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The Poetics Of Museum Display
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The Poetics Of Museum Display

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  • 1. Communicating Culture the poetics of museum display
  • 2. Displaying Cultures
    • In groups of three decide on 10 objects that you would choose to display in a collection of curiosities.
    • Decide on where and how you would exhibit your display.
    • You have 15 minutes to complete the task.
  • 3. Displaying Cultures
    • Now add descriptive labels to each of those objects and decide on the order in which you would like a visitor to encounter them.
    • You have 15 minutes to complete the task.
  • 4. Displaying Cultures
    • Select one member of the group. That person will now interview another group about their display. As a group decide what questions to ask in order to discover the nature of the other group's display and what it tells you about them.
    • Plan on your interview lasting no longer than 15 minutes.
    • Report back to you own group your findings.
  • 5. Discussion Questions
    • What are the meanings and values attributed to objects of display by the exhibitors and by you?
    • How are collections rooted in broader power/knowledge relations?
    • How do contexts of display alter the interpretation of those objects?
  • 6. Displaying Cultures: The work
    • With their roots in private collections of curiosities of the 17th century, museums today are major cultural institutions that seek to 'educate' the public through organised presentations of objects and images. They give an illusion of objectivity, neutrality and timeless truth. Yet the work of museum personnel (as your work in the task you completed) is fundamentally concerned with classification of a highly culturally specific kind. They classify, not only the word of things ('art' versus 'non-art'/artifact, 'worthy' versus 'worthless' objects), but also human cultures and societies ('us' versus 'others', 'high' versus 'low', 'civilised' versus 'primitive').
    • Through the tasks you have completed we have begun to consider the various ways natural and cultural objects and images are brought together (or kept apart, or left out) in visual displays in order to convey certain messages about those things and the culture they come from.
  • 7. Displaying Cultures: Trends
    • Some current trends in communicating culture in a museum setting.
      • There is widespread interest in creating new museums of cultural identity.
      • Museums are beginning to retell the past through the introduction of multiple points of view.
      • Through collaborative design projects which encorporate the diversity of points of view intercultural communication is improved.
  • 8. Displaying Cultures: Trends
      • Museums of national identity act as gathering spots in the global community.
      • The notion of 'edutainment' is crucial to the museum economy.
      • New technologies are integral to the modern museum experience.
      • The museum is becoming a 'moral artefact'.
  • 9. Displaying Cultures: The Curator
    • Exhibition designers, by nature, are generalists. While we do need to master the many special techniques of our craft, our most important work is as listeners and synthesizers. We try to be pivots among the scholars, the sponsors, the collections themselves, the site, the budget and, last but hardly least, the audiences. Ultimately, we must help balance and give voice to the narrative presentation which connects a museum with its visitors. I use the word narrative broadly, to mean not just the interpretive text associated with collections, but also the ways in which a whole environment and sequence of events, in the museum can be used to communicate a culture's history.
    • Rasheed Araeen (2001) Third Text

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