Per recent discussions of black-boxing and institutionalization, a paper that Fabio and I wrote seems useful to remember. It was a piece we wrote to interrogate the use of “the museum” by new institutionalists of the organizational analysis-bent.
Sociologists that study organizations often analyze the museum from a cultural
perspective that emphasizes the norms of the museum industry and the larger
society. We review this literature and suggest that sociologists should take into
account the technical demands of museums. Drawing on insights from social
studies of technology, we argue that museums are better understood as
organizations that must accomplish legitimate goals with specific technologies.
These technologies impact museums and the broader museum field in at least
three ways: they make specific types of art possible and permit individuals and
organizations to participate in the art world; they allow actors to insert new
practices in museums; and they can stabilize or destabilize museum practices.
We illustrate our arguments with examples drawn from the world of contemporary