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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Workshop Series/CFP: Major Concepts in Tourism Research

From H-Material Culture:

PhD students within the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change/ Leeds Met University are calling for contributions and participants for the forthcoming workshop series:

Interdisciplinary Workshop Series "Major Concepts in Tourism Research"
March to May 2008
Leeds/ UK

Much research in the field of tourism addresses at least one of the following concepts: Exchange, Memory, Representation and Experience. Although these concepts are very popular, it is not at all obvious what they actually refer to, and how we may be able to grasp them in our research.

Therefore, the PhD-students at the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change at Leeds Metropolitan University are organising four workshops. Each of these workshops will extend over two days during which we will discuss intensively one of these concepts. These discussions will be based to a large extent on the contributions of the participants. Thus, we invite PhD-students from all disciplines to present short papers. PhD-students may also contribute ideas and critiques of articles, which we will distribute before the workshops. The contributions do not have to be polished conference papers but can be presentations of ideas related to the particular workshop theme. The papers will be circulated among the other participants 10 days before the respective workshop to promote lively and engaged discussion. People can also attend without presenting any formal contribution.

Furthermore, we have invited an expert on the specific topic for each workshop to give an introductory keynote and lead the discussions. On the basis of their introductions we will explore meanings and different approaches to the concepts. This constitutes a unique opportunity for PhD-students to get feedback on their reflections and work in progress by leading academics and other PhD-students, sharing and developing ideas in relation to the four themes addressed.

Cost: £20.00 for one workshop. You can also register for all four workshops for £60.00.

Please register for one single workshop or the whole series not later than 17 February 2008 by either sending an abstract of about 200 words or stating how you relate to the topic of the workshop.

Please note that the date for submission of the papers and contributions for the first workshop is 29th February 2008. E-Mail:

Timetable of the Workshop-Series

13/14 March 2008 Workshop "Experience"
Keynote: Claudio Minca, University of London
"After the Island: the hard work of being (with) tourists"

3/4 April 2008 Workshop "Exchange"
Keynote: Keith Hart, Goldsmith College London
"On commoditization: exchange in the human economy"

17/18 April 2008 Workshop "Memory"
Keynote: Sharon MacDonald, Manchester University
"Memory, Materiality and Tourism"

8/9 May 2008 Workshop "Representation"
Keynote: David Crouch, University of Derby
"The Problems with Representation: Consumption, Space and Images"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Conference Alert: Museums, Society & Development

From Africom:

EXPERT MEETING & CONFERENCE ON MUSEUMS, SOCIETY AND DEVELOPMENT 15th to 17th May 2008 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The Royal Tropical Institute of the Netherlands, in cooperation with the German NGO CulturCooperation is organising an Expert Meeting on Museums, Society & Development.

The purpose of the Conference is to explore the role of museums which is increasingly under public scrutiny, both in Europe and in countries in the South. The meeting will concentrate on ethnographic museums in Europe and their counterparts in the South, whose ethnographic collections are often housed in National Museums. These institutions often have a much broader scope than just ethnography. What these types of museums do share is a founding history that relates to the colonial past, and the challenge to find ways to get beyond the institutional format and find new relevance for society. In Europe this means: responding to changing populations and expectations, taking a position in debates around illicit trade, repatriation of collections and the ethics of (re-)presentation. In the South the debate revolves around the role museums play in national development: museums are challenged to contribute to the solution of problems ranging from conflict resolution to poverty reduction. In both Europe and the South an important issue is community involvement and reaching target groups. Even if we have our policies in order, does anybody care? Do museums attract audiences; do they play a role in public debate?

The participants of this meeting are young (under 35) museum professionals from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America . People who work in museums with ethnological collections and who are able to make theoretical reflections on their work. There has been an on-going on-line Discussion Group (DGroup) in preparation for the Expert Meeting.

Our goal is to publish a book with the papers of the participants.

For more information please contact:

Paul Voogt
Director, Public Programmes
Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam
+31 568 8276
Email address:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fakes on display

Bolton Museum wants to exhibit the now infamous Amarma Princess to explore the role of fakes and forgeries in museum collections. [Link] It's an interesting story actually, because it appears that normal practice would be for the police to arrange for the offending object to be destroyed. And yet one could argue that, as one of most recognisable fakes in the world, thanks to the high profile of the associated court case, it remains a valid museum object, although for very different reasons than it originally (when it was believed to be the genuine article) embodied. For a start its display would question the authoritarian role of museums and their position in the cultural life of the nation. Perfect for the institution wanting to present to their audiences a more self-reflexive position. I remember the V&A doing something similar in the T.T. Tsui Gallery. It's a really interesting, and quite bold, step for museums to take, i.e. admit mistakes, mis-attributions, fallibility. And I'm all for it!

