The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

CFP: Caribbean Identities: Exploring Historical and Cultural Diversity

From the Ethnomuseums listserv:

Caribbean Identities
Exploring Historical and Cultural Diversity
Call for Papers: Papers are called for on subjects relating to the history and memory, ethnography, archaeology, linguistics, music and politics of the Caribbean islands and the Guianas (i.e. Guyana, Venezuela, Surinam and French Guiana). Each paper should not be longer than 5,000 words and include at least not more than 4 images.The selected papers will be published in the Horniman Museum’s Critical Museology and Material Culture series (see past publications on Horniman museum website ).All papers should reach, Dr. Hassan Arero, Keeper of Anthropology, by the 31st March 2007; either by email: or by post: 100 London Road, Forest Hill London SE23 3PQ

The Caribbean region is home to various groups – Asians, Amerindians, Africans and Europeans – but unfortunately very little research and academic publications exist on the complexity of the notion of identity in the region.Just as the case had been with the {mis} representation of Africa, the dominant image of the Caribbean person is that of ‘African’ perhaps from an Island such a Jamaica and listens to reggae music. Whilst we know that since pre-Columbian time the Caribbean region had been home to the indigenous groups such as the Carib and Arawak, little has been done to integrate this history and identity into that of the wider Caribbean islands and the adjacent South American mainland.Although the Caribbean could be termed as one of the regions with predominant ‘Diaspora’ community base, the term “Caribbean” in itself remains hard to define. What criteria could one use to define a region as “Caribbean” in character – is it the geographical aspects or the cultural considerations and historical connections that one should inquire further to arrive at such distinction? If we use geographical considerations then where do we place Guyana, for instance, a country that is physically in the South American region but culturally exhibits closer affiliation and similarities with the other Caribbean islands? How do we construct, conceive or perceive the notion of Caribbean identity? Therefore what constitutes Caribbean-ness or a Caribbean persona – is it where one was born and raised or is it possible to be Caribbean without having set-foot on the Caribbean homeland? All these are questions that are complex in their own terms and would require to be investigated as questions that could lead us closer to unravelling and comprehending the complex and multilayered histories and cultures of the region.

CFP: Objects of Trade

From the Ethnomuseums listserv:

Objects of trade
Museum Ethnographers’ Group Annual UK Conference 2007, Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 May
At the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The importance of exchange in creating and sustaining relationships has long been one of the fundamental tenets of anthropology. Trade, sometimes assumed to be primarily an economic transaction, also involves the development of relationships that link groups together. Trading relationships do not just involve exchanges of goods, but rather are part of a wider system of circulating values. Such relationships may have profound effects, particularly when they involve representatives of different cultural groups, as different systems of value come into contact with one another. Collections of ethnographic artefacts have often been acquired through trade, predominantly within the context of European expansion and the development of empire. The movement of artefacts, people and ideas has created shared histories, albeit ones whose tangible location is now often found and interpreted in European museums.

The conference sessions will explore trading relationships and the development of museum collections, particularly when related to the maritime context of empire, and the significance of such collections to communities today. Sessions to consider:• The impact of trading relationships on different cultural groups• Collecting activity and the maritime context• The formation of museum collections through trading relationships• The contemporary significance of historic trading relationships A work in progress session is planned for up-to-date information on current and on-going projects (informal 5-10 minute presentations required). Papers from the conference may be considered for publication in the Journal of Museum Ethnography.

For further information or to propose papers or sessions contact:Claire Warrior, Curator of Exhibitions, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF, United KingdomTel: +44 20 8312 8562 Email: The closing date for submissions is Friday 16 March.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Festive round-up

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and didn't over-indulge too much. ;) Here's a quick round-up of stuff I've received over the last week or so.

First up is the new edition of museum & society - if you didn't receive Jim's email alert, you can sign-up to receive it on the website.

museum & society, november 2006, volume 4 no. 3

Monument to anti-monumentality: the space of the National Museum Australia
Uros Cvoro 116'

England expects': Nelson as a symbol of local and national identity within the museum
Sheila Watson 129

Minor concerns: representations of children and childhood in British museums
Sharon Roberts 152

Review article: reviewing museum studies in the age of the reader- Gail Anderson (ed.) Reinventing the Museum. Historical and ContemporaryPerspectives on the Paradigm Shift- Bettina Messias Carbonell (ed.) Museum Studies. An Anthology of Contexts- Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago (eds) Grasping the World. The Idea ofthe Museum Sharon Macdonald 166

