Popular Culture 1 (2): 177–191. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Neather, Robert
2008 “Translating Tea: On the Semiotics of Interlingual Practice in the Hong Kong Museum of Tea Ware.” Meta: Translators’ Journal 53 (1): 218–240. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
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Ravelli, Louise
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Sturge, Kate
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Whitehead, Christopher
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Further essential reading

Bennett, Tony
2018Museums, Power, Knowledge: Selected Essays. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean
1992Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Liao, Min-Hsiu
2018 “Museums and Creative Industries: The Contribution of Translation Studies.” Journal of Specialised Translation 29: 45–62.Google Scholar
Neather, Robert
2018 “Museums, Material Culture, and Cultural Representations.” In Routledge Handbook of Translation and Culture, ed. by Sue-Ann Harding and Ovidi Carbonell Cortés, 361–378. London: Routledge. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Silverman, Raymond A.
(ed.) 2015Museum as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledges. London: Routledge.Google Scholar