Colour and emotion in the museum

Dr Candice Boyd1, Ms Deborah Tout-Smith2

1School of Geography, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia,

2Society and Technology Department, Museums Victoria, Melbourne, Australia


Deborah Tout-Smith is Senior Curator, Home & Community, at Museums Victoria.  Her curatorial responsibilities include the museum’s Military History Collection, while her research interest focus on home life and emotional experience.  Deborah was lead curator for the acclaimed exhibition World War I: Love & Sorrow (2014-2018).

Contemporary museums attempt to design exhibitions that provoke an emotional response in visitors (Waterton, Tolia-Kelly, & Watson, 2016).  This is often done with the intention of promoting social change through the fostering of empathy with people whose histories can be difficult to understand.  Emotions, however, are harder to evaluate than knowledge or attitudes (Düringer, 2014).  In this presentation, we think through the role of colour in curating, designing, and experiencing an exhibition.  Based on a study of the World War I: Love & Sorrow exhibition at Melbourne Museum which used participant drawings in a novel methodological approach, we interrogate both curatorial intentions and visitors’ emotional responses as expressed through colour.  Participant drawings will be presented alongside our analysis, which also considers the non-representational and more-than-visual aspects of the museum visitor experience.


Candice Boyd is an artist-geographer and an ARC DECRA Fellow at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne, Australia.  Her interests are in the geographies of mental health, therapeutic spaces, experiences of rurality, and contemporary museum geographies.


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