Conference Alert: The Pictorial Turn in History

From H-Museum:

Roehampton University, London
4 - 5 April 2008

The conference aims to theorise the relationship between history and the visual image. Pictures and other forms of visualisation have for too long been neglected by historians and left to art or film historians. Mediaeval and early modern historians were among the first to take visual representation seriously; recently it has become vital for historical TV and cinema documentaries but also in the way historians now present their research in Powerpoint at conferences or the lecture hall.

There is however, as yet, no consensus of how best to incorporate visualisation into historical research. Do historians use appropriate methods and concepts in order to operate successfully in areas which go beyond the pure text? How do we imagine/visualize the past? What role did visual images have for historical actors? How do visual images of the past affect the way historians perceive it? Vice versa, how does historical study affect the way we understand a visual image?


Friday 4 April 2008

10.00 Registration and coffee

11.00 Welcome and introduction
John Tosh and Cornelie Usborne (History, Roehampton)

11.15 Visual History: the Ten Commandments
Peter Burke (History, Cambridge)

12.15 The Text of Images
Dawn Ades (Art History, Essex)

1.15–2.15 Lunch

2.15 Power and Function of Images in Migration-Era Scandinavia
Charlotte Behr (History, Roehampton)

3.15 The Bayeux Tapestry: an accurate reflection of the real world of the
eleventh century or a work indebted to contemporary art?
Michael Lewis (History/Archaeology, British Museum)

4.15-4.45 Tea

4.45 The Evidence of the Conversation Piece
Kate Retford (Art History/History, Birkbeck)

7.00 Conference dinner

Saturday 5 April 2008

10.30 Registration and coffee

11.00 Just What is it that Makes the Pictorial so Different, so Appealing?
Lynda Nead (Art History, Birkbeck)

12.00 Melodrama, migration and conservative modernity: a case study in cultural transition
Erica Carter (Film History/Cultural Studies, Warwick)

1.00–2.00 Lunch

2.00 Gender and Memory in Post-Apartheid South Africa
Annie Coombes (Material and Visual Culture, Birkbeck)

3.00 Patient Photography and Propaganda: Medical Images as Sources for the Social History of Medicine
Philipp Osten (History, Heidelberg)

4.00–4.30 Tea

4.30 Round Table and Discussion

5.30 Conference close

Participation fee: £70.00 for 2 days, £40.00 for a single day (£30.00/£15.00 for postgraduate students and Roehampton staff), including lunch and refreshments.

For registration and further information please contact Dr Declan O'Reilly at mailto:D.O at the Centre for Research in History and Theory.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Conference Alert: Communication Strategies

From H-Museum:

"Communication Strategies: How to make an impact"
The 8th Communicating the Museum conference
25 - 28 June 2008
Venice, Italy

The leading international meeting place for museum and cultural marketing and communication professionals

Are you a marketing or communication professional looking for fresh and innovative ideas to plan your communication strategies? The Communicating the Museum conference, now in it's 8th year, has chosen "Communication Strategies: How to make an impact" as this year's principal theme. How to make an impact has become vital for any organisation building a smart communication strategy and is the key to any organisation's success - whether it be a strategy for the long or the short term, a permanent collection or a temporary exhibition. Topics covered include strategic planning in: Audience Research and Development, New Media, Advertising, Programming and more.

What is the conference?
The only international conference gathering together 300 international museum and cultural marketing and communication professionals and outside industry experts to form a rich programme combining excellent content and many networking opportunities:

World leading experts, from both the museum world and other industries, will be on site, giving keynote speeches, holding surgeries and workshops, and taking part in debates. There is an active conference programme, encouraging participants to approach and interact with these experts and each other, ensuring the maximum exchange of skills and experience.

Damien Whitmore, Director of Public Programmes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and President of the conference, Arthur Cohen, CEO of LaPlaca Cohen in New York, the leading analyst on cultural audiences today, and Masina Malepeai Frost, newly appointed to the Tate in London, will be just some of the stella speakers collaborating in Venice. Jennifer Francis, Head of Press and Markeing at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Edward Rozzo, Professor and Photographer coming from Milan, will chair the conference and its sessions.

Just some of the things you will learn in Venice:
- the best practices from inside and outside the museum industry to help you explore ways of planning your strategies for the future.
- practical tools to help you implement or improve the strategies of your organisation
- how to be create a brief, from start to finish and how to evaluate your strategies

Who should attend?
- Marketing, Communicating, Press, Development and Client Service professionals at both senior and junior levels looking for innovative approaches to strategy challenges
- Outside industry leaders wanting to make contact with the international cultural community

Benefits of being a participant:
- Excellent networking from the moment you register -- get in contact with your fellow participants in advance of the conference!
- World class programme featuring talented speakers -- museum colleagues and industry experts
- Fantastic social programme with exclusive access to temporary exhibitions
- Stunning locations integrated -- Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Grassi, Peggy Guggenheim Collection….
- Exclusive participant-only access to our Blog
- and much more!

Registration is now open:

All enquiries to Rosalind Hesketh, or telephone : +33 1 49 95 08 06

Friday, January 25, 2008

Conference Alert: Feminisms, Historiography and Curatorial Practices

From H-Museum:

Feminisms, Historiography and Curatorial Practices
Moderna Museet Stockholm
29 February - 2 March 2008

Feminist critiques have been a strategic tool within the fields of art history and curatorial practices in nearly 40 years. By now it has a history which can and should be scrutinized. The conference Feminisms, Historiography and Curatorial Practices aims at discussing the actual effects of feminist practices in these fields. During the last decades much research has critically engaged and questioned the construction and the ideological and political grounds for both of these practices. This conference sets out to situate these two practices side by side in order to critically think through the implications, correspondences, instances of diversity and the needs for feminist strategies in the future.

The invited speakers are Lolita Jablonskiene, Amelia Jones, Mary Kelly, Griselda Pollock and Maura Reilly. In relation to their topics workshops will be held.

The conference is held in connection to the inauguration of The Second Museum of our Wishes, which is one strategy to draw attention to, and correct the museums collections of art from the first half of the 20th century from a gender perspective.

The initiative for this conference is taken by Malin Hedlin Hayden, Anna Lundström and Jessica Sjöholm Skrubbe in collaboration with Catrin Lundqvist, Dr Iris Müller-Westermann, John Peter Nilsson and Cecilia Widenheim, Moderna Museet, Stockholm.


Friday 29 February 2008

17.00 Introduction, Welcome
Ann-Sofi Noring, Deputy Director, Chief Curator, Moderna Museet

17.10 Presentation of the conference
Malin Hedlin Hayden/Anna Lundström/Jessica Sjöholm Skrubbe

17.30 Presentation of The Second Museum of our Wishes Dr Iris Müller-Westermann, project leader of The Second Museum of our Wishes

18.00 Lecture

Griselda Pollock: Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space, and the Archive

19.00 Refreshments

Saturday 1 March 2008

10.30 Lecture: Mary Kelly: Remembering, Repeating and Working Through

11.30 Coffee

12.00 Lecture: Amelia Jones: 1970/2007:The Return of Feminist Art

13.00 Lunch at the museum

14.30 Workshop 1: Griselda Pollock: Encounters in the Virtual Feminist
Museum: Time, Space, and the Archive
Workshop 2: Mary Kelly: Feminism: Legacies and Interventions Workshop 3: Amelia Jones: Globalisation, Intersectionality, Parafeminism

16.00 Coffee

16.30 Gathering, discussion, questions

17.30 Closure, with a possibility to visit the museum’s exhibitions

19.00 Dinner

Sunday 2 March 2008

10.30 Lecture: Maura Reilly: Global Feminism

11.30 Coffee

12.00 Lecture: Lolita Jablonskiene: “Just an Artist?” An Imaginary Exhibition Project

13.00 Lunch at the museum

14.30 Workshop 1: Maura Reilly: Global Feminism Workshop 2: Lolita Jablonskiene: “Just a Curator?” Perspectives of the Feminist Informed Curatorial Practices

16.00 Coffee

16.30 Gathering, discussion, questions

17.30 Catrin Lundqvist and John Peter Nilsson, Moderna Museet, closes the conference

The lectures will be open, whereas the workshops demand application. Tickets for the open lectures are for sale from 23 Feb 2008 at the main entrance front desk of the museum. Admission fee: 80/60 SEK, includes entrance fee for the exhibitions. No pre-booking! Tickets for the lectures and workshops will be invoiced to the applicants.
Tickets for the open lectures are for sale from 23 Feb 2008 at the main entrance front desk of the museum.

Please observe the closing date for applications: 20 February 2008 to

Further information:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Conference Alert/CFP: Material Worlds

Material Worlds

A conference in honour of Professor Susan Pearce
University of Leicester
15-17 December 2008

Professor Susan Pearce is an internationally renowned professor of museum studies and historical archaeologist, who has had a long and important association with material culture studies both within and beyond the museum.

The University of Leicester’s Department of Museum Studies plans to honour Professor Pearce’s contribution to the field with a significant material culture studies conference and the subsequent publication of a volume of essays based on the conference papers. Both the conference and the volume will explore agenda in theoretically-oriented material culture studies. We are now inviting the submission of abstracts. Presentations will address or inform approaches to theorising relationships between people and the material world. The range of potential themes is broad, and might include embodied experience and sensory engagements, the agency of – and distinctions between – objects and persons, the construction of value, etc.

In keeping with Professor Pearce’s own interdisciplinarity, proposals in this area are warmly welcomed from those working on the cutting-edge of object studies not only in archaeology, anthropology and museum studies, but also in a wide range of other disciplines including history, management and organisational studies, geography, literary studies, sociology, philosophy, art history, science technology studies, natural sciences and beyond.


