The Thing about Museums
Objects and Experience, Representation and Contestation
The Things about Museums constitutes a unique, highly diverse collection of essays unprecedented in existing books in either museum and heritage studies or material culture studies. Taking varied perspectives and presenting a range of case studies, the chapters all address objects in the context of museums, galleries and/or the heritage sector more broadly. Specifically, the book deals with how objects are constructed in museums, the ways in which visitors may directly experience those objects, how objects are utilised within particular representational strategies and forms, and the challenges and opportunities presented by using objects to communicate difficult and contested matters. Topics and approaches examined in the book are diverse, but include the objectification of natural history specimens and museum registers; materiality, immateriality, transience and absence; subject/object boundaries; sensory, phenomenological perspectives; the museumisation of objects and collections; and the dangers inherent in assuming that objects, interpretation and heritage are ‘good’ for us.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations List of contributors Preface Sandra Dudley 1. Introduction: museums and things Sandra Dudley Part I: Objects and their creation in the museum Introduction Jennifer Walklate 2. Romancing the Stones: earth science objects as material culture Hannah-Lee Chalk 3. What do we know about what we know? The museum ‘register’ as museum object Geoffrey N. Swinney 4. Emblematic museum objects of national significance: in search of their multiple meanings and values Marlen Mouliou and Despina Kalessopoulou 5. Musealization processes in the realm of art Maria Lucia de Niemeyer Matheus Loureiro 6. Photography – museum: on posing, imageness, and the punctum Klaus Wehner Part II Visitors’ engagements with museum objects Introduction Jennifer Binnie 7. Things and theories: the unstable presence of exhibited objects Chris Dorsett 8. Inexperienced museum visitors and how they negotiate contemporary art. A comparative study of two visitor-driven visual art presentations Marijke Van Eeckhaut 9. Illuminating narratives: period rooms and tableaux vivants Michael Katzberg 10. Magic objects/modern objects: heroes’ house museums Linda Young 11. ‘Do not touch’ – a discussion on the problems of a limited sensory experience with objects in a gallery or museum context Helen Saunderson 12. Living objects: a theory of museological objecthood Wing Yan Vivian Ting 13. The poetic triangle of objects, people and writing creatively: using museum collections to inspire linguistic creativity and poetic understanding Nikki Clayton and Mark Goodwin 14. Location and intervention: visual practice enabling a synchronic view of artefacts and sites Shirley Chubb Part III The uses of objects in museum representations Introduction Amy Jane Barnes 15. Spectacle and archive in two contemporary art museums in Spain Roger Sansi 16. Playing dress-up: inhabiting imagined spaces through museum objects Julia Petrov 17. Material object and immaterial collector: is there room for the donor-collector discourse in the museal space? Caroline Bergeron 18. Exhibiting absence in the museum Helen Rees Leahy 19. Arctic ‘relics’: the construction of history, memory and narratives at the National Maritime Museum Claire Warrior Part IV Objects and difficult subjects Introduction Julia Petrov 20. Challenged pasts and the museum: the case of Ghanaian kente Malika Kraamer 21. Standardizing difference: the materiality of ethnic minorities in the museums of the Peoples' Republic of China Marzia Varutti 22. Displaying the Communist Other: perspectives on the exhibition and interpretation of Communist visual culture Amy Jane Barnes 23. Reconsidering images: using the farm security administration photographs as objects in history exhibitions Meighen Katz 24. (Im)material practices in museums Alice Semedo 25. Heritage as pharmakon and the muses as deconstruction: - problematising curative museologies and heritage healing Beverley Butler Afterword: A conversation with Sue Pearce Amy Jane Barnes and Jennifer Walklate
Sandra Dudley is Senior Lecturer in the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. Recent books include Materialising Exile: material culture and embodied experience among Karenni refugees in Thailand (Berghahn 2010) and Museum Materialities (ed., Routledge 2010).
Amy Jane Barnes has recently completed doctoral research on the collection, interpretation and display of visual culture of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in contemporary British museums (University of Leicester 2009).
Jennifer Binnie is currently a PhD student at University of Leicester, looking at the impact which art within museums and galleries may have upon wellbeing.
Julia Petrov is a PhD student at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. Her project traces the development of dress exhibitions in museums in England and North America over the twentieth century.
Jennifer Walklate is a PhD student in the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. Her AHRC funded research explores and compares the production of temporal experiences in museums and works of literature.