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.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Summer Course for MAs or PhDs in Italy

Do you ever wonder why people collect things?
How did 15th century private desires to own collections lead to the museum
as we know it today?
Why is Florence, Italy, considered one of the birthplaces of the modern
Find out this summer in Museum Origins!

June 10- August 3: An 8-week course that blends online learning with onsite
investigation (in ITALY!) and scholarly research.

Open to current graduate students and alumni of master's or Ph.D. programs
in any field from any college or university

Great for students in art, art history, literature, history, public
history, anthropology, psychology, museum studies, library & information
science, classics - all majors welcome!

* First three weeks: Course readings and discussions online.
* Middle two weeks: You go to "class" in museums in Italy.(How cool is
* Last three weeks: You write a research paper.
* After the course: An experience that lasts a lifetime.
APPLY NOW! Applications are due April 1!

I would love to do this, but it starts in June, which doesn't work at all for our PhD schedules here! Alas.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Brown Bag February 20th - Dr Robert Janes

Brown Bag - Wednesday 20th February 2013, Dr Robert Janes, 'Museum Management Revisited: Issues and Aspirations'

On Wednesday 20 February 2013 Dr Robert Janes, Editor-in-Chief of Museum Management and Curatorship, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Calgary in Canada, author of books including:  Museums in a Troubled World : renewal, irrelevance, or collapse? (2009) and Museums and the Paradox of Change: a case study in urgent adaptation (1995) and co-editor of Museum Management and Marketing (2007), visited the University of Leicester School of Museum Studies Brown Bag Seminar Series, to discuss a variety of management issues facing museums in the present and for the future, highlighting some key issues and aspirations for museum professionals to consider.

Bob Janes began the seminar by highlighting “a seeming lack of foresight and discernment perceptible within mainstream museums”, before going on to speculate upon what might be possible to improve such a situation for the future.[1] 

Referencing Stephen Weil, Bob noted that “there is no “essence of museum” that must be preserved at all costs”.[2]  Thus Bob asserted the necessity for staff to critically reflect upon all aspects of the work of museums to ensure their continued relevance and worth within society.  Bob articulated the necessity for museums to make a contribution to enhancing community well-being, and stressed the need for museums to become more integrated within society in order to achieve such an aim.  Bob emphasised the need for museums to switch their attention from day to day problem solving to helping to “create an image of a desirable future” or toward aiming to “invent a new future for themselves and their communities”.

Bob highlighted the continuous need for change in order to invent a new future, and stressed the necessity for museums to overcome the obstacles to change prevalent within individual organisations and within the sector more generally.  Bob suggested that the claim of neutrality is one such obstacle restraining museums from positive change.  Bob argued rather that museum leaders should be asking of themselves “what should we as a field contribute to society?” or “for what and for whom do we stand?”[3]  Bob suggested that museum leaders need also to confront the received sanctity of collections to ensure more effective and efficient use of collections and a rationalisation of collections where required.  The emphasis on earned revenues was questioned, with Bob suggesting that some museum activities simply do not fit within the market economy.  Bob also called for shared authority to have a greater emphasis within museum organisations rather than institutions simply following traditional leadership structures.  Overall, Bob was clear that museum professionals need to become more active in relation to benefitting a wider society, debunking the idea that museums can claim to be socially responsible simply by holding collections and delivering education and entertainment activities. 

Turning towards the future, Bob outlined some of his aspirations for the museum field for the years to come.  Above all Bob emphasised the need for museums to take the chance to make a difference in society.  Bob returned to the necessity for critical reflection among museum staff, and a questioning of assumptions, even a questioning of the assumptions underlying current success.  Bob calls for an emboldening of individual responsibility and the cultivation of personal agency among museum staff, in order to increase museum professionals’ capacity to take action of benefit and relevance for the museum institution and the wider world.  Bob also calls for museums to explore the new social economy, suggesting that this sector provides an opportunity for museums to overcome their insularity and to seek new opportunities for development.  Bob highlighted the need for museums to broaden their governance, to involve communities and to extend their civic reach.  Furthermore, Bob stressed the need for museums to become better integrated within the civic arena, noting the opportunities for improved museum sustainability to be found through closer collaboration with other social agencies.  Bob highlighted the need for museum leaders to consider new and different approaches to funding, along with becoming more experimental in various ways.  Bob outlined his hope for museums to become more committed to the social dimension of sustainability and to more closely align with the issues and aspirations of their communities.  Bob called for “intellectual activism”[4] to make knowledge more accessible and useful to communities, in order to “foster individual and community participation in the quest for greater awareness and workable solutions to our worsening global problems”.[5]  Bob also called for museums to make connections between the collections they hold, and the natural and cultural challenges confronting society in the present.  Overall, Bob articulated his desire to see museums becoming more visionary and more involved in the wider world beyond the museum walls, operating as a force for social good.

In conclusion, Bob stated that “Museums, as public institutions, are morally and intellectually obliged to question and challenge the status quo and officialdom, whenever necessary, as resistance and independence of thought are essential to renewal”,[6] leaving seminar participants, staff and PhD students alike, enthused and inspired in contemplation of their role in contributing to the critical thinking and questioning essential to such renewal.

[1] Robert Janes, ‘Museum Management Revisited: Issues and Aspirations’, Brown Bag Seminar, The School of Museum Studies, The University of Leicester, February 20, 2013, transcription, p. 1.
[2] Ibid., pp. 1-2.
[3] Ibid., p. 5.
[4] Robert Janes, ‘Museum Management Revisited: Issues and Aspirations’, Brown Bag Seminar, The School of Museum Studies, The University of Leicester, February 20, 2013, transcription, pp. 19-20.
[5] Ibid., p. 20.
[6] Ibid., p. 20.

