Puppetry in Museum Interpretation and Communication

Fay Tsitou

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Although there is a growing practice of puppetry in education, there has been no academic research to date on the range of puppet theatre styles and techniques in the museum context. This interdisciplinary thesis seeks to investigate what I call ‘museum puppetry’, e.g. puppetry used for pedagogical purposes in museum studies’ with a focus on the exchanges, compromises and tensions among museum staff and puppet theatre practitioners. Although the research is conducted mainly from the puppeteers’ perspective, the voice of museum experts is also present throughout.

The thesis examines puppetry’s theoretical and practical frames for creation and how these can be used to conceptualize the applied form of this marginalized medium in the contentious territory of museums today. It also investigates what benefits, challenges and limitations are faced by the two distinct communities of practice (puppeteers and museum staff) in the pre- and post-production of museum puppetry projects.

This multiple case-study, qualitative research examines the current work of practitioners who present and perform in museums, mainly in the United Kingdom, United States, Greece and Israel. The data analysis, based on interviews and field work, also aims to investigate the projects’ preproduction processes. Furthermore, it explores the negotiations between puppeteers and museum staff around the visual and performance aspects of museum puppetry projects from a technical and aesthetic point of view (construction, narrative, manipulation techniques).

The research also suggests that although museum puppetry is currently a marginalized museum practice, its distinct sign system renders it rich in meaningful and soulfull associations, strongly visitor-oriented and remarkably flexible. Commissioning long term museum puppetry projects remains —with a few exceptions— a missed opportunity, due to prejudices and low expectations. Overall, the thesis reclaims the pedagogical, aesthetic value of puppets as ultimate metaphors. It advocates the holistic, eco-friendly aspect of the practice and favours the empathy and thought-provoking gaps it traces. Finally, it attempts to balance constructive, unpredictable learning with significance and fun.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cohen, Matthew, Supervisor
  • Moussouri, Theano, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Aug 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • museum learning
  • museum puppetry

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