Book Reviews

Callum Storrie, The Delirious Museum: A Journey from the Louvre to Las Vegas
Janice Baker 173

Bruce Altshuler, ed. Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art
Masaaki Morishita 175

From H-Museum:

Biennial conference,Transformations, renewals and reconfigurations in Southern African historical studies: only skin deep?
University of Johannesburg, South Africa
June 24-27, 2007

The aim of this conference is to focus on innovative research currently taking place in Southern African historical studies. We welcome the presentation of research on any period, whether it be in detail or sweeps broadly across themes and centuries. There is no doubt that there have been considerable changes in topics and approaches to historical studies and the 2007 conference provides an opportunity to showcase and discuss these.The Society would like to involve as many of its members as possible as well as anyone outside of the Society who is working on Southern African history.We invite papers and debates on the following topics:- New ways of writing / reading history since the 1980s;- HIV and AIDS: are historians in denial?- Land restitution: can history help or does it complicate the matter?- Crime and violence: Historical perspectives?- Urban history: new ways of understanding the city?- Landscape and the environment: the historian's business?- Science and the supernatural: how do historians write analytically about the supernatural and the forces of good and evil?- Heritage, archives and museums: why do they seem to be history's step-children rather than rightful heirs?- Oral history and memory: theorising, reevaluating, adjudicating and deployment.- Teaching, learning and institutional change: a new role of historians?- Gender: a more radical approach?- Identity and/or ethnicity: how do we see these concepts manifesting today?- Sport and history: what have historians been practicing lately?- The politics of sexual orientation: a new area for historical research?- Missions, religion and morals: time for a serious re-interpretation?- Local/regional economic developments and cooperation in Southern Africa since the 1990s.

Abstracts for papers, panels and roundtables will be accepted on a space-available basis until March 2nd 2007. The abstracts should not exceed 250 words and should be sent as an MS Word attachment. For proposals for panels and roundtables please include the names of participants, abstracts of their proposed contributions, their affiliations, email addresses and contact details. Papers should be submitted to the conference organizer as MS-Word documents and in hard copy by 25 May 2007.The conference registration fee is as follows: for members of the SAHS before 30 March R 800.00; after 30 March R 1000-00. Non-Members: before 30 March R 1200; after 30 March R 1400.Please distribute this call for papers to colleagues and graduate students who share an interest in these issues. Anyone proposing a paper and not ableto pay the registration fee or travel to Johannesburg should indicate their need to the conference organisers. All papers presented at the conference will be considered for inclusion in the South African Historical Journal.The conference email address, to which abstracts should be sent and all queries, is Non-email enquiries should be addressed to either:Louis Grundlingh, Department of Historical Studies, University ofJohannesburg, PO Box 524, Aucklandpark, 2006, South Africa or Juan Klee, at27-11-489-3945; Fax: 27-11-489-2617

TAPE workshop on management of audiovisual collections
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
18-24 April 2007

Librarians, archivists and curators in charge of audiovisual collections need to know about the role of new technology in collection management.Digitisation offers unprecedented opportunities for access to historical materials. But how can it be combined with established preservation methods in an integrated strategy, to ensure optimal access today as well as in the future?In this 5-day workshop, the characteristics of film, video and soundrecordings and the different recording systems and devices will be reviewed.Specific requirements for their handling and preservation will be related tothe nature and function of different kinds of audiovisual materials. The workshop will explore the different transfer and conversion methods,technical requirements in relation to quality, and long-term management of digital files. Issues will be approached as management problems, and due attention will be given to aspects like needs assessment, setting priorities, planning, budgeting and outsourcing, and project management. Participants will acquire knowledge of technical issues that will enable them to make informed decisions about the role of digitisation in care and management of audiovisual collections. The speakers will present outlines of issues and practical cases, and a substantial part of the workshops will bespent on discussions and group assignments to develop participants' skills in finding their own solutions.

Target group:All those responsible for audiovisual collections in archives, museums, libraries. For this introductory course, no specific technical expertise is required.The workshop will be in English. Participants are expected to have a working knowledge of English in order to participate in discussions.

Organisation:European Commission on Preservation and Access, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The workshops are supported by the Culture 2000-programme of the EU as partof the TAPE project.

Venue: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam. Registration fee:600 euros, this includes coffees, teas, lunches and a course pack with reading materials. Participants from institutes who are TAPE partners orECPA contributors will pay 500 euros.

