Martine Dubreuil From 19th century archival tags, exhibition texts in museums have become labels of various shapes and forms reflecting curators’ imperious desire to add information to the displayed object. The information collected for this study stems from reading over 100 publications, dating from 1916 to 2009, written for the most part in French and in English and published in France, England, the United States, Australia and Canada. The present article examines the changes of paradigms at work within the institution visible through the revue of two literatures chronologically presented. The literature review on museum labels shows the changes in the perception of the text itself and its significance for the institution. The literature review on the reception by the public of the labels illustrates the evolution concerning visitor behaviors and that of the different departments within the museum. When both literature reviews are confronted, synergies appear that point towards actual museum preoccupation. The comparison of both reviews raises important questions concerning the power of the word, the need to add thoughts of the moment to ‘museumed’ objects, the hierarchy initiated by the sharing of the exhibition space, the place and needs of visitors within the institution.
Keywords: Labels, visitors, behavior, change, museums