Thursday, 17 December 2009

Images from Day 2 (3)

Specifically Helen's 'yarn-bombing' of the Open Museum displays. Does the material become intangible, when we can't see it?

Prize draw winners

Owain Rhys
Rebecca Wade
Anne Putri Yusiani
Jung-Hua Liu
Mari Elliott

- each won a selection of books donated by teaching staff within the School of Museum Studies, plus a £5 voucher to be redeemed on purchases made from the University of Leicester bookshop.

Congratulations all!

Images from Day 2 (2)

Images from Day 2

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Signing out...for the now.

Right now. It's 6pm, and I think I deserve a break, frankly. I'm going to participate in the World Cafe Evaluation and Prize Drawer. Can I have some final thoughts from you all please? We've had a great deal of fun over the last few days. Please go and enjoy some more...I certainly shall!

Over and ... for a while... out!

And So We Close...

At the end of a rich conference on entangled (im)material objects, Sue Pearce does us the honor of giving the closing address.

Neuroscience, and the sciences more generally, is going to have a huge impact upon the arts in the future. Mind, that intangible thing, is a product of the brain, that 'material thing at the top of our head'. What we usually call intellect or emotion has a physical basis. Thus culture, in all its forms, is material. This has been long the thought behind it material too?

There is no distinction, Sue Pearce argues, between the immaterial and the material. This has huge social and physical implications. We are animals as physical as they. We might consider ourselves more complex - but don't forget the dolphins!

Every human has about a hundred thousand neurons in their brain, each of which can have a hundred thousand connections. These shift and change, due to the impact of the external world through our senses (each of which senses are complex in their own right), through the collation of experience. These determine our almost infinate levels of experiences.

But this is not a computer. The brain is much messier and more complex than that. Because we are all individuals made up of experiences and memories, our neurological linkages and histories are as particular as we are. It is why one and the same person is capable of good and bad, why we irrationally respond to particular things.

One of our most important ways in which we apprehend the world is through sight. Our eyes, it seems, are capable of generating seven basic patterns. These patterns are grids, spirals, zig zags...the patterns that, across time and space, all cultures recognise. It is why we are capable of understanding, to an extent, each other's art. We may have different linkages in our brains, but they work in the same way - with a little help, the worlds of others can become open to us.

If we are all material, are our morals? Science is beginning to pin down where and when 'morals' began to arise. As cultures evolve (the cultures of ALL animals), co-operation for increased security shows that the material world is part and parcel of the way in which we construct our moral universe. We would stop a child reaching for a saucepan - an act which has both practical and moral aspects. But this is not bleak and deterministic materiality. We retain choices.

Beauty. There are some things which are beautiful across cultures - a nicely plaited cord, for example. It is beautiful and therefore good. It is regular, well made, satisfying.

Much work has been done on touch. As a social mechanism, it is different across societies. As you touch things, a particular area of the brain is engaged which reacts to nothing else.

But where does this leave museums in which we are seldom allowed to touch? The above being the case, there are in those institutions certain modes of information which we can never have access to. So a curator would never give an opinion on a thing without handling it.

There is related to this, a new growth of the idea that the material world can be an active agent too - or even a victim of our materiality. Some physicists are beginning to wonder if there are particles of apprehension or sensation. Is is just possible that we might find ourselves back with a material world in the place wherein we once placed the immaterial, spiritual realm?

It makes me think of stories. As in Mythago Wood, we build individual stories based on archetypes, of mythagos and images which are based in some deep part of our evolutionary past. Did myths, perhaps, always understand this on some level?

Arts and Sciences must begin to co-operate. The artist must prove the validity of their evidence to the scientist, and the scientist must show the artist how their world works. We are not either scientific or artistic creatures...we are just us. Just human. And there is something special about that.

Losing and Finding

The Mary Greg Collection at Manchester Art Gallery is mostly in storage. Since Collections for the Future was produced, a team has been looking into what should be done with such items. The Mary Grey Collection is just such a being - it is historically important, but as a social history collection it doesn't really fit in with the gallery.

