Research Week - Popular Music Remains: Artifact, Experience and the Museum as Interface

Kathleen, with whom I had the pleasure of talking yesterday, opens her presentation with a hat. And not just any hat. She asks us whether any of us recognise it. I, to my shame, do not. Turns out its only Jimi Hendrix's famous Westerner. Opps.

Anyway, the question remains regarding the framing of artefacts in popular music museums, and it is this with which Kathleen goes on to deal. How do you deal with such artefacts, and how do you integrate the OBJECT ITSELF with the connotations and biography that it carries around with it?

One of the interesting things she points out is the proliferation of facsimilie hats that abound. The sets of social operations which define the authentic and the facsimilie are tightly related. Kevin Moore's Museums and Popular Culture is a pivotal text and inspired Kathleen's object based approach. Though this text is somewhat old now, preceeding the rise of social media, it does provide some interesting approaches, notably Pearce's model of the value of material culture. She also uses James Clifford's model as espoused in The Predicament of Culture, and the integration of these is part of what she wants to do.

But she also wants to integrate this into the contemporary world, and part of this world is social media. Our 'networked society' means that you can do a lot of research OUTSIDE the museum - and that there is now a dialogue between museum pratitioners and those outside which helps to define authenticity. Instead perhaps of asking how we can get the audience interested in - well, a hat, for instance - perhaps we, as museum practitioners, need to recognise that with some objects they already are. This hat, and other iconic images bring with them various discourses of popular culture.

The question then is this - is the museum able to cope with displaying popular culture, particularly popular music which is an art form of ephemerality, and one which has recently become very much more like water, fluid, in the last few years. Is the popular music museum still a museum? If so, is it a new type? Kathleen cites case studies which she is using to develop a typology of the popular music museum - something which will be great to see develop in the future.


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