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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Fetishism of Artefacts

Let's talk some more about collecting; a subject of endless fascination for me. More specifically, let's talk about how museums choose objects to enter into their collection.

When I read Peter Gathercole's essay, "The Fetishism of Artefacts," the first time, several years ago, I didn't really understand it. Sure, I got the Marxist undertone, the bitter cynicism, and his call for greater openness in the museum profession. But when I re-read it a few days ago, I realized just how much he was speaking from experience; and my own work experience in a collection echoed back at me through his words. Last night, Gathercole -- “To put the question more generally, are artefacts regarded by curators as basic to the existence of museums, or is it the knowledge concerning artefacts which is basic, the artefacts being merely illustrative of that knowledge?” -- came to mind again.

My colleague and I went to the house of a potential donor, a woman who over 35 years has amassed a vast collection of Victorian and Edwardian hat pins, hair jewelry, and brooches. Initially, the donor approached us to take the entire collection, which she estimated at over 300 pieces; for a variety of reasons, including the prohibitive appraisal costs of such a large quantity of small objects, we refused. However, she suggested that we could choose the items we wanted, and so, armed with a list of criteria, we went to her house to "shop" for artefacts.

Even in compiling the criteria, it became clear that objects were interchangeable, so long as they represented something; materials, condition, style all took precedence. We honestly didn't even consider provenance as a good enough reason for acquiring an object. Of course, a museum cannot take everything, which would be truly representative: the whole world might be a museum in that case, where every object had innate historic importance. But it was painful, looking at the treasures that this woman had collected, knowing that we had to choose a maximum of two dozen objects, and filter even further her own filters for her collecting activities.

The other thing that I realized last night was that many objects gain significance as part of a series: when we isolated particular pieces, they either looked too ordinary, or too extraordinary. To choose something "representative," to be a synecdoche for the whole, was difficult precisely because that was not how the original collection had been formed. Every item there gained meaning because it was similar to and yet different from every other item.

The next day, I am still torn. I can't be sure that we chose the pieces we did for the right reasons. After all, we already have hatpins in our collection, and they are in situ, in hats; these pieces, removed several times over from their original context, have been fetishized multiple times. And my own curatorial expertise has only served to obscure the objects even further.

So let's consider this my mea culpa. Forgive me, future museum audiences, for I have sinned. It has been 13 days since my last confession.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

After NaMu

By Park Geuntae

Greetings to everyone.

I have been to Oslo for NaMu last week. It was my first conference and my first visit to Nordic country as well. Well, I do not deny that was a crucial trigger point for me to be at NaMu. The conference and the city, both of them were wonderful. Actually it was more than wonderful. At NaMu, I met a couple of Leicester people-Sally and Allan who made me much more comfortable there. After meeting them, I felt that I’m not in enemy’s territory any more.

I was very impressed by three things at NaMu. First, I found that people at NaMu had a various backgrounds and interests. From objects to marketing, people covered almost everything I can imagine in the museum filed. Of course I found some scholars whose interests are similar with me. Some are from even profit sectors.

Second, I realized that there is museum booming in Eastern European countries. Well, I do not know which one is correct politically, Eastern Europe or central-eastern Europe, but it seems true that they are trying to create many national museums (many of them huge money projects). I know when one country gets independence, the first things they do are to make national universities and museums. They are doing same things now with help from EU, and it was a hot discussion how they present and interpret their history under the Soviet Union. Objects, voice of objects and something like that. I just heard that countries in South America experienced same situations some time ago. It was very interesting. (The next one would be China? Actually many projects are on-going now in China.)

Third, I saw many young people at NaMu! Except some organizers and experienced museum professionals, a lot of people looked very young like around 35. Many of them were at the end of their PhD journey. I was just happy to be there with them.

The first part of NaMu is over now. But there will be the second part of NaMu soon. Currently NaMu publication project is going on so if anyone who attended at NaMu before and is interested in publishing her/his article, you had better contact Simon Knell.

Geuntae with Pille and Sally

I brought my digital camera to Oslo but I could not take nice pictures. I couldn’t have much time to look around the city and I’m not that good at taking good looking photos. However, here I show some pictures of our hotel. Simon said that this is the nicest hotel in NaMu history.

One more thing. The night at Oslo. It was just too beautiful to sleep.

Hope to see you at NaMu 2 or somewhere else again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kim Cattrall poses in Diana and Actaeon recreation

You may be aware that The Art Fund has pledged to give £1 million towards the £50 million needed by the end of the year to keep the great Renaissance painting by Titian, 'Diana and Actaeon' in Britain. Well Kim Cattrall (of Sex and the City fame) has done her bit to help by posing for a photograph recreating the painting! I think this is fantastic, not only is she bringing this cause more media attention but it may also, hopefully, promote more interest in the arts, museums and galleries from some sections of the public who are primarily interested in 'sexy' TV (rather than beauty). I can't wait to see this photo

If anyone is interested there will be a bit in tonight's BBC2 Culture Show

There is also a wee preview here: at 10pm.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CFP: Histories of Misunderstanding

From H-Material Culture (N.B. this sounds really interesting!):

Histories of Misunderstanding
Second Annual UVa History Graduate Students Conference

Call for Papers

The Graduate History Students Association at the University of Virginia is happy to announce the second annual History Graduate Students Conference, to be held in Charlottesville, Virginia, on *April 18-19, 2009*.