How to apply:For online registration:
The registration deadline is 9 February 2007.By 20 February you will be informed whether your application has been accepted. In view of the character of the workshops which require group work and active participation, the number of participants is limited. If the number of applications exceeds the number of available places a selection will be made. Preference will be given to those applicants who manage anaudiovisual collection. A detailed programme will be mailed after confirmation.

For more information on the workshop contact the ECPA:European Commission on Preservation and Access (ECPA) c/o KNAW, P.O. Box19121, NL-1000 GC Amsterdam visiting address: Trippenhuis,Kloveniersburgwal 29,NL-1011 JV Amsterdam, The Netherlandstel. ++31 - 20 - 551 08 39 fax ++31 - 20 - 620 49 41

Sunday, December 17, 2006


As I have now left Leicester for (unfortunately not quite so) sleepy (as it once was) Suffolk, I no longer have access to super-speedy broadband and am now reliant on a wind-up, steam-powered dial-up connection, Attic updates might be few and far between for the next few weeks. But, to keep you going, here's some recent conference alerts and calls for papers.

From H-Museum:

Sculpture and the Museum
Henry Moore Institute Leeds
2 - 3 February 2007

This two-day international conference brings together academics, curators,architects, artists, designers and museum professionals to discuss the role of sculpture and its display in the museum and gallery. It aims to look above all at the reasons behind the choices of particular works and their placement; identifying and exploring the programmatic statements of power,prestige and symbolic value which sculpture has been used to signpost over recent centuries.How does sculpture signal an institution’s (or an individual’s) public aspirations; how does it denote culture, learning or modernity? How doessculpture affirm or challenge an established reputation? What kind ofcomparisons can be drawn between sculpture displays in art museums and galleries and those in other types of museums?

Friday 2nd February 2007

Past and Present: The John Flaxman Gallery at University College London
Pauline Hoath (Bergen University)

Italian Renaissance Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: The EarlyYears
Marietta Cambareri (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

The Role of Sculpture in the '17th-century Collector's Study' and 'Chamberof Wonders' at the Walters Art Museum
Joaneath Spicer (Walters Art Museum)

The Elephant in the Room: George Grey Barnard's Struggle of the Two Natures in Man at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thayer Tolles (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Sultanganj Buddha and the Buddha Gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Suzanne MacLeod (University of Leicester)

Exhibiting Animal Sculpture: a challenge
Emmanuelle Heran (Musee d'Orsay)

Saturday 3rd February 2007

"The Greatest Sculpture Gallery in the World": The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again?) of the Duveen Sculpture Galleries at Tate Britain
Christopher Marshall (University of Melbourne)

Tate Modern Series: Six Years of Artist's Commissions at Tate Modern
Wouter Davidts (Ghent University)

Sculptures as Museum Models: Malvina Hoffman's Races of Mankind Display at the Field Museum of Natural History
Marianne Kinkel (Washington State University)

How do we interpret sculpture on display? New questions raised by plastercasts for the masses at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, 1854.
Kate Nichols (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Rodin: the construction of an image
Antoinette Normand-Romain (INHA, Paris; ex-Rodin Museum, Paris)

Adopting Moore and modernity in Toronto: controversy, reputation and intervention on display
Sarah Stanners (University of Toronto)

Conference fee: £20 (£10 concessions)
To register please contact Ellen Tait by email ( or by post to: Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AH.


Things that Move: The Material Worlds of Tourism and Travel
Leeds, United Kingdom
19 - 23 July, 2007

Whatever the prophecies of 'virtual' reality, we inhabit and move through the 'real' world of objects. Though tourism and travel are bound to concepts of time and space, they are also rooted in the material world - a tangible world of places, things, edifices, buildings, monuments and 'stuff'. The relationships we develop and share with these things varies from the remote to the intimate, from the transient to the lasting and from the passive to the passionate. Within the practices of tourism and its use (and non-use) of the material world, and, though the act of travel, objects are given meaning,status, and are endowed with symbolism and power. Objects construct,represent and even define the tourist experience. Our journeys through the world of objects generate a plethora of emotions - pleasure,attachment, belonging, angst, envy, exclusion, loathing and fear - and feedon-going discourse and narratives. Moreover, through tourism, and our touristic encounters, the material world itself is challenged and changed.

In this, our fifth annual international research conference, we seek to explore the multi-faceted relationships between tourism and material culture- the built environment, infrastructures, consumer and household goods, art,souvenirs, ephemera and landscapes. As in previous events, the conference aims to provoke critical dialogue beyond disciplinary boundaries and epistemologies and thus we welcome papers from the following disciplines:aesthetics, anthropology, archaeology, architecture, art and design history,cultural geography, cultural studies, ethnology and folklore,history, heritage studies, landscape studies, linguistics, museum studies,philosophy, political sciences, sociology, tourism studies and urban/spatial planning.

