Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Begley, John P.

Author's Keywords

Museum; Identity; Feminism; Curatorial; Arts administration; Exhibition


Identity (Philosophical concept) in art; Museum techniques; Museum exhibits--Social aspects; Museums--Social aspects; J.B. Speed Art Museum


This thesis paper expands upon the aspects of identity and power explored in the exhibition that I curated, entitled "Being & Making: Artists Investigating Identity," at the Speed Art Museum. The developments on topics of identity prominent in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s fundamentally changed the creation, exhibition, collection and interpretation of art. These changes related to power investigations originating from artists in marginalized groups. The change affected not just the art itself, but also the function of museums and the role they play in forming identity in contemporary visual practice. As institutions of power, art museums absorb investigations of identity into their operations to sustain a current and relevant position in contemporary culture. This process has caused a paradigm shift in museum management and operations. Feminist theory is a major proponent of this shift and is the key to its continuation into the future. I will analyze the relationship between the two ideologies: investigations of identity in contemporary art coupled with the new museology. I will conclude with the assertion that feminist theory is the basis of this paradigm shift. The rise into prominence of investigations of identity and the new museology coincided, as they were influenced and propelled by feminism and by the cultural and political climate at the end of the twentieth century and into the new century. I argue that the new museology resulted from feminist and poststructuralist investigations of identity and power, as museums struggled with their positions as structures of power in the art world.