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.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Research Week - The Biography of Votive Objects

Bianca, one of our visiting students, presents a really interesting view upon the construction of object identity in the Marian Sanctuary in Brasil. Since the figure of Mary was placed there, many votive offerings came in, and it is now the biggest Marian sanctuary in the world.

In 1980 the new national sanctuary was finished. This complex is incredible, extending into commerce and public facitlities far beyond anything I ever thought imagine. Every day, this sanctuary receives over 100 thousand objects of really diverse natures. For anything can be a votive offering. So what makes something a votive object?

What really makes something 'votive' is, it seems, the intention of the giver. They give this item to the sanctuary to ask for help, or to give thanks, and it this intention which makes an object votive. These objects are often anonymous, but some are iconic or personalised.

What is interesting, though, is what happens to the objects after they have been dedicated. Some are kept, but many things go to the 'Bazaar', re-entering the commercial world - I think this idea was surprising and shocking to some people. Sometimes things are disposed of in other ways, destroyed or donated. Many people don't know this. It's interesting to debate upon the ethics of this.

We're always really pleased to get people from other institutions and perspectives. We're lucky to have you guys, distance learners and visiting scholars. If there's anything we can do to support you, do let us know.

But anyway, thank you Bianca - you've opened my eyes. I'll never think of a votive offering in the same way again. Oh, and can I come to Brasil please?

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