In the expanding literature on museum translation, the visitor experience remains an under-researched area. While an increasing body of work by Translation Studies scholars has explored such issues as multimodal interactions in the exhibition space, curatorial perspectives on translation quality, or the effect of shifts in the target text, there has to date been relatively little empirical evidence of the role of translation in the visitor experience – whether translation is understood in the sense of interlingual transfer or of broader cultural representation. Equally, in the Museum Studies context, while much has been done to explore the visitor experience, such work frequently comes from monolingual or monocultural perspectives.
Museums of diaspora form a particularly interesting focus for such enquiry since they raise a number of questions relating to the translation of identity in the exhibition space, and how visitors both from different linguacultural backgrounds and from different sectors of the home culture variously respond to the experiences of the diaspora in question. The present study focuses on museums of the Chinese diaspora in the US. Employing a mixed methods approach that includes detailed visit diaries and follow-up interviews, as well as online reviews, the study examines how the collective lived experience of the diaspora as “translated” in the museum exhibition is in turn translated in terms of the visitor’s personal experience through a series of intertexts that are “cognitively-realized” (Neather 2012). The study further considers how interlingual translation plays a part in shaping these visitor interactions.
Robert Neather is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. He was Director of the Centre for Translation there from 2013 to 2019, and currently leads the Arts Faculty’s Framing Public Culture research subgroup. His research has focused mainly on translation in the Chinese museum context, and has explored several areas of interest including verbal/visual interactions in translation, intertextuality in the construction of translated museum narratives, and issues of expertise and identity in the production of translations involving participants from different professional communities. He also has interests in Buddhist translation, in particular Buddhist contemporary translation communities. His work on museums has been published in a variety of venues including Meta, Semiotica and The Translator, as well as in a number of translation handbooks and encyclopedias. He was editor for Volume II of the late Martha Cheung’s Chinese Discourse on Translation (Routledge 2017), and for a number of years served as Executive Editor and Co-Chief Editor of the Hong Kong-based journal, Translation Quarterly.