The following abstracts are in chronological order.
Wednesday 20th April
Conal McCarthy, Victoria University of Wellington
Keynote – Indigenous museologies: Walking into the future looking into the past
In debating the museum of now, it is well to remember that our analysis should extend beyond the western heritage practices that still dominate the literature of museum studies, and encompass those peoples colonised by Europe in the nineteenth century who were consigned by museums to the timeless ethnographic past. For indigenous people today, once denied a history and excluded from the present, the global contemporary is a vital concern. And, despite the legacy of the colonial museum, so are museums. The extraordinary emergence of indigenous museologies in recent years demonstrates the continued relevance of the museum, but not as we know it. As we review 50 years of scholarship in our field, what can we learn from the experience of those parts of the world where new forms of museology are developing that draw on non-western frameworks? This keynote reflects on a new project exploring the indigenising and decolonising museologies that are emerging around the Pacific rim in postsettler nations – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – as museums, heritage management, and public history intersects with native and tribal ways of being, doing and knowing. In Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori concepts have reshaped the ways in which collections are managed, exhibitions are developed and staff engage with communities. In the Māori view, the past is positioned in front of the viewer, and the future is behind us. By documenting the transformation of museum work through these different views of time and space, this project aims to ‘recall’ or revise museology at arguably the most critical juncture in museum history since the birth of the modern museum.
Amy Levin, Northern Illinois University
Drafting our Narrative: Museums and the Current Refugee Crisis
How will museums depict current migrant crises? How will the new waves of migrants enter the heritage narratives of adopted countries? How will institutions present Muslims who have been both at the heart of migration movements and terrorist attacks, as well as at the center of policy debates in the U.S. and Europe? Will migrant movements, which have drawn crowds to ports and railroads, require new approaches to inclusion in maritime and rail museums?
We will approach these questions through the story of Binario 21, a Holocaust memorial under Milan’s central station which is dedicated to those who were shipped from there to concentration camps. The site acquired new resonances in 2015 when the coatroom was turned into a nightly shelter for migrants. Cultures intertwined, with Muslims eating food prepared in a kosher kitchen, and a Catholic community providing volunteers.
The re-purposing of the site from a place of departure and oppression to a haven for refugees constitutes one alternative for museums facing the global contemporary. Binario 21 will form a departure point for a conversation on the role of museums and other institutions in representing the population movements that have made this a time of crisis.
Rhiannon Mason, Newcastle University, Katherine Lloyd, Herriot Watt University, and Areti Galani, Newcastle University
Global Histories in Local Places: Identity, Belonging and Migration in Museums
Many European museums have endeavoured to address migration in their displays. Several recent EU projects* have studied this topic and considered how museums can represent global histories within national or city frameworks. This paper presents findings from a recent in-depth study into visitor responses by long-term residents and recent arrivals (asylum seekers and refugees) to a migration display at a social history museum in the north-east of England (Discovery Museum, Newcastle).
We draw on recent sociological theorisations of concepts of ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ to analyse the visitor responses to migration histories and to consider these in relation to interpretive strategies employed within the museum’s display. We argue that conceptualisations of identity and belonging are co-dependent but operate in distinctly different ways in the display and visitor responses. The findings of this research have implications for current museological discussions about whether museum displays enable and motivate visitors to imaginatively connect with those from other identity-groups. It also considers whether museum displays do facilitate a connection between a visitor’s sense of personal history and identity with that of a broader collective story.
*For example, see the EU funded projects: MeLa (European Museums in an Age of Migrations) and EuNamus (European National Museums). The authors were researchers on the MeLa project.
This project acknowledges the previous work carried out under the auspices of the EU funded: MeLa project (www.mela-project.eu). In particular, we acknowledge the insights and contributions of our Newcastle colleagues on that project: Professor. Christopher Whitehead and Dr Susannah Eckersley to our thinking on this topic.
The most recent project was funded by Newcastle University’s Institute for Social Renewal (NISR) and ran in collaboration with the Discovery Museum, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, Newcastle over the summer of 2015. We acknowledge, in particular, the valuable collaboration and assistance given to us by Helen White and Kylea Little, Keeper of History.
Vivian Ting, Design and Cultural Studies Workshop, Hong Kong
Rewriting Hong Kong Stories in the Post-colonial Museum Context
Shaped by colonial politics, Hong Kong has become a cosmopolitan city that enables various traditions and diverse life styles to thrive, and her multicultural outlook has served as a gateway to bring China closer to the rest of the world. Yet underneath her rich multicultural ecology, strangely lie the dynamics, conflicts, and confusion in identifying one’s cultural roots where local histories and individual voices tend to succumb to the grand narrative of “Chineseness”. In considering the socio-cultural changes brought about by the post-handover economic flow, Hong Kong people feel dichotomised by the notions of being “Chinese”, “local” and “global citizen”. How would museums help articulating the cultural identities of “Hong Kong”?
In considering how various forms of identities could interact with everyday experiences, socio-cultural interactions, and public imagination in the city, this paper sets out to examine exhibitions organised by local museums and other cultural institutions. By reviewing different curatorial strategies, the discussion explores the representations of local experiences and how individual voices would be weaved into the process of cultural identification. It also contextualises the discussions of what the “global”, “local” and “national” means and investigates how art exhibitions would facilitate the articulation of discourses in recent decades.
Susannah Eckersley, Newcastle University
From war zone to contact zone? Museums as ‘meeting points’ for historical migration and contemporary refugees
While museums around the world explore different ways to address the contemporary migration and refugee crisis, the German response to this crisis has not only been unique politically, but also has unique roots in Germany’s own difficult history and the collective, social memory of historical migrations both within and into Germany. The relationship between Germany’s history of responding to internal refugee and migration crises and the German political reaction to the contemporary migration and refugee crisis in Europe has been acknowledged within the German Studies academic sphere, however its impact on museums and cultural policy has not yet been analysed.
This paper is based on new and on-going empirical research in German museums, exploring migration-related projects including ‘Multaka – Treffpunkt Museum’ in Berlin, supported by German museums and Federal Government Ministries.
The paper argues that the museum and cultural policy response to the current refugee situation in Germany is not only a significant break from the German post-war tradition of non-instrumental, de-centralised cultural policy for museums, but also a markedly different approach to migration than those taken in the UK museum sector, for example.
Ulf Dahre, Lund University
A Theatre of the End of the World: The Curious Case of the Re-Emergence of the Cabinet of Curiosities
During the last decade or so, the interest in Cabinet of Curiosities has re-emerged both as a general social phenomena and part of the museum scene. Not long ago, Cabinet of Curiosities was seen as historical anomalies, seen as funny or maybe interesting, but without any social or epistemological relevance in the globalized world. Today there are a plentiful of publications, new exhibitions, shops, restaurants and private homes with a curiosity theme.
The central arguments in this paper is that the re-emergence of Cabinet of Curiosities bears significant relations to the constitution of power and, to contemporary challenges of modern epistemological discourses. The institution of the Cabinet of Curiosities itself can be understood as an historical expression of royal, imperial or other elitist collections and displays. By an historical extension, I attempt to show two historical similarities: Firstly, it seems like the Cabinet of Curiosities are elitist institutions, and secondly, they constitute challenges to established discourses of knowledge. Maybe the main reason for the re-emergence of the Cabinet of Curiosities, is that the transformation of the contemporary state from a strategy of national equality to one of economic and social fragmentation, is expressed in the project to re-establish the cabinet as an image of how the world in motion should look like as parts of a larger global process that is linked to increasing social polarization in which elites, after several decades of assimilation to the nation, are increasingly distancing themselves from “the people”.
Amy Jane Barnes, University of Leicester and Loughborough University, and
Malika Kraamer, Loughborough University/New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester
Unplaced’ heritage: multiple migrants, museums and the making of identity through fashion in Leicester
In this paper we will examine the important role of multiple migrants in the shaping of cultural heritage unbound to a particular place. This focus allows us to give attention to global forms of moveable heritage constructed through peoples’ experiences, with a particular emphasis on the ways of shaping and experiencing heritage as it relates to material cultures of fashion, dress and textiles.
We will consider how multiple migration and the transnational identities of Leicester people with South Asian and East African Asian connections were explored in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad exhibition ‘Suits and Saris’, at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery (March-October 2012). One of the stories explored in this exhibition was the many different ways in which Leicester people with Gujarati connections relate to Leicester Arts and Museum’s 1980s collection of Gujarati dress. Another was the fascinating story of the so-called Japanese sari; a phenomenon more or less absent from the scholarly record.
The paper aims to contribute to wider theoretical debates and general understandings of cultural heritage, but also to provide museum and heritage professionals with examples of working with and representing British people with multiple heritages, in addition to showing ways of collecting and displaying the heritages of diverse communities as part of mainstream culture.
Csilla Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke, Leiden University
Museums in the Caribbean: A plurality of voices in building the future
The Caribbean can be characterized by its diversity: linguistically, culturally, naturally, ethnically and artistically. Museums throughout the region exemplify this diversity in a myriad of ways. This presentation showcases the diversity of museums in the Caribbean by examining the communities that have created or collaborated with these museums. Focusing on these communities means that each of these museums is set up differently, with different exhibitions, in different languages and for different audiences. However, I want to focus mainly on the differing aims that communities may have with such museums. Through the museum process, communities may be working towards skill development, knowledge transferal, increased awareness of cultural traditions within or beyond the community, legal rights, recognition or independent sources of income, among other goals. The presentation will, therefore, not only present a plurality of voices in Caribbean museums, but delve into what these voices are asking for – what do communities want from a museum or a museum visit?
The presentation will showcase
examples from museums throughout the Caribbean region. During fieldwork, I have visited 189 museums in 23 different countries or islands. These museums, and the communities that are embedded in them, will take center stage in this presentation.
Insa Müller, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Interviews as a tool for Engaging Immigrants with Local History
Migration and mobility alter perceptions of “the local” and of local history. Above all, local history neglects to include important perspectives if it does not consider connections between those already living in the local area and those migrating into the area (Kjeldstadli 2008).
Hitra and Frøya are two islands in middle Norway with approximately 4,500 inhabitants each. Traditionally, inhabitants made a living fishing and small-scale farming, and the area was characterized by internal homogeneity and emigration. The situation has changed dramatically during the last ten years: As a result of the rapid growth of aquaculture, fish farming and jobs that this type of industry generates, population in the area is currently growing. Today, labor migrants from Eastern European countries represent approximately 15% of the population.
In summer 2015, the Coastal Museum in Hitra – a local history museum – started a documentation and exhibition project about current changes in the region. Interviews with members of minority communities were conducted. Since we know from earlier projects that these interviews might be the only contact between the museum and representatives of minority groups, we wanted to make sure that our interviews offered immediate benefits for both the museum and individual minority group members. To achieve this we drew our main inspiration from the concepts of historical consciousness (Seixas, Jensen) and dialogue (Habermas, Freire).
