Over the last twenty-five years or so there has been a ‘cultural turn’ in urban development strategies. An analysis of the academic literature over this period reveals that the role of new museums in such developments has oft en been viewed reductively as brands of cultural distinction with economic pump priming objectives. Over the same twenty-five year period there has also been what is termed here a ‘libertarian turn’ in museum studies and museology. Counterposing discussions of the museum’s role within urban development with discussions from within the museum studies literature on the ‘post-museum’ reveals the dichotomous nature of these approaches to the museum. This article proposes instead a consideration of the phenomenotechnics of new museum developments. This approach presents a way of taking account of both technical and symbolic conditions and characteristics and in doing so, it is hoped, provides a way of analyzing the ‘realpolitik’ of the role of museums in urban development.