At an operational level, the knowledge-base and expertise from which organizational change has been generated within Tate over the last 20 years has primarily been developed through the purchase of commissioned research from external consultancies, and indeed this knowledge-base has dramatically diversified and extended during the last 20 years in response to the changing cultural, social and economic conditions to include economics, business and finance; architecture, urbanism and engineering; design, media and communications; retail, publishing and catering; and information technology. More often than not though, such consultancy research was invisible at the level of the delivery workforce having been mediated through organizational change or project initiatives at director level of strategy and implementation. But despite Tate’s entry centre-stage into the cultural and social politics of the public domain, comparatively little independent research has been commissioned towards the creation of change within the practices of the museum in relation to the cultural or social, despite the epistemological shifts in the gallery’s activities towards these domains. Tate Encounters: Britishness and Visual Culture was the first sustained piece of internally authorized research in this area. In many respects, the key research questions of Tate Encounters centred on audi-

ences in terms of non-attendance, essentially echoing a substantial body of academic enquiry into making visible the relationship between museums and their publics, and the conditions out of which cultural value and exclusion is produced and reproduced by the museum; a field of enquiry most notably forged by the work of Eilean Hooper-Greenhill (1994b) and Richard Sandell (2003; 2007) at the School of Museum Studies at University of Leicester and, Tony Bennett (2005; 2007), including the extensive research carried out at the Centre for Research for Economic and Social Change based at Manchester University. Furthermore, during the last decade, the academic scrutiny of the museum has particularly gained momentum, not only in the field of museum studies and cultural management – in which discussions of public

culture have been increasingly located within an understanding of the commodified system of exchange values (Sandell and Janes, 2007) – but also within curatorial and cultural studies that have been concerned with moving beyond institutional critique and questions of representation to those around the strategies and practices of display, interpretation and audience participation (Greenberg et al. 1996; Pollock and Zemans 2007; O’Neil and Wilson 2010). While this body of work continues to generate new accounts of museum practice and arguments for change towards a more democratic and transparent cultural arena, there has been a notable lack of take-up by the museum of the key debates posed by this body of work, characterized by a sustained discursive disengagement and by the limited recognition of value in terms of employment from within these disciplines. A further key factor that played into this dissonant relationship with the academy was also the extent to which, in framing museums as a collective object of study to reveal the larger narratives of the agents and organization of public culture, relatively little attention was paid in museum studies to the specificity of museum collections, rendering them of equivalent ontological value, despite their distinct historical formations, epistemological histories and cultural trajectories in contemporary life. A final point for consideration is the issue of the relationship between the acad-

emy’s own theoretical ruminations on the museum and the perceived lack of connection with the ‘real work’ of the museum, the everyday practices, practicalities and realities in which decisions are made and unmade, along with the circulation of meaning, through a complex interrelation of socioeconomic factors as much as intellectual and aesthetic ones, logistical and programmatic: or what de Certeau, quoting Lukacs’ eloquent phrase, cites as ‘the anarchy of the chiarascruo of the everyday’ (de Certeau 1988: 199). It is perhaps most notably at this juncture of theory and practice that the conditions of non-engagement between the academy and the museum have been and continue to be most defined, ensuring that the commonsense, sedimented language of the museum and the theoretical language of the academy rarely meet outside of an educational context, if fleetingly there. But as Sharon Macdonald has noted, as editor of the recent and academically progressive anthology A Companion to Museum Studies (2011), this situation has not only come about through the restrictive nature of disciplinary practice, but also through the lack of access for academics to the daily workings of the museum, paralleled by the lack of time museum employees are allocated to pursue research and critically reflect on their practice. Beyond this, understandable organizational sensitivities need to be acknowledged and respected, not least in terms of protecting financial and corporate strategy information in a competitive market environment. The opportunity presented to undertake a major, three-year, research project

within the museum was, however, occasioned by two particular facts. Firstly, Tate was in the process itself of securing its own independent research status from the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), granting it equal status to universities in accessing national public funding for research. Secondly, the launch of the AHRC’s first strategic programme, ‘Diasporas, Migration and Identities’ in 2005 invited collaborative research bids that allowed Tate Britain to directly interrogate the