Key themes of interest to the conference include:. Histories, mobilities, and the symbolic/political economies of tourism objects. The dialectics of tourism objects and places / spaces. Structures / infrastructures of international tourism - building /architecture / design for tourism and tourists. Aesthetics of objects in a touristic context. Tourist art and art for tourists. The performance of material culture in the tourism realm. Language and the translation of objects in tourism. The tourist souvenir - commodity fetishism and religious relics. The tourist object as metaphor and memory. Ownership, display and interpretation - contested pasts and presents. Curating for tourism - collecting the worlds of the tourist. Overcoming the material through the virtual - future realms of tourist experience

Please submit your 300 word abstract including a title and full contact details as an electronic file to Professor MikeRobinson( ) as soon as possible but no later than March 23rd 2007.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Journal: International Journal of Heritage Studies

Volume 13 Number 1/January 2007 of International Journal of Heritage Studies is now available on the web site at

The following URL will take you directly to the issue:

This issue contains:

Contributors p. 1 URL of article:

Editorial p. 2 Fiona McLean URL of article:

On the Cultural Heritage of Robots p. 4
Dirk H. R. Spennemann URL of article:

Planting Peace: The Greater London Council and the Community Gardens of Central London p. 22 Paul Gough URL of article:

Visiting a Cathedral: The Consumer Psychology of a 'Rich Experience' p. 41 Richard Voase URL of article:

Transport Infrastructure in the Mountains: Why and How to Protect Landscape with Human Activity as Part of its Heritage p. 56 Sebastian Eiter URL of article:

War Memorialisation and Public Heritage in Southeast Asia: Some Case Studies and Comparative Reflections p. 81 Ken Lunn URL of article:

If you are not a current subscriber to this publication, you can request a free sample issue at:;104711

CFP: Possessing Knowledge: Archiving, Collecting, and Displaying in the Ancient World

From H-Museum:

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Duke University Classics

Possessing Knowledge: Archiving, Collecting, and Displaying in the Ancient World

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
April 21, 2007
With a keynote address byProfessor Richard Janko, University of Michigan

Call for Papers
The ancient world was alive with archives, collections, and displays. The library at Alexandria reveals a fascination not only with recording the past, but also with organizing and displaying it. Although this library remains the most famous example, it was only one of a number of publicarchives, along with the Didascaliae in Athens, the consular lists in Rome,and the library within the Baths of Caracalla. The practice of maintaining private libraries flourished in the Roman world, as did other forms of collection: private sculpture gardens, precious stones, and exotic building materials. These material collections spoke silently but powerfully abouttheir owners. Other collections, such as treasuries and inscriptions stored at sanctuaries, tell us not only about the desire to project a particularimage, but also about the need of communities to record and publish distinctive events in their history.The UNC-Duke 2007 Graduate Colloquium in Classics will explore the logistics behind and ramifications of collections in the ancient world. We welcome papers that will engage long-standing problems, challenge accepted viewpoints, and expand our knowledge about the creation and impact ofarchives, collections, and exhibits on all areas of classical civilization.

Possible topics include:
- Political and/or ideological motivations behind collecting
- Grave goods as collections
- Process of archiving and the physical organization of collections in the ancient world
- The impact of the collection and exchange of manuscripts or works of art in the ancient world and beyond
- Virtues and vices to understanding the history of religion as a process of collection and assimilation
- Building assemblages (e.g. the Acropolis) as collections of architectural, sacred, and political history
- The degree to which the modern understanding of the classical world has been influenced by our own practices of collection, organization, and ownership

We invite graduate students to submit a one page abstract via email to Alex Loney at along with the applicant's name, home institution, and department. Abstracts should be received no later than January 15, 2007.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Research Seminar Review: New Voices and Visibilities at the Museum Frontiers (Viv Golding) - 29th Nov 2006

New Voices and Visibilities at the Museum Frontiers
Viv Golding, Research Seminar - 29th November 2006

By Anna Chrusciel and Anna Woodham

Viv Golding's seminar focused on her ten years experience working on education projects at the Horniman Museum in South London. Offered as the final seminar in the postcolonial research group seminar series, the presentation concentrated on examples of innovative projects in the museum which highlight that the view of the museum as a site of oppression for black people need not continue.