Abstracts of 300-450 words should be sent to the conference convenor, Sandra Dudley, by 29 February 2008. Any enquiries about the scope of conference may also be sent to the convenor. A draft conference programme will be available here after the end of March 2008.


Conference registration forms will be available from March 2008. Interest in – and enquiries about – attending may be sent to Barbara Lloyd.

Full conference fee including lunches and refreshments: £150 (concessions £90; daily rates also available)

Bed and breakfast: £50/night
Dinner, including main conference dinner: £20/night

Friday, January 18, 2008

CFP/Conference Alert: The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum

From H-Museum:

The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum
National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, the Netherlands
8-11 June 2008

At this time of fundamental social change, what is the role of the museum, both as a creature of that change, and perhaps also as an agent of change? The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum ( and The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum ( ) are places where museum practitioners, researchers, thinkers and teachers can engage in discussion on the historic character and future shape of the museum. The key question of the Conference and the Journal: How can the institution of the museum become more inclusive?

The International Conference on the Inclusive Museum is to be held at the National Museum of Ethnology ( ), Leiden, the Netherlands, 8 -11 June 2008. The overall theme of the Conference is Creativity, Cultural Diversity, Intangible Heritage and Sustainable Development. See the 'Themes' link at . Main speakers include some of the leading thinkers in museum studies and leading practitioners, as well as numerous paper, colloquium and workshop presentations. See the 'Main Speakers' link at .

Participants are also welcome to submit a presentation proposal either for a 30-minute paper, 60-minute workshop, jointly presented 90-minute colloquium session or a virtual session. Parallel sessions are loosely grouped into streams reflecting different perspectives or disciplines. Each stream also has its own talking circle, a forum for focused discussion of issues.

Presenters may choose to submit written papers to the International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, a fully refereed academic Journal. Virtual participants also have the option to submit papers for consideration by the Journal. All registered Conference participants receive a complimentary online subscription to the Journal when registration is finalised. This subscription is valid until one year after the Conference end date.

To submit a proposal, please see 'Submit Proposal' at To register for the International Conference on the Inclusive Museum, please
see the 'Register' link at

CFP/Publications: African and Black Diaspora

Courtesy of Mary Stevens. Thanks Mary!

African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal

Call for Papers

The Editors of African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal are pleased to announce a special edition on MUSEUMS IN THE METROPOLE: Slavery, Colonialism, and Postcolonial Memory which examines various exhibition sites and provide contextualization for the public discourse triggered by their creation.

Africa and Europe are symbiotically connected through a long history of contact informed by slavery, colonialism, immigration, and various transnational practices. In recent years, these histories have informed both national and pan-European debates concerning the historical legacies of these encounters – as exemplified in cultural, economic, political, and social phenomena, as well as in current reformulations in contemporary Europe as they concern transhistorical links and impact immigrant populations and ethnic minorities. These have included reflection on the limits of reparation, restitution, and memory, and ultimately concerned national identity, ethnic minorities, and the parameters of a multicultural Europe. Important scholarship, such as Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, Christopher L. Miller’s The French Atlantic Triangle, and Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau’s La traitre des noirs have foregrounded the centrality of these questions to current (post)colonial frameworks, and the study and reassessment of the colonial era is rapidly reforming curricular interests and orientation in Europe.

The role of European nations in the slave trade and in colonialism (Belgium, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, among others) has been acknowledged, although the assessment of their respective roles remains contested; nevertheless, this history has been explored in a multiplicity of ways throughout Europe in such diverse spaces as museums: the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (Bristol, U.K.), Musée Quai Branly (Paris, France), Centre National pour l’Histoire de l’Immigration (Paris, France), the International Slavery Museum (Liverpool, U.K.), the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren, Belgium); special exhibits such as at the Hackney Museum (London, U.K.) and the National Maritime Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands); and finally through such monuments as the National Monument Slavernijverleden (National Monument to the legacy of slavery) in Oosterpark, Amsterdam.

Prospective contributors are invited to send proposals for articles in the form of a 200-word abstract by March 31, 2008, and will be asked to submit articles in final form (in English) by the strict deadline of 15 December 2008.

All communications regarding the special edition should be directed to the Guest Editor, Professor DOMINIC THOMAS (University of California, Los Angeles), by e-mail: Informal enquiries are most welcome, and the Guest Editor will be happy to discuss individual suggestions.

African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal is devoted to a critical interrogation of the trans/national movements, locations and intersections of subjectivity within the African diaspora in the context of globalization as well as in different discourses, practices and political contexts. The journal maps and navigates the theoretical and political shifts imposed by the nation-state to provide a counter-narrative of subject positions of people of the African diaspora, grounded in cultural and political responses.