Based on observations and analyses of interview data, in my presentation I will discuss the interviews’ contributions to a) making local history – and thereby small local museums – relevant for immigrants, b) cultural exchange and cultural diplomacy through allowing for new knowledge about each other and unforeseen topics to emerge, and c) democratizing the local museum. Based on our experiences I will argue that interviews – conceived as a museum method – offer a dynamic strategy for engaging with changing communities and offer a fresh way to address local history.
Pippa Gardner, University of Sheffield
Curiosity cannot be contained in a cabinet: Making meaning in the unbounded space of the museum
Curiosity: Noun, An item of particular interest. OR, A state of heightened interest and care, a desire to know. “The museum is a place/has a space for your curiosity”. What is it that you would like to know? This session will begin with a short presentation describing how theories of space and place from Geography can open up new understandings of the museum – particularly materiality, place and flows. Together they call upon us to attempt to understand people’s ‘in the moment’ experiences in the museum, research which requires our own empathic curiosity and which can be explored using visual and arts-informed methods. You will be invited to participate in an interactive activity, interpreting creative data generated by museum visitors at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. The session will conclude with a discussion of the varied operational uses and creative outputs possible from such data. Attendees will receive a booklet of creative writing and visual works created for the session.
Adam Taub, Institute of Education, UCL, and Tali Krikler, Jewish Museum
Moss Kimmelman’s Cigarette Case: Young adults interpreting museum objects through animation
This summer, a group of young people (aged 12-22) created short animated films based on objects in the collection of the Jewish Museum in London. The participants researched the objects, pitched their ideas to the curators and created animations under the guidance of professional animators. The culmination of the week-long program was a ‘premier’ of some remarkable films to an audience of friends and family.
This project is a model of how to engage young people with collections and enable them to express their interpretations of objects. The project also develops valuable skills including research, planning, team-working and presentation. During this session, two of the animations will be screened.
Andrea Witcomb, lfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI), Deakin University
Keynote – Responding to the global contemporary in museums – learning to live with difference
Museums have long been called upon to respond to the pressing issues of the global contemporary – to the legacy of colonialism, to the massive displacement of peoples across the world and the increasing pressures on our environment as the result of our carbon rich lifestyles. There is, by now, a history of this response, which has been well documented in the many analyses of the more inclusive and collaborative practices that have emerged since the 1980s. What is perhaps not so well understood is that these responses are passing into history and that we are not doing the same museology as that which characterized the new museology of the 1990s and early 2000s. Museums, I want to argue, are exploring new ways of responding to these calls because the problems have become worse and they require new approaches to address them. In this paper, then, I want to provide you with an initial interpretation of what the contours of these new responses might be, and give you some examples from my own part of the world – Australia. In particular I will be arguing that the problem is no longer cast simply as the need for more tolerance, or more knowledge but that there is now a recognition that normative ways of being need to be challenged. The new practices then, are not simply about the inclusion of diverse points of views and the representation of difference. The emerging practices I am interested in are in fact concerned with a destabilization of the assumptions that support the normalized sense of self that is routinely performed in our everyday lives and which stop us from being able to engage in intercultural understanding. In this paper I will be exploring how museums are helping us to deal with the global contemporary by undermining our established sense of self in order to reconstitute it in new relations to those we normally see as ‘other’.
Lynn Holley, Executive Consultant to the Arts, and Resident Curator at Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science and Technology
Multi-media paper: The dance of the muses from Las Vegas to the Louvre
A visit to Main Street Station, a small hotel and casino in old town Las Vegas, Nevada, began the shake-up to my perception of Sin City and the arts. Was I in a casino or a museum? Everything inside with the exception of the gambling tables and slot machines were original paintings and artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th Century. And, not far away from the hotel was an acre of dirt filled with old, broken and discarded neon signs. It all spurred me to write my dissertation for my Master’s Degree in Museum Studies for Leicester: A Museum by Any Other Name is Still a Museum.
I had been a journalist, a department head in academia, yet most importantly a long- time admirer of American mythologist and lecturer Joseph Campbell. After I completed my degree, I curated exhibitions and wrote articles in California; then I accepted a position as director of a large art center in Florida. It was there I developed this lecture, and was stunned at the visual power of its message. The Ancient Greek muses can as easily dance, and often more brilliantly among the Ca-Ching of slot machines and old neon signs in Las Vegas, as they can in the history and grandeur of Paris and the Louvre. Understanding the muses and applying their symbolism to the arts may change one’s perception of everything, including Las Vegas.
Kate Hill, University of Lincoln
The Value of Museum History in the Global Contemporary
This round table will stage a discussion of the use and value of museum history for today’s museums and galleries. The global contemporary offers many opportunities for museums, but can they also learn from their pasts? Do they currently suffer from historical amnesia, and if so is this problematic and how can it be remedied? What is the value of museum history for museum policy, museum practitioners and museum audiences? Is museum history more important for some types and genres of museum and gallery than others? How can museum history be used by contemporary museums – in displays, to inform acquisition policy, or in other ways, behind the scenes or front of house?
The session will feature an introduction from the chair, followed by brief statements from the round table participants, who will each respond to the topic according to their specialist interests and knowledge of particular museum issues. Following this, discussion will be thrown open to everyone at the session, steered by the chair.
Alan Crookham (National Gallery, London)
Simon Knell (University of Leicester)
Bronwyn Labrum (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa)
Conal McCarthy (Victoria University of Wellington)
Christopher Whitehead (University of Newcastle)
Debora Tarolla, Centro di Riabilitazione, CAR di Roma
“Lie to me” – Moving around the museum of now
It is an experience used for both educational and therapeutic purposes where a group of a maximum of 15 persons are encouraged to communicate reciprocally using non verbal language moving within a space and in a set time to music. Body language and other forms of non verbal communication are seen as fundamental elements of psychomotricity. The participants would experience both the searching for, or denying of contact with objects and other people by sharing objects (such as scarves or balls,) thus creating a shared narrative and performance. Psychomotricity maintains that every learning experience can only take place within a fusion of emotions, thoughts and acts. Within this particular space-time dimension, people are encouraged to think about the themes and concepts related to museums, both the non verbal communication between museums and their visitors and the relationship between museums with their cultural heritage and exhibition space and their visitors.
The final part of the workshop is dedicated to discussing shared emotions and thoughts aiming to reflect on the ways and degree to which contemporary museums and their visitors interact. Should we imagine a kind of mirror between what museums have to offer and how people react to that offer? Do contemporary museums in our global society need to think in terms of complex and global rather than linear and segmented communication?
Françoise Mardrus and Anne Krebs, Musée du Louvre
Art Museums in the Global Contemporary
How to consider the place of Art museums today? Why the Louvre is orientating towards a new reflexive vision and a critical approach to the contribution of museum to « social creativity »?
How an institution as the Louvre could emphasize the development of art museums in a global contemporary? Few topics have been said about the impact of universal conception of museums on today museum’s policy. May be the Louvre, three centuries after its birth, is reaching a new turning point once again. This communication should try to introduce a merging reflection among the institution’s scientific and cultural staff. “Looking back to History” to paraphrase Griselda Pollock (Museums after Modernism, 2007) means to be able to incorporate elements of institutional history to an extensive vision of a process which struggles between past, present and future.
Whatever their size and location, European museums are facing strong challenges in the context of a general decrease of State or local authorities funding, at a time when it becomes particularly difficult to obtain a political and civic consensus on societal issues concerning the coexistence of various social groups. This situation leads to many questions regarding the social role of museums, while nations and social groups are becoming more fragmented and divided in terms of shared values. Based on recent evaluation research programs conducted by the Louvre museum, the purpose of the communication aims at illustrating – but also stimulating- a debate about the contradictory or antagonistic discourses and public values when It comes to the role of museum in today’s society.
Andrew Miles, Abigail Gilmore and Adrian Leguina Ruzzi, University of Manchester, Lisanne Gibson and Delyth Edwards, University of Leicester, Mark Taylor, University of Sheffield, Eleonora Belfiore, University of Warwick
Culture, Participation and Social Values
This panel consists of 6 brief (15 min) presentations as listed below of live research from the ‘Understanding Everyday Participation- Articulating Cultural Value’ (UEP) project (AHRC 2012-2017).
Brief introduction to the UEP project. (Dr Andrew Miles)
This 5 year (2012-2017) Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project proposes a radical re-evaluation of the relationship between participation and cultural value. We are used to thinking about the benefits of the arts and heritage as a traditional way of understanding culture and its value but what about the meanings and stakes people attach to their ‘everyday’ hobbies and pastimes? The UEP research brings together evidence from in-depth historical analyses, the re-use of existing quantitative data and new qualitative research to reveal the detail, dynamics and significance of ‘everyday participation’. Our aim is to generate new understandings of community formation and capacity through participation, which we will develop through collaborations with partners and participant groups to evolve better practice for policy makers and cultural organisations. Our approach promises new ways of capturing the contexts and processes of cultural valuation including the ways in which creative economies are underpinned by local practices and community identities.
Telling stories of participation: times, tastes, territories. (Dr Andrew Miles)
Alongside Putnam’s (1995) work on social capital, consideration of the ‘stakes’ attached to participation is most clearly associated with the debate around Bourdieu’s (1986) concept of cultural capital and the role this plays, alongside the possession or otherwise of other assets and resources, in processes of domination and social closure. Here the cultural omnivore thesis (Peterson and Kern 1996) vies with the concept of ‘emerging’ cultural capital (Prieur and Savage 2013). Yet the preferred method of understanding variation in practices in the cultural field – the analysis of cross-sectional survey data on tastes and activities – reveals nothing of the value or dynamics of participation in different activities at the individual level, nor for groups. In this paper I explore the potential of ‘participation narratives’ and life histories from longitudinal in-depth interviews for understanding the formation, negotiation, presentation and relationality of cultural tastes and identities. These interviews are taken from the first three case studies (in Manchester/Salford, Aberdeen and Gateshead) of the ‘Understanding Everyday Participation’ project, within which they mobilized as a core component of a geographically focused ‘mixed-methods’ approach to re-appraising questions of ‘cultural value’. The resulting accounts foreground the multiplicity of participation practices and their embeddedness in social life (Warde 2007). Yet they also articulate the complex ways in which everyday lifestyles are marked out relationally in time and space through the interplay of age, gender, class, mobility and belonging. Participation narratives can thus be presented to policy as a method which complements and informs recent appreciation of the need for longitudinal perspectives on cultural engagement. At the same time, they are a reminder of the continuing vitality of a tradition in social research which, in the age of ‘big data’, seeks to distil issues of process and meaning in cultural research (Savage and Burrows 2007).
Facilitated Participation and Everyday Participation: Enabling the Agency of young people in care. (Drs Lisanne Gibson and Delyth Edwards)
Since the mid-nineteenth century cultural practice and its management has been attached to a discourse that constructs participation, in particular kinds of cultural activity, as beneficial to individuals on the basis that these beneficial effects have resonance beyond the cultural sphere. More recently ‘leading edge’ cultural practice and programmes have been based on the notion that benefit from such participation occurs via the facilitation of the active agency of participants; that is the making of their own meanings through co-curation and co-creation. Enlistment and involvement in, what we have termed ‘facilitated participation’, is, in Nikolas Rose’s terms, a tool typical of ‘advanced liberalism’ whereby the governance of individuals operates on the basis of the governance of their ‘freedom’, through making them self-governing subjects (Rose, 1993 and 1999). We have found that for children and young people living in care the facilitation of their agency through cultural programmes is limited by an assumption that such groups’ everyday cultural choices lack value. Through a discussion of research undertaken with young people in care which sought to understand the ways in which they valued their everyday participation in relation to the facilitated participation activities in which they took part, this paper will explore how these different domains of participation are understood by both the facilitators and the facilitated. The article will conclude with a discussion of how this understanding could contribute to the development of cultural practice which reveals, recognises and, perhaps, interrogates and challenges, the relations that inform participant’s autonomy or agency, as well as the relations that inform the roles of the facilitators themselves.
Fields of participation and lifestyle in the UK: Challenges and opportunities for quantitative research in cultural participation. (Dr. Adrian Leguina)
Despite growing relevance for humanities and social sciences, much cultural participation research tends to consider research methods as mere tools for data analysis. Moreover, as the recent emphasis on the ‘social life’ of methods makes clear, methods should be seen loaded devices, which are both rendered by and shaping of the social world. The theoretical framework adopted by UEP, inspired from a range of perspectives, calls for update methodological paradigms. The main objective of this talk is to Illustrate the way how relevant operationalisations and statistical methods help to unpack the findings from surveys and other data collection strategies, while providing entirely different ways of ‘seeing’ participation. More specifically, we review some of the different quantitative methodological perspectives adopted by the UEP project, highlighting the importance of the study of methods for understanding participation. Although methods differ in nature, they are complementary and in most cases help to endure data limitations.
The Park, the Museum and the Commons: vernacular spaces and social infrastructure for everyday participation. (Dr Abigail Gilmore)
This paper will look at the spaces for everyday participation and consider their relationships to local cultural policy, community ownership and cultural value. It will focus on two particular spaces for participation – the park and the museum – and consider them comparatively to see how these spaces are understood and valued by local communities. The park and the museum are chosen as focal points because of their parallel and intertwined local histories, as nineteenth century local cultural strategies for public health, regulation and education in newly industrialised Manchester and Salford, in response to moral anxieties and changing conditions of everyday life. Both can be considered as ‘assets’ for the performance of everyday participation. For example in a wealth US research on public parks for health and recreation, parks have been positioned as spaces for racial tolerance and distinction, where different communities can meet, become visible, perform shared and distinct cultural identities around ethnicity (Low et al,2005). In contrast museums studies literature predominantly positions museums spaces as places of bodily regulation and control (e.g. Rees Leahy, 2013). This article takes the opportunity to consider the contemporary practices of governance and policy, in relation to parks and museums, as their status as public spaces is under question, in the context of public sector cuts and the quest for new funding and management models.
Nonparticipation or different styles of participation? Alternative interpretations from Taking Part. (Dr Mark Taylor)
Since the Taking Part Survey began collecting data in England in 2005/06, it has become the dominant source of information on participation in a wide range of domains, and its relationship with social stratification. Existing work that investigates domains of “formal” culture constructs narratives of often large groups of “nonparticipants” in a way that supports a deficit model framework. The Understanding Everyday Participation: Articulating Cultural Values project aims to extend this interpretation of participation, since not only is formal culture clearly not the norm, but there is a large amount of variation in how people spend their time in what might be called “everyday” activities [Miles and Sullivan, 2012]. The scope of the survey allows analysis of formal culture to be combined with analysis of other everyday activities; this allows us to identify whether omnivores within domains are also omnivorous across domains, and the extent to which alleged nonparticipants are genuinely so. Using five waves of Taking Part data, I use hierarchical cluster analysis on 90 variables to identify relationships between variable, and use kmeans cluster analysis to identify distinct patterns of participation in a wide range of activities. The analysis suggests, consistent with other work, that while about 8.7% of the English population is highly engaged with state-sanctioned forms of culture, and that this fraction is particularly well-off, well-educated and white, over half the population has fairly low levels of engagement with state-sanctioned culture but is nonetheless busy with everyday activities, such as pubs, shopping, darts, and gardening. Only about 11% of the population is detached from mainstream pastimes and social events. The results raise questions about policies surrounding participation: current policies aimed at increasing participation in state-sanctioned activities are likely to target those with already busy cultural lives, just not cultural in the way the state anticipates.
Cultural policy research in the real world: Curating “impact”, facilitating “enlightenment”. (Professor Eleonora Belfiore)
The very identity of cultural policy studies as a distinctive field of academic pursuit rests on a well-established and widely accepted tension between ‘proper research’ and policy advocacy, which has often resulted in resistance to the idea that robust, critical research can – or even should – be ‘useful’ and have impact on policy discourse. This paper tries to navigate a third route, which sees policy relevance and influence as a legitimate goal of critical research, without accepting the pressures and restrictions of arts advocacy and lobbying. This is accomplished by exploring in detail the journey ‘into the real world’ of preliminary quantitative data produced by the UEP project in the context of its development of a segmentation exercise based on Taking Part data. The exercise used cluster analysis to identify profiles of cultural participation, with the most two engaged groups accounting for 15% of the broader British population. The single most engaged group corresponded to the wealthiest, better educated and least ethnically diverse 8% of the population. This data fed into the consultation and evidence gathering process of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value. The data was eventually cited in its final report Enriching Britain and was subsequently cited by key figures in the cultural and policy sectors. The paper looks at the trajectory that ‘the 8%’ statistic has travelled, charting its increasing prominence in English cultural policy debates and argues that, despite the impossibility for researchers to exert control over the use and misuse of their data, policy influence is nonetheless a realistic objective if understood in terms of ‘conceptual influence’.
Chris Whitehead, Newcastle and Oslo University, Luca Basso Peressut and Francesca Lanz, Politecnico di Milano
What now and what next for museum and heritage studies in the European Union?
This panel brings together researchers involved in some of the European Commission’s flagship research projects focusing on museums and heritage in Europe, including EUNAMUS (European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, 2010-13) and MeLa (European Museums in an age of migrations, 2011-2015). They asked questions about identity and society, nations and nationalism, migration and mobility, about new technologies and about historical and contemporary understandings of Europe and being European.
In line with EU research funding agendas, the projects were conceived to meld state-of-the-art scholarship with attention to contemporary social and economic issues, with a view to developing instrumental cultural policy, advancing museum and heritage practice and, ultimately, ameliorating key problems of the time, such as the tensions of multicultural societies. This panel provides a forum for reflecting on the discussions and findings of these projects and considering their purchase now, in a Europe that is arguably very different from the one in which the research was commissioned. The heightened profile and nature of terrorist threats signaled by the Paris massacres of 2015, the Refugee Crisis and EU countries’ different responses to it, the collapse of the Greek economy, increasingly difficult relations with (and between) the historic ‘Europe makers’, Turkey and Russia, the entrenchment of nationalist movements and parties, the mobilization of exclusionary European identities, an entirely changed global situation connected to conflict in the Middle East… These are all factors that were (largely) beyond view in the first major tranche of EU-funded research into museums and heritage, and we ask now what this changed world means for our research and for museum and heritage practice.
As well as looking back at completed projects, the panel also looks forward to the future of into the role of museum and heritage research in addressing what the European Commission has called an ‘EU crisis’ – a financial crisis, an identity crisis and a crisis of confidence. To do this we bring together speakers involved in past and forthcoming EU-funded projects, including EUNAMUS, MeLa, CoHERE (Critical Heritages: performing and representing identities in Europe, 2016-2019) and TRACES (Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts, 2016-2019) and concluding the session with an open round table.
Emma Croft and Claire Messenger, British Museum
Shared Histories and Global Voices
In 2015, CSMVS Mumbai and the British Museum co-hosted a workshop entitled Creating museums of world stories which saw museum and heritage professionals’ brainstorm and debate around proposals to develop new forms of ‘encyclopaedic’ displays or museums that might be created beyond Europe and North America, presenting familiar local and national histories in the context of global stories.
This session will consider what heritage organisations are doing now, or can do now and in the future to be relevant, inclusive and collaborative on an international scale, through the inclusion of global voices.
Facilitated by past participants of the British Museum’s International Training Programme, the session will discuss the outcomes and effects of the workshop and consider many of the larger questions which arose during the two days in India.
The ITP alumni will bring ideas from source communities for many collections in the UK, but also make suggestions for what collaborations and partnerships would work in their home countries and institutions. In Mumbai participants were able to demonstrate that a new generation of heritage professionals, internationally focused and multidisciplinary in their outlooks, are already working together to help develop the museums of the global contemporary. This session will introduce the alumni and the outcomes of the workshop to a new network of heritage professionals and extend these debates even further.
Thursday 21st April
Richard Sandell – University of Leicester
Keynote – Museums and the battle for human rights
Despite their air of immutability, human rights are constantly in flux, always in negotiation, shaped and reshaped by an ongoing interaction between a global discourse of universal rights for all and local interests, agendas and normative ideas about fairness. On a daily basis, throughout many parts of the world, attempts by groups to claim or exercise rights that have been routinely violated or withheld provoke counter responses by those seeking to maintain the status quo. What part do – and should – museums play in this ever changing landscape of rights struggle, negotiation and reconfiguration?
Drawing on research carried out over the past 10 years into the ways in which museums have represented (and often overlooked, marginalised and misrepresented) gender and sexual diversity, Richard Sandell shows how the work of museums is intimately bound up with broader processes through which human rights are claimed, denied and reshaped. His focus on LGBTI rights is used to make the case for museums of all kinds to take up an active, mindful and purposive engagement with contemporary human rights concerns.
Keynote – Badass Programming: Sex Talk in the City @ MOV
The exhibition Sex Talk in the City at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) wanted to make the case that ideas about sexuality shape not only people, but cities. This 2013 project tied compelling historical narratives to current issues of sexuality, grounding them in the Vancouver context. It also examined how notions of sexuality pervade our lives, in the form of public events and spaces, laws, objects, and images. The exhibition integrated issues of sexual health, diversity, and education. It featured diverse perspectives while highlighting issues and concerns often shared across age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientations and expressions.
This presentation situates Sex Talk in the City in the context of an institutional makeover and explains how a theoretical discourse calling for more inclusive and reflexive interpretive practices inspired the project. It also discusses subsequent curatorial strategies adopted at MOV to pursue the de-marginalization work initiated with Sex Talk in the City.
Sheila Watson, University of Leicester
Drawing on recent thinking about heritage practice this paper considers the extent to which heritage is an emotional construct that exists outside the formal designation of heritage sites, objects and practices, but is located within community beliefs and narratives of origin – many of which are not recognised by professional heritage and museum practitioners. It will draw on case studies and consider ideas relating to the supernatural as well as drawing on findings from focus groups held in the summer of 2015 which looked at peoples’ relationships with Norwich Castle Museum.
Viv Golding, University of Leicester
Affective Museums: Feminism and the Politics of Friendship
This presentation is rooted in feminism. Arguing that there is no feminist ‘orthodoxy’ it explores ideas driven political praxis that may prove productive to Museums in the Global Contemporary. Golding, draws on several decades of transglobal and transnational collaborative experience to outline the complex ‘inbetween’ realms of danger and creativity, where new identities may be formed and future horizons expanded beyond the limiting stereotypes of gender, race, class, disability and sexual preference, which restrict the futures of individuals and social groups around the world. She acknowledges the interdisciplinary dialogues with colleagues across national borders to outline an optimistic zone of ‘creolisation’ where communities can be built together with diverse Peoples to challenge prejudice in general and racism and sexism in particular. Specifically this paper considers the healing work of activist re-memory following human rights abuses during the Sadam regime in Kurdistan, notably the Peshmerga resistance to oppression and the narratives of hope for the future undertaken with Ameera Ibrahim of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Theoretically the paper looks through a radical feminist lens, considering key texts of Black feminist thought, including Audre Lorde’s, the creative writing of Joan Anim-Addo and Sara Ahmed’s ideas on distance, proximity and the politics of emotion, to develop an idea of the affective museum.
Richard Toon, Arizona State University
The Museum at the End of the Universe, a Guided Tour
Welcome to the Museum of the Global Contemporary, or as I think of it, the Museum at the End of the Universe—located just past the famous Restaurant at the End of the Universe. We live in a time that feels detached from both the past and the future. We no longer believe in the Colonial model that gave rise to the modern museum. And as for the future, we fear we have destroyed it as well as our planet. That leaves us solidly in Now. Museums are registering this status and have begun to morph. They no longer celebrate conquest and western progress. Rather, they confront colonial history, environmental degradation, and cultural eclipse. Amid the horrors of terrorist attacks, global warming, economic collapse, and waves of refugees fleeing genocide and war—museums are assuming a therapeutic role. Exhibits of “lost cultures and civilizations” no longer contemplate the mysteries of their declines so much as whisper predictions of our looming erasure. Wandering the Museum at the End of the Universe, we are all Ozymondious as well as the poet who discovered his ruin. With examples drawn from exhibits in the museum, this talk will explore the ramifications of living in a time critic Frank Kermode called sophisticated apocalypticism.
Marlen Mouliou, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Museums of Cities: Hybrid Living Systems in the Global Contemporary
Museums and cities are living systems of tremendous scale and potential. They can embody a hybridity of cultures and employ an array of modalities that represent distinctive types of meanings and stories of the world. In recent years, the urge to transform the museum institution has been debated, tested on the ground and further discussed. The sensorial, emotional, participatory processes of meaning-making in the museum have taken a good share in this regard, yet there is need for further exploration and experimentation.
In this moving terrain, museums of cities face immense challenges to re-load established systems of understanding museum materialities, re-assess institutional identities, re-define interpretative modalities, and foster new engaging relationships and partnerships with urban communities. Drawing from discourse (J. P. Gee), museum and urban theories as well as systems thinking (F. Capra), this paper proposes to explore distinctive paradigms of city museums, whose exemplary acts cut across a number of key facets of urban museology. The proposal aims first to look into these facets and explore them as paradigms of hybridity in museum ethos and praxis; secondly it aims to define their generic elements and piece them together as roadmaps for museological innovation in the Global Contemporary.
Micaela Deiana, Independent Researcher
Experimental Curatorial Practices for Contemporary Art Institutions: Between radical museographic tools and new digital scenarios
This paper elaborates the experience of New Institutionalism, a curatorial practices focused on an idea of contemporary art institution reshaped after Modernist and Postmodernist perspectives, investigating a system of production-display-consumption of culture.
Developed at the end of the 1990s in North Europe, it had an historical phase ending in the middle of the 2000s, but its influence is still ongoing in contemporary curatorial projects.
My contribution analyses the relationship between this phenomenon and artistic practices, and proposes a curatorial canon of that phenomenon through a selection of its most innovative museographic strategies.
In the first part, this presentation draws attention to the main features of New Institutionalism, identified in the attitude of criticality and performativity, both deriving from the legacy of Institutional Critique and Relational Aesthetics.
In the second part, it outlines a grammar of exhibition format, highlighting new possibilities for monographic, archivist, group shows and innovative approach in presenting museum collections.
The aim is to establish how New Institutionalism represents an important experience in analysing the most experimental curatorial practices in the last twenty years and how this kind of studies contribute to deeply understand the relationship between art and museum in the 21st century.
Giulia Golla Tunno, IMT Lucca
Artist-In-Residence at the Ethnographic Museum: Questioning Colonial Pasts at the Royal Museum of Central Africa
Questioning and problematizing ethnographic museums’ colonial pasts can be considered one of the most urgent matters that these institutions need to face in today’s globalized and transcultural Europe. This appears particularly evident for the museums that have been established at the end of the 19th century for imperial propaganda purposes, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren (BE).
In this paper I will focus on Artist-in-residence (AIR) programmes, which have only recently started to develop in European ethnographic museums. I will analyse how this practice may attain a twofold objective: (1) engage the museum in a critical dialogue on its collections and practices, eviscerating its colonial legacy and (2) put emphasis on collaboration and knowledge-exchange processes within the museum.
For this purpose I will analyse the development and final output of the AIR programme that took place at the RMCA with artists Sammy Baloji and Patrick Mudekereza. Through research and reappropriation of the museum’s archives, the two artists created an original artistic project that has been set-up in the temporary exhibition “Congo Far West” (2011).
I will argue that the AIR programme has both enabled an excavation of imperial past and the creation of new postcolonial narrations; it also created a multidisciplinary knowledge-exchange process between artists, museum professionals and visitors. AIR programmes are therefore a fruitful practice for ethnographic museums aiming at questioning their colonial origins, if integrated into a wider cultural and institutional transformation process.
Annmarie de Wildt, Amsterdam Museum
Framing Prostitution: Meaning giving to a controversial subject in a city museum
Twice in the past decennium the Amsterdam Museum staged an exhibition about prostitution. Love for Sale (2002) showed the history of prostitution in the city. In 2010 the museum exhibited The Hoerengracht (Whore’s Canal), an installation from the 1980’s by Edward and Nancy Kienholz, alongside other contemporary works of art dealing with prostitution. Both exhibitions had an impact on the interpretation of museum objects and resulted in new acquisitions. The Amsterdam Museum acted as a contact zone for a complex range of stakeholders, including prostitutes, brothel owners, local authorities and artists, next to regular visitors, school groups and tourists. Annemarie de Wildt, who curated both these exhibitions is presently doing a ‘restudy’ of both exhibitions, on a research grant awarded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. The focus is on the conceptual process of meaning making in the triangle of museum/curator, artists and the public, when dealing with a controversial subject such as prostitution.
In April-May a Museum Lab will be set up in the Amsterdam Museum, in order to investigate the opinions and feelings about some (art)objects dealing with prostitution. During the session the delegates are invited to contribute their associations to some of the (art)works and thus be part of the research project.
Morien Rees, Varanger Museum
The generosity of bumble bees and the consolations of philosophy: A museum’s search for allies and approaches in disseminating the challenges of climate change
Post Paris, polls point to a growing awareness of the challenges of climate change, fewer dispute the facts.195 countries have committed themselves to pursuing the1,5 degree scenario, while investors are circling fossil free technology.
Despite the clamor around the Paris conference, life goes on more or less unchanged for most of us. Meaningful action to alleviate or to respond to the deepening crises that faces us is seen to be the province of governments or the UN.
This paper takes as its starting point the proposition that museums have a role to play in disseminating the challenges of climate change and turning the growing awareness into action.
It summarizes the attempt of a small museum on Norway’s northeastern arctic coast to engage with dissemination and the possibilities that radiate from the perspective of the museum as an arena for cooperation. What strategies and resources are available to museums in the global, digital, networked world? Who are our allies? What approaches are likely to succeed?
In our desire to turn burgeoning awareness into action, Varanger Museum specifically wishes to draw attention to the ethical challenge posed by climate change. We find inspiration in the generosity of bumble bees and the Socratic method.
Sarah Richardson, University of Leeds
The art gallery and its audience(s): negotiating local and international context
Many museums and galleries today are playing two roles, ensuring that their collections and exhibitions have significance on the international stage, whilst remaining relevant and accessible to their immediate, local context. But what tensions might emerge in the institution’s attempts to fulfil these roles and excel on both of these fronts? This paper will explore how an institution is attempting to make sense of, and engage with, its audience(s) now, and the tensions that emerge in reconciling its international ambitions with local cultural values and needs. This exploration takes place through the lens of a specific art gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield. The Hepworth is a particularly pertinent case study to explore these issues as it is currently re-negotiating its roles and relationships to its audience(s) during a period of substantial organisational change. As part of this process the Gallery has just completed an extensive piece of audience research to ‘know’ its audience(s), and to use this knowledge to inform all decision-making and strategy in response to current fluctuations in the political, economic and cultural climate. Therefore, the negotiations and emergent tensions that may arise between the institution and its audience(s) are firmly situated in, and in response to, the very material reality of ‘the now’.
Norah Karrouche, University Rotterdam and VU University Amsterdam
The Berber Express – Decolonising a Marrakech museum
Where do policymakers, curators and museum visitors in contemporary Morocco stand on the Berber issue? Since independence in 1956, Morocco has largely neglected and obscured its Berber past. While they were evaluated on very positive terms during French colonial rule (1912-1956), public uses of the Berbers’ languages, heritage and culture were marginalized and at times even violently oppressed well into the nineties. Morocco was viewed as an Arab and Islamic nation, and this was reflected in the country’s cultural policies as well. Social and cultural activists have, however, been able to counter this Arab nationalist interpretation of history and identity and have managed to re-claim a position for Berber culture and languages. Yet the exact way in which this culture should be represented as part of Moroccan national identity and in particular vis-à-vis Muslim identity continues to trouble policymakers and cultural entrepreneurs. In 2014, I explored the contemporary representation of Berber identity in ethnographic museums at a popular tourist destination: Marrakech.
