Reflections on NaMu: Day 2, Part 1

Continued from Day 1...

Before I start to recount Day 2's events, I must just mention the lovely meal laid on by University catering the previous night; seriously, they surpassed themselves as this photo attests.

Anyway, back to the subject in hand, day 2, which saw two parallel sessions of delegate papers. I chose to attend the sessions taking place in the Henry Welcome Building but, embarrassingly, due to my body's seeming inability to wake up earlier than 8am, I missed Jennifer Carter's paper, Virtual Archives or Architectural Adaptations? National Museums Mediating Exhibitions on the Web. However, I did manage to arrive in time for Leicester's very own Sally Hughes' presentation, Telling the Tale: Locating the British Museum's Case for Retention of the Parthenon Sculptures in Exhibition Text, Audio, Print and Web.

Sally looked at the semantic differences between print and web produced by the British Museum in association with the Parthenon Marbles debate. She determined that the controversy was dealt with in a more balanced (although hardly!) manner than the rhetoric used by Neil McGregor in the forward to a recent BM publication about the marbles. She concluded by asserting the view (which was shared by many delegates at the workshop) that society is moving beyond simple materialism, and that as we spend more of our lives online, the real object is needed by a society that craves solidity, permanence and reality.

Sally's paper was followed by Elodie Moreau's overview of a current University of the Aegean project, which looks at the role of national museum's websites in the creation of national cultures and identities in France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

A quick 'comfort' break was followed by Tracy Buck's paper, Debating 'Indianness': Shifting Boundaries of Identity at the National Museum of India, which reflected upon her doctoral fieldwork at the museum. She had determined that in India, national identity was increasingly established in less tangible ways than those favoured by Western museums (and thus loaded with colonial symbolism and felt to be limiting in the Indian context): in particular, a move away from materiality and a spotlight on spirituality.

The first half of the session was closed by Ana Sanchez-Law's presentation which she had based upon an exhibition of video and art installations that challenged official narratives of Panamanian identity, including an video game she had designed for the show that reflected upon the 1989 invasion.

A quick tea break followed and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the lecture theatre for Emily Stokes-Rees - accompanied by her extraordinarily stoic baby daughter Hilary - and her paper, Exhibitions Without Objects: The Case of 'The Singapore Story'. Emily explored one aspect of the Singapore History Museum's presentation, a museum which - interestingly - has largely displaced real objects with audio-visuals.

Karoline Kaluza considered the differences between Polish and English-language versions of the same museum websites, where designers have actively sought to directly target the needs and interests of visitors, for example, the English-language version of the Polish History Museum's website, which - in a departure from the Polish presentation - focuses on emigration, displacement and Jewish genealogy.

Karen Shelby followed Karoline with her paper, Site-specificity and the Nationalistic Program of the Flemish WWI Museum, which looked at nationalistic rhetoric in architecture, specifically two World War 1 memorials/museums in Belgium: the Ijzertoren and In Flanders Fields Museum and how they are presented online.

The final presentation of the session was by Palmyre Pierroux. She examined the phenomenon of online social networking sites and their application in museums as experienced by young people taking part in a project in which she was involved.

And so to be continued.


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