Viv introduced ideas of identity formation by using feminist-hermeneutics to theorise the personal meaning making process in museums to counterpoint the very common hierarchical and static way knowledge is presented in museums. Viv presented examples of where the museum acted as a dynamic forum for dialogical exchange. Including a project which involved the CWWA (Caribbean Women’s Writers Association). Viv explained how the women from this group wrote poems inspired by various museum objects; they were encouraged to explore the interpretation of traditional African objects from their own perspectives. The poems not only revealed how deeply the women from this group had connected with the objects in highly individual ways but also explored how different viewpoints can add richness to the interpretation of museum objects.

In her work with a group of black teenage boys from a local school Viv considered the ways in which museum objects can be used to explore personality. Through creative writing using examples of museum objects as a starting point, the students considered unknown parts of their personalities by discovering their softer site. Interestingly, Viv highlighted the fact that as well as enjoying the project, the students benefited from the time they spent with the different volunteers, stressing the importance of the human experience that projects such as this can offer.

Projects to encourage critical thinking were set within the museum for all to participate in. Viv gave the example of the Responses Project, where visitors could complete feedback cards expressing there feelings about certain things they saw in the museum. These cards were then displayed for all visitors to see and comment on themselves. In this way a dialogue was established between the visitors, which can not be achieved through using visitors’ books alone.

The problems encountered during these projects were also raised, including issues of tokenism and also the practical problems encountered such as communication difficulties arising from setting up the projects with different groups of people, for example school teachers.

There was also a very interesting discussion after Viv’s presentation where the group discussed the way the museum interprets and re-interprets their objects for different purposes and people. Is there one context in which we should understand objects by their historical meanings? How far you can go by reading and re-reading collections?

Overall the presentation raised many interesting issues regarding what the museum represents and how it does this. Viv presented the argument that the museum is in a good position to encourage dialogical exchange and to celebrate cultural diversity, and that they should also be a standpoint for certain issues, for example racism.

Something that came across clearly in this seminar was that working at the museum frontier you can’t make assumptions about identity just because somebody has a certain colour of skin. For example, often people with different cultural backgrounds living here in the second or even third generation are more linked to the British culture than to their origins.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Conference Alert: 'Questions and Access': Research and Practice

From H-Museum:

'Questions of Access': Research and Practice
The International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University
Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th January 2006

This two-day seminar will bring together academics and professionals from a range of disciplines to share and debate current research and cultural sector practice both within the UK and abroad. The aim is to revisit some of the fundamental assumptions and tenets of access, to compare the views,approaches, and experiences of those working in policy, practice, and research, and to consider future directions. This seminar is funded by theESRC and is the first of three UK seminars on the topic of heritage and access.

For more information please visit:

Confirmed speakers:

John H. Falk
President of the Institute of Informal Learning, USA

Lynn D. Dierking
Associate Director of the Institute of Informal Learning, USA

Kirsten Holmes
University of Surrey

Andrew Newman
Newcastle University

Sara Selwood
City University, London

Alix Slater
University of Greenwich

Laurajane Smith
University of York

Paul Smyth
Public Achievement, Northern Ireland

Chris Whitehead
Newcastle University

This seminar is free to attend but numbers will be limited so book your place NOW:

Funding is available for 12 postgraduates/early career researchers. If you wish to be considered for this funding, please contact Catherine Todd with a brief indication of your current research and institution information.


Dr Rhiannon Mason
International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies
School of Arts and Cultures
Newcastle University
Bruce Building
Direct Dial: + 44(0)191-222-5579
Main Office: + 44(0)191-222-7419
Fax: + 44(0)191-222-5564

Catherine Todd
Conference Assistant
International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies
Newcastle University of Arts and Cultures
Bruce Building
Direct Dial: + 44(0)191-222-3995
Main Office Fax: + 44(0)191-222-5564

CFP: Making National Museums (NaMu)

From H-Museum:

Second and Final Call for Papers

Making National Museums: Comparing institutional arrangements, narrative scope and cultural integration (NaMu)

26-28 February 2007, Linköping University, Sweden

End of call date: 15 December 2006

This three-day conference is the first in a series bringing together current and recent PhD students and senior scholars. Application for participation is open for all disciplines doing research on the historical and contemporary dynamics surrounding National Museums. The program and series is presented on

