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.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Introducing: Museums Alive!

Tuesday 4 — Wednesday 5 November 2014
A Two-Day Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference hosted by the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, in partnership with Migration Museum Project
This conference seeks to explore the notion of museums as living organisms and the multiple questions that emerge from this context.  Museums, like living beings, do not live in isolation, rather, they are embedded in complex eco systems. Museums are occupied and given life by people. They are constantly evolving, directly affected by the changes around them, as well as effecting and acting as catalysts for change. Museums Alive! — Exploring how museums behave like living beings, organized in partnership with Migration Museum Project, will be the sixth conference developed by the PhD community at the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, and follows last year's highly successful Museum Metamorphosis conference.
We aim to discuss and share ideas on some of the most seminal issues in museums today.  Papers addressing the following themes and questions are encouraged, but we also welcome new suggestions and creative proposals:

Conscious Living
      Open System
 Organic Evolution
·       How do museums form their identity both internally and externally?
·       How do museums as ‘organisms’ coexist and relate to the wider eco system? How do we define what that system is?
·       How are museums born and do museums get sick or die? Do they mutate? How can we portray a museum’s life cycles? 

·       How do museums facilitate the creation of identities, and how in turn are museums’ identities created by the communities they serve?
·       How do museums migrate in order to adapt to the environment, not only in ways of living but also in ways of thinking?
·       How can museums use bodily ‘senses’ to respond to, capture and integrate with their visitors and the public?

·       How might we define living in the context of the museum?
·       How do museums affect the world around them?

·       How do museums collaborate and compete with different types of ‘species’?

·       Should museums remain neutral or express emotions?
·       How do museums behave in reaction to perceived threats and/or opportunities of change?
·       How can museums become laboratories or spaces for experimentation?

·       If museums actively and emotionally participate in social issues, what are the implications that need to be considered?
·       How can museums ensure that internal and external (the public) relations are balanced and appropriate?
·       How can museums become adaptive within in a defined structure? How and why do museums evolve?

The conference team welcomes all postgraduate students, early career researchers and practitioners who are interested in and researching topics related to the museum field. All disciplines and nationalities are invited to participate.
We welcome and encourage creative and alternative presentational styles, alongside the traditional paper. Workshops, panel debates, creative writing, films, installations, visual creations, displays and ignite presentations will all be considered.
·       Presenters of traditional papers will have 20 minutes to deliver their paper (ending with a 30 minutes Q & A with the whole session panel).
·       Workshops, panel debates and other alternative formats can either last 30, 45 or 60 minutes (please specify on submission proposal).
·       This year we are also inviting proposals for ignite rapid fire presentations, a great opportunity to spend 5 minutes presenting about a particular project, area of work or piece of research.
Abstracts and session submissions should include the following information:
1)     title of abstract or session
2)     author(s)' name and contact information (including twitter handle)
3)     biography (max. 100 words)
4)     format and style of presentation
5)     abstract or session description of no more than 250 words
6)     optional: up to two jpeg images, each under 2MB, to complement your proposal

Abstracts should be sent by email to Sipei Lu, Conference Secretary, by midnight GMT on 20 June 2014, to
Successful participants will be notified by mid July 2014.

Early bird fee (until 31 August)
Full fee (after 1 September)

Lunch and refreshments will be provided on both days. In addition, there will be optional social events and museum visits.
Conference email:

Twitter: @msphdconf

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Is This Art?

Greetings from Berlin XII

Last week a large exhibition of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was opened in Berlin. I had read in a newspaper beforehand that he defines his not being allowed to attend the opening as art. I had accepted this as a matter of fact until a friend asked me: “Why? Why is this art?” Wow, I thought, this is a really challenging question.

Art, I think, means foremost to create something. By forbidding Ai to come to Berlin and to take part in this event the Chinese government tries to prevent him from representing his art and to damage his identity as an artist. Defining this prohibition as art allows Ai to take back the power and to continue to create. Even though I find this answer rather convincing it does not satisfy me one-hundred percent. Can an absence really be art? What do you think?