Genre and the Museum Exhibition


  • Louise J. Ravelli Department of Linguistics, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia



Genre, Museum, Museum Exhibition, Systemic-functional Linguistics, Text, Communication, Multimodal Text Analysis


This paper applies a linguistic understanding of genre to the domain of museum exhibitions, interpreting these exhibitions as communicative texts. Genre will be seen to be not just a useful metaphor, but an important analytical tool in approaching the analysis of museum exhibitions as texts. Two concurrent exhibitions from a science and technology museum are compared in terms of genre, and it is argued that genre is a useful tool for identifying their distinctive social purposes. It is also noted that the unique nature of these complex, three-dimensional, multimodal texts requires some of the linguistic understandings of genre to be adapted. Connections are made both ‘below’, to aspects of register variation, and ‘above’, to the ideological stance and communicative potential of the museum as a whole as a communicative entity.

Author Biography

Louise J. Ravelli, Department of Linguistics, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia

Louise Ravelli is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of New South Wales, and is interested in sociocultural aspects of communication, particularly in the areas of museum communication and academic literacy. She is the author of Museum Texts: Communication Frameworks (Routledge 2006).


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How to Cite

Ravelli, L. J. (2008). Genre and the Museum Exhibition. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 2(2), 299–317.