This thesis explores the relationship between language and visitor experience as key facets of accessibility and inclusion by asking how museums use language to address visitor experience and facilitate engagement. When museums are sources of exclusion, a barrier exists between potential visitors and the collections on view, effectively gatekeeping cultural heritage, arts, and humanities. To examine the extent to which language contributes to this, I discuss power dynamics and language, specifically how language contributes to and supports social hierarchy. Then I relate this research to museum education and evaluate how discursive power dynamics operate within these institutions. Combining museum education theory, language-learning theory, and sociolinguistic theory, I evaluate how meaning can be made in museums. Using two case studies of progressive language in museums as exemplars of positive community interaction, this paper interprets these examples within the historical context of inclusion within the museum. As educational and recreational institutions, museums have an opportunity to have a positive impact on visitor experience through language, particularly as representation and inclusion are essential for a positive visitor experience.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Museum Studies (BS)


Juilee Decker

Advisor/Committee Member

Corrine Occhino

Advisor/Committee Member

Tina Lent


RIT – Main Campus