For more information about the journal, please visit:

CFP/Publication: Re-presenting Disability


Call for papers

Re-Presenting Disability:Museums and the Politics of Display

Editors: Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, Rosemarie Garland Thomson

This edited volume of original, provocative, timely and scholarly papers,(published in book form), will bring together around 20 researchers,practitioners and academics from different disciplinary and institutional contexts to explore issues surrounding the cultural representation of disabled people and, more particularly, the inclusion (as well as the marked absence) of disability-related narratives in museum and gallery displays.

Whilst museums and galleries provide the focus for this collection of writings, contributions from leading-edge researchers in disability and cultural studies - concerned with related areas of interest and different sites of representation - will serve to illuminate debates and representational practices within museums and museum studies.

Museums and social agency

Research in recent years has highlighted the constitutive or generative capacities of museums - their potential to shape, rather than simply reflect, social relations and realities. Museum displays, and the representations of difference embodied within them, have social effects and consequences.

Very often these effects have been understood to be negative. Museums have been identified as agencies which both shape and reinforce dominant (oppressive, discriminatory) understandings of difference by excluding and marginalising (through elision) or by constructing representations that are reductive, essentialising and often negatively stereotypical. By casting racial, gender, physical and other 'variations' as inferior or deviant, museums have privileged ways of seeing that have made prejudiced understandings of difference both more perceptible and permissible.

In recent years, however, there has been growing interest amongst both museum practitioners and researchers in the potential for museums to develop exhibitions and educational initiatives which attempt to open up possibilities for mutual respect and understanding between different social groups. An increasing number of museums have experimented with new forms of practice - collaboration and consultation with diverse communities; the staging of interpretive interventions purposefully designed to mitigate, complicate or subvert prevalent stereotypes; innovative approaches to interpretation and exhibition design; the development of more inclusive ways of working and so on - which aim to generate for visitors (and society more broadly), alternative, more equitable ways of seeing, thinking and talking about difference.

The last two decades have seen a proliferation of projects designed to redress the exclusion and misrepresentation of women, of minority ethnic and indigenous communities and, rather more rarely, of sexual minorities and different faith groups. However, despite relatively widespread professional and academic interest in these 'hidden histories', it is only in the last few years that there has been growing recognition of the invisibility and misrepresentation of disabled people within museum and gallery displays. (

Themes and questions

Re-Presenting Disability: Museums and the Politics of Display, will address a number of timely questions including:

* In what ways have disabled people and disability-related topics historically been represented in the collections and displays of museums and galleries? How can newly emerging representational forms and practices be viewed in relation to these historical approaches?
* How do emerging trends in museum practice - designed to counter prejudiced, stereotypical representations of disabled people - relate to broader developments in disability rights, debates in disability studies, as well as shifting interpretive practices in public history and mass media?
* What approaches can be deployed to mine and interrogate existing collections to investigate histories of disability and disabled people to identify material evidence that might be marshalled to play a part in countering prejudice? What are the implications of these developments for contemporary collecting?
* How might such purposive displays be created and what dilemmas and challenges are curators, educators, designers and other actors in the exhibition-making process, likely to encounter along the way?
* How do audiences - disabled and non-disabled - respond to and engage with interpretive interventions designed to confront, undercut or reshape dominant regimes of representationthat underpin and inform contemporary attitudes to disability?
* In what ways are debates around disability rights shaping broader management philosophies and practices (for example, around workforce diversity) in museums and galleries?

Call for papers

Each of the editors will contribute a chapter. David Hevey (author of The Creatures Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery, Routledge 1992), is also a confirmed contributor.

If you would like to propose a contribution to this exciting new volume, please send a 300-500 word abstract as well as a short (2 page maximum) curriculum vitae to Dr. Richard Sandell, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.

The deadline for abstracts is January 31st 2008. The deadline for accepted essays (approx. 5,000-8,000 words) will be December 15, 2008.

Submissions will be reviewed by the book's editors:

Richard Sandell, Head of Department of Museum Studies and co-director, Rethinking Disability Representation, University of Leicester, UK.

Jocelyn Dodd, Director, RCMG (Research Centre for Museums and Galleries) and co-director, Rethinking Disability Representation, University of Leicester,

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Associate Professor of Women's Studies, Emory University, USA.

Jim Roberts Hon FMA
University of Leicester
Department of Museum Studies

+44 (0)116 252 3961

New web resource: NICE Paintings

From H-ArtHist:

NICE Paintings - the National Inventory of Continental European Paintings

Announcing the launch of a new web resource for the study of history of art, museum studies and picture research.

NICE Paintings ( ) contains detailed records of nearly 8,000 pre-1900 Continental European oil paintings from 200 public collections across the United Kingdom. Over 2,500 are illustrated with digital colour images, and more images are being added regularly. This pioneering database is the first phase of a project to bring together in one searchable catalogue all 22,000 old master paintings in UK museums. The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Getty Foundation and the Kress Foundation.