In this paper I look at the ways in which Berber identity is currently being represented at one site where the long-standing (colonial) relation between France and Morocco is particularly present, the Musée berbère of the private French-Moroccan Fondation Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. What kind of narratives do curators, guides and visitors of this exhibit develop on Berber culture, history and identity? In what ways are these narratives reminiscent of a colonial past?
Matt Smith, artist and curator
Keynote – If you could see through my eyes
The complex manner in which museums select, curate and discuss objects produces a highly selected and politically constructed view of the past. This privileges some lives over others and often coats these decisions in a veil of neutrality, presenting them as universal truths.
It has been argued that ‘[o]mission from the museum does not simply mean marginalization; it formally classifies certain lives, histories, and practices as insignificant, renders them invisible…and, thereby casts them in the realm of the unreal’ (Conlan, 2010).
Museums have the potential to open up their interpretation to include these omitted lives, but many seem to be struggling with how to do this. Through a series of case studies exploring how museums are – and are not – addressing lgbt lives and experiences, this talk will explore some of the issues involved in, and possible solutions to, making museums more welcoming, representative and truthful.
Jen Walklate, managing editor Museum & Society and independent researcher
How soon is now? Unpicking the notion of the Contemporary
“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day,’” Alice objected.
“No, it ca’n’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know”
(Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There)
The contemporary is elusive. It is always passing just out of reach, and they who observe it cannot be of it. The notion of the contemporary – especially if we emphasize the singular – also ties into a positivist teleology (progression, betterment, the assumption that what is is better than what was): certainly, to some extent, in the context of the Call for Papers. That is not to say that there are not things to celebrate about the times in which we live, nor that the CFP is invalid. But it does give rise to a question, or a series of questions: What do we mean by the contemporary? How can it be reinterpreted as multiple and constantly in motion? And what are the consequences for museums?
The paper will begin by situating the Contemporary within its etymological and cultural context: we will break down the word (which, in its constituent parts means ‘with-time’ and which is closely connected to impermanence); place it in relation to similar words including Now, Modernity, and Present; and ask who and what we mean when we talk about ‘the contemporary’.
Secondly, the paper will consider the consequences of this situating, both negative and positive. It will demand that we start looking at “The Contemporary” in a different way, and posit the more multiplicitous notion of “(Con)temporaries”. It will utilize concepts drawn from literature and drama – the abject, grotesque and carnivalesque – to present the diverse potentials of (con)temporaries, and drawing on these speak about the relation between (con)temporaries and play. We may even play a game.
The final part of the paper will situate these abstracted discussions within museum spaces, asking what the consequences might be for museological theory and practice. It will posit that, and explain how, a deeply contextualised and questioned understanding of ambiguous (con)temporaries will allow us to move towards many of the aims, goals and consequences set out in the Call for Papers: a true form of globalisation, a sweeping aside of outmoded hierarchies, a privileging of diversity, and the empowerment of individuals, objects and museum spaces.
Da Kong, Fudan University, China
“Terracotta Diplomacy”: The First Emperor and the image of modern China
In the past decade, China’s cultural promotion overseas has attracted considerable attention, and loan exhibitions to Western museums are an important part of this. However, this initiative has rarely been explored. The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army is the British Museum’s blockbuster exhibition in 2007-8. Featuring the largest group of important objects relating to China’s First Emperor which had ever been allowed going abroad by the Chinese authorities, the exhibition was hyped as the Chinese government’s “Terracotta Diplomacy”. However, it would be unfair to suggest that it is the result of the Chinese government’s propagandistic use of the exhibition, as the exhibition project was initiated and curated by the British Museum (BM). How the BM interpreted the historical figure largely decided the media reception of this exhibition and the understanding of China. This paper will examine how the BM and British media imaged modern China through this historical exhibition. It will conclude that the Chinese authorities are aware of the diplomatic value of loan exhibitions; while still allow enough freedom for the host museum in shaping them. Host museums of Chinese exhibitions, as well as local media have a great impact on how modern China is understood through the past.
Caroline van Santen, Zeeuws Museum
Using the past to address present-day issues – renewing the history galleries
Since its re-opening in 2007 the Zeeuws Museum has strived to make original, inspirational displays and to make unexpected links between Zeeland and the wider world. The success of this policy was one of the reasons for the museum to be awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize in 2009. After almost ten years the Zeeuws Museum’s historical presentation is due for renewal. In line with the museum’s policy the presentation first of all will have to show the history through objects with a minimum of textual information.
The basic idea for the new presentation is to use two general themes that are very relevant at present, but also encompass the history of the province of Zeeland. These multi-layered themes are: Stream, as in e.g. the division between land and water and how ideas about this change constantly, and Position, such as socio-culturally and geo-politically.
This presentation is an endeavour to get a broader perspective and multiple views on the intended renewal plans. The audience will be invited and stimulated by questions and examples to actively respond to and to reflect on the proposed contents. At the same time the intention is that the presentation will provide food for thought for colleagues.
Markus Walz, University of Applied Sciences Leipzig
Significance re-assessment 2066: How to prepare contemporary collecting of history museums for future reviews
Changes from collecting private collections over academic decisions to participative collec¬ting influence the focus of the collection and neglect certain aspects of the collection policy. Addition¬ally, the global contemporary shows a new master narrative as a guideline for collec¬tion policies. Instead of simply finishing one master narrative, starting another one, the two new challenges are combined collecting concerning the old and the new para¬digm, and a systematic analysis of older collections in search of items which are relevant to the new paradigm (“collecting within the collection”).
The sustainability of collections might increase by using the Australian concept of significance assessment already for the acquisition – identical criteria serve the acquisition and the retrospective analysis of the collection. Serial significance assessment with the addition instead of the sequence of collection policies gives hope for intelligent density of the collections but sounds demanding for contemporary collecting: the search for the new in the now should be connected with continued attention to “old-fashioned” facets of contemporary life. A structural problem is given by the fact that each re-assessment stresses the academic values because the academic or historic value of each value might grow while actual societal and subjective values of ageing collections mostly decline.
Annette Loeseke, New York University, Berlin
Political museum experience rediscovered: Schinkel’s Old Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island facing the (reconstructed) City Palace
Drawing on the case study of Schinkel’s Old Museum, located on Berlin’s Museum Island and open to the public since 1830, the paper seeks to rediscover the ‘transhistorical’ political significance of this early public museum – significant through architecture, politico-museological concept, and location opposite the historical royal City Palace. About 70 years after its damaging during WWII and final demolition in the 1950s, the City Palace has been reconstructed for housing the Ethnological Museum and Asian Art Museum, scheduled to open in 2019. The reconstruction of a royal (imperial) palace and the plans for building a ‘centre of world cultures’ in the city centre of a European capital have sparked controversy about postcolonial issues and euro-centric approaches. Exploring the hypothesis that the Old Museum’s current presentation is primarily object- and collection-focused whereas its historical architectural and museological concept was essentially reception-centred, the paper argues that not only should the museum rediscover and openly address its architectural political significance, it should also critically define its future (politico-museological) relation to the reconstructed City Palace. Drawing on this specific case study, it shall further be discussed how today’s museums could raise their critical voice in current debates about public urban space and symbols of political as well as corporate power in today’s global cities.
Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, Viv Golding, University of Leicester
Elen Phillips and Sioned Hughes, St. Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff
Rethink One Object: Interpretation, Identity and Social Justice
How might the ways we talk about and publicly present objects – in museums of all kinds – be shaped by a commitment to address social inequalities and to lend support for human rights? How does what we choose to display, what we say about objects and artworks and what we omit have social effects and consequences?
This session draws on research carried out by RCMG and the School of Museum Studies to explore the idea that approaches to interpretation in museums and galleries should be shaped not only by disciplinary perspectives (art history, science, ethnography and so on) but also out of an appreciation of contemporary social inequalities. More particularly, we argue that museums can actively deploy their capacity to influence the way audiences see, think and talk about social justice and human rights issues to effect progressive social change (what Sandell and Dodd, 2010, have referred to as an ‘activist museum practice’).
2.05-2.30 Jocelyn Dodd, Director of RCMG, explores the session theme through the lens of recent research carried out around the re-presentation of disability within museum. How might museums re-present their objects in ways which reflect the lived experiences of disabled people in contemporary society and, in doing so, lend support for disability rights?
2.30-3.10 Elen Phillips and Sioned Hughes, St. Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, show a range of objects from the collections of National Museums Wales and discuss how engagement with disabled people has opened up new ways of looking at and understanding their significance. Elen and Sioned consider how this process is shaping the development of new narratives, informed by a concern for social justice, in the transformation of St Fagan’s National History Museum.
3.30-4.30 Katy Bunning, Viv Golding, Jen Bergevin and Naomi Terry. This workshop presents a series of objects and invites participants to consider how they might be interpreted in light of a growing concern for museums to address social justice themes and issues.
4.30-4.45 Jocelyn Dodd invites delegates to share opportunities and challenges for developing this approach in their own practice.
Janet Marstine, University of Leicester, Oscar Ho, Associate Professor of Practice in Cultural Management, Chinese University Hong Kong and Ethan W. Lasser, Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Curator of American Art, Harvard Art Museums, Dave Beech, Mel Jordan and Andrew Hewitt, Freee Art Collective with Gee Sun Hahn, Wen-Ling Lin, Sipei Lu, Sarah Plumb and Mercy Trent, University of Leicester
Curating Performance in the Age of the Global Contemporary. (Janet Marstine)
As performance is taking an increasingly prominent role in the programming of museums, galleries, heritage sites, festivals and public spaces internationally, this session seeks to explore new curatorial approaches to such projects. How do we curate the live in the age of the global contemporary? How is curating performance a collaborative venture with artists and audiences? Engaging a range of platforms, from papers to participatory exercises to the staging of a work and a panel discussion, as well as diverse cultural perspectives, the session will ask: What roles do curators play in the staging of performance and in the reactivation of work that has already been staged? How do audiences shape the work? What limitations do distinct spaces impose? Should the live be collected through documentation such as video, photography, props, choreography and/or directions and, if so, what are the consequences? How do curators negotiate the boundaries between art and demonstration? How can we use performance to augment and animate our displays of historic material? And how does performance impact the relationships among audiences and institutions? How does contemporary performance help us to redefine curatorial practice?