So a different kind of interpretation was instigated. This resulted in 'Mary Mary Quite Contrary'...

Mary collected 'curiosities of bygone times'. Many of them have lost histories. The gallery also holds the correspondence that Mary had with the gallery over the period of her life. The array of material is astonishing. How best to engage with this?

The production of the blog Mary Mary Quite Contrary was part of a handover of curatorial control of the collection to the public. This really has begun with the contributions and interpretations of artists Hazel Jones and Sharon Blakey.

These seemingly insignificant objects, keys, spoons, tarnished and worn, the detritus of the everyday, are thus reformed as meaningful...almost magical. They build up a picture of the woman, the real person behind the collection, but also a picture of the museum and it's identity. Who and what we are are thus formed and reformed. The table of artefacts which Liz Mitchell, Alex Woodall along with Hazel and Sharon presented generated so much interest...I think a lot of people may soon be making visits to Manchester!

The Diva Returns...and gives us lightsticks!

The room is lighter this time, but the circle of chairs remains. For what do we wait this time? People respond to lighting so differently now: they are chatting, this time, eating cake and collecting coffee and tea. There is darkness outside, but the room is cheerful. There is laughter and buzz.

Carol Leeming returned to talk about her work, 'The Lonliness of the Long Distance Diva' which, as described yesterday, uses digital visuals, still and animated, poetry and spoken word, a blog, and there will be music as the work evolves. Drawing on the ancient cultures of India, China and Africa, the work is part of Leicester's and the East Midlands' Cultural Olympiad. It is hoped that, in the future, there will be more community involvement as part of a bid to participate in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The work also draws on the history of Ancient Greece and is deeply influenced by the martial arts of all these cultures. Sports, in many cases, were children of wargames and martial practice. Stories of cultures and how these have been handed down and passed through diffusion are also a great point of interest for Carol. Each 'language' contains intangible elements, the successful practice of both often based in a philosophy of reconnection with the intangible self. The Diva of the work, then, is a mythological figure, an embodiment of orality through movement and sound.

Cultures have links across time and geography. Often imagery and stories are repeated and reinterpreted in different locations in different ages and it is through such representation and symbolism that humanity's intangible feelings and experiences are frequently expressed. Through literary and physical metaphor we come at once to understand our world and at the same time to build it anew.

Once again, this access to the artistic process of creation is fascinating, especially given our physical experience of the work in practice yesterday. It brings into more critical relief the experience of yesterday afternoon, without negating our ability to have experienced that. Technology is a huge player in this access, as a new mediator of the flow of energy and information.

And today our own role as mediators is highlighted. We move with lightsticks, we are in and of the music. From our own controlled motion to a directed shaking of the sticks we create intangible forms of light which are part of us, and yet unreal. We share in languages of music and movement, though we may speak them differently. Through these material languages, we produce and pass on the intangible.

Boundaries, Archives, Fragments

The archive of the exhibition is neither complete, nor cohesive - but this is a characteristic of the archive, a device which fragments, selects...and therefore discards...particular traces. The archive is a 'boundary of knowability', rather than the uncontested truth of history. We are, now, beginning to recognise the objects of the archive as such 'traces' and 'fragments'. Rebecca Wade's discussion of the archive of the 1839 Leeds Public Exhibition highlights just these complex facts.

Much of what is saved in archives is the 'officially sanctioned' version. They are records of the power and authority of particular individuals. Where, though, are the other voices? Are there less official resources? Such questions, importantly, do not negate the importance of the offical archive - all material traces are shot through with bias, and it is the recognition of this which validates them as historical records rather than as fiction or propaganda.

This, it is, that the historian must recognise and use. The link between fiction and history, between the storyteller and the historian is deep. Their methodologies and products are often very similar, and even their political and social aims may be seen as such. It is their deployment and reception, however, which is different. Ideologies always impact upon any presentation and there is always a fictive element in any historical construction - documentary and physically reconstructive.

The documentation of transient events can never rebuild the events themselves. Through neither the memories of the perceiver nor officially recorded reports can the in-the-moment-ness of the event ever be recalled. These memories are objects - but they are, as I have said here before, not substitutes for the 'original', but are 'originals' in themselves.

When, where and how does history become fiction, does fiction become myth? When does the document become an object itself? As I was discussing with Kostas over lunch, where does the simulation become an object in its own right and how do we or should we recognise it as such?

Catching-up from Day 1 (3)

Material Responses to Immaterial Things

Catherine Moore The Material in the Immaterial - an archive of 1930s films from Angola and Namibia and contemporary physical and material responses.

Catherine Moore worked as a filmmaker before her return to academia, and so created a recording to accompany her paper. This means she had to time it well - and she did!

How does the immaterial become material? Working on a seventy year old archive of ethnographic film at the Powell-Cotton Museum, she studies how this apparently immaterial data has important haptic qualities and how it manifests itself.

Returning the archive footage the countries in which it was made in 2008, she shows how people responded to the images in so much more than words, the embodied response and 'enactive memory' becoming the focus of her research. Vision, as Merleau-Ponty writes, is 'palpitation with a look'. Visuality is an embodied response to the world, and embodiment is not subordinate to linguistic response. Nor are gestures simply momentary - they are part of a wider experiential and mental whole.

Through a video montage, Catherine aims to challenge widespread notions of ethographic film as purely 'pornography of distance', and through the comparison of the Efundula coming of age ceremony, break down that gap which is sometimes created between the viewer and the viewed subject, by siting the original film next to more modern footage, thus imbuing the older material with contemporary relevance.

This montage encourages the viewer to watch differently, in a more embodied way, to view the recordings as different in their material nature. This, like Mariano's presentation, throws the gaze once more on the process of creation and it's creator. Thus we can come to a memetic, multi-sensory understanding of that we consider 'other' to ourselves.

Catching-up from Day 1 (2)

Catching-up from Day 1

How Do we Perceive Art?

Now we are all happy after lunchtime refreshments, we can begin to consider once again some serious academic type stuff.

We're waiting for a presentation from the Argentinian artist Mariano Molina, who is working with the neuroscience department as part of the Leverhulme Trust's project that studies how we perceive art.

Something that struck me while he was presenting his Wor(l)d, 'Series-Consequences' and Textuals Series, was whether there are distinct psychological differences between how we perceive familiar patterns and more unfamiliar shapes. We read and apprehend a text, for example, very differently than we do a piece of art. But what happens when, as in Mariano's work, that text is transmuted into an artwork itself?

Mariano also produces site specific murals and wall paintings. Again, we see the geographically contingent nature of art, how the location of something at a particular site is inherently bound up in it's meaning.

Gaining Mariano's perspective on his own work is a great opportunity. This is what contemporary art can offer us which more ancient art(efacts) cannot - the ability to engage with the maker directly. While we must not negate the importance of our own, solo, initial experience and response, the possibility of engagement with a producer allows us to engage on another critical level. We are able to see Mariano's method of production, the painting onto a wall of a projected image in an almost photo-realistic format. The deeply personal and solitary nature of artistic production is not always as fixed a form as it might at first seem, access to the artists 'workshop', if you like, giving a completely different point of view. Mariano's work in this vein is exhibited and created in many locations and the same technique can perhaps be seen to have very different effects in different locations.

Even when Mariano uses himself as the subject of his work, he wants to present a character rather than himself. Often, the use of his own physical form is a matter of practical expediency, and the figure that is presented is, he says, not himself, nor does he want it to be recognised as such.

In Mariano's work, the professor of bioengineering at the University of Leicester here, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, saw possibilities for research, and invited him to be the artist in residence for five months. Mariano's work shows that he understands in an artistic, if not a neuroscientific, format, concepts such as 'focus of attention' and the 'centre of the gaze'. In collaboration with the School of Museum Studies, Professor Quiroga has turned his attention to art perception and infact our very own Jen is a participant in this field of research, which uses eye-tracking equipment to assess how such items are perceived.

