Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Hall, Ann

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Dove, Guy

Committee Member

Dove, Guy

Committee Member

Gibson, John

Committee Member

Morrin, Peter

Committee Member

Payette, Patty

Author's Keywords

silence; aesthetics and silence; museums and silence; mindful learning and silence; art; , artists and silence; design for a museum silent room


This dissertation argues that the role of silence as essential to experience the full aesthetic beauty of art in a museum setting. Museums have changed their focus due to socio-economic and financial pressures. They have changed from silent “temples” for art conservation and exhibition to places for interactive art education, entertainment, and social gathering. The results of these changes have been both positive and negative. Attendance has increased, enhancing the museum experience, engaging more diverse audiences in museum activities, and dispelling the “elitist” image of the museum. These changes, however, have resulted in the loss of a silent space to quietly experience a personal and emotional connection to art. As the world becomes more urban, noisier, and addictively connected to technology, this study argues the need to include a silent experience in the art museum. This will enhance visitors’ aesthetic, emotional, and educational experience with art. This dissertation is divided into seven chapters. Chapters one, two, and three explore the role silence plays in spiritual, aesthetic, and learning engagement. Chapter four examines the singular experience of wonder and its profound influence on the appreciation of art appreciation. Chapters five and six present silence and art from two perspectives: how artists reflect silence in their art works, and the silence viewers see in art. The final chapter seven presents a model for a room dedicated for viewing art in silence. This experience would provide an opportunity for visitors to connect personally, deeply, and emotionally with a work of art without influence from others. Each of the chapters cites research examining how silence develops the capacity to observe art with more detail, create a more personal and emotional connection with art, and to experience the beauty of art for its own sake before looking at it from an historical and analytical perspective. Further study is needed to assess the value of a silent experience in an art museum. This study provides evidence that silence can positively affect the visitors’ involvement with art. Observing art in silence increases the visitors’ ability to discover more detail in a work of art and connect personal experiences with it. In an increasingly noisy world, a silent space removes outside distractions and offers visitors an opportunity to have an emotional connection with the beauty of art.