Past meets Present: Contemporary Performance and Historic Collections. (Ethan W. Lasser)
How can contemporary performance artists enliven displays of art from the past? What sort of criteria should inform the selection of these artists: art historical knowledge and expertise or a high profile in the art world? How should the curator balance the allure of the performance with his / her responsibilities as a historian charged with conveying the significance of a given object to the public? Drawing on a series of case studies, this paper will consider the opportunities that arise and challenges that follow from engaging contemporary performance artists in displays of historic collections.
The New Creative Venue: Arts at the Occupied Zones of the Umbrella Movement. (Oscar Ho)
The Umbrella Movement that broke off in Hong Kong in late 2014 is one of the most outstanding social and cultural movements in history of the City for its tenacity, wisdom, courage and creativity in a collective pursuit of universal suffrage. The Movement triggered an unprecedented outburst of creative expression, providing new definitions of arts. It was not the works by professional artists, who were normally too self-conscious in making ‘arts’, but the creative expressions of all forms spontaneously coming out the ordinary folks inside and outside of the ‘occupied zones’. Out of a sense of urgency and necessity, their primal forms of creative expressions ranged from dance, music, graphic images, to body painting, happening and ritual. The 79 days of occupation of three occupied areas in the city opened up unrestrained spaces of dazzling creative spectacles. The personal as well as collaborative expressions not only reflected a post-structural spirit of this movement and the eclecticism of the Hong Kong culture, but also a new form of mediation of the arts outside of conventional arts venues of auction house, museum and biennale.
Freee Art Collective, Inaugural Performance – Citizen Ship
How is performance art a collaborative venture with curators and audiences? And how is civic space articulated? Artists Dave Beech, Mel Jordan and Andrew Hewitt, who work collectively under the name Freee, collaborate with PhD students from the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, who assume the role of curators and with conference attendees stage the new performance work Citizen Ship. Through a series of immersive workshops Freee and the PhD students (Gee Sun Hahn, Wen-Ling Lin, Sipei Lu, Sarah Plumb and Mercy Trent), have explored questions relevant to socially engaged and participatory art practice, which has resulted in the creation of this performance piece that aims to convert passersby into publics.
At the conclusion of the piece, a panel discussion with Q & A from the audience will take place.
Ellie Miles, London Transport Museum
Re-thinking contemporary collecting in a global city
This paper discusses the London Transport Museum’s recent history of contemporary collecting, identifying some of the challenges around the subject and presenting the experimental work that is taking place at the moment. As a world city, London is the site of global processes enacted across the city’s specific infrastructure, including its transport network. Finding ways to collect this globalised locality is crucial, and has prompted thought and experiment around how the museum actively collects and represents the experiences of BAME Londoners, women in transport and LGBT+ transport workers. Collecting the story of contemporary transport in London means we have been trying to find the answers to some long-established questions about what constitutes the contemporary, and whether we can find other useful models for the nature of collections, objects and curators. This year the London Transport Museum began exploring a distributed model of collecting, which invites a network of people to take on the work of curating the city to continue to diversify the voices and experiences represented in the collection. The paper will reflect on the benefits and challenges of operationalising a distributed model of the museum’s collecting work, in a spirit of openness, as befits its experimental nature.
Åshild Brekke, Arts Council Norway and University of Leicester
How to shift a paradigm without really trying: Bringing Norwegian museums and archives into the global contemporary
The annual reports compiled by Arts Council Norway show that the museums and archives that embrace a socially engaged practice are few and far between. Furthermore, the reports seem to reflect a very traditional and conservative interpretation of their role and purpose: to collect, preserve and educate.
Clearly then, the majority of Norwegian museums and archives are currently not a part of the global contemporary. Referring back to the rationale behind a socially engaged practice as being ‘the right thing to do’, I suggest that it is necessary to explore further the reasons why it might be the right thing to do. How might one argue the case for a more socially engaged role for museums and archives?
This paper looks into cultural rights and the principles of moral philosophy which underpin them, drawing on the concepts of social poetry, democratic citizenship and the ethical responsibility of institutions. Such perspectives may conceivably contribute to a long overdue conversation about the societal role of Norwegian museums and archives, and ultimately, contribute to a shift towards a paradigm of a more socially engaged museum and archive practice.
Siyu Wang and Yu Gu, Peking University, China
The World Heritage system and site museum practices in China
Since China became one of the contracting states of world heritage in 1985, the ideas and principles of world heritage started to increasingly influence practices of Chinese heritage. Based on the theory of “Authorized Heritage Discourse” (Laurajane Smith, 2006), this article used 3 cases to analyze how global opinions worked in Chinese context. The world heritage system had special emphasis on the concepts of authenticity, social sustainability, and cultural tourism, but in last 30 years, they all had to adjust themselves to face Chinese situations. Hence, we started to question the factors leading to this phenomenon. After discussing the development of three site museums in China, we found local authority bodies had central roles of whether global or so called more modern opinions about preservation, exhibition and management could be realized or not. Western principles more like “tools” were used and re-interpreted according to different short-term demands of local authorities.
Paolo Campetella, University of Roma Tre
One Object – Many Visions – EuroVisions: A “change of perspective” in museum communication. The EMEE project
Being a forum for societal dialogues so as meeting different experiences and perspectives, museums are asked to play an active role in intercultural and heterogeneous social contexts. The project “EuroVision Museums Exhibiting Europe” (EMEE) aims at offering to regional and national museums both a new way to re-interpret museum objects in a broader context of European and transnational history and also creative concepts for audience development by involving and activating the visitors.
The project, supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union, involves some European academic and museums institutions as well as two artistic ateliers.
Five practical manuals, so-called “toolkits”, address the core project topics: “European perspectives in regional and national museums”, “bridging the social gap” and “integrating the (non)-visitors”. Through the “Eurovision Labs” the museum partners are working on exhibiting objects from European perspectives and promoting visitors involvement. Also the non-museum partners are implementing activities with students or museum workers to promote the EMEE objectives.
The four years EMEE project (2012-2016) might be considered as a virtuous example of cooperation between European museums, universities and artistic ateliers with the aim to re-think museum perspectives and to implement multicultural strategies in a more global and transnational context.
Mariona Moncunill-Piñas, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
The practice of everyday (amateur) museum-making
Amateur museum-making is a museographic practice performed as serious leisure, which is a systematic and lasting leisure pursuit in which one develops a career in the acquisition of skills, knowledge and experience. The specificities of museum-making as an amateur activity allow me to highlight the simultaneity and inextricability of the production and consumption processes involved in the use of museographic discourse; in other words, to understand museum-makers as both producers and consumers of their own activity. Through this approach I specifically attempt to detect issues of naturalization and empowerment in the use of museographic discourse by the amateur museum-makers, which occur simultaneously and in apparently conflicting correlation.
For this purpose, I rely on interviews to the founders and makers of three amateur museums: The Bread Museum (Catalonia, Spain), The House of Butterflies (Catalonia, Spain) and the Toy Museum (Antioquia, Colombia) and on de Certeau’s practice of consumption of cultural messages among other authors’ insights.
Yuha Jung, University of Kentucky, and Ann Rowson Love, Florida State University
From mosh pit to mash-up: Global contemporary and millennial participation in museum fundraising and volunteership
The presenters will use music samples to explore the concept of systems thinking for museums to engage the Millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) as patrons. Musically, a mash-up is formed by taking complex and synergetic sounds and forms, creating new interconnected music. A mash-up is a fitting metaphor for thinking about the global contemporary influence on museums today and is closely related to the theory of systems thinking. Unlike the conventional model, systems thinking applied to museums sees them as very complex open systems whose elements affect each other and are part of a larger environment. Using systems thinking to manage museums encourages museum professionals to draw ideas from beyond museum practices and include ideas from different museum professionals, departments, and community members through team-based network model. Therefore, this perspective forces museums to create new ‘mash-up’ practice that is based on multiple perspectives and that reflects dynamic changes in their external environment. This presentation examines the applicability of systems thinking to museum management in order to address challenges related to fundraising. These challenges, especially in the United States’ context, are the increasing diversity of demographics, decreasing government funding for museums, and different giving patterns of the Millennial generation.
Clive Gray, University of Warwick
Museums and Politics: In, Of, About
Museums are widely accepted as being multi-functional organisations and institutions which are subject to a range of internal and external pressures and which receive a wide range of internal and external supports. Inevitably this makes museums the site for an equally as wide ranging set of political practices. This paper will identify how and why these political practices take the form that they do by drawing a distinction between: politics in museums, undertaken by those who directly run them and provide their services; the politics of museums, undertaken by those outside the museum but whose decisions directly affect what museums do and how they do them; and the politics that takes place about museums, affecting the contexts within which museums function. To clarify the distinctions between these very different sorts of political activity and debate the key concepts of power, ideology, legitimacy and rationality are utilised to identify why there are such varieties of participants in the politics of museums, and why there is such little consensus about museums in terms of political positions and arguments.
Ioannis Athanasiou, Goldsmiths, University of London
Discourses of ‘risk’ and (in)visible subjectivities in emancipatory interconnections of marginalised young people with museums
Despite a growing body of research on young people’s engagement with museums, little research explores the possibility of museums to bring about change to young people, especially to those who are considered as being ‘at risk’. Our ideas of considering someone ‘disadvantaged’ automatically invoke frameworks of risk, class and race. In locating particular youth in museum discourses of disadvantage, we reproduce the young people as being disadvantaged and simultaneously categorise them into a homogenised socially excluded group. In this respect, if young people are not marked out as needy or failing, an inclusive museum have to acknowledge this potential of marking and facilitate access to the past for everyone, as equally as for those who are young. My paper seeks to critically explore the discursive practices of museums and shed light on the power relations that play out in searching the contested meanings of heritage with young people at the margins of society. In concert with post-structural and critical pedagogical perspectives, preliminary insights through the literature of my qualitative research will make space for reflections and questions on the ‘subordinated youth subject of historical knowledge’ within, between and beyond the confines of contemporary museum spaces.
Natasha Barrett, University of Leicester
Photographs as enablers of ‘contact zones’: Reconsidering the role of photographs in museum exhibitions
Pratt developed the ‘contact zone’ (1991) to articulate encounters full of colonial conflict and power imbalances between different cultures. It is also a place where meaning can be negotiated, reflecting an actively hybridised form of cultural fluidity and resistance. Clifford’s museological adaptation of the ‘contact zone’ (1999) has been comprehensively debated and critiqued but has had lasting practical impact and affected change. Museums continue though to adapt their modes of operation within the postcolonial contexts they are situated. They grapple to institutionally decolonise their processes, traverse complex relationships with global indigenous source communities, and reflect and respond to their increasingly diverse local, national and international audiences.
This paper examines how photographs be might be used to facilitate the museological ‘contact zone’. It considers the roles photographs can play in exhibitions and asks whether they can contribute towards engendering meaningful exchanges and cultural understanding of indigenous colonised peoples. This will be explored through the Māori display in the British Museum’s Living and Dying exhibition, including an analysis of the collaborative role of Ngāti Rānana (the Māori London cultural group and diaspora) in the exhibit’s development.
