Contemporary museum geographies

Boyd, Candice and Bennett, Sarah (2018) Contemporary museum geographies. In: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018; 28 - 31 Aug 2018, Cardiff, Wales. (Unpublished)


Recent calls have been made for greater attention to be paid to ‘museum geographies’, and in particular to the performative dimensions of museum exhibition and visitor reception: ‘ways of being in museums, as well as the role of theatre and art in bringing static displays to life’ (Geoghegan, 2010). This ‘bringing to life’ demands a consideration of emotion as core business of the museum. In contemporary museums, emphasis shifts away from educating visitors about ‘matters’, and towards enlivening ‘matters’ in ways that are engaging, enchanting or otherwise affecting for the visitor. This enlivening is increasingly enacted by the contemporary museums’ simultaneous deployment of traditional (object-based) material cultures and multi-sensory, immersive digital cultures and stories. We present findings from two studies: first is an evaluation of the WWI: Love and Sorrow Exhibition at Melbourne Museum, Australia – an exhibition to mark the centenary of Australia’s involvement in WWI. Participants’ drawings and walking interviews shed new light on the emotional impact of the exhibition for museum visitors. Second, Safe-keeping (custodia) emerged from artistic research undertaken at the Museo Laboratorio della Mente (Museum of the Mind or Museum of Psychiatry) in Rome in which the affective potential of fagotti (packages) containing the abandoned possessions of former patients of a closed psychiatric hospital was explored. The cognitive processes that were set in motion in the first encounter with these objects, and the subsequent use of embodied enactments to produce artworks related to both non-representational and representational modes of ‘knowing’, will be recounted. In keeping with this methodology, this presentation will employ a performative approach.

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