stubborn lack of movement in audience figures from culturally diverse groups in society under which it was both legally obliged to develop and organizationally seeking to attract. The central problematic that was identified was the disconnections and tensions between the practice and policies, the rhetoric and effect, of cultural diversity in creating sustained relationships with what this policy identified as the missing audiences; an audience categorized by the designation of ‘black and minority ethnic’ (BME). This set of perceived tensions seemed to be supported by the fact that despite substantial levels of funding invested in project-based activity dedicated to developing culturally diverse audiences, the level of participation denoted by the BME group remained well below the national demographic. A further problematic was the paucity of research in the sector conceived independently of the processes of advocacy or auditing, which summarily rested on quantitative and qualitative data gathered in response to the predetermined socioeconomic categories of race, gender, age and class. The currency of this research and data-gathering had also increased substantially as New Labour embraced the concept of ‘evidence-based policy’ leading to the commissioning of research both by government agencies (DCMS 2007; ACE 2007) and by the cultural sector keen to demonstrate the social impact of museums and galleries, and hence their value for public money (NMDC 2004). At the same time of developing the AHRC proposal, there was also vigorous

debate in the arts unfolding around the racialization and instrumentalization of cultural diversity policy (Mirza 2006; Furedi 2004; Hylton 2007), which built upon the recognition that the audit practice of measuring culture and impact was deeply problematic, if not flawed (Selwood 2002; Belfiore 2002). Although Tate was not constituted by the AHRC as an independent research organization until 2006, after the project began, the prerequisite need to create a collaborative research project with the academic sector was understood and welcomed by the initiating Tate Britain department of Interpretation and Education (I&E). The initiation of a research project was seen as an important opportunity to create an interdisciplinary project that would test the fundamental paradigms and models of quantitative and qualitative research, underpinning cultural diversity policy. As curatorial staff in the I&E Department were also acutely aware, there were also internal lines of tension that needed unravelling. The tension centred on ideas of culturally diverse audiences and in particular on how they figured in and in-between the departmental work of Education, Curatorial and Marketing. These lines of tension often emerged at points during which the work of education teams felt at odds with the marketing practices of audience engagement as well as the curatorial practices of exhibitions and displays, despite a shared set of objectives around strategies of audience development. From this, the need to study the organizational practices of the museum in relation to audience development was recognized. The problem needed to be addressed in a way that did not position the missing audience as if they were not exclusively located in their own social fact. Implicit within the project was also a quest to create a more intellectually sound account of cultural diversity at the level of lived experience. The account would need to lift cultural diversity out of an institutional misalignment with cultural welfarism. The

policy positioning cultural diversity within education defined the latter as a service programme providing ‘added value’ to the core work of the museum, or otherwise as cultural therapy carried out through the practice of creativity. It was with an understanding of these disconnected lines of research enquiry

between the museum, the academy and government, acknowledged again in part by Hooper-Greenhill (1994a: 255-68) and McClellan (2007), that the opportunity to collaboratively create a research funding application to the AHRC’s ‘Diasporas, Migration and Identities’ funding programme was pursued. In formulating a research project it was clear that, in order to capture a more

subjective account of the individual encounter with the museum, an action research project should be configured to capture how Tate Britain figured in the life worlds of diasporic individuals rather than at a conceptual level of policy categories. The commitment to establishing a sustained longitudinal enquiry and analysis was fundamental to this endeavour. It would test the working assumptions of cultural diversity policy in action, while ensuring that a sufficient timescale was realized in which to generate significant quantities of practice-based and participant data. More complex readings would be drawn from such data than could be realized through the exigency of commercially commissioned research. The team aimed at creating a research project that benefited from the insights of the ‘bottom-up’ approach of grounded theory (Charmaz 2006) and principles of critical reflexivity were also applied (Alvesson and Sköldberg 2009) with the ambition that new knowledge could be gained of as much value and interest to Tate Britain as to academic debate and government policy-making. To realize this end, the need to fully embed the research project within the art museum was seen as a prerequisite so that highly situated and multitextured accounts of an action research project and an organizational study of Tate staff could be secured. The project specifically embraced reflexivity as a critical method of guarding

against the dangers of data-orientated methods of grounded theory, ethnomethodology and inductive ethnology as, ‘missing the main part of the interpretative problematic, so that the data appear as more or less unmediated, pure, and the research process is endowed with a naïve character of gathering and threshing empirical material’ (Alvesson and Sköldberg 2009: 88). Bringing together the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, visual cultures, museum studies and art history, critical selfreflexivity was also the means by which the epistemological assumptions of each discipline were cross-examined and interrogated in relation to the research questions and data-gathering methods. Critical distance was also sought from both the academy and Tate Britain. Through such distance new forms of knowledge-exchange and practice would emerge. This emergent form of method coincided equally with Tony Bennett’s observation that:

Critical thought, no matter who its agent might be, is most productive when conducted in a manner which recognises the need to take account of the contributions of different forms of expertise without any a priori prejudicial ranking of the relations between them and equally, when it takes account of

the forces – social, economic, political and moral – which circumscribe the field of the practicable.