SETTING THE FRAMES is part of the program Making National Museums: Comparing institutional arrangements, narrative scope and cultural integration (NaMu), funded by Marie Curie Conferences and Training Courses.The Marie Curie Conferences & Training Courses are one of the four so-called Host-driven actions aimed at supporting research networks, research organisations and enterprises. The specific objective is to bring together researchers with a different level of experience.The NaMu programme will form a new departure for understanding and working with the diversity of museum institution in Europe by bringing the multidisciplinary field of museum and heritage studies together with a sharp and comparative focus on national museums. The purpose of the programme is to develop the tools, concepts and organisational resources necessary for training researchers, investigating and comparing the major public structure of national museums, responding to challenges of globalisation, European integration, and new media. This will be achieved by a series of conferences providing a venue for younger scholars and eminent researchers from Europe to gather and develop the multi disciplinary competence necessary to understand and compare the dynamics of national museums in a framework of broader studies of historical culture and identity politics. The full programme of six consecutive workshops is presented on the website

The first conference will work under the heading ”Setting the Frames”,denoting the work of refining the comparative scheme that is presented below. Cultural, archaeological, art, natural and technological museums might be part of forming a national museum in each country.Participation can be granted on the following conditions to one or the whole series of workshops:a) A motivation indicating the applicant’s research interest and ability to contribute and benefit to the workshop(s)b) Suggestions for papers that relate to the comparative design but mightdeal with a variety of empirical questions such as:< How can we understand and define the national museum concept? How has the concept been understood and defined by different actors in the past? Whathistorical, political and cultural contexts are relevant to the creation of national museums?< How are politicians, the public sphere, university disciplines and civilsociety negotiating the concept of National Museum in different nations?Different groups of actors and users might stand for different definingprocesses through both intentions and practices. What historical changes can be identified? How can their role in the broader historical culture be assessed?< How could the creation of and narration within National Museums be read as performative acts, texts, visual and architectural statements and discourses?Among the keynote speakers are professors Tony Bennett and Stefan Berger.More information on the website, and

Send application by registering at and submit a motivation or an abstract of 1-3 pages to before 15 December 2006. Admittance will be decided before 10 Januray.Grants for participating will cover travel costs and accommodation at theconference.Please forward the call to colleagues!

Norrköping 1 December 2006,

Professor Peter Aronsson (co-ordinator) Culture Studies, Linköpings universitet
Professor Simon KnellMuseum Studies, Leicester University
Professor Arne Bugge AmundsenCulture Studies, Oslo Universitet

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Exhibition review: Black British Style, New Walk Museum, Leicester (until 23rd December 2006)

Actually, not so much a review as a series of 'ponderings'. Have just got back from a visit to 'Black British Style'. Here are my initial impressions:

Overall it's great and well worth a visit. The design is fantastic; the gallery space is well laid out and the clothing and objects on display are done justice by the colour scheme and lighting. The text panels are concise; labeling is informative. The video clips and, above all the piped-in music (more of that in a mo'), contextualise the displays and enhance the ambiance and, as a result, the overall experience of the visit.

As you might expect from the title, the exhibition largely comprises outfits and clothing items owned and worn by members of the Black community in Britain. I just love looking at clothes anyway, and the accompanying stories about how, when and why many of the items were purchased and worn, really added something to the 'story'. And the music - I LOVED the music. We really need more of that sort of thing in museum spaces. Far from distracting from the exhibition, it enhanced the experience immeasurably, really altering the atmosphere in the gallery space (almost subverting the whole experience of the museum visit, in a way - I'm thinking of the 'boogie-ing' middle-aged couple who thought no one could see them ;) ). However, although it's absolutely one of my favourites, when I entered the exhibition, 'Ghost Town' by The Specials was playing, which, in my mind, is indelibly associated with Father Ted these days. I'm rather ashamed that (given the social and political backdrop against which the lyrics were composed in the early 80s) I spent about five minutes maniacally chuckling to myself as a result. And it could explain why the attendant followed me round the gallery for the rest of my visit! Oh well... :S

However, and getting to the crux of the matter, I got increasingly uncomfortable as I got further into the exhibition. There was just something about the presentation style that kind of emphasised 'otherness'. Perhaps I'm just an over-sensitive museum studies student, but I couldn't get past this feeling of 'them' and 'us'; its very 'subjects' (I hesitate to use that word - it's very 'objectifying' - but I really do think that was the net result of the exhibition) were strangely absent.

Now, one could argue that this is an inevitable result of the museumification process, just brought sharper into focus because this exhibition is dealing with a part of contemporary British culture which most of us, regardless of our cultural and ethnic background, come into contact with on a regular basis, and which probably, at least in some small way, has played a role in the creation of our own sense of identity, be it the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, the literature we read (even, as research students, our theoretical perspectives).

