Research Week - Universities and Univeristy Museums: Institutional Thought and Territory

Brenda Caro Cocotle

Universities and Univeristy Museums are both complex institutions, and they both of them produce, curate and interpret knowledge. But the ways in which they do so, and the ways in which they integrate with each other have, Brenda argues, not been theorised in a great level of detail. The relationship between Universities and their Museums have often just been seen as an administrative one. Often, the museum is regarded as having little conflict with the Univeristy, and are frequently seen as a simple extention of the teaching which occurs in university classrooms.

Both institutions shape territories of knowledge. And it is the concept of territory which forms much of Brenda's research. She draws upon the critical thought of sociologists and philosophers to interrogate 'territory', and how this concept enacts itself in the discourses and relationships of univerities and their museums, who are performative agents in specific social spaces, and they, and these spaces, and named, marked, and ritualized.

Brenda has so many questions to ask in regard to this concept of territory, and the way in which museums and universities to which they are attached negotiate their various territorial boundaries and collisions. She'll be comparing two case studies, one a new university museum of contemporary art, another an older, anthropological museum.

This historic comparison is really interesting for me. My undergraduate studies were based at the University of St Andrews, which recently redisplayed its collection in a way which is much more public facing, and created a lot of controversy. Compared to that, there is the Bell Pettigrew museum, founded for the purposes of teaching the scholarly community. These examples really raise a number of issues. Who is the university museum for? Is it for the public? For the scholars? Why are they founded? For prestige or for study? What is their wider social role? And what is the relationship, fundamentally, between the curator, and the academic?

Really huge issues, that many people wouldn't even consider. Thank you Brenda, for bringing a previously hidden area to light.


Jennifer said…
There is a wonderful essay appearing in the book Cabinet of Curiosities: Mark Dion and the University as Installation about the relationship of the university and museum. The essay is by E. Bruce Robertson (an Art Historian at University of California Santa Barbara) and is titled "Curiosity Cabinets, Museums, and Universities," and it addresses some of these questions.

Using the wunderkammer, Robertson illustrates the shared historical relationship regarding collecting between the museum and university. It's a quite intersting article, and even more interesting when considered in the greater context of the installation work of Mark Dion.
Brenda said…
Wondeful, thank Jennifer. I will look foward to get it!

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