Friday 22nd April
Keynote – Embracing the Global Contemporary: A Carnival Museum for Britain
This speculative paper surveys carnival museums of the world from Uruguay, through to the USA, Canada, Italy and Austria to consider the possible impact of a new museum for Britain, the Global Carnival Museum. I seek to engage with possible meanings in terms of affects giving rise to the popularising of carnival on the streets of Britain but also to an increasingly distinctive carnival presence within museums and galleries. When artist, Hew Locke, states in interview that his performance art piece, ‘Give and take’, is about ‘tensions in carnival’ (Coomer 2014), how indicative is this of the ‘new sense of global inclusion which respects preserves and enhances cultural specificity’ that we would wish to debate – if not herald – today? While much of the earliest debate concerning carnival focused on the reception and on-going hostilities to carnival as a West Indian phenomenon, more recent geographies of carnival indicate its growth beyond London, particularly Luton, Leicester, Leeds, Cardiff, among many locations. Taking into consideration this ‘ascendancy of the people’s culture’ (Moore and Johnson), one might ask: can globalisation – as culture – be shown to be responsive rather than altogether uneven, after all? Locke’s performance piece is part of BMW Tate’s ‘Up Hill Down Hall’ involving multiple artists and curated by Claire Tancon who recognises carnival as ‘ritual of resistance’, ‘festival of otherness’, ‘performance art’, ‘medium of artistic production’ and much more. (See, http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/performance-and-music/bmw-tate-live-hill-down-hall-indoor-carnival). Moreover, like practitioners such as Pax Nindi actively extending the geography of carnival practice in the UK, each is passionate about carnival. By radically altering the aesthetic and affective agenda like these artists do, might the Global Carnival Museum point the way to understanding how museums might ‘act in the today’ in light of past realities as well as the futures that might be negotiated?
Wayne Modest, Research Centre for Material Culture at the National Museum of World Cultures, Netherlands
Keynote – On the Nowness of Now, or Museums in the Age of the Global Contemporary
The title of my talk alludes to both a publication and a project, which, though very different, triggered me to think about museums and their relationship to questions of first, the present and second, co–presence. I am interested in what forms of interconnected present – the Global Contemporary – we now inhabit, and the role that museums can and do play in this moment.
The “Nowness of Now” derives from the sharp-witted, satirical critique of museums under the British New Labour government set out in Giles Waterfield’s novel The Hound in the Left Hand Corner. Writing in response to the contemporary museums scene of the 1990s, Waterfield bemoans their obsession with keeping up with the times. He satirizes the fixation on the newness of Now, and museums’ frantic response to popular hype and the growing pressure from government, demonstrating how this actually impeded them from fulfilling their presumed role. The second part of my title refers to an art project at the contemporary art space ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, which explored the emergence of “Global Art”, in the “Global Contemporary”. For the scholars behind this project, the project was intended to ‘examine the way in which globalization, both with its pervasive mechanisms of the market and its utopias of networking and generosity, impacts upon the various spheres of artistic production and reception’ [as well as its impact on] ‘everyday life beyond the art world.’
I will explore how this novel and project both mark out specific moments when museums were acting in the Now and were addressed by the idea – even if problematic in its formulation – that we now inhabit a world that is interconnected.
I will use these examples as an entryway to think about what constitutes the Now that museums should respond to, and the relationship between that concept of Now to the concept of the Global Contemporary. I will contend that our global contemporary moment, at least from a European lens, is, in part, marked by a dystopian imagination, organised around neo-liberal retrenchment and increasing xenophobia. In this context, museums’ role can, and perhaps must, go beyond adopting social justice models that respond to growing inequality; museums can also help us imagine other possible futures as we try to fashion them.
Petrina Foti and Ching-yueh Hsieh, University of Leicester
Getting to the Heart of the Matter: The Connections, Actions and Relationships in Curatorial Practice
During the course of our doctoral studies, we were struck by the common themes found in our seemingly disparate research. Both subjects – the contemporary collecting practices of digital technology objects at the Smithsonian Institution and the development of exhibitions on indigenous peoples in the museums of Taiwan – engaged with curatorial thoughts and emotions, agile museum practice and emerging curatorial professionalism. These common threads were further strengthen when conversing with other museologists whose work examines the exhibiting and collecting processes.
Rather than a formal PowerPoint-based presentation, our session is an open conversation where all participants will have a chance to rethink and discuss what it means to curate in the post-twenty-first-century global museum sphere.
The session will be a round-table workshop, with all are invited to contribute to the conversation with observations about how their own research and work experience might relate to that of the session leaders and of other participants. The purpose of the session to make connections in hopes of identifying larger themes and current worldwide trends.
Holly Furlong, Women’s Museum of Ireland
Putting women on the map: Women’s museums and gendering the public space
How do you create a virtual space for Irish Women’s history? How are Women’s Museum creating a ‘counterpublic’ sphere and in the case of some without a building. The Women’s Museum of Ireland, since its establishment in 2012, as an entirely virtual entity has played an active role in generating support for Irish women’s history without the means of a physical museum. The museum relies heavily on its social media output and innovative once-off events and including the recent creation of a women’s history map of Dublin through an innovative fundit campaign, the Women’s Museum of Ireland continues challenges the Irish public sphere to become a contemporary museum.
Antonino Crisà, University of Leicester
From Salinas (a director) to “Salinas” (a museum): The ongoing evolution of the Museum of Palermo in the Italian context (1861–2015)
Once the Kingdom of Italy was founded in 1861, the new state inherited a substantial cultural heritage and prestigious museum institutions from the pre-unification states, like the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In particular, the old Bourbon Museum of the University of Palermo, founded in 1814 and thereafter enhanced by coin and archaeological collections, formed the most significant of all Sicilian institutions. After the Italian unification, the museum underwent a complex developmental process, which began with Antonino Salinas (1841–1914), first state director to whom the institution is nowadays dedicated, and proceeds towards the current arrangement.
The aims of this paper are to contextualise the evolution of Palermo Museum in Italian history, to understand what role the institution played in the social regional and national contexts, to assess its contribution in terms of mobility of people and things, and to establish in what capacity institutions and authorities ‘shaped’ the museum to represent the identity of Sicily.
I analyse three core periods of the museum’s history which are crucially beneficial to achieve the proposed objectives. First, Antonino Salinas’ direction (1875–1915) defined a new deal for the museum after the unification and determined its strong regionalism due to his manifesto. Subsequently, the Second World War and Allied bombing impacted on the museum and its fruition by local communities until the 1960s. Last but not least, I provide further insights on Palermo Museum’s recent exhibitions and current arrangement (2009–present day), which are shaping a new, contemporary institution in the Italian twenty-first century context.
Marco Peri, art historian, independent museum educator (Italy)
Participatory museum experiences and performative pedagogies in museum education
When I design an art mediation format I always have on my mind two important questions:
1. Generally in museum hall the “sight” is the predominant sense: How can I offer to the visitors a more dynamic sensorial experience?
2. How can I blur the boundaries between active and passive spectators? (or better: How can I transform the visitors into active protagonists of the experience?)
The key I choose to bring people closer to art is the “body”. Putting the body at the centre is the key to involve feelings, is the key to bring the entire persone into the experience.
This form of embodiment is the premise of my educational projects.
I research and design participatory museum experiences: starting with the body and integrating movement into the experience, to construct spaces of knowledge. Body and movement are central in my educational proposals. For this reason I’m interested in a rounded sensorial involvement, with a special attention to the perception of “kinestetic
sense” and “spatial sensivity”.
“Participatory museum experience”
Participation means above all to move the focus from the objects to the subjects, from the works of art to the audience; from the simple vision of art to the experience of art. The visitor transforms from viewer into a protagonist. Participatory experience means to offer to the audience an active role in the construction of meanings. I don’t want to teach them something about the exhibition but I want to let them thinking. Using art as a medium to foster critical thinking, dialogue and relationship.
Let me quote the artist Alberto Giacometti: “I love art but life interests me more”.
Edward Luby and Victoria Lyall, San Francisco State University
Building a 21st Century Museum from the Ground Up
San Francisco State University and the Museum Studies Program are developing a new museum, called The Global Museum, to serve as a place of dialogue, a learning lab, a place of professional training, a setting where theory and practice can be connected, and as a collections stewardship and exhibition hub for the campus and its constituency. In an era when museums are transforming themselves, we outline the challenges of creating a museum in a setting where we are actively reframing the meaning of our collections, developing ways to interact and collaborate with diverse communities, and where the goal is to encourage reflection about global society and our common humanity. In this paper, we discuss recent efforts to create the infrastructure of The Global Museum, focusing on our work caring for collections from Africa, Oceania, Asia, Americas, and ancient Egypt; the theoretical and practical roots of the Museum; and efforts to integrate students into all Museum activities. In particular, we will discuss developing an exhibition program that both provides students opportunities to consider complex lives of objects and the context of display, and creates a space to engage with topics or themes relevant to our surrounding community and current events.
Eleni Kostarigka, Independent Research and The Cardiff Story Museum
The Baccalaureates: A chance for city museums to promote new pedagogies and contribute to future citizenship?
The National Curriculum has undergone various changes in England and Wales. Increased importance is placed on the link between education and the needs of the employment world. Part of this link has been the development of the Baccalaureates. Amongst else, the ‘Bacc’ expects pupils to critically review social issues, write projects and present their findings to classmates or wider audiences. Equally, for over a decade, City museums have been debating social and economic changes that have been shaping the cities. Museums are also part of these changes themselves, as they are affected by the funding and the expectations that stakeholders and citizens have of them. With both schools and museums drawing attention to social phenomena and social history, could the ‘Baccs’ bring the two institutions together in this changing world? The session discusses the practices and experiences of the workshops provided by the Cardiff Story Museum for Key Stage 4 and the Welsh Baccalaureate. It also discusses ideas about how this potential connection can ultimately help museums engage teenage audiences.
Isabella Fabbri, artist
Sounds at an exhibition: How to transform a museum into a theatre and a visit into a performance
The project, which was ideated for modern and contemporary art museums, is an interactive tour that takes the form of an itinerant concert where visitors are brought to listen to the ‘internal sound’ of each artwork. The purpose of the project is one that sees the transformation of museums into theatres and guided tours into performances that allow visitors to become actively involved.
Per Helge Nylund, Tromsø University Museum
Don’t panic – tell a lie!
Can a museum lie and get away with it? What does it mean to our audience when museums presents obvious fakes? Can we dare to play with our own credibility?