Misunderstandings, misinterpretations, misconceptions, and miscalculations are an inseparable part of people's lives. Yet only rarely do historians pay special attention to these phenomena in the study of the past. This conference will provide a forum for graduate students of history and related fields at all levels to discuss misunderstandings in history.

Possible topics might include (but are not limited to) the following:

Miscommunications in Battle and in the Political Arena
Gendered Misperceptions
Cross-Cultural Misinterpretations
(first contact between settlers and indigenous people, etc.)
"Distorted" Memories
Technological Appropriations
Media Mistakes
Unforeseen Consequences

The papers should address the problem of distinguishing between unintended misunderstandings and intentional manipulation and misrepresentation.

Keynote address by Prof. *Allan Megill*, University of Virginia

You are invited to submit paper proposals based on seminar papers, master's theses, or dissertation projects. Proposals should be no more than one page and include the scholar's name, e-mail address, the paper's title, and a short description of the proposed topic.

Paper proposals must be submitted by *December 5, 2008*.

If selected, participants will be asked to submit a final version of their paper (no more than 20 minutes) two weeks prior to the conference.

Submit abstracts and questions by email to Mike Caires (**).

Brown Bag Seminar Programme: Date for your diaries

The next Brown Bag Seminar will be given by Clare Valentine (Museum Studies 1989), now Head of Collections - Zoology, National History Museum, on 10th December 2008 at 1pm, LT1.

Clare will talk about The Darwin Centre/Cocoon which has often featured in the news recently.

CFP: The Heritage Theatre

From H-Museum:

The Heritage Theater. The dynamics of cultural heritage in a globalizing world
Rotterdam Conference on Globalisation and Cultural Heritage
Erasmus University Rotterdam
May 13-15 2009

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, organizations for the preservation of heritage were founded as part of European national cultural policy, in countries colonized by the West, and in independent states outside Europe. In this sense, heritage institutions are early examples of cultural export on a global scale. The export of heritage concepts, heritage formats, and heritage knowledge from the West to other countries and vice versa is still going on, not only in traditional, well-tried ways, but also in other formats, like theme parks, games and internet sites. Similarly, in non-Western countries various other ways of protecting and presenting cultural heritage have developed over the last few decades. Institutions such as cultural centres and community centers displaying cultural heritage have no counterparts in Western countries. In the last decades, heritage institutions work together on a global scale. The perception of a shared past created new forms of cooperation between institutions in different nations and the legitimacy of traditional local museums was challenged by the migration of new, sometimes
transnational oriented communities.

The current interest in cultural heritage is also the result of the growing demand on the part of international tourism for places with a cultural heritage that can be experienced as part of leisure activities. All over the world, countries are beginning to realize the economic benefits of tourism, and searching for possibilities to expand tourism. Today, the interest in cultural heritage is global and diverse. Indeed, it is no longer correct to speak of a single audience, since cultural heritage visitors have different backgrounds and different expectations. The growing exchange of information between individual heritage institutions, and between those institutions and the public, is part of a global process that makes use of interconnected information networks.

The Department of Cultural Studies, Faculty of History and Arts, Erasmus University Rotterdam, is the location of two research programmes, 'Globalization and Cultural Heritage' and 'Community Museums Past & Present', funded by NWO (Dutch Science Foundation) and the Dutch VSB Foundation. See for more information and

The first research project is now coming to an end, the latter will start at 01-01-09. To conclude the first and to launch the second project, the Department is planning an international conference on the effects and causes of globalization and cultural heritage, 'The Heritage Theater. The dynamics of cultural heritage in a globalizing world' at Rotterdam, May 13-15, 2009. Subthemes will be the impact of tourism and the internet on cultural heritage and the institutional arena.

We invite researchers on globalization and cultural heritage to send us abstracts for papers to present at this conference. Abstracts (max. 300 words)can be send until December 15, 2008, to

For more information about this conference, please contact me:

Prof. Dr. Marlite Halbertsma
Faculty of History and Arts
Erasmus University Rotterdam
P.O. Box 1738
NL 3000 DR Rotterdam
tel. + 31 10 4082444
tel + 31 6 15126083
fax + 31 10 4089135

Saturday, November 22, 2008

CFP: Location/Dislocation

From H-ArtHist:


California State University, Sacramento
Sixth Annual Festival of the Arts Art History Symposium


Symposium date: Saturday, March 21, 2009

Proposal deadline: January 16, 2009

We invite 300-word proposals for 20-minute lectures on the theme of "location and dislocation" in the history of art. The symposium is open to a wide range of historical and contemporary topics on the placement and displacement of artists, identities, artworks, texts, collections, and cultures. "Location" is broadly defined as geographic, temporal, racial, sexual, virtual, invented, or actual. We welcome proposals from historians and theorists of early modern, modern, and contemporary art of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas with research interests in architecture, design, visual culture, and cross-disciplinary studies.

Please email your proposal with a one-paragraph professional biography to or mail them to Elaine O'Brien, Art Department, California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6061.