Dr Janes would be happy to hear any comments you may have on this, and we at The Attic would welcome a lively discussion in the comments area below!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fall 2013 Exhibitionist Journal CfP

Call for Papers for Fall 2013 Exhibitionist, the journal of the National Association for Museum Exhibition.

Issue Theme:  Museums and New Media: What's Disappearing? What's Evolving? What's to Come?
In this issue we hope to examine the impact of new media on museums, with a particular focus on exhibitions.

How are new digital technology and media affecting the care and management of collections - living or non-living - on which exhibitions are based?  Are once standard practices and procedures for collections care and management, for exhibition development and interpretation disappearing–no longer valued or needed?  What is the impact of this development?
How are new media shaping the ways in which exhibitions are conceived, designed and developed, interpreted, accessed, or assessed?  What about the impact on visitors and their participation and engagement with exhibition?

What's way out there on the cutting edge for exhibitions in the future?

Proposals need not be limited to just these issues, and can include research, essays, and case studies that analyze/comment on/critique the impact of new technology and media on museums of all types and disciplines, and the exhibitions they produce. As much as possible, if a case study or research project is submitted, the article should not focus on a single project or museum without raising questions or throwing light on larger issues that are widely applicable. Proposals from colleagues around the world are welcome.

DeadlinesProposal deadline: April 12, 2013. 250 word maximum.  Briefly describe your article; how it relates to issue theme; your background/qualifications for writing the article.  Proposals will be vetted by our editorial advisory board, and you will be notified of acceptance or non-acceptance within several weeks. A style sheet will be sent to you when your proposal is accepted.

First draft deadline:  June 21, 2013.   2000 word maximum.  Your article will be returned by early-mid July with comments and edits by editorial advisors and editor.

Final article deadline: August 9, 2013.  Final article due with four or five images, credits, and captions.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

US conference on Digital Humanities CfP

2013 Digital Humanities Forum: Return to the Material
University of Kansas
September 12-14, 2013

* Thursday, September 12: Workshops
* Friday, September 13: THATCamp Kansas
* Saturday, September 14: Return to the Material conference

Recently digital humanities discussions have returned to a focus on the
material in many senses. Bethany Nowviskie’s talk at MLA 2013—“Resistance
in the Materials” <>
—explored various facets of the material aspects of digital humanities,
including the role of craft and collaboration, the “increasing
casualization of academic labor," and the emergence of digital-to-physical
technologies. KU’s 2013 Digital Humanities Forum will explore these and
related topics in our program “Return to the Material.”

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers, posters or panel sessions on
topics from your own research that focus on the relationship between the
digital and the material, such as:

* How the digital deforms, reforms, and transforms the material, and
* Innovative computational approaches to the close reading of text, map,
image or audio;
* The implications for humanities scholarship and pedagogy of
digital-to-physical conversion tools, wearable computers, and augmented
reality technologies (e.g. 3-D printing, electronic textiles, Google Glass)
* The future of physical objects and collections in a digital world;
* The materiality of music, art, or film in the digital age;
* Digital humanities as a key mode of addressing technological change;
* The recognition of craft in building, creating and accessing electronic
* How the apparent wild experimentation of DH reveals substantial and
tangible insights;
* and other related topics.

Please submit abstracts of 500 words maximum at:

Proposal Deadline: June 1
Notification: June 15

Questions may be directed to the Institute for Digital Research in the

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brave New Worlds MEG Conference

Brave New Worlds - Transforming Museum Ethnography through Technology
MEG Annual Conference and AGM, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
in partnership with the University of Brighton
15– 16 April 2013
Booking closes 1 April 2013
The deadline for booking your place at this year’s MEG conference at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is fast approaching.
Speakers include representatives from the British Museum, the HornimanMuseum, the Tropenmuseum, the Museum of Archaeologyand Anthropology, University of Cambridge and the PittRivers Museum,University of Oxford. Papers include discussions about digital reciprocation, engaged museology and the use of new and old technologies in the conservation and interpretation of ethnographic artefacts.
A conference dinner will be held on Monday 15 April at The Chilli Pickle, 17 Jubilee Street, Brighton.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Greetings from Berlin VIII

Walking through the streets and suddenly… 

In the street where I am living there is a monument of a special kind. Take a look:

This is just one of many such panels hanging at the street lamps in this area. Do you have any idea which event this picture means to commemorate? I show you another one:

I give you a hint: I live in a quarter in the Southwest of Berlin where many Jewish citizens had lived before World War II. Here is a last example:

The pictures, altogether 80, hint to laws and decrees the National Socialists enacted to disenfranchise the Jewish population in Germany. These laws are cited on the backsides of the panels. The one with the cat says: “Jews are not allowed to keep pets. 15.5.1942” (see photo below), the one with the bathing slip refers to “Public bathhouses and  swimming pools are forbidden for Jews. 3.12.1938”. And the one showing the writing tablet hints of course to the prohibition to visit public schools.

I think that the concept and design of this monument is excellent because the pictures look so familiar as if they had been taken out of a primer. Thus they express a normality which was destroyed for the Jewish persons in a creeping and cruel process. Walking through the streets today, looking at the pictures, I guess nobody would know which story they refer to, but the discovery is all the more alarming. 

You can find more information about the memorial on the website of the artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schock who created it: