A critical survey of museum collections of popular music in the United Kingdom
Keywords:collecting, heritage, material culture, museum, popular music
Drawing on an extensive nationwide survey of UK museum practice and interviews with museum professionals, this article documents and reflects on the increasing prevalence of popular music within museum collections. It argues for the significance of developing popular music as a museum subject, placing into context the differing ways in which museums have defined ‘popular music’ on an institutional basis, reflecting the history and context of the organizations themselves. The nature of popular music objects collected are analysed, with the classificatory systems into which they are inserted discussed and collecting motivations examined. Key museological issues affecting the collection of popular music material such as collection care, suitability for display, difficulty of acquisition, and ease of storage are addressed. Limiting factors such as the absence of popular music from many museum collecting policies and the perception that the museum is not the natural home of popular music are viewed as specific inhibiting factors in the growth of popular music as a museum subject; however the fact that popular music continues to develop within UK museums demonstrates shifting perceptions of cultural heritage and developing practices of contemporary collecting.
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