CFP: The Public Life of Things

From H-Material Culture:

The Public Lives of Things
Seventh Annual Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars
Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
Saturday 25 April 2009

The Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware invites submissions for papers to be given at the Seventh Annual Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars.

Focus: Supported in part by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for public engagement in the humanities, this year's symposium encourages graduate students and other emerging scholars to submit papers that align their object-based research with some aspect of its potential role in society at large. Within that context, we seek diversity in topics, chronology, and disciplinary approaches. Travel grants will be available for all presenters. Disciplines represented at past symposia include American studies, anthropology, archaeology, consumer studies, English, history, museum studies and the histories of art, architecture, design and technology.

Format: The symposium will consist of nine presentations divided into three panels. Each presentation is limited to twenty minutes and each panel is followed by comments from established scholars in the field. There will be two morning sessions and one afternoon session, with breaks for discussion following each session and over lunch. Participants will also have the opportunity to tour behind the scenes at Winterthur's unparalleled collection of early American decorative arts.

Submissions: The proposal should be no more than 300 words and should clearly indicate the focus of your object-based research, the critical approach you take toward that research, and the significance of your research in the wider community. While the audience for the symposium consists mainly of university and college faculty and graduate students, we encourage broader participation. In evaluating proposals, we will give preference to those papers that keep that broader audience in mind. Send your proposal, along with a current c.v. (no more than two pages), to

Deadline: Proposals must be received by 5 pm on Friday, 30 January 2009. Speakers will be notified of the vetting committee's decision by late February 2009. Confirmed speakers will be asked to provide symposium organizers with digital images for use in publicity and are required to submit a final draft of their papers by 16 March 2009.

Laura Walikainen, Department of History, University of Delaware.

Katie Wood, Department of Art History, University of Delaware.
The Seventh Annual Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars (MCSES)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Podcast #1: Cold War Modern (15/11)

Ever keen to extend the Attic's sphere of influence (!), last weekend's museum crawlers made a tentative foray into podcasting. In the salubrious surroundings of Costa Coffee on Old Brompton Road, Jen, Ceri, Aluah, Pippa, Serena and I recorded our discussion of the V&A exhibition, Cold War Modern, over caffeine and cheese.

And - ta da - I am delighted to bring you the results achieved on a wing and a prayer with, I might add, only a basic digital recorder. Thus the sound quality isn't great but, hopefully, it is still possible to follow the conversation. We'd be delighted to receive your comments!
Click the following link to listen: PODCAST #1: Cold War Modern (15/11/08) (27 mins)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A trip to London by Arthur Schopenhauer (the fingerpuppet)

Greetings students.  Like me I expect you are a student of life as well as the myriad of organisations that we pile into the descriptive bracket of the museum.  Like me I expect that you are unduly concerned with the way in which our world is organised to bring only maximum misery to its unwitting inhabitants, everyday exhibited by those modern peddlers of doom and destruction the tabloids and broadsheets.  I beg you to reconsider that you never step outside into the hateful reality in which we subsist everyday and instead fill your days with wonder and enlightenment, chiefly from the musical and philosophical arts.  I find that every time I forget to follow this simple maxim I am only incredibly disappointed by what I find that I must retreat to my bed for several days with a severe headache for my pains.  Such as it was after my visit to that infernal place they call London, a city where all the world's ills are magnified as if to a terrible cacophony, the squeaking and squealing masses of humanity crowding into the temples of fawning and... oh I have been informed that I must dispense with this lengthy introduction and so get to the point of this post which is to ruminate upon the recent visit of myself to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library, to take in two esteemed exhibitions and so acknowledge my thoughts to you in the manner of a review.  I suppose I must and so let us commence.

Cold War Modern it has to be said did not assuage any of my fears about the narcissism and idiocy of those we deem fit to rule in our names.  The premise rested on the contest between the USA and USSR to see who could best each other in presenting to the rest of the world (who watched events unfold in fear and perhaps disbelief that grown men could be so flagrant with their powerful toys) their vision of a utopian future, dragging their (mostly) brainwashed populations along with them.  If the history of this hideous manifestation of the will to power was unpalatable to me, the interest of this exhibition lay in the myriad outputs from this titanic contest.  I admired the quantity of objects amassed by the V&A that had been influenced by the competing attitudes of fear and revulsion, hope and optimism that the Cold War seemed to inspire in architects, artists, craftsmen, scientists and manufacturers.  Although I do not generally admire the automobile for its capacity to destroy the very environment it claims for its freedom, I greatly coveted the appealing examples of German (I say proudly) design - the scooter which encased the driver in a protective bubble and the automobile of choice for East German dictators and bureaucrats.  Sadly I cannot provide an image of these marvelous creations still, imagine a useful form of transport masquerading as a friend (bulbous eyes, a smile you can trust) and you might steer close to my feelings for these amazing creations.

