The Thickness of the World: Exploring the Curriculum of Museums through Phenomenological Touch


  • Elizabeth Wood
  • Kiersten F. Latham


Museums are places where material culture and specimens from nature provide opportunities to help visitors understand the lifeworld-sometimes of the ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, but always within the context of relationships to people, places and time. The encounter with museum objects provides the visitor with the range of possible human experiences, a personal sense of the life of another as it was lived, or simply provides access to the vital and fundamental aspects of being human-a phenomenological museum curriculum. Yet, despite the prospect of being a multi-sensory milieu, museums offer a peculiar provocation to the senses: don't touch. By framing the considerations of the need for touch within the museum, our intent is to explore the ideas of materiality, haptic touch, and the person-object transaction and its place within the museum curriculum. We apply these concepts to the idea of phenomenological touch in the museum setting as a new orientation for meaningful person-object transactions.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth (Elee) Wood is associate professor of museum studies and teacher education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and public scholar of museums, families, and learning at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Kiersten F. Latham

Kiersten F. Latham is assistant professor of museum studies in the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University.






Cultural Studies and Curriculum