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The Mapping Museums research team recently compiled a dataset of UK museums. In doing so, we had to decide what counted as a museum. In this paper, we outline our initial approaches for establishing the criteria for selection: using definitions; key characteristics; and self-identification; and describe why they proved inadequate with respect to the heterogeneity of museum practice. We then explain how assemblage theory helped us conceptualise the complex realities of the museum sector and to address the problem of selection, which in turn led to our developing a non-essentialising model of museums and a new account of the UK museum sector.


This article was originally published in Museum & Society, volume 18, issue 2, in 2020.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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