This paper seeks to analyze the communication of “art” versus “artifact” to museum audiences of a Midwestern museum in the United States compared to a national museum in West Africa. In order to explore this topic I completed in-depth interviews with an African art curator at an art museum in the Midwest as well as the head curator at a national museum in West Africa. In addition, I performed content analysis on the labels on public display in both museums, alongside art historical formal analysis of the spaces created by both exhibitions. Applying Carol Duncan’s concept of the “museum as ritual” and Dawson Munjeri’s analysis of the colonial museums in Zimbabwe, I conclude that the mission of the museum plays a large part in how both institutions define “art” and “artifact.” As a result this paper argues that the distinction between “art” and “artifact” made at both sites is dependent on the cultural context of the museum and its purpose.


Frese, Pamela

Second Advisor

Morrow, Kara


Art and Art History; Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Elizabeth Chamis