This is a story about a regional museum that once turned to desperate measures to cover-up an exhibition plan mishap, and ended up doing much better than they could ever have imagined. From a near-crisis to a very successful emergency replacement, this story reveals how quick thinking and courage saved the day – and in the process, a museology experiment was unintentionally performed.
It all happened so fast, but left the museum with some valuable insight on how to surprise the audience, escape failure, have some fun, yet above all; believe in the trustworthiness of museums!
Sofia Bollo, University of Zurich
Chinese civilization/s on display: Mapping contemporary agency of Neolithic China within Museum Context
The human activity of making, collecting and displaying objects has a long history across the globe. Chinese Neolithic pottery has relatively short existence: starting from the beginning of the twentieth century with the discovery of the first Neolithic site in China, Chinese Neolithic pottery came to light and started its evolution as an object. Prehistoric objects, which often do not carry enough historiographical information, are particularly subject to specific problems of classification, periodization, distribution, and leave more space to various forms of interpretation and visual representation, which inevitably change over time. Today early Chinese pottery is widely and constantly excavated throughout China, providing an ever-expanding archaeological database and changing established chronological, geographical and contextual interpretative models. Great numbers of Chinese Neolithic pottery are made available and most of them are permanently exhibited in public galleries in many museums all over China, in museums outside China and they are even part of contemporary art installations. As these objects are extensively displayed to a global audience, they unfold accounts about Chinese civilization, about its past and its present.
With an emphasis on the material mediatory role of objects on display, this paper seeks to investigate the role of Chinese Neolithic pottery in the present through a multi-sample and multi-perspective comparative approach. Using examples from different museum exhibitions in China on the local, provincial and national level, this paper engages with different stories on Chinese Neolithic past, created by multiple perspectives in the museum context. Not only will I consider curators, and object displays, but the audience will also be given space in the analytical framework. By investigating conceptualized stories of curators through interviews, merging them with implemented stories in the display through direct observation, and confront them with visitors’ perceived stories through questionnaires, I am providing a new comprehensive panorama on the evolution of the Neolithic pottery as a constructed object in museums. I will be arguing that Chinese Neolithic pottery is moving from being considered simply archaeological material culture to being used as an icon of Chinese prehistoric past and heritage, in the context of global contemporary and unprecedented boom of museums in China.
Keynote – Islam and Museums: Presenting the Glocal?
This paper will contrast the engaged work with faith groups and living cultures of museums in London, Dublin, Glasgow and Amsterdam with the ‘Islamic art’ fetish of new galleries in New York, Berlin, Paris and also the V&A. It will ask if museums in Muslim countries do it differently. Finally it looks at contemporary Islamic art faith and cultures as an integral component rather than separate issue in a compartmentalised, essentialising and distancing view of Islamic culture still too dominated by the academic art historical world, the art market and their values.
Why are we so challenged by the evolving, non-monolithic nature of faiths that increasingly develop glocal character whether in the suburbs of Paris, Tower Hamlets or Birmingham, Leicester or Malmo? Isn’t it the job of the local or national museum to capture this and act as a platform for its understanding?
Sandra Dudley, University of Leicester, Ryan Nutting, University of Leicester, Jennifer Morris, Independent Researcher, Phil Boot, Antony Gormley Studio, Janne W. Olsrud, University of Oslo.
Objects, Traces, Documentation (workshop)
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
(T. S. Eliot, from ‘Choruses from the Rock’)
This workshop aims to explore some material and ontological questions about documentation, and to deepen the critical debate.
Where, for example, amongst the increasing acceptance of the need to bring multi-vocality into museum documentation, is the object’s ‘voice’ in the documentation process and its product? What impacts does the object itself have on how it is documented? What exactly are the relationships between object and documentation, and multiple objects and museum documentation? What are the object’s/objects’ interests?
What is the significance, to the documenter, of physical traces and other material characteristics, beyond information to record and possibly issues for conservators to consider? What are the natures of the interactions between documenter and artefact? Are those interactions themselves a matter for interrogation / reflection / documentation? Why does it matter?
What are the implications, for practice and theory, of considering these sorts of questions? How might museum visitors and other stakeholders be meaningfully engaged with such reflections?
You don’t need to be working in documentation to get involved in this session! The session will include some hands-on, object thinking and some individual reflections from practice. All participants will make an important contribution to that discussion. The session is not about skills, technology or policies, but a more reflective interrogation of wider questions around what it means for museums and other sites and settings to document the material they hold. It is particularly focused on three-dimensional, physical objects, but much of the discussion will also be relevant to – and enhanced by – those with specific interests and expertise in digital objects.
Jocelyn Dodd and Suzanne MacLeod, University of Leicester, Graham Boxer, Canal & River Trust, Tom Duncan, Duncan McCauley Associates
Transforming the physical museum: organisational values, design research and the possibility of new museum design cultures – Animated (workshop)
This workshop – limited to 15 participants – is concerned with the physical museum and how research might contribute towards the transformation of the physical museum reflecting the advances in museum thinking and practice over the last two decades. The workshop builds on a piece of research undertaken by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, Imperial War Museum North and exhibition architecture and design studio Duncan McCauley in 2014 which set out to respond to falling repeat visits at Imperial War Museum North and feedback from visitors which suggested that the architecture of the Museum – a stunning building designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind – was to blame for visitor’s feelings of confusion and discomfort. Utilising a creative methodology which combined traditional literature reviews and a review of a decade of visitor research, with a design-led approach focused around a series of activities with staff, the project enabled a deep engagement with the vision and values of the organisation, the ideal visitor experience and the realities of the built Museum and its interpretive media. Developed over a four month period, the project radically transformed the Museum’s reading of the building and its involvement in the visitor experience and led to a new set of strategies for the Museum’s redevelopment, with the core aim of supporting a range of visitor experiences, ridding the Museum of confusing narratives and leaving physical traces of the organisation, its staff and their values for visitors to discover.
The workshop will enable participants to work through the project methodology and to work together to begin to explore the process and its potential in relation to another Museum – the The National Waterways Museum.
Finally, workshop participants will engage with a number of large and pressing questions about the physical museum and the future of museum and gallery design.
Graham Boxer, Head of Museums, Canal & River Trust ( Former Director IWMN)
Dr Suzanne MacLeod, Director and Head of School, School of Museum Studies
Jocelyn Dodd, Director RCMG (Research Centre for Museums and Galleries)
Tom Duncan, Director, Duncan McCauley, Berlin
Pat Villeneuve, Ann Rowson Love, Jay Boda, Florida State University
Workshop: The Beauty or the Beast? Advancing visitor-centred exhibition
We (co-presenters Pat Villeneuve and Ann Rowson Love) have devoted our careers to advancing art museum education theory and practice. With over 60 years of experience between us, we have reached the conclusion that the best way forward is to disrupt traditional museum exhibition practice to more fully achieve the educational mission of the art museum through visitor-centered exhibitions. To that end, we have developed new graduate programs (M.A. and Ph.D.) in Museum Education and Visitor-Centered Exhibitions (MEX). Informed by eco-feminist systems thinking, the curriculum strives to be inclusive and pluralistic, include voices of the disenfranchised, enhance organizational culture, advance appropriate methodologies, and bring about social and systemic change. Rather than looking at education and curatorial functions as distinct entities, we advocate blended, edu-curation practices that are visitor-centered while honoring the integrity of the objects. Our conception of the holistic edu-curator envisions exhibition curation as a non-hierarchical, collaborative process; includes underrepresented voices in exhibition development; facilitates collaborative practices and reflection; conducts visitor-centered research; and seeks social justice through museum practices. Our presentation includes a workshop activity underscoring the value of edu-curation practices; a film by award-winning screen writer Jay Boda; and a candid discussion of edu-curation and visitor-centered exhibitions.
Lisanne Gibson, Sheila Watson, Laura Crossley, Sarah Plumb and Sipei Lu, University of Leicester
Sacred Cows: Questioning and interrogating museum ‘truths’
Free entry to museums
Why is free entry to national museums and some local authority and Charitable Trust Museums so difficult to debate? Since the Labour Government introduced free entry to national museums in the UK on 1 April 2001 there has been no real critique of the efficacy of this measure. There are plenty of comments about inclusion and economic disadvantage but a close look at the statistics the national museums themselves provide suggests a widening of the gulf between rich and poor in museum visiting habits since free entry was introduced. Moreover elsewhere many museums serving a range of different and distinct communities, many deprived and poor, are struggling to maintain their services. Some are closing, apparently choosing not to allow anyone in rather than impose admission charges. Why? We will argue that this policy is a misguided attempt to make museums more accessible, has benefitted tourists and the middle classes and promotes a London centric and national cultural identity at the expense of local and regional expressions of culture and history.
Does resilience always equate to money?
The question of how museums can become more resilient is often answered with ‘money’. This stance is problematic as it dismisses other ways in which museums can be resilient and is rather unsustainable: how can museums survive in the long-term if they rely on external and uncertain funding streams? Laura will draw inspiration from her current PhD research to question the idea that ‘resilience’ solely equates to ‘receiving and making money’, to interrogate what non-monetary resilience looks like, and to consider what museums can do to increase their resilience.
Does participation truly bring about empowerment?
In the contemporary museum assumptions are made that participation activates passive viewers and collaboration gives license to disempowered audiences and communities. However does participation genuinely engender more democratic experiences when the terms of engagement are dictated? Or, is participation mediated through the museum a form of false democratization? Although in some cases participation may be an empowering experience, it could also be argued that audiences can be actively engaged in looking; disengaged and passive participants do exist; and collaboration can reinforce difference and entrench exclusion. Further interrogation is therefore required to understand the nuanced differences in experience and levels of engagement.
Are there best practices for museums to engage with social issues?
Museums today are endowed with the responsibilities to address social issues and undertake political endeavours. Such responsibilities have various ramifications in different social contexts, especially for museums in a more restrictive atmosphere. Instead of engaging directly with sensitive issues of the present, museums might implement curatorial programmes, such as those in relation to socially engaged artistic practices, or commissioning context-responsive works, to initiate discussions in relation to the backgrounds of these issues and even facilitate actions which change the status quo. An examination of these diverse curatorial strategies also challenges ideas of museum ethics and resilience on issues of censorship and museum reliance on corporate sponsorship, which are being continuously negotiated in different contexts.
This workshop will explore the ‘sacred cows’ of the museum sector – topics that are under-explored because they are perhaps perceived as being above criticism/critique, or are emotive topics that elicit strong views that may be difficult to challenge. The workshop will begin with a number of provocations about different ‘sacred cows’, as outlined above. Following this, a facilitated 20-minute participatory and discursive workshop will give delegates the opportunity to further explore ‘sacred cows’ in museums, as well as generate their own. In the final 20 minutes of the workshop feedback will be taken from each group, bringing participants’ thoughts together which will be sent to participants following the conference.