Emotions and Objects

Jennifer Gadsby's research focuses on the role of design in creating the value of the visitor's experience. But what is a value? In this case, it is what they seek in coming to the site balanced against what they have invested in making the visit. Mainly, she found, these are emotional, intellectual, interpersonal, physical and social (this last meaning the museum's place in the community).

What stimulates the emotion that a person feels can be anything, and it can be apprehended consciously or unconsciously. Some topics are inherently more emotional than others, yet we still find museums attempting to encourage even more impact upon events which are emotional in themselves.

Jennifer gave post-it notes to the audience, asking them to record how engagement with museums has created emotional effect in them. Sometimes this lies in the design of the museum space, in the interactives that might be engaged with, the dressing and contextualisation of objects in their cases. This dressing of an object can be very inexplicable, and to me, this fact simply highlights that the museum not only takes an object and present it, but recreate it as something new and strange. What is an issue here is not that museums do this, but that sometimes they fail to admit this. Through an admittance of the role that museums play in remaking an object anew (like the Yucatan artists of the previous presentation), the museum can itself become an object of deepening value.

How far should museums 'interfere' in the emotional experience of the visitor? Does such emotional effect impinge upon intellectual experience? Does it undermine them as institutions of learning - or does it simply highlight that they are not the bastions of objectivity that we sometimes think they were considered, but something more subjective and mutable - perhaps even a being with emotions in itself. Museums are, after all, built by, through and for people and we cannot help but feel.

Senes, Multimedia, Meaning and Music

In 2006, Mary Katherine Scott began research in the Puk region in the Yucatan. Woodcarved reproductions of ancient Maya images are created for the tourist market. But the artists do not consider these reproductions but re-interpretations. This echoes, for me, some of the discussions that we were having after Kostas' paper - at what point does an avatar become an object in it's own right?

Scott co-curated an exhibition, 'Crafting Maya Identity', of this art at the Northern Illinois University, which questioned how the movement of an object from the tourist market into the gallery also moves it conceptually from 'low' to 'high' art, questioning the validity of such Western distinctions. Much as the movement of art practiced in 'Journey with Prayer' yesterday, this exhibition highlights how the location of an object bears so heavily on the meaning of it.

With what voices and what authorities do you surround art? Does the collector, exhibitor, or creator make themselves manifest in an exhibition and how does that impact the visitor engagement. How do you bring those voices in - through multimedia (video and audio), live workshops, image and text based wall panels, websites and the inherent order in which objects are placed. Catalogues, seminars, and conferences weave around those objects analysis and stories which, perhaps, are different than that originally intended.

Interpretations might be more creative. For the Digitizing the Maya project, Bill Vine created a short musical and video piece.

It amazes me that music is not used more in museums. In cinema and on radio it is used to affect emotional responses and has been almost since the dawn of the media. What is it about the museum that it is only just, if at all, beginning to recognise the potential of auditory compositions in the gallery arena. So often we are restricted to silence, clunking footfalls or the chatter of children...why not curate the auditory, as well as visual experience?

The analysis which Vine and Scott conducted raises interesting questions. Quantitatively, it seemed that the multimedia components of the exhibition had little value, but from the qualitative research they conducted, the multimedia elements seemed to impact very positively upon the experience. This makes me wonder, how far can you truly interpret what the viewers said, how much can you remove yourself from the situation and how, really, is it possible to collect those responses which we often experience, but are unable to articulate?

The Results of Technical Wizardry...

After some significant time arguing with reticent hardware and even more reticent intangible software, we are finally hooked up with Australia and about to discuss string figures with Robyn McKenzie.

As part of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhamland in 1948, a multidisciplinary team explored the area. Frederick McCarthy, an anthropologist, was seconded to the expedition. He worked with string figures, designs and patterns made with string using all parts of the body. They are not just completed by singular people, but by groups. Many had been collected in the early 19th and 20th century. McCarthy's collection became the largest of it's kind and it is now housed in the Australian Museum.