Conversely, and I don't know who the curatorial team are, and what their particular motivations or aims for this exhibition were, it could be a reflection of the increasing trend away from multi-culturalism in British society (does that make sense?). Perhaps it's an attempt to recover a definable sense of identity for the British Black community? One of the main reasons for this impression, I think, is that there is very little attempt to show how Black culture in Britain, is to a large degree contemporary British culture. For example, it could highlight where Black British culture and British Asian culture intersect (particularly among young men), but it doesn't. And I'm not sure this is a particularly positive way forward. I don't know the demographic make-up of New Walk Museum's audience, but I would expect it to be largely white and middle-class, despite the ethic diversity of Leicester's wider population. Thus, would neglecting a discussion of the role and contribution to British culture and society of the Black community only serve to emphasis difference and separation?

To be fair to the museum, in some ways the small 'Style Up' display which complements 'Black British Style' goes towards resolving this tension. For a start it's specifically about Leicester. Throughout, from the garments on display to the fashion photography featuring local models, there's also a much greater sense of community involvement and ownership. However, unfortunately, being hidden away in another part of the building means that a lot of visitors to the main exhibition might miss it. (Bty, the designers of 'Style Up' really should have proof-read their labels a bit more closely; the spelling mistakes and other errors are a real let-down).

Lastly some final thoughts on 'Black British Style'. The narrative starts in the 1950s with post-war immigration from the West Indies. Which is all well and good, but as we well know, Black people have, for much longer than that been part of British society (for example, I read last night that the interred skull of a young African girl was found in the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo) and I'm reminded of the snappily dressed Jamaican scholar, Francis Williams, whose portrait is on display at the V&A in the British Galleries and whom Viv alluded to, the other day, in her research seminar.

Oh, and the video at the end of the exhibition was 45 minutes long!!! Who on earth would think that was a good idea? Even the most hardened and committed museum goer wouldn't sit through 45 minutes of interviews!

I'd be really interested to hear everybody else's thoughts...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life as a PhD student

N.B. Have made a few amendments since the original posting (on reflection I decided to clarify a few points!).

Right, I'm going to cut straight to the chase here: I find being a full-time PhD student a very isolating experience. Are the years spent working towards a doctorate meant to be a struggle? Is doing a PhD simply a matter of survival? I'm very aware that my PhD is my life. Diversions are few and far between. I need to find some head-space, but when would I have time to do other things? I spend most of my time very unsure; about my research, about where my life is heading. I'm sure it can't just be me who feels this way - in fact, I KNOW it's not just me.

So, assuming it isn't just me, I'm struck by the apparent lack of 'community' support out there for research students. I'm sure part of the problem is that we get terribly comfortable as undergraduate or masters students, and being thrown out on our own, as new PhD students, is a bit of of a shock to the system. Having said that though I think we all very quickly get caught up in our own research (perhaps its part of the research 'culture'; that fear that someone else is going to come along and nick your ideas, so for heaven's sake don't let too much slip - the postgrad equivalent of shielding your test answers from prying eyes!) and forget the benefits of sharing our time with other people. Really, when do we get opportunities to bounce ideas off others - other than our supervisors, or even just to hang out with other people who understand what we're going through? That is the value of a collaborative blog (what The Attic is supposed to be!). It gives us the opportunity to come together and share experiences, worries, and advice even when we can't in person, as most of us are not campus-based.

I've recently been thinking a lot about what happens post-PhD. Perhaps those of you who are about to submit or have just finished could let us know what life is like out there in the big bad world of academia? My worry at the moment is that I'm wasting my time (and money). Will I have a career at the end of all this? Or will I be just as unemployable as I was before I started?

It's amazing how many non-Leicester people out there are reading the blog. Please feel free to pass on your thoughts, comments or suggestions (providing you promise to comply with our 'comments policy'!), especially if you're a PhD student based at another institution - it would be great to forge some cross-institution/cross-discipline links via this blog.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Oral histories and the Internet

Further to my post about Oral Histories and YouTube earlier this week, I came across MemoryNet this evening, Tyne and Wear Museums' online collection of oral histories from the north-east coast. Visitors to the site can add comments and their own memories and experiences of the fishing communities. What's really interesting is that it's BSL-signed throughout, which I've never seen before on a website. Strikes me as a really good use of 'traditional' oral history techniques presented in a really accessible and inclusive way.