There was much to take in and so my impressions can only be sketchy; although I am an interloper of time in this 21st century I was intrigued to see the debt of the postmodern (or is that post post modern, I am afraid my great mind is getting too kerfuddled to understand these modern definitions) world attributed by this exhibition to the Cold War.  Simple plastic cups and saucers seemed to recall those designed by the great consumer giant IKEA.  Furniture that cocooned the participant against the fear brought on by State posturising a welcome sight.  That some of these future fantasies evoked an age where men would feel at home in ribbed stockings was not something I felt should have survived the nuclear fallout, let alone the Middle Ages.  But then the visions of artists can be as ridiculous as they can be sublime and this exhibition visited well the suggestion that whilst the artists etc had their heads in the Utopian cloud, often their designs did not make it past the prototype stage.  Perhaps there was a collective sigh of relief from some visitors (myself included) however the dreams of a few were strong enough to drag entire countries, whole peoples along with them.

I was made slightly less miserable to see that museums CAN have a sense of humour with the sign to the shop entrance replicating the famous sign when leaving the American sector in Berlin (we had a short discussion as to why in Germany after all the German language would be relegated to last on the sign but drew no sensible conclusions).  It amazed me more however how much more  attention was paid, by the young ladies in my group, to the consumables for sale in said museum shop than the objects in the exhibition.  That noted, I thought it would be a tremendous wheeze if the curators would only stick tiny price labels on their objects and visitors would flock in their droves!  Between you and myself I was rather enamoured of the secret camera that could be hidden in a leather briefcase, unfortunately they had not seen sense to replicate this in a format that could be placed on general sale.  So I left the shop with a few postcards of the striking images from the exhibition to serve as a reminder that tyranny never goes away, it continues to exist if only in alternative forms.

It was fitting that after the prolonged exposure to such a thought-provoking exhibition, we repaired to an eating establishment for snacks and all manner of hot beverages. To make you jealous I have supplied a picture of the tasty fare below.

So ends my miserable opinion on the trip to London, I could expand at length on the second exhibition we visited at the British Library, however I fear that I have exhausted myself and I must now return to my bed for a prolonged period of rest and some musical comfort. And so I will bid you all adieu, in whatever part of this ill-formed world you belong.

Note: huge apologies are made for the potential inadequacy and offense that this review may cause, Schopenhauer is grumpy at the best of times

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Conference Alert: Museum Ethics

From H-Museum:

Museum Ethics
Museum of World Cultures, Gothenburg, Sweden
3 December 2008

Museion invites you to participate in a meeting planned for Wednesday 3 December 2008 in the Museum of World Cultures, Gothenburg, Sweden relating to various aspects of Museum Ethics. While many of you will be familiar with the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums that generally reflects the principles accepted by the international museum community, there are still many areas of museum practice that require professionals to think much more deeply; there are some specific issues where the ICOM Code fails to provide sufficient detail because it sets only 'minimum standards'.

We have designed a day event which explores some specific ethical concerns, utilising experiences from within and outside Sweden. We have placed a focus on the ethical dilemmas that museums face in terms of dealing with problematical object (human remains;sacred objects); representation in exhibitions; environmental and sustainability concerns; and illicit trade. The programme is outlined in the attached document. You will note from the programme that we have included a 'workshop' session in order that all participants can make their views and opinions - and any new initiatives in dealing with ethical considerations - more widely known. Although most of the programme will be delivered in English, the workshop discussions can take place in Swedish. I do hope that you will be able to join us for what will be a fascinating day, and an opportunity to share experiences with a wide group of museum professionals in Sweden; if you know of colleagues who you feel may be interested in attending, please pass this information on to them.

On a practical note, Museion will provide teas and coffeee, but not lunch. However the Museum's restaurant 'Tabla' does good lunches, and we would be grateful if you could, in your reply to this e-mail, state whether you would like to eat at Tabla.

We hope that you will join us for this meeting. Could you please confirm your attendance by sending an e-mail to Staffan Lunden ( no later than Thursday 20 November. We look forward to welcoming you to Museion on the 3 December 2008.

We look forward to an informative and productive day.

With good wishes,

Professor Peter Davis
Guest Professor of Museology
Göteborg University
Box 111, SE 405 30
+46 (0)31 786 5815

Staffan Lundén
Göteborgs Universitet
Box 111
SE 405 30 Sweden



Museum Forum Meeting - Wednesday 3 December 2008

Museum Ethics

10.00 Welcome and coffee

10.30 Introduction to the meeting
Peter Davis, Guest Professor, Museion

10.35 Museums and the ethics of human remains and sacred objects
Malcolm Chapman, The Manchester Museum, UK

In 2006 the Manchester Museum started development of a new Policy on Human Remains. Following on from an earlier successful consultation process around its Acquisition and Disposal Policy the museum decided to open up the draft policy to widespread public consultation. This allowed other museums, scientists, archaeologists, faith and community groups as well general museum visitors to express their views and contribute to the final policy. The consultation process ran for six months and elicited a wide range of strong opinions. What was unexpected was the response from some sectors of the scientific community who viewed the proposed policy as an attack on science itself.

Following on from this the Museum opened a temporary exhibition entitled Lindow Man: a bog body mystery. Content for the exhibition had been developed following a process of consultation with various interest groups. At the same time the Museum began a process of consultation with visitors regarding the display of Ancient Egyptian human remains.

This presentation examines the Museum's approach, the controversies arising from it and where the Museum goes from there in developing an ethical approach to the display and uses of ancient human remains and associated artefacts.

