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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Narrative Space - Post Two

Well, its been a hectic morning here at Narrative Space! But I think a rather exciting one. Given that a few of the speakers have been unable to make it, we've had to do a little timetable re-ordering and some technological issues which have arisen in consequence with people sending files via adobe connect and the like, its certainly been interesting!

In the break, I thought I'd try to write about what I've seen so far. We had to re-order the session that I was in, which was entitled, because unfortunately one of the files which we were sent didn't work. But the other two sessions which were due to present went, I think, very well, and they certainly incited a lively discussion afterwards.

The Session was entitled 'Sense of Place: interpretation, cityscape, landscape.' Dorian Wiszniewski, an architect from the University of Edinburgh, gave a deeply theoretical paper about the role of architecture and museums in mediating narratives of the everyday, and those which are somehow special. He used a really interesting, heavily literary basis with which to discuss this theme. At the heart of this was the idea of the museum as a site of heterogenesis, a place of multiple meanings. Thus, he argues, the museum and its architects need to come to some kind of understanding of how to articulate these frames of reference. We need to understand that museums are read in parts, often incidentally when reading about other things. Architects, then, need to understand what their role is within this.

Steven Miles, a sociologist, also centred his discussion on the role of the museum. He suggests that museums are places of consumption, and that thus they encourage homogenity. Though they might claim to be socially inclusive, what they actually do is present an image of personalisation, whilst requiring the complicity of the audience in their own power structures. Often, museums which orient themselves to this individualisation lose their own identity. And those museums which work to promote a city, which have often fallen into the hands of Starchitects, often become parts of this turn towards generalisation and similarity. For me, one of the points which arose was the idea of the museum as community itself. What is the role of this community, how did it come to be? What is its history and why does it exist? I think the purpose of the museum is so highly individualised that we cannot come to any overarching conclusion.

It was an interesting way to start the morning! I'm looking forward to the rest of the conference now!

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