Gemma Mangione, Consulting Analyst

Gemma is interested in the relationship between social scientific theory and evaluation practice: specifically how each can aid museum practitioners in making informed choices about the operations of museums.  She holds undergraduate degrees in journalism and art history and a master’s degree and PhD in sociology—all from Northwestern University.  Her current research examines the “therapeutic turn” in cultural policy as it impacts the museum-going experiences of visitors with disabilities in art museums and botanical gardens. 

Gemma Mangione

Published Works, Select Articles By Gemma Mangione

“The Art and Nature of Health: A Study of Therapeutic Practice in Museums.”
Sociology of Health & Illness, forthcoming 2017.
By Gemma Mangione

This article takes an ethnographic, or observation-based, approach to the “health turn” in cultural policy by comparing how a major metropolitan art museum and botanical garden develop therapeutic programs for visitors with disabilities, and addresses implications of findings for studies of health, healing, and inclusive cultural participation.

“Making Sense of Things: Constructing Aesthetic Experience in Museum Gardens and Galleries.”
Museum & Society, 2016.
By Gemma Mangione

This article introduces the idea of “sensory conventions”—rules guiding what senses people use in a given space, and how—to explore how a major metropolitan art museum and botanical garden facilitate opportunities for multi-sensory engagement when working with visitors with disabilities.

Full Article


“Objects, Words and Bodies in Space: Bringing Materiality into Cultural Analysis”
 Qualitative Sociology, 2013.
By Gemma Mangione with Wendy Griswold and Terence E. McDonnell

This article compares exhibitions across two art museums to better theorize how physical position guides cognitive location in the process of meaning-making, a relationship mediated by three mechanisms: distance, legibility, and orientation.

“Access to What?: Alzheimer’s Disease and Esthetic Sense-Making in the Contemporary Art Museum.” Poetics, 2013.

This article examines how art museum educators and program participants differently account for the benefits of art museum programs for people with dementia and explains how these findings broaden sociological understanding of meaning-making in cultural institutions.