NICE Paintings was produced by the National Inventory Research Project (NIRP), based at the University of Glasgow. NIRP is a partnership between the University of Glasgow and Birkbeck University of London. It is managed by a steering committee of curators from national and regional collections across the UK, chaired by Dr Susan Foister, Director of Collections at the National Gallery, London. The project is continuing to add digital images to the database, contributed by museums and the Public Catalogue Foundation, and is working to complete the project by adding to the database records on the 15,000 old master paintings in national university and other major regional museums not included in this initial research phase of the project.



Thursday, January 17, 2008

Research Seminar Review: Buddhism, Imperialism and Display

Buddhism, Imperialism and Display: the lives of Chinese objects in British exhibitions.

Review of research seminar, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.
Wednesday, 16th January 2008

By Pippa Sherriff

At the above seminar Louise Tythacott, Lecturer in Museology at the University of Manchester, spoke of her personal research into the biographies of a group of five Buddhist deities, on display in the World Cultures Gallery at the World Museum Liverpool that opened in 2005. In writing this review I’m sure I speak for everyone else in the room in saying that her talk was enthralling and captivating.

Louise became acquainted with the deities whilst she worked at National Museums Liverpool from 1996-2003. In addition to two guardian figures, the three deities are:

Guanyin - Goddess of Compassion, almost life-size, bronze, extremely rare and early 15th century. This is the most important deity of Chinese culture.

Wenshu - Bodhisattva of Wisdom, 17th century.

Puxian – Bodhisattva of Grace and Compassion, also 17th century.

All five had been in storage, well sawdust and breakfast cereal boxes at least, since the Liverpool Museum was heavily bombed during World War Two and most of the collections, including the deities, were evacuated. Although the museum did eventually re-open in the 1960s, these particular objects had stayed in their inadequate storage facilities until the 1990s. In her subsequent post at National Museums Liverpool Louise was then responsible for the overseeing the conservation and redisplay of the Guanyin, Wenshu and Puxian objects but with no accompanying accession details or provenance. And that might well have been the end of the story had Louise not, quite by chance, come across an image of a watercolour of the Great Exhibition 1851 that clearly depicts all five deities prominently displayed in the central avenue, in itself portraying great significance. And even more uncannily, the watercolour shows that they were positioned exactly as Louise had done some 150 years later and against a red silk background. From this point she was able to look back to the exhibition catalogues at the V&A and begin to unfold their collective biographies. The fate or whereabouts of an incense burner and the silk banner is however.

Louise first discovered that all five originated from Putuo, a sacred Chinese island and pilgrimage site, that in the 17th century would have been covered in temples and a key place for the worship of Guanyin. Moreover deities were perceived as living beings. They were consecrated with their eyes doted to open them to the world. The insides were hollow and manuscripts put inside before being sealed. In effect the figures do not represent deities but rather they are deities in themselves. However, over the passing centuries, many of the temples and their contents were destroyed and finally, during the Chinese Revolution 1966-1976, those remaining were raised to the ground and all details of histories burnt. The plight of these five particular deities had been intercepted during the First Opium War, 1839 – 1842, when a British army officer, Major William Edie had plundered them whilst serving in Putou. The use of the term looting is ascribed to this time and is derived from a Hindu word meaning to rob. Obtaining Trophies of War in this way reflected military imperialism and imperialistic power. Edie was to remove the manuscripts from inside which meant the deities effectively ‘died’.
One outcome of the Opium War was that China rejected an invite to exhibit at the Great Exhibition. The organisers, anxious to include Chinese culture, looked to 40 or so British collectors to fill this void and this is how the five deities came to be on display. From here they were transferred to the Crystal Palace and then bought by a diamond dealer who may well have been responsible for removing some of the inlaid jewels. In 1857 the deities were on display at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition. Although this particular event had a focus on western fine art, Guanyin was displayed in the ‘Oriental Court’ and such exposure added greatly to the financial value of these Chinese figures. In 1859 they were subsequently auctioned at Sotheby’s and bought by an antiquarian, Charles Roach Smith, for the costly sum of £225.

In 1867 Charles Roach Smith gave his collection to the town of Liverpool and it was to form the basis of the Liverpool Museum (a development from the ‘jumbled mass’ of the previous Egyptian museum formed in 1852). The next part of Louise’s talk illustrated how the meaning of objects can change and evolve through individual aesthetic interpretations. Between 1895 and 1927 the museum introduced evolutionary displays, exhibiting objects to racial types; Caucasian ‘white races’, Mongolian ‘yellow races’ and Melanian ‘black races’. At this time the deities were exhibited as examples of the ‘Mongol’ race. With the arrival of a new curator in the 1930s the deities were exhibited with Oriental Art between 1934 and 1938. Later, whilst the objects were in store, their dominant meaning and interpretation shifted from ethnology to archaeology, then to antiquities and oriental antiquities.

