The Contemporary Museum issues a challenge to those who view the museum as an artefact of history, constrained in its outlook as much by professional, institutional and disciplinary creed, as by the collections it accumulated in the distant past. Denying that the museum can locate its purpose in the pursuit of tradition or in idealistic speculation about the future, the book asserts that this can only be found through an ongoing and proactive negotiation with the present: the contemporary.
This volume is not concerned with any present, but with the peculiar circumstances of what it refers to as the ‘global contemporary’ – the sense of living in a globally connected world that is preoccupied with the contemporary. To situate the museum in this world of real and immediate need and action, beyond the reach of history, the book argues, is to empower it to challenge existing dogmas and inequalities and sweep aside old hierarchies. As a result, fundamental questions need to be asked about such things as the museum’s relationship to global time and space, to systems and technologies of knowing, to ‘the life well lived’, to the movement and rights of people, and to the psychology, permanence and organisation of culture.
Incorporating diverse viewpoints from around the world, The Contemporary Museum is a follow-up volume to Museum Revolutions and, as such, should be essential reading for students in the fields of museum and heritage studies, cultural studies, communication and media studies, art history and social policy. Academics and museum professionals will also find this book a source of inspiration.
Table of Contents
Introduction: museums for the global contemporary
PART I: A WORLD OF EQUALS
1. Modernisms: Curating art’s past in the global present; 2. Indigenisation: Reconceptualising museology; 3. Islam: Islamic art, the Islamic world – and museums; 4. Xenophobia: Museums, refugees and fear of the other; 5. Diplomacy: Museums and international exhibitions
PART II: PRESENT PASTS
6. Transience: Curating ephemeral art; 7. Performances: Contemporary encounters in historic spaces; 8. Transhistoricism: Using the past to critique the present; 9. Pasts: Authoring national histories in the contemporary city
PART III: WHO WE ARE
10. Disability: Museums and our understandings of difference;11. Contact: Framing prostitution in a city museum; 12. Small wins: Tactics for the contemporary museum; 13. Anxiety: Unease in the museum
Simon Knell is Professor of Museum Studies and the senior academic in School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. He has also acted as Head of Department and Dean of Arts.
‘The follow-up volume to Museum Revolutions, The Contemporary Museum recognises the “present” as increasingly defined by the ubiquity of disruption and dissent, and explores the escalation of feelings of anxiety and outrage that arise from a rapidly changing world. The book’s standout achievement is its geographically expansive set of case studies, which richly demonstrate the ongoing humanism and humanity of museums, as sites of affective, albeit often contested, meaning and personal and collective agency. Its analysis of “the present” as it exists in dialogue with the past and future as well as with the broad components of what is occurring globally at any given “now”, will make it essential reading for museum studies scholars for many years to come.’
Kylie Message, The Australian National University