Malcolm Chapman has been Head of Collections Development and Registrar at The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester since 2000. His wide-ranging role encompasses all aspects of collections management as well as improving and increasing user access to the collection, including new technologies and media such as YouTube. He is responsible for development and implementation of all collection-related policies including human remains and acquisition and disposal. Working regionally he sits on the Renaissance North West Collections For The Future Steering Group and chairs the Roman Heritage Working Group improving access to and use of the region's collections. He has a Masters degree in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from the University of Manchester and regularly lectures on this programme on topics ranging from human remains, policy development, collections management and digital heritage. Before working in Manchester he was at The British Museum for eleven years working in collections management, developing a collections management system and cataloguing medieval archaeology collections.

11.0 The ethics of representation in museum exhibitions: cases from the
Paula dos Santos, The Reinwardt Academie, Amsterdam

What does it mean for a museum to operate in an increasingly multicultural
and globalized city? Museums in large cities in the Netherlands, as in other
countries in Europe and worldwide, have to face the new dilemmas of the 21st
Century. Issues of cultural representation, gender representation, and
others, signal what Pierre Nora once referred to as 'the internal
decolonization of societies'. They can have a great impact in museum
practice and discourse, and are key elements in the discussions about
ethical conduct and decision-making in exhibitions.

In addressing this subject, one also finds the dilemmas of representation to
be intimately related to the actual discussions about the social role of
museums, to their responsibility towards different stakeholders, to issues
of accountability, authority and even authenticity.

This presentation explores this combination of societal context and museum's
social role as fundamental aspects for setting and conditioning principles
on which ethical decisions are taken. By means of two case studies from
museum exhibitions in the Netherlands, it will be possible to discuss issues
such as: are there limits for freedom of expression in art exhibitions? Is
it possible to balance the respect for the various stakeholders' beliefs and
expectations in an exhibition? How will museums cope with the different
principles of a multicultural, inclusive society and their political

Paula dos Santos teaches theoretical museology, sociomuseology and ethics at
the Reinwardt Academy of Cultural Heritage, Amsterdam. She is also project
co-ordinator for the Culturalia Foundation and advisor for heritage and
network-related projects in Portuguese speaking countries. She is a member
of the board of the Movement for a New Museology (MINOM).

11.45 Illicit antiquities, capitalism and sponsorship: ethical

Market demand for archaeological objects generates widespread looting and
destruction of archaeological sites around the world. This presentation of
the ethical considerations of this phenomena focuses on two case studies
where museums actively contributed to this destruction by legitimising the
trade in unprovenanced - that is, presumably looted - archaeological

The first case concerns the antiquities fair Grand Antiques held biannually
at Nordiska Museet, Stockholm. At this fair unprovenanced Chinese
archaeological objects are sold. The presentation will counter the museum's
reasons for allowing this fair in the museum. It appears that their
justification lies within a nationalistic agenda according to which the
museum needs only to be concerned about the protection of "Swedish" national
heritage. Seemingly the museum denies any responsibility for how its
activities may affect the heritage of "foreign" countries. Is this ethically

The second case which will be explored concerns a museum exhibition held at
the Palace Museum in Beijing in 2005. The exhibition, which was sponsored by
Volvo, displayed objects from the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in
Stockholm, the Röhsska Museum, Göteborg, the Göteborg City Museum, the
Göteborg Maritime Museum and a Gothenburg antiquities dealer,. The case is
of interest not only because of how these museums became involved in helping
a dealer in antiquities to promote his business, but also because it
provides a clear-cut example of the dangers of private sponsorship and of
how history can be manipulated. Through the exhibition Volvo sought to
create a particular vision of Chinese-Swedish relations in history in order
to promote the sale of its trucks on the Chinese market. This is a worst
case scenario, one where history is written - and museums manipulated - in
the board rooms of private companies to serve their commercial interests.

Both examples raise a number of questions regarding politics, power
relations, professional responsibility and museum ethics.

Staffan Lundén is a PhD. student at the Department of Archaeology and
History at Gothenburg University. He conducts research on the illicit trade
in antiquities and its relationship to museum ethics. He also teaches on the
Masters programme in International Museum Studies at Museion, Gothenburg

12.30 LUNCH (available at Tabla, Museum of World Culture, or at local

13.30 Environmental ethics and museums
Peter Davis, Museion, Gothenburg University

Sweden was in the vanguard of thinking about environmental issues, taking a
lead in organizing the first UN conference on the environment in Stockholm
in 1972. Since then the country has continued to promote sustainable
environmental solutions, and in 1999 the Swedish Parliament adopted 16
environmental quality objectives, and the 'Swedish Environmental Code' that
demands impact assessments for new development; these consider impacts not
only on humans, animals, soils, water and air, but also the cultural
environment. The goal is a sustainable society in which future generations
will be able to meet their needs at least as fully as present generations.

Despite these measures the latest review of progress (2008) made towards
achieving the environmental goals by 2020 - the target date - makes gloomy
reading. Nature's capacity for recovery, the ambitious nature of the
targets, globalization impacts on Swedish society and lack of implementation
of policies are all cited as reasons for the lack of progress. It appears
that although the environmental ethic is strong in Sweden, achieving goals
is difficult.