When Louise first encountered the deities, in 1996, they were now part of the Asian collection. Having been in store for 60 years their condition was deplorable, some of the Guanyin arms were misplaced altogether, only 7 of the 22 symbols held were to be found and inlaid jewels were missing. However, after conversation Guanyin, Wenshu and Puxian were displayed in the World Cultures Gallery in 2005. Louise’s research has now enabled the labels to be updated and, having discovered the significance of the two guardian figures, these too have been conserved and exhibited. To the future, Louise is currently negotiating a loan of all five deities for the inauguration of Ningbo Museum in 2008/09. She is also in communication with the Putou monks about the significance of these objects to the history of the island. Having been repressed and all but eradicated, the pilgrimage site now has 2 million visitors each year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Any tips for overcoming habitual procrastination?

I don't know about anyone else, but procrastination is one of my bugbears. I know that when I start writing I will enjoy it and get lots done, but I just can't make the initial effort required to start. Even though the thought of an 80,000 word thesis looming on the horizon causes me enormous anxiety.

Any tips, humourous, practical, spiritual or otherwise, for dealing with this problem?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Department of Museum Studies Research Seminar: Buddhism, imperialism and display (Louise Tythacott)

Buddhism, imperialism and display: the lives of Chinese objects in British exhibitions.

Louise Tythacott, of the University of Manchester, will be giving the Museum Studies Research Seminar next Wednesday, 16th January. The seminar will be held at 1pm in the Lecture Room at 105 Princess Road East (PRE). This is an informal ‘brown bag’ (bring a sandwich!) seminar.

Museum Studies is an interdisciplinary field and all are welcome. Refreshments served.

For further details, contact Sandra Dudley.

Louise Tythacott is a Lecturer in Museology at the University of Manchester, specialising in the relationship between anthropology and museums. She trained as an anthropologist and undertook fieldwork in Hong Kong on Chinese deity imagery, temple iconography and religious belief. From 1996-2003, she was Head of Asian, African, American and Oceanic collections at the National Museums Liverpool, with specific responsibility for Asian material culture.

Louise is currently researching the biographies of a group of rare Buddhist deities taken from temples on the Chinese pilgrimage island of Putuo by a British soldier in the early 1840s during the First Opium War. The bronzes were displayed in Great Exhibition of 1851 as well as the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857. After passing through a range of major antiquarian collections, they were acquired by Liverpool Museum in 1867 and, over the course of time, were shifted from evolutionary displays to an Oriental Art Gallery. Louise was responsible for curating and reinterpreting the sculptures at the World Museum Liverpool and they are presently on display in the Buddhism area of the World Cultures gallery. Her paper charts the changing meanings and values ascribed to the five Buddhist sculptures as they pass through multiple spheres of representation.

This promises to be a really interesting session - see you there!

CFP: Heritage: Past, Present, and Future

From H-Material Culture:

Proposals are now being accepted for papers to be presented at the upcoming conference "Heritage: Past, Present, and Future," which will be held October 3-4, 2008 in Cooperstown, New York. This interdisciplinary conference marks the centennial of the birth of Louis C. Jones, and explores his legacy in the field of heritage preservation.

Presentations should explore the history, current state, and/or future of the heritage preservation field, with special emphasis on the ideals espoused by Dr. Jones including the perpetuation of traditional craft, study of material culture, and commitment to the common folk. Submissions are encouraged from individuals working in all areas of heritage preservation, including museums, archives, historic preservation, documentary film, public archeology, and folklore. Proposals that directly address Dr. Jones's pioneering contributions are strongly encouraged, as are those that explore new ways to not only preserve elements of the past but to make them accessible and relevant to audiences today.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Cooperstown Graduate Program, a master's degree program in history museum studies founded by Dr. Jones in 1964 and affiliated with the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the New York State Historical Association, as well as its alumni organization, the Cooperstown Graduate Association. The New York State Historical Association, which will host the conference at its Fenimore Art Museum, was directed by Louis C. Jones from 1947 to 1972.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute presentations, although panels, workshops, films or other alternative formats will also be considered. Please list any audio-visual equipment or other needs at the conclusion of the proposal. The Cooperstown Graduate Program will not be able to pay travel costs or honoraria for speakers, although registration fees for the conference will be waived.

Send a one-page proposal and brief curriculum vitae, including telephone numbers and email address, in Microsoft Word 2004 format to . Hard copies can be sent to Cynthia Falk, Cooperstown Graduate Program, P.O. Box 800, Cooperstown, New York 13326. Proposals must be received by April 1.

Cynthia G. Falk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Material Culture
Cooperstown Graduate Program
SUNY Oneonta
P.O. Box 800
5838 State Route 80
Cooperstown, NY 13326
607-547-8926 (fax)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The First Emperor: Initial Thoughts

So, yesterday, I finally made it to the First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum. Here are my initial thoughts (I will probably write a more complete review in a few days when I've had a chance to 'digest' my visit):

* Many people are woefully ignorant of exhibition-visiting etiquette - I'm all for subverting the built-in directional 'flow' in larger, or less crowded, exhibition spaces, but where people have paid a great deal of money to see something really special in a limited time frame, pushing-in and hogging cases while having inane conversations about totally unrelated business, or trying to impress one's friends with pseudo-intellectual musings on the subject is a great annoyance.