Round-up of Conference Alerts

Here's a quick round-up of conference announcements from (see sidebar for link). Some may have appeared before on The Attic, but I think most of them are new:

Upheavals of Memory: Defining, Imagining, Creating, Contesting
27 to 28 April 2007
Dublin, Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Contact name: Organizing committee

To examine the identical, oppositional, complementary, and contradictory boundaries of the powers of remembrance across various disciplines. This event focuses on the overarching theme of identity, memory, and meaning

Organized by: UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland
Deadline for abstracts/proposals: 16 February 2007

Heritage and the Environment
20 to 23 June 2007
Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom
Contact name: Professor Fiona McLean

This conference will examine the relationship of people and the environment. It is multidisciplinary in scope, covering all aspects of heritage, from natural to cultural and tangible to intangible.

Organized by: Sabhal Mor Ostaig and Glasgow Caledonian University
Deadline for abstracts/proposals: 19 January 2007

International Symposium on Studies on Historical Heritage
17 to 21 September 2007
Antalya, Turkey
Contact name: Organizing Committee
Organized by: Yildiz Technical University, Research Centre for Preservation of Historical Heritage
Deadline for abstracts/proposals: 26 January 2007

'Fear of the Unknown': Can gallery interpretation help visitors learn about art and material culture?
13 to 15 March 2008
London, United Kingdom
Contact name: Adult Learning

This conference will address the question of how gallery interpretation can help visitors learn about art and material culture, presenting new research and opening up debate about the role of interpretation.

Organized by: Victoria & Albert Museum
Deadline for abstracts/proposals: 23 February 2007

CFP: Encounters with Theory in Practice-based PhD Research in Art & Design

Call for Papers


Encounters with Theory in Practice-based Ph.D. Research in Art and Design
AHRC Postgraduate Conference, De Montfort University & Loughborough University, 26th June 2007, DMU, City Campus

The increasing amount of students undertaking practice-based PhDs affords the opportunity to uncover and examine some of the challenges faced when undertaking this type of research. We are seeking papers from current and completed postgraduate students, as well as researchers and practitioners, who incorporate and negotiate research through practice and theory in Art and Design disciplines. The aim of the conference is to address and discuss some of the generic, rather than discipline-specific, challenges of undertaking practice-based research.

Papers of 20 minutes duration are invited from across art and design disciplines. The one-day symposium will incorporate short papers followed by a panel discussion chaired by the keynote speakers.

To address and discuss some of the generic, rather than discipline-specific, challenges of undertaking practice-based research.
To examine the relationship between theory and practice in art and design research, and evaluate the usefulness of specific theories as well as theory in a general sense.
To identify and share knowledge of relevant research methodologies.
To highlight the challenges faced when undertaking PhD’s by practice.
To Increase confidence in dealing with familiar and unfamiliar theories and concepts.
To interrogate such terms as ‘academic practitioner’ and ‘practitioner researcher’.

Topics of Interest
Relevant topics include, but are not limited to:
Practice-based research analysis and evaluation of methods used.
The development of art and design specific methodologies/models and the value/adaptation of methodologies from other disciplines.
The challenges faced whilst undertaking practice-based research informed by theories.
Discussions of relevant strategies and solutions.

Instructions for Authors
All submissions should be in English (300 words) and should include the following details: Title, Name of Author(s), and e-mail address. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected based on their quality, originality and significance. Please email abstracts by 19th January to Emma Rooney,

Notable dates
Submission of abstract 19th January, 2007
Notification of decision: 2nd March, 2007
Submission of papers: 1st June, 2007
Conference date: 26th June, 2007

Announcement: Tate Papers

From H-ArtHist:

Tate Papers publishes research articles relating to Tate's collection and varied programmes. Published twice a year, it aims to reflect the richness and diversity of research undertaken at Tate.

This season's issue has a new design and additional features, including a News page and Emails to the Editor.

You can read the sixth issue online at

Stephen Daniels, Lines of Sight: Alfred Watkins, Photography and Topography in Early Twentieth-century Britain.

Steven Harris, Pataphysical Graham: A Consideration of the 'Pataphysical Practice of Rodney Graham'.

David Fraser Jenkins, 'Hopper and British Artists'.

Pip Laurenson, Authenticity, Change and Loss in the Conservation of Time-based Media Installations.

Bronwyn Ormsby et al, The Effects of Surface Cleaning on Acrylic Emulsion Paintings.

Christopher Short, Between Text and Image in Kandinsky's Works: A Consideration of the Album Sounds.

Brandon Taylor, Kandinsky and Contemporary Painting.
Jennifer Mundy
Head of Collection Research, Tate-
30 November 2006