So how might Swedish museums assist in delivering, or react to, the 16 goals
- indeed, can they play any role at all? How might environmental ethics
impact on museum activities and could museums do more to operate in a
sustainable fashion? How have museums worldwide reacted to the demands of
the environmental ethic and are there models of good practice that we can
learn from? Can we promote environmentally sensitive actions in our
exhibitions and how might our organization respond ethically and practically
to environmental needs?

Peter Davis is Professor of Museology at the International Centre for
Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University, UK, and Guest
Professor at Museion, Göteborg University. He has worked as an ecologist and
as a biological curator, and has a particular interest in the ways museums
have responded to the demands of the environmental movement. He is the
author of Museums and the Natural Environment (1996) and Ecomuseums: a sense
of place (1999).

14.00 Working Group discussions - ethical issues in Swedish museums -
dealing with the challenges (*see additional sheet to find your group*).

15.00 Tea/Coffee

15.30 Feedback from the working groups and discussion of the key issues

16.00 Meeting closes.

Conference Alert: Material Matters

From H-ArtHist:

Symposium of the working group, Modern Materials in Collections: Scotland, in association with VARIE and ECA.

Material Matters: Materiality in Contemporary Art
20 November 2008, Edinburgh College of Art

How do you make, preserve and interpret contemporary art made with non-traditional materials? What are the challenges and how are they overcome by artists, conservators and curators? What are the implications and opportunities for art education in Scotland? These are the issues that will be discussed at a symposium organised by the Modern Materials in Collections: Scotland (MMiC:S) working group in collaboration with VARIE (Visual Arts Research Institute Edinburgh) Icon Scotland Group and ECA. The symposium will take place at Edinburgh College of Art on 20 November 2008.

Modern Materials in Collections: Scotland

Founded in 2006, MMiC:S promotes the collecting of modern materials and helps to build confidence, skills and best practice for the acquisition, display and preservation of contemporary objects and art. Following the success of last year's symposium on plastics in collections, this year's annual event will bring together those who make art and those who look after it to discuss materiality in contemporary art.

The morning will be given over to papers, with topics including the semantics of materials, the neglect of materiality in traditional art history, conservation challenges posed by non-traditional materials and the artistic production process. In the afternoon a number of break-out sessions will give an opportunity to explore some of these issues in more detail. Speakers confirmed for the symposium are: Daniel Herrmann and Jacqueline Ridge of National Galleries Scotland, Dr Petra Lange-Berndt of University College of London, Dr Erma Hermens and Rebecca Erdal of Glasgow University, Will MacLean MBE RSA and Glen Onwin RSA. The event will be recorded and we intend to make the presentations available to a wider audience.


Registration is available at £20 or £10 for students. To find out about the programme, view abstracts of presentations and to register, visit

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A very short introduction to...

Just wanted to share my little grad student triumph today. The bookstore of the Uni where I work was having a 25% off sale on the Oxford University Press "Very Short Introduction" series. They are $10 normally, but if you are buying 10 of them as I was, you appreciate a discount! I am now the proud owner of a very colourful range: (Social and Cultural) Anthropology; Art History; Art Theory; Barthes; Design; Foucault; Habermas; Heidegger; Ideology; and Sociology. That pretty much sums up my research interests, too. If only they also had Debord, Bourdieu, Memory, and Dress History, I'd be all set!
Anyway, you might want to check if a similar promotion is on in your area - it's a great deal!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dark Tourism: reflections on the Wall

Earlier this month, Anna W and I took a very brief trip to Berlin, to stay with Anna Ch and her family. While we had a great time, for me a sense of unease hung over the trip. Inevitably, many of the sites we visited pertained to the recent history of Berlin, the wall, the war and the Holocaust.

On the way to the epicentre of preunification Berlin, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, Anna W and I mused upon the ethics of what we were doing. As students of museum studies we are aware, perhaps more than most, of the phenomenon of 'dark tourism,' a term coined by Foley and Lennon (2000) to describe the process - to give a very simple explanation - of visiting places associated with with death and destruction (it's more complex that that - predicated by the post-modern condition, global communications, commodification etc., but that's the general gist of it). Yet, we had to admit that we were still inexorably drawn to these places.

I guess I have a fairly legitimate excuse (if one is necessary). I am a member of the last generation to reach my teenage years under the spectre of the Cold War and have a clear memory of the lead-up to, and collapse of the Berlin Wall. I watched the events unfold live on television, and I can say with total certainty that those events (along with the Tian'anmen Square 'incident') led me to my current research. My academic interest thus absolves me of the dubious moniker 'dark tourist,' doesn't it?

A particularly troubling aspect for both Anna W and I was the question of whether it was ethical, even amoral, to take photographs of the remains of the Berlin Wall. We decided that we would (and did, as the photographs above testify). But we would not, as many tourists do, pose in front of it. This seemed like a good solution. We could satisfy our curiosity within the bounds of academic detachment and objectivity.

I cannot deny that I adore communist kitsch. I am fully aware of how this contradicts with what I've written above. I was keen to, as I put it to Anna Ch, 'get me some ostalgie.' Yet, when I did get there, the commodification of Berlin's troubled past repelled; it was largely exploitative and inappropriate. As a case in point I wish I had taken a photograph of the 'I love Checkpoint Charlie' merchandise in the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie which, incidentally, was in dire need of an interpretive revamp, in limbo between its pre and post-reunification existence (I may write more on this later), although its two shops were contemporary and consumer-aware. I was left unsure and unsettled, questioning my own academic and personal motivations.