* Audio-guides are the Devil's work. People wearing them go into a kind of trance state wherein they pick their noses, stand on other's feet and barge past without apologising (or even being aware that they've just knocked you flying) and other such anti-social, aimless behaviour.

* Why do certain types of men, of a certain age, have to belittle the experience? 'Well', they say, when stood in front of a 2,500 year old finely modeled terracotta warrior, 'I'm quite disappointed'. What exactly did you expect? The massed ranks of the terracotta army, rivers of mercury and Qin Shi Huangdi himself as your personal exhibition guide?! *she fumes*

Having said all that...

* The standing 'warriors' are brilliantly displayed in the round, and despite the crush of bodies it really is possible to get a really good 360 degree look at them all.

* And, it's well worth a visit - just to stand at the top of the central exhibition area and look across at generals, infantry, charioteers, archers and their horses face-to-face, something only dignitaries get to do at the archaeological site in Xi'an.

* It's a totally cynically commercial addition to the menu, but the Chinese Afternoon Tea (exorbitantly priced at £14 per person) served in the Great Court restaurant, is FAB!

More thoughts to follow...

CFP: Obsession and Addiction

From H-ArtHist (not strictly to do with museums, but I guess some collectors could be described as 'obsessive', not to mention museology researchers!):



An International Cultural Intersections Symposium
Kingston University, UK

9 - 11 July 2008

Is obsession all-consuming passion or pathological deviance? Is addiction a compulsion or a choice, an irresistible lust for pleasure or a chronic self-destructive disease? What is the relationship between obsession, addiction and the arts?

This international interdisciplinary conference on Obsession and Addiction invites debate on representations of the emotional, psychological and physiological states of obsession and addiction, their causes and their consequences. Are obsession and addiction demonised, glamorised, ridiculed or normalised? How are readers and audiences disturbed, grabbed or hooked’ as consumers? How are obsession and addiction linked to the creative process?

We welcome proposals on Fin de Siècle, 20th and 21st century depictions of obsession and addiction from a range of critical perspectives, and across a range of countries and cultures, both in the mainstream and in the fringe/underground. Panels will be grouped around shared interests or themes in the fields of art & design, drama, film & media, literature and music.

Topics will include but are not limited to:

- Images of obsession and addiction: from the margins to the mainstream

- The politics of representing obsession and addiction

- Theorising obsession and addiction

- Sex, gender and race’ in relation to representations of obsession and addiction

- Obsession and addiction in relation to artists or audiences

Proposals in English (of no more than 250 words) should be submitted online
via the following page:

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 31st January 2008
Enquiries to:

Organisers: Dr Andrea Rinke and Dr Carrie Tarr, School of Performance and Screen Studies, Kingston University, UK

CFP/Publication: Gender and Museums

Jim has already sent this 'round to everyone on the Leicester email lists, but in case you missed it...

Gender and Museums

The history of women and museums is long and complex, beginning with the opening of the great European museums in the nineteenth century. As described in visitors’ accounts, novels, and other texts, museums offered some of the few public sites where respectable women could appear. Even as women engaged in spectatorship in the early museums, they found themselves objects of contemplation as the subjects of paintings and sculptures. In the twentieth-century, women became active in museum work, but remained under-represented in the ranks of curators and museum administrators. In contrast, while individuals who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual have gained prominence as museum employees, their lives and experiences have generally been invisible in history and art museum exhibits.

With these circumstances in mind, I am collecting articles for a reader on gender in museums. Topics to be covered include (but are not limited to): representations of gays and lesbians in historic sites; careers for women in museums; gender and collecting; museum definitions of sex and gender; women’s museums; museums’ representations of rape and other forms of gendered violence; exhibits on sexuality; women in museum education; gender and museum audiences; museum exhibits on human reproduction. Preference will be given to articles combining a theoretical perspective with examples from US institutions. Articles focusing solely on representations of women in art works will not be accepted because of the abundance of published scholarship on this topic.

While a number of published articles and several books focus on women in museums, there has been no recent anthology on this topic, so current research remains scattered. Moreover, no book has concentrated on issues of sexual orientation in museums. I therefore plan to gather outstanding articles published in the past ten years as well as new essays focusing on these topics. Articles should be written for an audience of scholars and advanced students.

Please send submissions to Dr. Amy K. Levin, Director, Women’s Studies, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA. Phone: 815 753 1038. Email: Articles must be submitted in MS Word format, either through email or on CDs. Deadline: April 15, 2008.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Museum of Laziness

A museum dedicated to laziness has opened in Colombia's capital, Bogota.

(Link via BBC News)