Translating multimodal texts in space: A case study of St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art


  • Min-Hsiu Liao Heriot-Watt University



museum translation, geosemiotics, multimodal translation


Multimodality has received considerable critical attention in Translation Studies over the past decades. However, how translations interact with or within three-dimensional material space is still under-researched. This article proposes to use the study of geosemiotics (Scollon & Scollon, 2003) as the theoretical framework within which to explore this new territory. The case study was carried out at the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow. The multimodal analysis divides museum space into four ranks: the museum surroundings, the museum building, the museum exhibition and the museum objects. The findings reveal that the translated exhibition texts interact with the four ranks of spaces to consistently minimize the narratives of Christian heritage in Glasgow and manifest a multi-religious and multi-ethnic Scottish identity. This study demonstrates how the (non-)provision of translations has the potential to influence the construction of in-place meaning in the multimodal museum space.  



Carnegie, E. (2009). Catalysts for change?: Museums of religion in a pluralist society. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 6(2), 157–169.

Carter, P. (2016). Where are the enslaved?: TripAdvisor and the narrative landscapes of southern plantation museums. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 11(3), 235–249.

Cattrysse, P. (2001). Multimedia and translation: Methodological considerations. In Y. Gambier & H. Gottlieb (Eds.), (Multi)Media translation (pp. 1–12). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Gambier, Y., & Gottlieb, H. (2001). Multimedia, multilingual: Multiple challenges. In Y. Gambier & H. Gottlieb (Eds.), (Multi)Media translation (pp. viii–xx). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Goffman, E. (1983). The interaction order. American Sociological Review, 48, 1–19.

Hiller, B., & Tzortzi, K. (2011). Space syntax: The language of museum space. In S. Macdonald (Ed.), A companion to museum studies (pp. 282–301). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Jiménez Hurtado, C., & Soler Gallego, S. (2015). Museum accessiblity through translation: A corpus study of pictorial audio dscription. In J. Díaz Cintas & J. Neves (Eds.), Audiovisual translation: Taking stock (pp. 279–298). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

Kress, G., & van Leeuwen, T. (1996). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge.

Kress, G., & van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Bloomsbury.

Liao, M. H. (2018). Museums and creative industries: The contribution of Translation Studies. Journal of Specialised Translation, 29, 45–62.

Lidchi, H. (1991) The poetics and the politics of exhibiting other cultures. In S. Hall (Ed.), Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices (pp. 151–220). London: Sage.

Macdonald, S. (2005). Accessing audiences: Visiting visitor books. Museum and Society, 3(3), 119–136.

Mateo, M. (2007). Surtitling today: New uses, attitudes and developments. Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series, 6, 135–154.

Neather, R. (2008). Translating tea: On the semiotics of interlingual practice in the Hong Kong museum of tea ware. Meta, 53(1), 218–240.

Neather, R. (2012). Intertextuality, translation, and the semiotics of museum presentation: The case of bilingual texts in Chinese museums. Semiotica, 192, 197–218.

Neves, J. (2012) Multi-sensory approaches to (audio) describing the visual arts. MonTI, 4, 277–293.

O’Hagan, M., & Mangiron, C. (2013). Game localization: Translating for the global digital entertainment industry. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Oittinen, R. (2001). On translating picture books. Perspectives, 9(2), 109–125.

O’Neill, M. (2006). Museums and identity in Glasgow. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 12(1), 29–48.

Orero, P. (Ed.). (2004). Topics in audiovisual translation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

O’Sullivan, C. (2013). Introduction: Multimodality as challenge and resource for translation. The Journal of Specialised Translation, 20, 2–14.

Owens, T. (2012). Tripadvisor rates Einstein: Using the social web to unpack the public meanings of a cultural heritage site. International Journal of Web Based Communities, 8(1), 40–56.

Pang, A. K. M. (2004). Making history in from colony to nation: A multimodal analysis of a museum exhibition in Singapore. In K. O’Halloran (Ed.), Multimodal discourse analysis: Systemic–functional linguistics (pp. 28–54). London: Continuum.

Ravelli, L. (2006). Museum texts: Communication frameworks. London: Routledge.

Ravelli, L., & McMurtrie, R. (2015). Multimodality in the built environment: Spatial discourse analysis. London: Routledge.

Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. W. (2003). Discourses in place: Languages in the material world. London: Routledge.

Sell, C. (2015). Translation in Japanese Museums: A study of multimodal linguistic landscape. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Zanettin, F. (Ed.). (2008). Comics in translation. Manchester: St. Jerome.




How to Cite

Liao, M.-H. (2019). Translating multimodal texts in space: A case study of St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series – Themes in Translation Studies, 17.