Ultimately, after all this soul-searching, I gave in. I did take a photograph of the 'Two Annas' at the East Side Gallery. But I captured them mid-conversation, standing alongside the wall, not posing and smiling for the camera. We were there, but we were self-aware.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Publication: Journal of the History of Collections 20 (2)

Hmmmm - one of The Attic contributors has been hiding her light under a bushel...

J Hist Collections -- Table of Contents Alert

A new issue of Journal of the History of Collections has been made available:
November 2008; Vol. 20, No. 2



Robert Tittler
Portrait collection and display in the English civic body, c.1540-1640
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 161-172; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhm039.

Isabel Yaya
Wonders of America: The curiosity cabinet as a site of representation and
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 173-188; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhm038.

Donna Kurtz
The concept of the classical past in Tudor and early Stuart England
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 189-204; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn018.

Anthony Turner
Grollier de Serviere, the brothers Monconys: Curiosity and collecting in seventeenth-century Lyon
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 205-215; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn011.

Monika Bincsik
European collectors and Japanese merchants of lacquer in 'Old Japan':
Collecting Japanese lacquer art in the Meiji period (1868-1912)
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 217-236; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn013.

Julia Petrov
'The habit of their age': English genre painters, dress collecting, and museums, 1910-1914
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 237-251; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn017.

Ion Meyer and Jane Richter
The fate of a nineteenth-century ischiopagus from Denmark
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 253-258; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn009.

Jamie Andrews
What will survive of us are manuscripts: Collecting the papers of living British writers
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 259-271; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn016.

Denise Amy Baxter
Parvenu or honnete homme: The collecting practices of Germain-Louis de Chauvelin
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 273-289; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhm037.

Chelsea Schlievert and Jason Steuber
Collecting Asian art, defining gender roles: World War II, women curators and the politics of Asian art collections in the United States
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 291-303; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn001.

Book Reviews

Moya Carey
L'armoire a sagesse. Bibliotheques et collections en Islam
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 305-306; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn025.

Peter Mason
Portraits of Men and Ideas. Images of Science in Italy from the
Renaissance to the Nineteenth Century
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 306-307; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn014.

Peter Mason
Aedes Barberinae ad Quirinalem descriptae. Descrizione di Palazzo Barberini al Quirinale
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 308-309; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn020.

Christopher Brown
The Later Flemish Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 309-310; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn024.

Florike Egmond
Flora: The Erbario Miniato and Other Drawings
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 310-312; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn015.

Luisa Cale
Imagining the Gallery. The Social Body of British Romanticism
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 312-313; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn021.

Alison Petch
Colonial Collections Revisited
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 313-314; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn023.

Peter Davis
The Whipple Museum of the History of Science: Instruments and Interpretations to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of R. S. Whipple's Gift
to the University of Cambridge
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 314-315; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn022.

Lauran Toorians
De geschiedenis van een begrip
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 315-316; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn004.

Books Received

Books Received
J Hist Collections 2008 20: 317; doi:10.1093/jhc/fhn026.

Publication: International Journal of Heritage Studies 14 (6)

International Journal of Heritage Studies: Volume 14 Issue 6 is now available online at informaworld (

This new issue contains the following articles:

Contributors, Pages 487 - 488
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802525178

Musée Gauguin Tahiti: Indigenous Places, Colonial Heritage, Pages 489 - 505
Author: Heather Waldroup
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503258

The Archaeological Survey of India and Communal Violence in Post-independence India, Pages 506 - 523
Author: Susan Johnson-Roehr
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503266

Post-conflict Heritage and Tourism in Cambodia: The Burden of Angkor, Pages 524 - 539
Author: Tim Winter
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503274

Conserving Hong Kong’s Heritage: The Case of Queen’s Pier, Pages 540 - 554
Author: Joan C. Henderson
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503282

Measuring Museum Visitor Preferences Towards Opportunities for Developing Social Capital: An Application of a Choice Experiment to the Discovery Museum, Pages 555 - 572
Authors: Naomi Kinghorn; Ken Willis
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503290

Partners in Preservation: University of Montreal Research for the Preservation of the Montreal School Board Historic Schools, Pages 573 - 588
Author: Claudine Déom
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503308

Estancias of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina: Rural Heritage, Sustainable Development and Tourism, Pages 589 - 594
Authors: Julio Morosi; Beatriz Amarilla; Alfredo Conti; Mabel Contín
DOI: 10.1080/13527250802503316

Artist to give away 1,000 of works

This might interest those of us in London this Friday night/Saturday morning (as many of us will be - it's the London museum crawl this weekend folks!). I just love this sort of thing...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

CFP: Electronic Visualisation and the Arts

From H-Museum:


EVA London 2009
6-8 July 2009

ideas and concepts in culture, heritage and the arts: digital arts, sound,
music, film and animation, 2D and 3D imaging, European projects,
archaeology, architecture, social media for museums, heritage and fine art
photography, computer arts


EVA London 2009 will be co-sponsored by the Computer Arts Society, a Special
Interest Group of the British Computer Society, and by the BCS.