But he also collected photographs of the makers (namely Ngarrawu Mununggurr) and descriptions of the creation of the figures. So what, actually, was he collecting? Was this a Western attempt to collect the anthropological culture of another? But it was nothing so simple. Through the anthropological concept of diffusion, the creation of string figures in different areas and through different methods could be used to show wider relationships.

McCarthy had three collecting methodologies - collecting ready mounted figures; collecting figures 'commissioned' and recording their methods of construction; then the recording of the 'social' material and information which surrounded the significance of the figures to different groups within the society. He recorded myths and stories of origin and creation. But he did not collect from their natural context. How does this change the meaning of the figures? The meaning and significance of them was very different to Ngarrawu than to McCarthy - and they are very different in their meaning now. We see them, not as McCarthy saw them, as products of one culture, but as the products of a cultural collaboration which could not exist without the participation with either of the participants. They are a document of an historical event, a meeting, a combination of understandings. Earlier this year, Robyn McKenzie made a return visit to the area, to bring the string figures back into the limelight in the museum, and to reconnect the McCarthy-Mununggurr articles with the practice in the present.

Fantastically, Robyn made string figures to show us how they were created - there was even a magic trick! But these figures, while fun, are also deeply significant and ritual objects. Where, I wonder, did the game of Cat's Cradle come from? Is there something more behind what seems at first to be a childish game?

People have posed some really interesting questions in both of the presentations this morning. The concept of what constitutes an object and where the meanings of that object lie have permeated this conference. What are those things with which we engage and how might we extend our ability to do so - through cultural collaboration, through new media, or through our own and the object's movement through time. There are so many possibilities for object engagement and understanding.

Platypuses, Motherships and Avatars

Dr Kostas Arvanitis opened for us this morning. A specialist in digital heritage, his paper ties in with Owain Rhys' presentation rather well. 'The Digital Lives of Objects' starts with speculation upon what the 'next big thing' in museums might be...

It's about having a vision.

Over the last decade, museums have established many different identities, virtual, hyper, cyber and digital. This was initially considered as something strange, and alien a platypus. But we are beginning to accept it as a member of the family of museum mammals. Museums are beginning to bridge online and offline content. New career posts are being created in museum workplaces, and the museum is now amphibious, both online and offline creatures.

How does that material world link to the intangible, digital world? We have moved now from an online world which operated in a 'transmission' style of communication to a world of reciprocal communication and user generated content. Perhaps we, rather than the media, are now the message. Where does the museum fit?

The mothership is the place where information is aggregated and stored. This is what the museum is becoming - the collector both of tangible and intangible information, and of material and digital objects. Information, as Castells argued, is power. In this role of aggregator, the museum returns to its original role, making sense of the world around us. It is the world that has changed and with it the things that the museum deals.

Museums deal with the movement of information across geography and across time. This now includes the ephemeral, the temporary, the future, the present as well as the past. But how does the museum mothership collect this information? Through 'avatars', smaller, dependent ships which insinuate themselves into the online and physical worlds. In the past, these avatars would take physical form, postcards and miniatures, but now they might be more active - DVDs, exhibitions in Second Life, Facebook Applications, Youtube Videos...the list goes on. They leave traces which the museum can collect.

The challenge of the museum is to establish a suitable and ethical method of following their avatars. How might this be done? Sometimes avatars return - through listening to podcasts, seeing an image through a mobile phone app or blog, people may decide to come to the museum. Can there, then, be an interaction between avatar and original? What would happen if the material object itself became digitally connected, became a hybrid. Could such a thing happen?

No longer is the object bound in physicality. Objects travel, through their avatars. Objects are many things - material entities, representative symbols, digital entities - and they themselves could be said to have avatars. The Physical-Digital hybrid museum is a real and present being. Within museums, the disjunct between material and intangible collapse...the contested zones become connected zones.

Where does this leave the physical thing? The movement to the digital does not negate the importance of the material, tangible, touchable, sensible thing. Perhaps, infact, the increasing engagement with the simulacra makes the real more 'magical'.

