Collecting in museums runs the risk of becoming a rather pedestrian and academically uninteresting activity unless informed by and contributing to some wider theoretical perspectives. The one-day interdisciplinary conference on ‘Collecting and Gathering: Making Worlds and Staking Claims’ at Columbia University, 23 May, might be helpful to develop the discourse around museum collecting and acquisitioning. As the organizers (graduate students at the Dept of Archeology) say:
Practices, institutions and ideas centered around collections and collecting offer a fruitful area for interdisciplinary enquiry in the humanities and social sciences. Whether in the processes through which collections come to be formed, or the ways in which existing collections are experienced by a variety of publics, the impulse to collect is often key to knowing a wider world, and also knowing oneself.
Accordingly contributions dealing with museum collections as well as less tangible collections (collections of facts or ideas) are equally welcome, relating to themes such as:
- The temporality of gathering – how the past and future are grasped and mediated through material substances and practices
- Collecting and power – how collecting sets up or maintains power differentials between collector and collected, exhibitor and exhibited
- Fixing and making worlds – the bonding of materials, substances, place and people
- Histories of collecting – changing modalities and definitions of the collection and of what it is to gather materials, ideas or people in place and time
- Collecting as a transformative process – how collecting alters, re-presents or invents the object that is collected and the implications of such transformations
- Spaces of collection and collections of spaces – the politics, poetics and meaning of the exhibition space and its architectural framing
Another interesting feature of this conference is that it will be accompanied by an exhibit on collecting designed by students in the Museum Masters program at Columbia University.
(thanks to Haidy for the tip)