We invite offers of papers. For proposals we require only a summary of the
paper on not more than one page. It must be submitted electronically
according to the instructions on the EVA London website,

Papers may be on any aspect of EVA London's focus on visualisation for the
arts and culture, broadly interpreted, including technology, use and users,
creative, visual and performing arts and music, strategy, organisational
implications and policy. Papers are peer reviewed and may be edited. They
will be published as hard copy and online.

We hope to offer bursaries again to attend EVA London for those who do not
have access to grants.

EVA London 2009's conference themes will include, but are not limited to:

* Enabling the arts through digital technologies
* Crossing disciplinary boundaries
* Visualising ideas and concepts
* Moving and still images in museums and galleries
* Web 2.0 technologies in cultural heritage organizations
* Digital and computational arts
* Sound, music, film and animation
* 2D and 3D imaging
* Virtual and augmented worlds
* Fine art and photography
* Interactive technologies

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Dr Suzanne Keene
Reader in Museum Studies
University College London
Institute of Archaeology
31-34 Gordon Square
London, WC1H 0PY

t: +44 (0)20 7679 4935
m: 0779 962 7002

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

!!!STOP PRESS!!! CFP: Museological Review, Issue 14

Museological Review: Call for Papers

Museological Review Issue 14

'Cultural Property: Ownership, Restitution and Retention and its Impact on Museum Collections, their Care, Display and Interpretation'

The Museological Review, edited by the PhD students of the Department of Museum Studies based at the University of Leicester, has launched an annual online journal. It is a forum for students and practitioners to share and debate innovative perspectives on museums and publishes original research in the field of museum studies and allied subject areas such as cultural studies, archeology, conservation science, architecture, art history and social sciences, from a range of multi-disciplinary perspectives. We are seeking contributors from the international research community, to share experimental and creative ideas to cultivate debate and enhance museum practice. We actively encourage new thinking with the aim that the Museological Review will share experimental research and creative ideas within a constructive environment.

This issue will focus on the ownership, restitution and retention of cultural property and it’s impact on museum collections; which includes related issues of care and conservation, display, exhibition, interpretation and visitor reception, as well as cultural diversity, representation and exclusion.

We invite abstracts, of no more than 300 words in length, for papers in English that explore these issues. The Museological Review is targeted towards PhD students from all over the world, but we would also welcome contributions from other researchers and professionals.
Please send an abstract of your proposed paper – along with a 100-word biography describing your current area of research or position of employment - by email to the Editors, or by post to the address given below, by February 1st, 2009. Please remember to include your email address and/or contact details as well as details of your institutional affiliation, if applicable. Successful contributors will be notified by email before March 1st, 2009 and final papers are due September 30th, 2009. All abstracts submitted will be subject to a rigorous selection process to maintain academic quality. We regret that we will be unable to accept all abstracts submitted.

The Editors, Museological Review
Department of Museum Studies
University of Leicester
105, Princess Road East

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rant # 2/infinity: Jerry Maguire

Can you tell I'm working on writing this weekend?
Whereas yesterday's frustration was poor search options, today's frustration addresses the larger problems of poor citation.

I rant about this enough when I am teaching, and my poor students' essays are constantly marked up with "source?" in green pen. But I don't think the poor undergrads realize just how frustrating poor citation is for a "real" researcher. Take, for example, sentences that sweepingly begin with "Studies have shown..." and then never go on to have a footnote, endnote, or in-text citation of the source of these miraculous studies. At this point I go into full-on Jerry Maguire mode and want to scream at the top of my lungs, "SHOW ME THE STUDY!!! SHOW. ME. THE STUDY!!!" Sadly, as for Cuba Gooding Jr, the study is never revealed...
Don't try this at home, kids.

Rant # 1/infinity

Good thing I'm only starting the PhD process. Y'all have so many more of these little rants to look forward to! ;-)

So I'm tracking down sources, and because my topic of interest is so arcane, specialized, and under-researched, this is somewhat difficult. The results will, I hope, be worthwhile, but the process is frustrating.

Today's frustration: Museums Journal accessibility online. May I just say that the Museums Association online database is totally terrible? That is to say, the search engine brings up no results no matter what you search for? And since I'm searching for a specific article from 1961, and not a random string of words, this is totally unacceptable. Never mind that I am not a member and wouldn't have access to the article anyway, I just want to be reassured that a copy exists somewhere!

Leicester Library is sadly not much better - as a distance-learning student, I can't very well just go down to the basement to check out the periodicals stacks and see if the 1961 issue is there, can I? It'd be far more reasonable for the library to tell me, online, ahead of time, if they happen to have the complete run before I have to bother some hapless librarian into finding and sending me a photocopy.

Keyboard smash!!!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Collections at the University of Leicester

Two recent online reports about the diverse collections of the University of Leicester.

Framework for success: Why Leicester university is investing in modern art (Telegraph)

T-Rex cast moves into Geology Department at University of Leicester (24 Hour Museum)

(Please excuse the brevity of this post - I've got a h*ll of a lot of do today. Some of it party-themed, some of it thesis-related - argh!)