But what will the future bring...will the less tangible digital objects we generate today still be relevant - will they even still exist as we know them?

My answer to this is no...but that is no matter. Have objects ever remained 'true' to their original selves? Not if their meaning is made in networks and relationships. The 'object' is too contingent for that. There are always layers upon layers upon layers...

Good Morning Blog-Watchers!

Well, after a few minor technical problems (we love all this new technology, but sometimes it backfires and does strange things...) we're about to start Day Two! Coffee has been consumed, links to Australia made, people have arrived and soon, we'll have lift off.

A strange thing has emerged in the corner of the room. Post-it notes have been left in the back, and a display case in front has been wrapped with yarn. Covering the's a display case that you can't see into. You can only wonder what is inside...

And a few more for good measure

And yet more...

Monday, 14 December 2009

More photos from Day 1

Summeries and Socialisation

Well, we've finished the main part of the day...soon, onto the important business of drinks and dinner!

I hope you've all enjoyed our blogging...I'm off to socialise and chat now.

Good night for the now, children, I'll see you again tomorrow. Over...but not quite out.

The Sound of Drumming

Sitting in the darkened room, now emptied of delegates, we're waiting to begin 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Diva', an artwork in progress by Carol Leeming. The chairs are set and candles are lit...what are we waiting for? Strange how the simple movement of chairs and dimming of lights creates an entirely different space. The air infused with candlelight and inscense, evocative and dreamlike, the space becomes ethereal, like a cathedral. Immediately upon entry, the chatter of the delegates stops. We are expectant in our silence.

A drum speaks in it's visuality and it's sounded voice. She speaks through the drum, uses it as an extension of herself. It is another limb.

Then light and words bring her human voice into the frame. Backgrounded by quiet drum-taps, the Long Distance Diva speaks of ownership, of energy and of what she is made. She is herself and that self is energy. Still in dark we are, vision muted in favor of sound.

Light bursts in upon us from the screen. Voice remains, but now the motion of the artist becomes less shadowy. Her body is part of her media, illustrative and demonstrative.

Something ritual is here, enacted for us today in media modern and most ancient. Within the self we are - our perceptions are based in our configurations. Thus we mirror and are mirrored by all creation. This moment, this now, can never be captured, not here, for this is a solitary author, in another medium. Nor can it be captured in video or image or sound. It is its now...any recording is another artwork. The material becomes intangible, is lost in ephemerality...becomes memory, and drifts off into time.

Mythological Objects

What constitutes an object? Owain Rhys,a distance learner on the MA programme, and Curator of Contemporary Life at St Fagan's Museum in Cardiff presented a redefinition of DVD content as an object. 'Dynamic Music and Myth' re-presents the concept of the object as something intangible, emotional and sensory as well as material. All cultural expression, then, can be considered an object: contemporary collecting methods, progressing technology and changing topics of collection all contribute to a re-evaluation of what constitutes 'material culture'.

Given this, can we ever come to a full definition of what 'material culture' is. Perhaps not, and perhaps that is as it should be. Our world, increasingly virtual, ever-changing and fast-moving, cannot be inhabited purely by 'tangible objects' alone. These physical objects retain an importance, but they are not to be considered the only form of evidence available to us. Those forms of evidence are never, he claims, unmediated. The recording of evidence is a creative interpretive act in itself: reading it as objective truth is, as I said in a previous post, a fallacy.

DVDs contain complex elements - sound and vision, but they also contain features which illicit memories of senses that perhaps they are less performative of. DVDs are one form (or one collection of forms) of embodiment and in this way they do link to the physical, traditionally material world. The internet, often considered very much a virtual medium, also retains these elements of sensory engagement. It's interesting to speculate upon the implications of this.

Poor Owain was constantly saying sorry for his use of theory - I really don't think that he needed to! Even at 5pm on a Monday afternoon, he managed to keep people engaged and kudos to him for that! Plus, he let us watch his video!

A Little...Evening...Music

I'd like to comment that the music has been most interesting. It's based on the Museum Studies Spotify playlist!

