A Multimodal Analysis of a Permanent Museum and a Mobile Museum Display in South Africa

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This paper will report on research on the semiotic weighting given to different design aspects of museum displays by a particular group in a permanent and a mobile museum context. This research has been undertaken in order to understand how different aspects museum displays comprise contribute to meaning making. It looks at the interrelationship between different design elements and at how the interrelationship between the different design elements influence meaning making. Drawing on Kress and van Leeuwen’s (1996; 2001) theory of multimodal discourse and on recent research on communication in museums (Ravelli: 2006; Meng in O’Halloran: 2006), this study considers why it is apposite to consider museums as multimodal, co-deploying different modes to make meaning. The paper investigates the design elements employed in museum displays, which includes: linguistic design (labels and captions); visual design (objects on display, photographs and drawings); audio design (video recordings) and spatial design (lay-out of the display).

The paper will discuss a multimodal analysis of the rock art and rock engraving displays, drawing on inter alia the work of Kress and van Leeuwen (1996; 2001), which is done with the intention of formulating a metalanguage. It is envisaged that this metalanguage will enable museum practitioners and educators to talk about and better understand meaning making in museum displays and contribute to current debates on communication and meaning making in museums.

Keywords: Semiotic Weighting, Meaning Making, Design Elements, Multimodal Discourse, Multimodal Analysis, Metalanguage
Stream: Literacy, Language, Multiliteracies; Languages Education and Second Language Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Multimodal Social Semiotic Analysis of a Museum Rock Art Display, A

Medeé Rall

Director, Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Cape Town
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Medeé Rall

Medeé Rall holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Diploma for Educators of Adults, and a Masters Degree in Education (Applied Language and Literacy Studies) from the University of Cape Town, and is currently registered for a PhD, also at the University of Cape Town.

She is currently the Director of the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies at the University of Cape Town. Previously she worked at Iziko Museums of Cape Town as Coordinator of Publications and at Progress College as an educator. She has also worked in as an adult educator, teaching English literacy.
Her research interests are museums as spaces of literacy provision, museums and lifelong learning and multimodal communication in museums. Publications include Spirits of the ancestors, The students at the South African Museum speak, and Reinventing South African Museum. She received the Western Cape Provincial Award – Adult Learner’s Week in 2001 and 2002 for work done in a literacy class based at the South African Museum.

Ref: L09P1425