'Filling the void between museum displays and cultural identities to empower museum visitors' is the banner title for a number of research projects associated with the Museum of London. The work of four PhD students in various years, Kathrin Pieren, Mary Lester, Joanna Marchant and Elena Miles, this Collaborative Doctoral Project is based around the major theme of identities, and how museums present and even shape these. Called 'My London', a trail and interactive computer point at which visitors can comment upon objects and topics will encourage visitors to think about how the museum generates a London identity. Using the computer as a platform will allow the collection of qualitative data and collaboration between visitors.

Public museums use many media - diverse staff, rapidly changing exhibitions, community participation, workshops and events, old and newer technologies - highlighting that the conception of the museum as a value free space is no longer tenable. Museum narratives are always determined, whatever factors are brought to bear, and identities are often considered exclusive. Thus the identities they build are always mediated through a frame.

In terms of material objects, we often assume them to be 'the real thing'. But what is this real thing? Often, items are used to illustrate more intangible concepts, and thus they are more symbols than the truth of an idea when read this way. This is not to say that they do not have value in themselves, but this value of the things as things-in-themselves is often overlooked in favor of their illustrative value. The identities of an object is as important as the identities of the individuals apprehending it, and both are tied up in the production of individual, shifting identities that exist through relationships alone.

Projects like this are so heavily dependent on a wide spectrum of needs, demands and practical issues. To see individual research interests come together so cohesively is refreshing. But such projects have their problems and must be incredibly difficult to manage. I very much admire those who take such projects on.

This paper generated a lot of feedback and questions - which is great, given the ever encroaching dark outside. I hope the presenters got enough to mull over and augment their projects with!


What I am finding great about this symposium is the high proportion of PhD students who are presenting. These couple of days are giving those individuals at the start of their careers, both academic and other, to present their thoughts and research among peers - but among peers that they may not know. However, there are also a number of professionals and students from this years Masters Course, aswell as prospective PhD students and this makes for a nice mix.

I'd also like to thank the bookshop for providing a stand during the lunchbreak - I hope that they were successful!


Huei-Wan Wang's subject 'British Chinese in Museums' focused around the engagement and representation of the British Chinese community in British museums. The shifting nature of this community in terms of it's ethnic makeup and distribution across the UK is complex and impacts significantly upon how these connections are made.

Through studying various kinds of projects and methods of engagement - educator-led outreach at the Geffrye Museum which concentrated on Chinese culture; the Chinese Education Programme at the V&A, 1991-2008, which aimed to bring the Chinese community into the museum; the Peopling of London Project at the Museum of London in 1994, a curator-led exhibition, which in response to community criticism, created community led exhibitions and events; the Trading Place at the British Library in 2002 - the paper maps the changing nature of these encounters over the last decade (1990-2002). Clearly, the differing motivations of the projects also impact significantly upon what and who is presented and how.

It makes me wonder about how these different methods could be used to present the same community in very different ways. Like the geographical locations highlighted in 'Prayer', how a community is engaged with a museum both determines how the museum is presented to that community and how that community is presented to the outside world. Who has authority in these situations? The idea of 'community' as one homogeneous mass is untenable. There are always changing identities and positions within societies and the speaker may not share the attitudes of the spoken for. This will always be the case, most likely, but a recognition of such dominant voices remains worthwhile. Thus, the subjectivity of interpretation can be made into an object in it's own right.


Opps, sorry about that! There was a minor technical hitch there. The internet has decided to deny me access via my machine, so I'm using Amy's. Which is fortunately present!

Tania de Fonte, in the intervening period, showed how different configurations of documents, artefacts and evidence can be formed into a picture, presenting certain interpretations as fact and how uncertain those in fact can be.

Paul Fitzpatrick's discussion of memorialisation, surrounding the collection of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington shows once more how the locale of artefacts determines the meanings and stories that we weave around them. Through the artefacts deposited at the memorial, the memories cease to be national, and become personal and painful expressions of loss.

Images from Monday morning